Kinjo Sushi & Grill review

I really have to give Peter Kinjo the credit he’s due. This is a guy who came to Canada from Japan with little money and only minor skills. Now he’s owned a number of restaurants in Calgary and is truly the poster boy for what you can do if you try hard enough and believe in what you are doing.

The first time I met Peter is actually not a moment I even remember but since I’ve eaten at the first Edo Japan in South Centre from when I was quite young I’m sure I’ve met him. Peter’s the guy who started this popular and successful chain of shops and it’s a great thing to have on his life’s resume’.  He’s owned several restaurants since coming to Calgary and he should be proud of what he’s accomplished.

Peter’s latest venture is a sushi place he’s named Kinjo Sushi & Grill and it’s as far as I am aware the only restaurant he currently owns. Located on Macleod trail in one of Calgary’s busiest dining areas Kinjo occupies a building which was once a fast food place that went away. This space is now renovated and houses a large oval moat filled with small plastic boats packed bow to stern and carrying plates of food. These boats constantly circle the food prep area where they are replenished and a bar style dining counter surrounds the moat from where customers seated there can pick any of the plates they want. At the end of the meal you pay based on the colour and number of the chosen plates.

This style of dining is one I’ve seen in many places around the world.  From Tokyo to Hong Kong or Miami to London this is a fairly common way to eat sushi. It is however on the bottom end of the dining scale and is actually more akin to a McDonalds then to an actual sushi-ya. The food is therefore in most cases equivalent in quality to a fast food place as well, designed more for high turn-over than for producing good sushi.

We’ve visited on a few occasions and at each of these times we’ve left very disappointed in the quality of the food we’d eaten there. Some of what we tried was even to the point of smelling bad and much of the rest showing obvious signs that it was past the point where it should be served to customers. I’ve always wondered how fast turn-over places cannot have fresh looking food when it’s constantly being replenished. The only thing I can come up with is that the ingredients are lower quality to begin with and that little care taken in the preparation adds to the problem.

Whether it was a roll, maki or nigiri from the boats or something ordered from the kitchen the quality of the food has always been lacking on our visits to Kinjo. Small poorly made rolls that contain old tasting fish should never end up in front of a customer and no amount of sake or free pocky sticks can change that fact. The food prep staff need to try harder to put out quality and if something is no longer fresh it should not be served. I’m not a fan of throwing out food but old and stale fish is a health hazard.

I do like the effort that Peter puts into trying to provide a fun and happy environment for his customers, and while it doesn’t always thrill some people to have a knife-wielding guy dressed in a kimono interrupt their meal, I think that most understand what’s behind it. Again, I for one appreciate these hijinks for what they are and see no reason for anyone to complain about them.

I like Peter and admire his successes but would give him the advice that he needs to improve both the quality of the ingredients as well as the end product if he is going to have another winning enterprise on his hands. Those who don’t know what good quality sushi should taste like are bound to find out at some point. And when these people do discover better food they won’t be back.  I’ve already seen reviews from former customers who have decided that the food is not up to par and no longer want to dine at Kinjo. If this trend is to be avoided things have to change. The only way to do this is to provide quality food to the customer. Other places in town have sourced and seem to be able to serve fresher looking/tasting fish so there’s no reason Kinjo cannot do the same. As for the staff they can just put somewhat more effort into what they do.

As for me, I’ve given Kinjo as many chances as I can and with such poor quality and apparent lack of concern on the part of the staff I’m not likely to visit again. Sorry Peter.

Kinjo Sushi & Grill on Urbanspoon


19 responses to “Kinjo Sushi & Grill review

  1. The last time I went to Kinjo’s, I sat by the boats and the smell of rotten fish was so strong, I found it difficult to eat anything. The tuna sashimi was a weird grey colour and still frozen. I’m worried someone is going to get sick from this place. I hope he finds a way to improve this restaurant…asap.

  2. I rank them 3 star out of 5. If they’d bump up the quality they would easily hit 5 stars. I agree with the article completely. I’ve had better sushi, but yet this is the place I frequent the most. It’s sort of the McDonalds of Sushi, but remember even McDonalds had it’s hayday.

    They got the atmosphere right, it’s quick, it’s open and unintimidating. If they just the quality in the right place they would be top notch.

    I think part of the issue is they have very junior chefs working there. Experience level might be an issue. I also know someone who worked there, and Peter can be very intense when it comes to how he wants things done. I’ll bet if Peter hired some more seasoned chefs AND listened to them, the quality issues would resolve themselves.

    Just some thoughts.

  3. Everyone’s opinion is valid when it comes to food, and I don’t doubt your experiences. That being said, we have had the complete opposite experience as many who eat at Kinjo can attest.

    We eat at Kinjo several times a month, and you really have to admire the restaurant. Peter has secured a prime Macleod Trail location. The problem with prime locations is they are expensive! In his small space he has set up the perfect sushi restaurant for the space. Any other style of sushi restaurant would simply not work without astronomical pricing in that location. There is no space for a large kitchen, so their preparation centric setup is ideal, a perfect use of space.

    Additionally, you can see exactly what the chefs are doing. Their work stations are impeccably clean and you can see how they handle the fish. Yes, we have received a piece of frozen fish in the past at Kinjo, however it is a sushi restaurant in Calgary, and almost all of the sushi here is flash frozen, it has to be. Think about it, bluefin tuna from Asia, a day to fish it, a day at market, a day on the plane, a day to delivery, it has to be flash frozen just to be realistic. Doesn’t mean it isn’t reasonably fresh.

    If Kinjo wasn’t at least somewhat decent the turnover would be low, customers wouldn’t come back, and the place would be empty. The fact of the matter is they are doing something right. Perhaps the high turnover causes the adverse side effect of not being able to thaw fish from the supplier in time to be served, but I think to say they are low quality is a little off base, especially when there is really only one true sushi grade fish supplier in Calgary, and they stock most of the sushi restaurants in Calgary with exactly the same fish.

    Perhaps next time you go there, talk to them about your previous experience, there may be an explanation. If you get some bad fish ask Peter about it, it might be something as simple as some scallop juice spilled on it.



    • Thanks for the comment Nolan. If you enjoy Kinjo and believe the food they serve to be good that is your personal opinion. Unfortunately the food is not anywhere near on the level of most other sushi available in Calgary. Again, if you feel different you are entitled to do so.

      The subjective nature of this topic makes any “cut and dried” response that will cover the tastes of everyone impossible. That being said I would have to state that anyone who has tried and enjoys good sushi will not like the offerings at Kinjo. As with say… Sushi King or BBQ Sushi Inn the food is sub par. While Peter is smart to capitalize on the trend of eating sushi he truly is going for the low end of the scale.

      You like the food? great, keep going. You will however have no more luck trying to convince me to return to Kinjo as you would trying to persuade me of the virtues of steak from Applebee’s when I can go elsewhere. Bad food is bad food, no matter how many others like it.

  4. Curious, if the food quality was so horrible, and obviously a lower quality, why did you go back several times? Most people quit going to restaurants they get bad food at the first time.

    I think the old saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, but fool me many times?

    • We’ve actually only been twice together and once separately. I like to give more than one chance to any place to make a decision as to whether it is one that I like. Kinjo has on all occasions disappointed us and on one made us truly wish we’d never gone at all.

      As I said before, if you like Kinjo keep going. It’s your choice to decide if you do in fact enjoy the food. I’m not sure why my disagreeing with you is so hard for you to deal with. You can take my statements as merely my opinion and as such are meaningless to others. If you put some weight in what I say then you need to reconcile how I dislike a place you enjoy. If the latter is the case then you need to accept that as an experienced and fair judge of food my statements are correct and reflect what exists there.

      Millions of people go to places every day serving food that if truly compared with what is generally considered good would come up severely lacking, yet they still go. Good food and good service are not always why a restaurant stays in business. In the case of Kinjo, Sushi King and others of the like it is likely that those who go often have never had good sushi or that they don’t care because what they get is fine in their opinion. A Big Mac is just fine for a vast number of people, but is it a good burger? not at all.

      If I were to use a baseline from Japan or even many American and EU cities where I’ve had sushi I’d not be able to call any sushi restaurant in Canada that I’ve visited truly up to par. Just using the standards by which I judge local sushi Kinjo still cannot be called good.

      I’m aware that you have a food blog as well and it could be said that we don’t have the same view of good food, this is just as it should be. Those looking for others’ views are wanting differing opionions and will then decide whether to dine at the place in question. I read your review of MT Tuckers and myself have had nothing good to say about my visits there while you appear to have liked it a great deal. So be it.

  5. I’m not sure that we necessarily have different views on food, I think we have different values with respect to how we treat the businesses we review. It is important to remember that most of the restaurants that will be reviewed on food blogs like ours are family owned and a means of survival for the kitchen and front of house staff, the management, and the owners.

    A reckless negative review, which I consider your review of Kinjo to be, can have a devastating impact on a small business and those who work for them. A realtor friend of mine who sells only restaurants said to me recently, “one bad review, warranted or not, can be the end of a great restaurant.” Which is why I believe that food reviewers have a certain responsibility to watch what they say.

    You will notice that there is not a single bad review on our food blog. If we go to a restaurant and we don’t like it, we don’t review it. Places like Urbanspoon can filter out the good restaurants from bad using a group of opinions instead of just one that may or may not be way off base. A food blog is not a forum that should affect the destiny of a restaurant.

    In addition, I also believe that having a blog does not give you the right to slander. Freedom of speech is an important part of our society, however so was our mother’s advice with respect to those occasions when we have nothing nice to say.

    • Rather than point out what almost anyone who reads my comments on Kinjo or any other restaurant will notice I’ll just say that we have very different views indeed on what constitutes a restaurant review. As to your inference that my values are somehow askew I’ll merely state that you are quite incorrect.

      While many restaurants are family run and the jobs of the staff are their means of support it is still a business and must be treated as such. If the service is poor or the quality of the food is low then those such as myself who write about these experiences will state this in our reviews, we are simply being honest about our visit.

      Your belief that a bad review on my personal blog may have the power to destroy a restaurant is while flattering also bizarre in the extreme.

      Painting my review as “reckless” simply because it lacks a positive spin is going a little overboard considering I only stated what transpired during my visits. There is no agenda in my writing. Many of my reviews are in point of fact quite positive, when it’s deserved. Your decision to only post glowing comments on your blog is of course your choice, it is however somewhat dishonest to do so and invalidates any “review” since it is more an ad for the store than an actual review that would express both good and bad.

      Stating that an honest review is slanderous is not only wrong in a moral sense but shows that you are willing to do that which you accuse others of if it serves your purpose.

      Thank you for the comments Nolan, it’s been interesting to read your thoughts.

  6. I agree with Nolan. I lived in Japan as an exchange student for a year, and at the most basic level kinjo is as close to great sushi as you will get in Alberta. Not sure why you have a hate on for this place, but simply rambling on about how much you know about sushi doesn’t make you a sushi expert.

    • Thanks for visiting Fred. Let’s look at what you’re saying here.
      You claim it is I who is attempting to appear to be a sushi expert. Yet you open by stating you lived in Japan and are therefore trying to establish credibility as someone who really knows sushi prior to saying that Kinjo is “as close to great sushi as you will get in Alberta”. Hmmm, perhaps a look in the mirror.
      I in no way have said I hate Kinjo and drawing that conclusion makes no sense based on my review. I have had bad experiences there and found the food to be of poor quality on my visits. I’m sorry if the truthful and honest relating of my experiences offends you.
      I’ll say the same thing to you that I said to Nolan. If you like the food at Kinjo that’s perfectly fine. I don’t and what more needs to be said? My mistake for responding honestly to Nolan’s first comment and explaining my position and opinion.
      If my discussion with Nolan and my responces to his attacks on my values, truthfulness and character bother you…well, that is truly unfortunate.

  7. I have to give you credit, you are definitely passionate about sushi! I reread my response here. The following comment, “I also believe that having a blog does not give you the right to slander,” was completely out of line on my part. Guess that is what happens when two strong willed people get into a debate. My bad.

  8. I have visited Kinjo frequently (sometimes weekly) and greatly enjoy my experiences. Peter treats my kids well, reminds them about respecting their parents (yes, with big knife), and makes them laugh.

    The food is very good most of the time, as with most restaurants. It is Calgary, we are land-locked, and true fresh fish is limited. I’m not an expert on sushi, but I don’t eat anything that smells fishy. I’ve been present when one of the chefs saw a dish going out that was unsatisfactory, and the offending “sous chef” was promptly made aware. They aren’t hiding anything, everyone can see what they practice.

    I will continue to go to Kinjo because I like the atmosphere, I like the service, and I like the food.

  9. Hello! It was interesting reading your review of Kinjo’s as it is a place I really enjoy going to. However, I will admit that I only started eating sushi about two or three years ago, and I still cannot eat sashimi – simple rolls with the fish hidden in the middle of rice is what I like best. So it could be that I don’t have enough experience eating sushi to know that Kinjo’s quality is on the lower end of the scale. Having said that, are there any sushi restaurants in Calgary that you would recommend going to, that are not outrageously priced? I have been to Globefish, back when it first opened, and I enjoyed my meal though I have not made the effort to go back often (though I only go out for sushi once every two/three months). I have also eaten at Amici sushi during their first week, and I will not go back after waiting 1 hour for drinks of any kind, including water, and 2 hours for our sushi, in a restaurant that was almost empty except for us. I have ordered twice from Sushi Hibiki and while I enjoy their vegetarian rolls (the yam was delicious!), I found the fish rolls to be flavorless, and mushy.

    So, having said all that, I’d love to hear where you would recommend to go! (If you’d like you can respond via email, .)


    • I’d recommend that you avoid AYCE sushi whenever possible. Even the more highly rated places in Calgary can be hit and miss. There are a number of stores that we go to. In the far North you can try Taiyo in Creekside, in Bowness there’s Sushi Bar Miki, in Marda Loop there’s El’s, on 16th ave. and centre there’s Wa’s, you could try Misato off Sarcee in the SW as well. There are a number of more trendy places in Kensington, 4th street s. and 17th ave. among others that can serve good food as well.

      We’ve had both good and not-so-good meals at all of the above but never anything as bad as Sushi King/Sushi BBQ Inn/Kinjo etc. If you truly like sushi you will find what works for you by seeing what is out there. Read reviews on Urbanspoon and get a feel for what others think of a place and just give some a try.

      • Thank you very much! I’m sure between your recommendations and reviews, and other reviews on sites like Urban Spoon, and my own taste tests, I’ll be able to find a sushi joint that can become my “usual.”

        Thanks again!!!

  10. The review was 100% accurate. living in Japan for 2 years and growing up in Vancouver may have spoiled me, but there is no excuse for smelly tuna (which was my experience). they have some great attributes, but If you think this place is high quality sushi, there is simply no way to reason with you. It is kaiten-zushi in calgary, it is what it is. Even in Japan, kaiten is expected to be cheap and quick rather than high quality, but rotten fish has no place even here.

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    • And here I thought that Nolan’s final post showed that he was perhaps indeed a good person who merely had a differing viewpoint. I truly wonder if he would say these things to my face over dinner. I doubt it.
      I’m sure if I invited him out he’d have some excuse not to go…. I’ll put it out there anyway. If you are up to it Nolan, we could meet at a restaurant of your choosing (hopefully one we’ve both never visited). My treat. I really want to meet you and see if you truly are the type of person who feels slamming others for no good reason is fine or if -as I suspect- you are just a normal guy who uses the anonymity of the internet to the utmost.

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