The word “authentic” is thrown around a lot when talking about restaurants specializing in regional cuisine, but in this instance, it is a fitting one. There’s no other restaurant in the city where a patron can feel as comfortable – and yet so alien – than Izakaya Tomo.
The sights and smells are foreign, the language is not of this city, and your only guidebook is one of the most decadent Japanese menus in town. It’s the kind of grub one might get at a pub in Japan. The tonpei yaki, for instance, is an egg omelette wrapped around shaved pork and shredded cabbage. It oozes with a mayonnaise okonomi sauce, and is topped with a smattering of bonito flakes (aged, dried and flaked mackerel). And if you have any doubt as to how fresh seafood can be in this landlocked province, try the tuna yamakake – tuna sashimi rested in a plate of mashed-like potatoes. It’s an unpretentious dish that must be tasted to be understood. And, like most pub foods, it’s best when paired with a beer – or a sake. –Cory Haller
3739 99 St., 780-440-9152, izakayatomo.net
At first glance, the menu at Japonais Bistro is befuddling. Some of the basics are off in a corner, giving way to modern combinations that seem odd, like tuna nachos, pizza sushi or a Cheezy Dragon roll.
But, as they’ll tell you, any good sushi chef should be able to produce the basics. The chefs at Japonais are some of the best in Edmonton, and with a solid foundation, they’ve earned the right to experiment.
It’s hard to find a better sashimi platter in the city; the white tuna has a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
The modern takes on rolls and appetizers fit in nicely with the tradition of Japanese food. The Golden Crunch roll – with salmon, spicy mayo, avocado and tempura crumbs – is indicative of this, with a wonderful balance of creaminess, crunch and a little heat. –Glenn Cook
11806 Jasper Ave., 780-760-1616, japonaisbistro.ca
In this year’s Best Restaurants judging process, Best Japanese was the category where the largest number of individual restaurants received votes, making it one of the hardest to judge. With so many new and exciting Japanese/sushi places to try, it’s easy to understand why.
But, the elder statesman, Mikado – which has been in Edmonton since 1972, when the local pro hockey team was known as the Alberta Oilers and skated in the World Hockey Association – still shows that it’s one of the best.
It’s not just about the fantastic variety of sushi; the grilled Alaskan black cod, with a smidgen of sea salt, is a go-to dish. And no visit is complete without Mikado’s signature Dragon Eyes roll. It has salmon, fish eggs and a special tangy sauce. The rolls are lightly battered and deep-fried. Fried sushi: What’s not to love? –Steven Sandor
10350 109 St., 780-425-8096, mikadorestaurant.com