Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
I've been bitten by the group-buying website bug - Groupon, LivingSocial, TeamBuy, StealTheDeal, SwarmJam, DealFind... I follow them all. It appears that I'm not alone - a recent deal of $20 for a $50 coupon to Sushi Motto saw 4112 vouchers sold within a span of 24 hours! According to Calgary Deals Blog, this made it the top-selling deal in the city thus far. Since my family's almost always up for some Japanese, I picked up two vouchers of my own and we all went down to check it out.
Sushi Motto replaced what used to be Oishii Village back in August of this year, and is owned by one of the former servers at Midori, which is a few short blocks away on 17th Ave.
With a name like Sushi Motto (according to the owners, "motto" means "original" in Japanese), the menu obviously centres around their long list of original sushi rolls. If you've become a fan of some of the izakaya-style Japanese restaurants that have been popping up, like Globefish and Shibuya, you may be disappointed here as there aren't as many hot dishes. We did try some of their appetizers, like their house green salad ($5.95), saba shioyaki (grilled mackerel - $7.95) and agedashi tofu ($5.95).
The house green salad was unexciting, with only lettuce, corn, a few slices of radish and the standard Japanese ginger dressing. Next time I would probably like to try their Shrimp & Avocado Salad ($6.95) or Broccoli Goma-ae ($5.95) for something a little more interesting.
The grilled mackerel was good, with crispy skin and warm, flaky meat that was delicious with a squeeze of lemon. While I personally enjoy the natural fishiness of mackerel, others may like the lighter taste of salmon or hamachi (yellowtail) cheek.
We all agreed that the agedashi tofu was the best of the bunch - fresh from the fryer, the bite-sized pieces of tofu soaked up the flavour of the sweet and savoury sauce while still retaining their crisp, battered shells.
My brother ordered the tuna tataki ($12.95). A fillet of tuna was seared lightly before cut into thick slices and topped with a citrusy ponzu sauce. The texture and flavour of the tataki reminded me of a soft cheese for some reason - my brother and I agreed that they do a much better job of the dish at Shibuya.
We shared the deluxe assorted sashimi ($34.95) and the deluxe assorted sushi ($18.95). In both cases, the fish was very fresh, but since both featured the same types of seafood - salmon, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, octopus, squid and surf shell clam - in the end it felt a little boring.
The highlight of the meal was probably the Flames Roll ($11.50) which is an outsider roll with prawn tempura, masago and mayo as the filling, topped with pieces of salmon and tuna, then sprinkled with green onion and garlic chips before being drizzled with a housemade spicy sauce. I enjoyed the strong flavours of the garlic and onion, and the crunch from the tempura and garlic chips. The spicy sauce was a little misleading! While most Japanese restaurants opt for a tart, creamy, mayo-based sauce, the spicy sauce at Sushi Motto is brown (perhaps teriyaki sauce-based?) with a lot of chili flavour.
Perhaps our food experience could've been a little better if we'd ordered more of the specialty sushi rolls, but we definitely couldn't help the slow service. We went on a weeknight shortly after the deal came out and the restaurant was filled to the brim - we were lucky to have had a reservation. I don't think they were quite ready for the volume that the deal would bring; there were only two waitresses floating around the restaurant and almost every time a dish was brought to us they would ask, "Have you had this yet?" However, it was obvious that they were trying their best and I hope the restaurant has been able to get some extra help since.
The deal was totally worth it - since there were more than four of us, we were able to use two vouchers at once so our bill only came to $16!
My family generally prefers more appetizers and traditional sushi, so I doubt we will be back here soon, especially knowing that there are still lots of people out there waiting to cash in their vouchers. Still, I definitely know where to stop when I'm looking for fresh, delicious and innovative sushi rolls... and some hot and fresh agedashi tofu!
1604 14 St SW
Calgary AB T3C 1E2
Open for lunch Tues-Fri 11:30 AM-2:30 PM; Sat-Sun 12-3 PM. Open for dinner Tues-Sun 5-9:30 PM. Closed Mondays. Reservations recommended. Free parking available in lot on 16 Ave between 14 & 15 St after 6 PM weekdays, all day weekends and holidays; free street parking available nearby also.