Shizen Ya: Healthy and Yummy Rolled Together

Calling all vegetarians, organic food, and brown rice lovers who enjoy sushi – Shizen Ya must be moved to the top of your list, immediately. Or if you are like me, who has no dietary restrictions, this restaurant is still one you should try. After visiting this corner sushi shop on West Broadway with Michelle, my view on brown rice and other “healthy” foods have been permanently changed.

We went during a “down time” for most Japanese restaurants, so when we arrived, there were only a few other occupied tables. Shizen Ya isn’t too big of an establishment, but extremely well-kept with its clean appearance. The sushi at Shizen Ya is known for being organic, additive-free, and MSG free – in fact, these words are plastered on every page throughout their menu so that customers don’t forget. Their menu also offers numerous vegetarian-friendly options, from which I tried the Organic Tofu & Avocado Salad ($4.95).

With two of my many favourite foods compiled into one dish, and a bonus of black sesame sauce, my stomach got excited to try this appetizer. I really liked the black sesame sauce, which gave a nutty flavour to the tofu and avocado. The salad was also served with cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds (which I found an odd but interesting addition), more sesame, and topped with sprouts. Digging under the sprouts to get to the tofu was like trying to see someone’s face covered with hair – but regardless of the excessive sprouts, I very much liked this starter to what would be a healthy and delicious meal.

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The two of us are raw fish lovers, so there was no doubt that we ordered salmon sashimi to share. Under the À La Carte menu, we customized our order of Spicy Sockeye Salmon ($5.95) by having just the plain diced wild sockeye salmon. The Ocean-Wise fish was unquestionable in terms of quality, but rather small for what we expected. The sashimi also was not diced, nor sliced, but more of “chunks”. I think Michelle and I might have been better off just ordering a proper sashimi dish not listed on the À La Carte menu.

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The sushi rolls were what really completed the visit to Shizen Ya. We ordered two out of the four featured under Creative Menu, which were the Sakura Blossom Roll ($12.95) and the Natural Bomber Roll ($12.95 for 10 pieces, $6.95 for 5). The Sakura Blossom Roll proved to be my favourite of the meal, for its “juicy” fresh crab, spicy albacore tuna, cucumber and organic avocado, organic brown sushi rice and wild sockeye salmon. The roll was accompanied by a creamy maple dressing, but we both can confirm that there was a lack of maple flavour in the sweet sauce. There really is no way to verify whether or not the ingredients are authentically organic, but I believe them.

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Brown rice tastes phenomenal with soya sauce! I couldn’t get enough of brown rice from  the Sakura Blossom Roll, but fortunately the Natural Bomber Roll was still around to satisfy my taste buds. This roll was a perfect reminder of spring, with crunchy tiger prawn, “whole wheat” tempura, juicy fresh crab, cucumber, organic spring mix, organic brown sushi rice, organic avocado and homemade sweet sauce. Truly an uplifting dish if you are suffering from the constant rain here, and also a very green choice.

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Aside from the sashimi, I felt everything on the menu was adequately priced for what was offered. Considering they use organic ingredients to make their dishes, I am quite intrigued that this has not been notably reflected in the price. Their soya sauce was contained in a different porcelain dispenser than the original, so I cannot help but wonder what type of soya sauce they serve. Normal, or low sodium because they are pro-healthy? Anyway, just some food for thought.

Shizen Ya is definitely one of the more interesting and unique restaurants I have visited. In a city like Vancouver, where there are hundreds of sushi shops, there must be something special about your sushi in order to have customers come back for more – and Shizen Ya does exactly this with its healthy concepts.

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