Residents and visitors to Vancouver are fortunate in that one of the highest rated (and most expensive) sushi places is right there in the city, but what if your wallet isn’t up for a big splurge at Tojo’s? And how do you choose a good sushi restaurant anyway? There are some things you can easily check such as a fresh smell in the restaurant, but other aspects are too difficult to find out unless you’re willing to call and ask about seafood delivery and quality of sauces. Luckily you can usually go by other people’s experiences, so we’ve found the most popular sushi spots for you.

Ajisai Sushi Bar

ajisaiCreativecommons.org/ Wendy Cutler

A little off the beaten path in Kerrisdale, Ajisai is everything you are looking for in a sushi place: fresh, authentic and delicious. All they do is sushi and sashimi, which allows them to focus on taste and quality over variety. Not that you won’t find a lot of variety on the menu – they have vegetable, prawn, mushrooms, egg, and of course a wide variety of fish, for their sashimi, maki and nigiri. The only hot thing you’ll find on the menu is tea and they are happy to keep that cup filled for you.

They don’t take reservations and you may have to stand in line, but it’s not too bad of a wait and you may be able to get a lychee mojito to sip as you anticipate what awaits you.

Dan Japanese Restaurant

Kitsilano hides another treat for the palate, this one serving a full Japanese menu. If possible, sit at the bar so you can watch your meal being prepared, as it’s almost a dance between the sushi chef and the food. Pick your meal from the hand-written menu of the day or order the omakase to get a mix of the best choices for the evening. They also have a nice selection of sake to go with your meal.

The restaurant is very popular but is one of the few good sushi bars that take reservations. Call ahead and save your spot if you are on a tight schedule.

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar

blue water cafeCreativecommons.org/ Sashimi Plate

Ask anyone what the best seafood restaurant is and chances are they’ll send you here. Not only do they use wild, sustainably harvested seafood, they make amazing sushi with it, and it’s all served in a fabulous converted warehouse. Don’t be tempted by the full menu (save that for another visit) but head straight for the raw bar and get the barbecued eel and smoked salmon roll to start your experience with. Diners who want very, very fresh lobster can get one from the tank in the kitchen, and it will be prepared on the spot. If that’s too much for you, crispy prawns are great in almost anything.

This is a large restaurant in a great neighborhood. If you do have to wait for a table, there’s enough to see outside to keep you occupied for a while.

Miku

This was the first restaurant in Vancouver to serve aburi-style nigiri and it still serves the best. Order any of the flame-seared sushi for the delicious blend of roasted and raw on lightly sweetened sushi rice. They serve some fusion meals too, mixing the best of Japanese cuisine with the local delights of Vancouver and creating something that surpasses both. The Red Wave Roll is one of the highlights of the menu although any of the aburi sushi is absolutely amazing.

Miku is a higher-end restaurant and if price is a concern, go for lunch and watch the bustle of downtown as you dine. Lunch prices are a little lower and on warm days there is outside seating.

Toshi Sushi

Toshi is also among the best in the city. It’s a no-frills kind of place that is more concerned about fabulous food than distracting decor. They serve Japanese cuisine and the seafood salad is a nice way to start your meal if you need time to study the menu, although it’s hard to make a mistake when ordering. Everything on the menu is consistently good, fresh and perfectly seasoned.

There will be a wait. Toshi is only open for dinner and your choices are to arrive early and wait until they open, or arrive later and wait for a spot. Ask anyone who’s been there and you’ll discover that no one minds the wait after they’ve discovered what they’re waiting for.

Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar

A nice contrast to Toshi, Kishimoto is modern and appeals to the eyes as well as the palate. Your meal is almost art in its arrangement and the owners take taste so seriously that they even make their own vinegar. They serve a number of traditional sushi rolls that are delicious, but they’ve also added some creative concoctions that are surprisingly good. Try the HamaChili roll with jalapenos and avocado, and be sure to ask about seasonal specials on the menu.

There is often a wait and they don’t take reservations, but it’s easily worth the time as the many repeat customers will attest to.