Saturday, January 7, 2012

Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House: Good rice bowls, okay sushi

To all of you that bought a Dealfind voucher for Banzai sushi, I hope you used it…. O_o

Just so you know, yesterday (Friday, January 6, 2012) was the last day to use the $30 voucher.

I was so glad that I checked my coupon list yesterday and discovered that it was expiring. Otherwise, it would have been $15 down the drain….. o_O

The décor at Banzai sushi is simplistic. There are wooden tables surrounding the focal point of the restaurant, the kitchen and the cashier’s desk.
The straight and clear cut design of the restaurant shows patrons that this place means business. Its business is to feed the masses efficiently and effectively.

The design at Banzai may be simplistic. However, there are bold elements as well. For example, the brisk and brash strokes of black paint on the blood red walls, the three circular glasses that separate the kitchen from the dining area, and the gold-painted mural facing the cashier’s desk. 

A most provoking element is the paintings. One of the paintings depicted a man resembling Genghis Khan on a horse.

I found it very interesting how the food reflected and coincided with the décor of Banzai. They look and taste simplistic and clear cut. However, there are bold elements that shock the taste buds and the senses. Like the décor, the food blends both bold and simplistic elements so that there is a balance. A balance that respects the yin and yang of giving to what the patrons desire and know of Japanese sushi and teriyaki, as well as surprising them with the chefs’ own thoughts and creations of Japanese sushi and teriyaki. 

The following is what we ordered for the evening:
1) Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl ($6.25)

This rice bowl came with cold bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, two thin slices of cucumber, and a chicken breast. I found that the chicken breast was nicely marinated with a teriyaki sauce that had a smokey and sweet flavor to it. Even though the bean sprouts were cold, they added a nice texture to the bowl by being crunchy and at a different temperature. Also, they had a rich and nutty taste to it (I think they were marinated in sesame oil). As for the shredded lettuce, there was no taste to them except that they were crunchy (word to the wise: MIX the shredded lettuce with the rice and chicken so that the teriyaki sauce would give a zing to the lettuce). The rice was warm and stuck together in tiny groups. It was comforting to my hungry stomach. The slices of cucumber were refreshing. As for the teriyaki chicken, the meat was plump and juicy, but the skin was not crispy enough to contrast the texture of the meat. Overall, this rice bowl was delicious and satisfying to my taste buds and my belly.

2) Sesame Sauce Beef (Japanese Village’s Steak Sauce) Rice Bowl ($6.25)

My boyfriend had this rice bowl. It had the same elements (rice, lettuce, cucumber slices, and bean sprouts) except for selection of meat (beef) and sauce (Japanese Village’s Steak Sauce). The marinade was very interesting. It tasted salty, meaty, nutty, and a bit sweet all at the same time. I think that the soy sauce used, the drippings from the meat, and the sesame oil all contributed to this flavor. As for the beef, it was cut into thin slices. However, the texture was hard and dry underneath the marinade. This showed that the beef had been well grilled, but it sacrificed its moisture in the cooking process. In the end, the marinade resuscitated the beef back to life by adding the moisture it lost.

3) California Roll (avocado, cucumber, imitation crab meat) : 6 pieces for $3.95

This roll was quite a deal as the chefs stuffed each piece to the brim with imitation crab meat that was nicely shredded. This roll also had thinly cut strips of cucumber in it. I did not see any avocado in it, but I think they may have blended the avocado into a paste and brushed it in the roll. Tastewise, the roll was bland, but the crab meat was soft and added a good contrast to the stickiness and denseness of the rice.

4) Alaskan Roll (avocado, cucumber, imitation crab meat, and smoked salmon) : 6 pieces for $4.75


This was my favourite roll out of all the sushi rolls we ordered! Why? This roll is exactly the same as the California roll EXCEPT it has a thin layer of smoked salmon embracing the rice. This slice of salmon may not look like much as it is thinly sliced. However, it is loaded with smokey and salmon flavor. This ingredient enhanced the roll by changing it into a dynamic roll where each bite presented a new flavor and a new texture. One bite could be soft (the crab meat), another could be chewy (the smoked salmon), and yet another could be crunchy from the cucumber.

5) Banzai Roll (tuna, tobiko, salmon, avocado, and cucumber) : 6 pieces for $4.75

This roll is the signature roll of the restaurant. It is loaded with different types of fish and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. The fish were cut into good chunks. However, the feature that gave this roll the most flavor, texture, and colour is the tobiko. This roll was well-coated with these gorgeous dots of deliciousness. They were sweet and they gave a good pop when they were bitten.

6) Spicy Dynamite Roll (Avocado, Cucumber, Tempura shrimp, and Spicy sauce) : 6 pieces for $4.25

This roll was made interesting thanks to the contrasting degrees of temperature. The avocado, the cucumber, and the rice were cooled, but the tempura shrimp was piping hot. Yes, the shrimp was freshly cooked and deep-fried. The panko crust was not oily at all. Instead, it added a nice crunch along with the crispy shell of the shrimp. Paying 30 cents more for the spicy sauce was worth it for this roll. It ended the tasty performance with a nice hot kick of heat in the mouth.

All in all, there were hits and misses, expectedness and surprises, as well as simplicity and complexity. Like the décor, the service and the food were quite straightforward. You get what you ordered. However, there were bold elements to the food as well. For example, the unexpected nutty taste to the beansprouts, the big hit from the spicy sauce, the complex marinade on the beef teriyaki, and the surprising smokey flavor of the smoked salmon all contributed to the overall meal.

Even though the service was a bit inconsistent (some people were served their food by a server and some were called to the front on a microphone to get their food), I admire the restaurant for giving the patrons the freedom to roam the restaurant, to self-serve, and to become responsible of how their meal is eaten. You are able to get water from a fountain whenever you like, you can choose to eat with chopsticks, a spoon, or a fork from the self-serve station on each table, and you can choose wherever to sit to dine. After all, taking charge of your eating habits is taking charge of your thoughts and feelings of the meal.

Total spent:  $31.71 for two hungry people with at least 12 pieces of sushi left to bring home for another meal.

Banzai Sushi and Teriyaki House is a good restaurant for a quick, self-serve meal that offers standard Japanese fare with a twist. Visit it and remember to give the rice bowls a chance to win your taste buds over!

526 – 4th SW
Calgary, AB, T2J 0P6

Banzai on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I visited the restaurant after reading your interesting blog posts. It has become another favorite restaurant for lunch and dinner.