Neighbourhood: Linden Ridge
Address: 1717 Kenaston Blvd
Phone: (204) 487-4222
What started out as a sushi take-out spot on Academy in 2008 has since exploded to include two restaurants for local chain Asoyama. In Japanese, the name has a special meaning: “Aso” refers to Japan’s largest active volcano while “Yama” means mountain. With one of the largest calderas in the world, a visit to the towering peaks of Mount Aso is big, bold and beautiful. It’s also parallel to the dining experience offered at Asoyama’s Linden Ridge Mall location.
The enormous 150-seat restaurant boasts a patio, regular table service and private tatami dining rooms. Head Chef Ken Chung works his wizardry at the central sushi bar that divides the high-ceiling room. A stylized medley of Asian accents beautify the space: striking wallpaper patterns from bamboo to cherry blossoms; lit panels of traditional Japanese scenes; and shimmering lights in one corner twinkle like the night sky. Diners enjoy privacy thanks to trellises that section off dark wooden dining tables.
The huge eight-page menu lists more than 160 dishes, featuring traditional and fusion food. Steering clear of the sushi-only trend, different facets of Japanese cuisine are showcased on the à la carte menu. One night’s favourite, grilled eggplant, offers intense heat. Spicy mayonnaise speckled with chilli and salty, tissue-paper-thin fish flakes top the soft, yet not mushy, slices of eggplant. The taste combination erupts with fiery flavour.
Diners can get cool relief down the list with refreshing kyu tataki. Lightly seared beef slices are elegantly fanned in a circle of puckery rice vinegar and soy sauce. Simple garnishes of ginger and green onion add bold bite and contrasting punches of colour to the smooth, pink meat.
That same rice vinegar is found in two more must-try dishes, albeit in different ways. In sunomono salad, it’s a main ingredient in the dressing. The refreshing broth permeates every bite of sliced cucumber, seaweed and shirataki (thin, translucent Japanese noodles) and sweet cooked shrimp. Rice vinegar offers a pleasant sour note in dip served with superb gyoza. Puffy dumplings are perfectly pinched and gently pan-fried until golden and crispy. The mild flavour of shredded pork and chives is found in its savoury filling.
House rolls successfully fuse Western tastes and Japanese tradition. Applesauce and fresh onion are found on the unconventional fuji roll stuffed with cucumber. Beautifully presented in a circle, each slice is also topped with fleshy salmon, plump ikura and yellow applesauce reminiscent of the famous mountain’s sunrise. Tastes see-saw between the onion’s bitterness and sweetness of the applesauce.
A North American twist is applied to the California roll in the TNT house offering. The popular roll is deep-fried in tempura and lightly drizzled in sweet teriyaki, turning it into an instant guilty pleasure.
Diners who want traditional Japanese seafood should order wild salmon nigiri. Generous slices of vibrant pink fish are draped over mounds of sushi rice. The raw fish gracefully melts with a hint of oceanic flavour; a testament to the kitchen’s expertise in selecting premium ingredients.
Asoyama is open Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm; Sun 3 pm-10 pm.