Recently Nancy and I went to Airdrie to be part of the celebration of the Olympic torch relay(actually she talked me into it) and while there we decided to cross off one of the restaurants on our must try list. The place we chose was Sushi Haru, which has had some good reviews from both friends and those on various sites we visit, besides we were in need of a sushi fix. We met a co-worker of Nancy’s at the torch relay and she joined us to try this new place out.
Airdrie is not exactly a location one would think of when planning a meal of sushi and I wondered if the reviews we had heard and read were either those who had little sushi experience at awful places such as Sushi King or BBQ Sushi Inn and had therefore been amazed that sushi could taste better or that the reviews online were mostly shills wanting to help the place out, and since the reviews on Urbanspoon were mostly from those who have posted no others I had my suspicions. None the less we figured it was worth the risk and even if the food was sub-par it would in all likelihood be better than much of what we’ve already subjected ourselves to in the past.
Sushi Haru is located in a strip mall at the north end of main street and is not hard to find even for those from the city. When we arrived we found that the place wasn’t very busy and initially this worried me since so many of the reviews I’ve read stated that the authors visited several times a week, I therefore expected at least a somewhat full house. The decor was a mish-mash of Ikea artwork and Asian themes that tries to fill the basic box that owners have to deal with, while not a Sushi-ya atmosphere in any way it was fine. They do have a small sushi bar at the back of the place and if one wants to have that experience than they do offer it, although if you are the only one there it won’t really work.
We took a look at the menu and found the basic items one would expect at a small Japanese themed restaurant and a few Korean items as well. A quick scan of the ala-cart sheet and we decided the prices were to steep to risk ordering some of our favorites when we’d never been here before and had no idea of the quality or freshness of the offerings. What we ended up ordering was the Sushi Haru Combo which is 38 pieces of assorted nigiri, maki, sashimi, 2 temaki cones and a 4 piece order of prawn tempura for about $40, not too bad depending on the choices that came with it. Since there were three of us we also topped the order up with a spicy salmon roll and an extra 4 pc order of tempura.
The tempura arrived soon after we’d placed our order and looked to be quite good, it wasn’t over cooked as many are and the only problem I had was it seemed a little too oily for me which I chalked up to the oil in the fryer not being quite hot enough, although the oil was fresh and left no after taste at all.
Next to arrive was the main combo plate and the hand rolls, as expected for the price it was heavy on the maki and had only 8 pieces of nigiri and sashimi, never the less the food looked good and was well made. The temaki hand rolls were not quite as tasty as I would have hoped for but were made with care and of fresh ingredients. I however noticed one thing that seems to be all too common in some of the sushi joints in Calgary, the fact that the owner is succumbing to the “more is better’ attitude of North American food culture. I picked up a piece of nigiri and the fish was very thick and twice the length of the meshi (rice). Personally, I would much rather have the price be a little lower and the portions of manageable size than what I saw on the plate at Sushi Haru, heck they could have twice as many portions of nigiri and sashimi for the same price and people would love it believing they were getting more. Anyway, enough of the pet peeves, the freshness of the fish was much better than I’d expected from a place like this and while the over-all quality was a notch or two down from some of the places in the city, I was quite impressed with the offerings. The meshi was a little sticky and not as good as the rice in many of the more expensive sushi places in Calgary but it was fresh, not cold and still much better than that which is served by the majority of the places we’d been to in the past.
As with the nigiri the maki rolls were well made and it was obvious that the edomai had put some effort into them as opposed to the factory floor versions we are acustomed to receiving at many busy sushi restaurants were it seems that as long as they are done it matters not how well and again the ingredients were fresh and tasty. I’m going to bring up one more pet peeve and thankfully this is one that does not apply to Sushi Haru. I love good sauces and am so very sick and tired of the bottled crap that the vast majority of sushi places serve on or beside their offerings. Nearly all of the maki I’ve had that was to be “spicy” merely has a squirt of Sriracha in each piece or if they are creative sriracha mixed with mayo, this is a horrible trend that needs to stop. I was so very pleased to find that the Spicy Salmon roll we ordered appeared to have the unbelievable on it – a home made hot sauce. Not only did it seem to not have come from a bottle, but it tasted very good and it did not overpower the fish, this is a very good thing in my view. To add to this revelation Sushi Haru is reputed to actually offer ponzu sauce with some items, I can only hope it too is good and that they serve it with the types of sushi that it should be served with, I’ll have to return and find out for myself.
Sushi Haru surprised us with it’s quality and the overall experience of the food they served, it’s not going to be the place we visit all the time but it is now on our list of quality sushi places that we intend to continue to patronize. If they don’t fall into the trap of cheaper fish and cutting corners and they make some of the small changes I think they should it may well be that I go out of my way a little more often to sample what they have to offer and I suggest you give them a try, I doubt you’ll regret doing so.