Ryu – Thankfully Rethinking Montreal Sushi


Ryu – ryumtl.com
288 Laurier West Montreal, QC H2V 2K2
(514) 439-6559

Let’s talk about Montreal’s sushi scene for a sec. We all have our favourite corner sushi stops and while I am certain that mine is still far better than the most, the large majority of sushi places have rolls baring the same names, the same ingredients and the same dominating spicy-mayo tempura flavours and carrot flowers immaculately carved to mask the fact that your chef’s choice dinner for two really is somewhere between mediocre and decent.

Don’t get me wrong – I love me a good Rainbow Roll. But once you’ve traveled to Japan or even New York which is rife with mom & pop places to the famed Nobu or Sushi Samba and where your fish is likely caught just hours before it appears on your plate, you realize that our standard sushi offerings are far from enticing.

Thankfully, several Montreal establishments are trying to elevate sushi beyond the cheap and cheerful to deliver high-quality sea creatures

such as Park and Jun I, whose efforts are applauded despite their inaccessible pricing and perhaps over-stated reputations.

Lobster sushi cuddled by tuna tataki

Lobster sushi cuddled by tuna tataki

I was excited then to discover a new addition to the high-end Japanese/Sushi experience, Ryu – opened two years ago on Laurier near Park Ave., appropriately flanked by Hasids and Hipsters. Reservations were easily made on OpenTable an hour before dinner and although at least double the price than your quick-fix sushi, it has a diverse menu and is worth it for a special night out (you can get away with maybe $60/head).

The interior has a bit of that “trying too hard to be a trendy nightclub” aesthetic with its neon bar lights, modern art-deco, kitsch-Asian wall décor and intrusive trance beats. We (my sister and father) were equally amused by the waiters with their hipster bow-ties and suspenders and somewhat lackluster enthusiasm for their roles. Ryu’s giggle-worthy description on OpenTable “…a sumptuous feast for the senses for evening Epicureans. Ryu is more than a place to see; it’s a place to be seen” proves their desire to ascend to the ranks of their competitors. A few adjustments to their interior away from the 90’s night-club look and somewhat more engaging service might help.

Beet tataki to die for

Beet tataki to die for

Nonetheless, Ryu’s high-ratings on most restaurant sites are well deserved. To my delight, our selections of both Asian-inspired dishes and sushi were outstanding. A giant portion of edamame sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds and sesame oil flattered what can be an otherwise bland or too salty experience. My sister described the Miso soup as “exactly what a miso should be; well salted broth and tender tofu”. I told her she ought to be the one writing this review.

Each subsequent dish made my eyebrows widen in astonishment. The Ryu Club was, as its name suggested, is a take on a club sandwich in a sushi roll. Sacrilegious?!

I beg to differ. Barring the presence of bacon it was an eerily close approximation, especially when dipped in a combination of Japanese mayo and a sweet soy/mirin.
Next was a lobster roll that tasted like…lobster! Not frozen lobster that could be confused for fake crab or rubber, like, REAL lobster accompanied by tuna tataki, delicate slivers of jalapeno and a light spicy sauce.

Tuna and Hamachi Carpaccioulicious!

Tuna and Hamachi Carpaccioulicious!

A perfectly seasoned, seared and aged beef tataki with crispy spinach reasserted my carnivorous preferences.

It’s rare to see Hamachi on Montreal sushi menus.

So I was not going to miss an opportunity to try the hamachi and tuna carpaccio topped with julienned apple and an odd but surprisingly balanced pesto.

As the fish dissolved in my mouth all I could think about was returning for more. Sharing was NOT an option.

We opted for tea served in a tasteful ceramic pot, but it was impossible not to have a go at their dessert role – banana, kiwi, strawberry and tempura rolled in a fine soy paper. I’ve discovered a great new fondue alternative – fruit sushi dipped in chocolate sauce. Who said food shouldn’t be fun?

Ready for dippin...

Ready for dippin…

We left toting a branded canvas bag with a leftover vegetarian Geisha roll (nice touch…very slick) and the pleasure knowing that the next time I tire of dragon rolls and chicken tempura and want to dig a bit deeper into my wallet (or someone else’s preferably), Ryu’s sashimi lettuce wraps and Miso-marinated black cod will be waiting.

Ryu – ryumtl.com
288 Laurier West Montreal, QC H2V 2K2
(514) 439-6559

Take it home in style.

Take it home in style. (Hand model credits: MD)

Ryu on Urbanspoon

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