Today was our co-op student’s last day in the office but since he left at 11:30, my boss took him and the rest of us out for lunch yesterday.  We went to Real Sushi (or Real Shusi, if you’d prefer the name on the back of the waitstaff’s t-shirts).

Amy and I have been going to Real Sushi about once every couple of months for a few years.  We do long-weekend supervision of the dormitories at the school where she teaches and our program is made up of students from overseas who haven’t anywhere else to go during breaks.  We have them over Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving (a holdover holiday from the time when the school had a much higher US contingent than it has now), inter-semester break weekend, Family Day (mid-February), Easter and Victoria Day.  We typically go out for dinner or lunch once per weekend and Real Sushi is our most commonly repeated restaurant.

It’s a fairly small place on Carlisle Street in St. Catharines.  One of the entrances is off St. Paul Street and is via the lobby of the extremely sketchy Leonard Hotel (primarily low-income housing but it looks like a really seedy flop-house).  There are perhaps 20 tables with seating for around 75 in what looks like it may once have been an Indian or Middle-Eastern restaurant.  The decor is not very upscale (though they did replace the crushed velour upholstery on the bench seats at some point in the last year or so which was a very wise move).  Currently lunch is $11.99 and dinner $14.99 for all-you-can-eat.

The menu is very varied (a phrase that looks much better than it sounds) and has much more than just raw fish.  I was sceptical the first time we went as my prior experience with sushi was limited to a bit of salmon and some octopus in my grade five unit on Japan (a unit that included the creation of kimonos from surplus boot fabric in several surprising colours of green and orange).  A couple of the students with us had eaten sushi many times before (apparently Japanese food is very popular in Korea) and so one of them ordered for the table and we were spared the awkwardness of 10 minutes of “so um… what is this, exactly?”

At Real Sushi the best idea is to order small amounts of food at regular intervals if you’ve got time for a couple hours of eating.  The waitstaff are very friendly but are not particularly good at remembering orders though they be written down.  As an example, about a minute after we sat down yesterday, somebody came and dropped off a plate of salmon rolls.  Our drinks order had not yet been taken.

I recommend the General Tao Chicken, teriyaki chicken, chicken skewers and, if you can manage it, the plates of noodles, all from the “Kitchen” side of the menu.  In all the times I’ve been there, I have been successful once in trying to order the plate of soba noodles.  All of the noodle dishes are available as either a plate or soup and I keep getting soup despite asking for not-soup.  I’m not entirely sure how to rectify this.  The soup is good (though not as good as that at Noodle House) but it is not what I asked for.  On the “Sushi” side of the menu, the salmon and red snapper nigiri (slices of raw fish on rice) are really tasty and the tuna nigiri is a good one to try if you’ve never had sushi before because it doesn’t taste at all fishy.  They prepare the rice with some kind of vinegar, apparently.  It is sticky and slightly sweet (I think there is also sugar in the preparation at some point).  The sashimi (large lumps of raw fish) is good, too.  It is only available on the supper menu.  I am not a big fan of most rolls (seaweed is not really for me) but the Real Sushi rolls are really good.  They are (going from memory here) salmon, mango, mayo (pretty sure on this and yes it does sound odd) and a couple other things rolled up and then deep-fried.

Yesterday one of my co-workers ordered deep-fried squid tentacles.  I have tried calamari before and found it acceptable but it’s a bit like eating rubbery onion rings.  These are very clearly tentacles that have been wrenched from a squid and thrown into boiling oil.  The suckers are still quite clearly present.  I was very hesitant to insert one of these into my mouth (because man do they ever look weird) but it turned out to be very tasty albeit very tricky to bite through.  I think my chopstick technique is getting stronger every time I’m there.

for whom it is reserved