Kimura Sushi - Report

What defines a great kitchen or restaurant? To some in the Food channel era, maybe watching Hell's Kitchen you may get a sense that you need a great leader like a Gordon Ramsay that demands perfection, that pushes his team to their full potential. Ensuring every cook gives 110 percent every night for the paying guest. Whist this may be reality TV show. I've never encountered such an environment. In my professional experience, whether cooking fine dining for 25 covers on a Monday night, to cooking 350 covers on a Mother's Day brunch, some things are very relevant. You need focused intensity when preparing and plating food. The kitchen is like a zen garden. Where you leave your problems behind, once you step into the kitchen. And you commit to your role and perform the task required as well as you can and asking for help if necessary. Whilst it is great to push boundaries and demand more from each individual. Service time is not the time and place to be practicing new skills or techniques. It is a time of precise timely execution. It is a time when every team member is harmoniously and symbiotically working together. Trusting each member of their team in executing their task with zero complications. An environment where open communication and camaraderie is welcomed. I do agree with Gordon Ramsay, all that matters is the guest's dining experience. The leaders in most professional kitchen are not drill sergeant's; rather they act as facilitators. Ensuring that his team has the required resources, skills and ability to execute at that level. I believe you always talk up the positives publicly and deal with the negatives privately.

Oh yeah, here is my report on Kimura Sushi. :-D Located South of 22nd Avenue and on Rupert Street, Kimura Sushi is a potential hidden gem. If you drive on Rupert Street, chances are you may miss the sign hidden behind a tree. It has only been opened 3 weeks. And in the soft opening mode when I dined there. At the heart of the operation is Kimura-san. Who has worked in the US, China and Japan in various Japanese restaurants. He certainly appears to have quite a sushi making pedigree. His last restaurant in Santa Monica was popular with the more discerning sushi eaters in SoCal. After decades of working, owning and running Japanese eateries, Kimura-san says that this is his retirement sushi shop. I am not an expert in Japanese cuisine, nor even an expert in Japanese food. I can only based what I say on my limited knowledge. Kimura-san clearly demonstrates a proficiency in Japanese cuisine. He deftly wields his knife as efficiently as a samurai warrior. Each slice with a clearly defined task. When I asked him about his sauces and ingredients, he rarely hesitated to share his knowledge. Even going as far showing me his special order Konbu(Kelp) from Japan. And he uses a blend of White Miso Sauce and Red Miso Sauce to yield a delicious tasting sauce that he serves with several items including the ankimo(monk fish liver).

My initial destination was Sushi Hachi, but they close at 9pm and it was pass 7 pm, when I made a call to reserve a table at Kimura. A female voice answered with a clear Japanese accent. After a slight struggle communicating, I ended with a 8pm reservation. Arrived just slightly before 8pm and there was only a couple of tables occupied with a single person at the bar. Walked in, was greeted and asked if we made a reservation. Shown to the table. A second server approached and asked the same question, if we had a reservation. When I asked if we could sit in the table closer to the sushi bar. Was told no, so ask to sit at the sushi bar instead. Which
was a good decision for me. As I got to see Kimura-san at work. The restaurant was roomy and adequately furnished. One of the attraction for me was the advertised Jazz music playing. The idea of perhaps John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley, Ornette Coleman, playing in the background while I ate well prepared nigiri was very inviting. But that never happened. Instead all I heard was the voices of the servers and other diners all night. And never made out a single song that was playing all night. I did notice a collection of maybe 30 Cd's sitting on the shelve. From a distance I recognized a couple of the the CD's. While I wouldn't have mind not enjoying music if the occasional conversation with Kimura-san wasn't constantly being disrupted by the service staff. He meticulously tried to focus on trying to prepare each nigiri but is clearly distracted by what is going on around him. It is evident that the staff is struggling to understand his ordering system. Thinking about it, there seems to be a struggle in the front of house about their individual roles. Rather all three seemed to be doing all the task required with varying degrees of success. IMHO, assigning roles and responsibilities would be better than doing it by committee at this point. Will pay attention on this on my next visit here.

Kimura-san works without a printed or written receipt. Rather he cuts the fish as the server reads the orders to him. With the struggle with his service staff this night, I politely enquire about his family. Thinking that all he really needs is his wife or someone that has worked with him and understand his system. Kimura-san mentions that his wife is in Japan right now. And his son has no interest in this line of work having been 'Americanized'. Which is something I hear often by immigrant parents. They seem to think that their kids are spoiled when they inherit North American values. Too bad. Was thinking maybe he can adopt me. Since I really would love to learn to make great Japanese food. he he.. His system is certainly old school, replaced by point of sale systems(POS) that prints the appropriate receipt at each cook's station. I notice all three servers communicating orders and information to Kimura-san at various points in the night. Understandably he is a busy man. Besides being the sushi chef, he is also the expediter too.

On to the food. There are three menu's: one for the hot food, one for the raw food and sushi and a third is the Omakasse. I was informed that the oven was broken and needs to be fixed. So no Omakasse tonight. Bummer!. There is a 'soft-opening' special which consisted of 15 pieces of nigiri, rolls and mini udon for $13.95. Which was a great introduction and reasonable I thought. Kimura-san brushes each nigiri in his special mix of soy, mirin, sake, and sugar. Which means there is no need to add soy sauce for me. Although I noticed that some pieces could have used more sauce and the brushing wasn't consistent all night. Small detail, mind you. Of the special combo. The red tuna, scallop and fresh eel really stood out to me. The avocado in my California roll tasted like it been sitting out too long. But notice that the avocados used all night were directly from a fresh avocado, cut to order. Meaning none were cut ahead of time! Which equals fresh. Small observation. Ordered another round of nigiri. The deep fried shrimp head on the amae-ebi was fantastic. Kimura sushi uses ingredients that are better grade than your average mediocre sushi joint. Especially on this side of town. And it shows, the short grain rice were really fat. And the sauces were made in house using good to great ingredients. Sadly there is no real wasabi. And there is no o-toro, yet. He informs me that in a few months when he is more settled, he will add o-toro. I tried ordering uni(sea urchin), but was dissuaded by Kimura-san as it wasn't fresh enough to be served. Which is a great touch. Instead he suggest some flounder fin and monk fish liver. The flounder fin was thinly sliced with precision and placed on a shiso leaf. It was denser in texture and had a bit more bite. I asked for some ponzu sauce which he willingly provided and added a dash of something that I could not detect. Monkfish liver is certainly an acquired taste. And is certainly something I order at most Japanese restaurants I visit. Sort of a barometer of how well the cooking is in the kitchen. Like ordering har gou(shrimp dumpling) at a Canto dim sum restaurant. But this time he suggested it to me. His version is lighter and more melt in your mouth than some others than have a denser texture. I really liked it especially with the miso sauce he served it with.

While I came to Kimura Sushi for the nigiri. I did manage to try some hot food. A mini udon came with the opening special. The udon noodles tasted like the frozen variety that you can buy at your Japanese grocer. Al' dente with a bite and chewy enough without the taste of gluten. The seafood based broth was light with a slight smokey overtone. Had enough natural occurring umame to flavour the soup. The real stand out from the kitchen was their deep fried items. In particular their deep fried oysters and pork. It is way better then the mediocre Katsu that is served almost all non Japanese owned Japanese restaurant. It wasn't in the slightest bit greasy. And it was light that you can taste the oysters. It was better than the ones in Rodney's Oyster Bar. Certainly going to come back to try their cooked items maybe this time with some biru to sake(beer and sake). Don't know if there was a different between the set menu that includes the rice and miso and a none set menu. But I asked for a none set menu as i didn't care for the rice or miso soup. But I think I was served the same and charged the the same sans miso and rice. Wish I knew it was the same price, at least I would have like to try their Miso soup. :-(

I really wanted to enjoy my meal but was distracted just as much as the staff and Kimura-san with some of the challenges. It bothered me more so because I can relate to to their feelings. NOTE: the service was never bad throughout the night. The intention and sincerity was there. The comments on service were largely due to inexperienced and being newly opened. Can certainly see the frustration in the staff and Kimura-san. Some things take time. I am hoping the opening jitters will soon past and they can move on to being a successful restaurant. While sitting at the sushi bar, I noticed the tools and knifes Kimura-san used, in particular his 'plating chopticks' stood out, it was really neat looking. Half metal, half wood. Will take a picture next time I am there. They do take-out orders. Though I highly dissuade anyone from ordering take out here. Unless you live next door. As most of the items here are not great take-out items. I was disappointed that Kimura-san was making inside out rolls for take out customer last night. Nori needs to eaten immediately. Once it touches the rice the texture and flavor changes. Oh well.... I suppose there is always folks that love to order their take-out California roll. Kimura-san never did take out in his previous California restaurants. Partly due to fear of lawsuit of eating raw fish he tells me.

Overall my food experience was positive. And I really enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar and chattting with the Kimura-san. Whom fortunately wasn't anything like Gordon Ramsey. He was patient and trying to find his zen state, despite being questioned by a server if he remembered the entire take out orders. Perhaps she fears he may forget an item. Just who is running this place and signing your pay cheque, young lady? This man sure is patient. Especially considering this was his retirement sushi joint. Will return when he works out the kinks and have his full complement of menu items.

Both the hot and hold stations provided excellent items
Best in this category in this part of town
A more authentic Japanese food experience
Uses good to great ingredients

the service needs improvement. especially to be considered a mid to higher end restaurant.
music volume level was too soft, and was drowned out by the few folks talking.
need to work on their system and billing better.

Food : 8
Experience : 5.5
Value : 6.5

Will likely return and recommend to others. East of Main Street in Vancouver, there is only Lime on Commercial that are likely the only sushi joint of this calibre. If you love sushi and have friends that hate raw fish. Bring them to Kimura. You will both find something you will like, I hope.

Kimura on Urbanspoon


Ben and Suanne

Great report, Keev-san. He he he ... why don't you go ahead and ask Kimura-san to adopt you as his son? You got a good writing flair and I enjoyed this post.


Thanks for that insightful and really honest look at this place in its early days. Seems worthy of a follow up visit once they get the kinks straightened out in their operations/service.


Great review. This is why I love talking restaurants with you, that perspective.

What is that dish in the photo gallery (#25 and 26) that almost looks like headcheese?


hey Ben, yes that would be nice if he would adopt me. I would learn so much. he he ..So glad u enjoyed it.

Shokutsu, It does look promising. I heard from gastrodominine that he has over 40 years of experience. So he definitely knows how to make good nigiri I think. I think you will like their fresh water eel nigiri.

Dylan, yea it is like head cheese. it is made with pork trotters. he tells customers it is japanese sausage. it's a firm gelatinized sliced pork feet.


Hey the whole gang is here. Great write-up, Keev. I gotta try this place out sometime.


Just curious, why are some words highlighted in yellow in some of the posts (and only the posts later than the Cioppino review). My computer ... ?


Great review. I ordered take-out not knowing what to expect. I picked an assortment of items: variety of maki, nigiri, udon, beef teriyaki. I was pleasantly surprised when I unpacked everything. Nothing was over-sauced. Portions were smaller than what you'd normally get from a commodity-sushi place, but you could instantly see and smell the difference in quality. The short grain rice was perfect and lightly seasoned. You could also tell by the knifework on some items such as the surf clam that the chef knew his business. Yesterday was the first time in about 2 years I've had sushi and could honestly say I was happy. I wish Sushi Kimura all the best, and I plan on going back soon, except for dine-in.


hey LR, i left spell-check on. that is why is is yellow. dont adjust your computer. it is working fine. :-P
their rice is noticeably different. the grain is fatter and has a nice bite. did you know it takes 4 years to learn to make sushi rice? i need to go back here soon and see how things have progressed.


Very nice post!


If you could e-mail me with a few suggestions on just how you made your blog look this excellent, I would be grateful.


What a great resource!

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