Aja opened this past Monday (April 15), taking over the spot where The Rock Cafe used to be. I only learned of its existence through Urbanspoon and got attracted to the very low prices. Since I was not in the mood to cook last night, I got hubby to try out this place with me. We walked in to a fairly small restaurant and it was rather empty for a Friday night. Upon chatting with the manager Alicia, we learned that her aunt opened this restaurant and it is definitely family run. The menu they have at the moment is quite preliminary and they hope to add more dishes from time to time.
Here’s what we tried tonight:
Seared Salmon Nigiri – Complimentary
We were surprised when this was brought out. Thick slices of cooled seared salmon over a small ball of rice – excellent fish to rice ratio. It was good, but I prefer my seared nigiri to be served warm.
Vegetable Spring Rolls - Complimentary
We were yet again surprised when this was brought out moments after the seared salmon nigiri. Served piping hot, there was an assortment of vegetables and vermicelli packed inside these. I liked them especially with the plum sauce. Hubby thought they were good although he would’ve preferred some meat in them, but that’s a personal preference. I personally prefer vegetable spring rolls over the meaty ones.
Chirashi – $12.95
Thick slices of fresh fish – here we have red snapper, tuna, salmon, surf clam, tamago, giant scallop and tobiko. I thought the selection of fish was kind of boring and would like to see more variety, but Alicia did tell us that they ran out of some stock so maybe that’s why. The rice was good – not gummy or anything but I feel it can be seasoned a tad more with some sugar and vinegar. This is not an exclusive issue to Aja, but I find that a lot of sushi restaurants in Calgary do not season their rice enough. I wonder why that is?
Spider Roll – Free (Promotional)
This was listed as $5.95 on the menu, but Alicia assured us this is not normally how it’s served – they just made it really huge for some reason (and we are happy about that!). I listed it as free b/c there is a coupon for BOGO rolls that is valid until May 31, 2013. Extra [tasty] sushi is awesome, free [tasty] sushi is always welcomed!! This was a very well made Spider Roll with a generous portion of warm, crispy soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber and tobiko; drizzled with just enough mayo so it wasn’t overwhelming. I like how there wasn’t a ton of rice packed on the outside of the roll and no soy sauce was needed. Hmmmm. I would so order this again.
I’m curious to see what the normal portion is This is the normal portion – regular price is $13.95.
Dynamite Roll – $5.95
This was a very well made dynamite roll and hubby commented how crispy the tempura shrimp was. Again, I’m happy that it wasn’t packed with rice, and it was the perfect size to just pop the entire piece into your mouth. Like the spider roll, the roll was served warm (a good thing).
Chopped Scallop Nigiri – $1.50/pc
I’ve mentioned in the past that I generally don’t prefer the mini scallops being used in chopped scallop nigiri/makis, but for the price here I really can’t complain. Also, the scallops were plump and sweet with just enough mayo – and topped with tobiko as opposed to masago too. Hubby loved this. I did too!
Unagi Fried Rice – $8.95
This was hubby’s dish. I’ve never seen unagi fried rice before so it was a must try. You get a good amount of mixed vegetables, unagi and topped with shredded seaweed, fish flakes and tobiko. The rice is coated with some kind of sauce – I’m guessing either oyster or unagi sauce. As a result it smelled really good and the taste was just as good. We were so full at this point so we packed half of it to go home – my son ate it the next day and he enjoyed it too!
Mango Pudding – Complimentary
As Alicia brought us our bill she also brought out more food – she said she made this and it was very tasty. There’s even mango chunks on top! What a great way to end a great meal.
This was the cheapest sushi meal we have had to date and we were stuffed silly with leftovers to bring home. We really enjoyed talking with Alicia and she really cares about customer feedback and satisfaction. The rest of the staff are very hard working, and the reason they are doing so much complimentary food and promotions is just hoping to get their name out there. For the price and portions, this is very good value Japanese food that actually tastes great! They are Chinese owned, so you do have some dishes on the menu that are Chinese influenced. If you love supporting small family businesses and want great food at a low cost, please give them a visit!