I find myself making the 10 – 15 minute trip to St. Albert, more often than not, on my days off now. Either to deliver experimental baked goods to my coworkers or to find good eats! Two weeks ago, Joe managed to find his way to St. Albert to join me at Yuzen, one of the few sushi places in the area. (You can read about it here). Right across Herbert Road, located in the same parking lot as Safeway, lies another sushi restaurant, Ohana-Ya. With a couple of friends favoring Ohana-Ya over Yuzen, I decided it’s only fair if I try both to compare, and soon too! When my coworker, sushi-crazy (or general-crazy, if you know her) Jessica, was free for dinner, it was a no-brainer.
On a Wednesday evening, the place was sparsely filled although by the end of the evening, most of the restaurant was seated. To compare, Ohana-Ya seats more than Yuzen, although I preferred the decor of Yuzen. Bare walls made Ohana-Ya feel barren. Our spicy tuna tataki came out first. I liked this dish a lot better than Yuzen’s tuna tataki although I do have a preference for spicy dishes. The ponzu sauce had a nice kick, although Jess barely detected any heat at all. Some of the heat comes from the seasoning on the tuna as well, so there’s no escaping it. If this dish is consistently made like this, I say watch out when smothering your fish into the sauce!
When first introduced to sushi, I was born a roll-girl at heart. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve learned to eat more sashimi and nigiri, appreciating the taste of fresh fish rather than overly complicated rolls of tempura bits, tobiko, and fancy sauces. I ordered the hamachi and Sockeye salmon nigiri to try. I found the sashimi to be oddly cut, almost twice as long as the rice given, although very fresh. I’ve also learned that I prefer the Atlantic salmon much more than the Sockeye salmon, the Atlantic having a creamier texture. With a hint of wasabi under each sashimi, the nigiri was mediocre. Something about the rice is also different from other sushi place in town. Undercooked? Super soft? Even Jessica agreed although she didn’t dwell too long on it and proceeded to eat and enjoy.
Moving to rolls, which Jess prefers when eating in town (she’s experienced the authentic Japanese sushi and only orders sashimi and nigiri when visiting the motherland of sushi). We ordered the seafood sensation roll (avocado, crab salad, scallops, shrimp, tobiko, spicy mayo, fried in tempura, oh my!), sweet tuna roll (tuna, sweet sesame sauce, avocado, tempura crumbs), hanabi roll (spicy tuna, soft shell crab, crab salad, masago, lettuce), and Kamikaze roll (spicy chop chop with tempura bits). Ohana-Ya’s selection of rolls is extensive, a must-go for those obsessed with finding different kinds of rolls. They even have 8 varieties of fully cooked rolls, great for those who shy away from the raw stuff (you’re missing out by the way). My favorite was the Kamikaze roll, moreso because it was simple, fresh, and a good amount of heat. The other rolls were almost as delicious although minor criticisms were made for a couple: the hanabi could use more spicy tuna mixture, and perhaps avocado instead of the use of lettuce, throwing both of us off. The seafood sensation was mostly filled with artificial crab, something I’m not a fan of, but dynamite roll fans might find it a good alternative. Overall, a good variety of rolls available and something for everybody! I knew we were ambitious in ordering but Jess (differing from my usual companion, Joe) has no restraint when ordering. Love it, more items to try, plus leftovers for others after!
With some of the rolls going home to Jess’ hungry significant other, I decided to try the tempura banana with mango ice cream. Why not? Freshly fried, it was delicious! The mango ice cream and whipped cream cooled down hot banana bites and was greatly appreciated. As long as the tempura is crispy, I’m not sure how you can go wrong with this dessert.
Verdict between Yuzen and Ohana-Ya? If you plan on ordering only sashimi or nigiri, I’d recommend Yuzen. If you prefer unique sushi rolls, I’d recommend Ohana-Ya. Both have a good selection of appetizers and entrees and both are around the same prices. Or, if your sushi cravings are more like mine, you’ll have time to try both and add both to your cycle of sushi restaurants in the future.
For reference, my favorites are still Ichiban (west side Edmonton), and Sumo Sumo (Sherwood Park).