“Irasshaimase!” Every guest is greeted with this joyful shout – a Japanese word that roughly translates to “welcome.” But the inviting ambience doesn’t end with this initial greeting: Once you pull up a bench at one of the dozen or so tables, a member of the knowledgeable wait staff will come over, introduce himself/herself by name and suggest the perfect sake based on your menu selections. We start with the tuna tataki and sashimi salad. It’s some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever had in a land-locked province. The tuna melts in your mouth before you can chew it. The salad sees tuna, red tuna, squid, salmon and shrimp atop a bed of lightly dressed mixed greens. The dishes come out incredibly fast; we barely finish one before the next appears on the table. Izakaya Tomo mixes Japanese udon noodles with an Italian sauce to create a carbonara dish that rivals some of the city’s best. The dessert menu offers several sweet finales to a meal, such as the matcha ice cream sandwich, which has a very potent green tea flavour, or caramelized sweet potatoes and ice cream. -E.S
3739 99 St., 780-440-9152, izakayatomo.net
The bento boxes at Japonais Bistro are super-sized and full of items such as miso soup, veggie tempura, sushi and Fuji beef short ribs – all that’s missing is a toy. But this is definitely not a fast food experience. It’s a leisurely lunch, spent in a quiet atmosphere, with sushi made to order. The restaurant aims to make traditional Japanese food a part of your contemporary lunchtime – which it pulls off with high-quality ingredients and a massive menu. If you can’t decide between jalapeno yellowtail, honey plum tuna or soft-shell crab salad, then try the selection of maki, tightly packed with fresh ingredients including avocado, salmon and tuna. -S.B.
11806 Jasper Ave., 780-760-1616, japonaisbistro.ca
If you’re a fan of fresh sashimi – and really, who isn’t? – than you won’t be disappointed at Yokozuna. The sashimi, particularly the salmon, is of a very high quality. It comes in thick wedges and tastes like it was caught that day – not an easy feat in a prairie province. But don’t feel like you’re limited to just sashimi here. For something more adventurous, order the takoyaki, also known as octopus balls. Octopus, green onion and red ginger are battered and fried to a golden crisp. The maki rolls are playful and nicely sized – the black dragon maki roll sees scallops, eel, orange tobiko and avocado drizzled with teriyaki sauce. -S.B.
4121 106 St., 780-431-1508, yokozunarestaurant.ca