How many novelty Japanese rolls can a human really eat? We headed to Oshawa’s Rainbow Sushi to find out.
To the uninitiated, the concept behind all you can eat (AYCE) sushi is pure gluttony. Simply indicate how many of each dish you would like, and volia! a server brings it to your table. This goes for anything on the menu, whether you like eel rolls, salmon sashimi or cherry jello, they’re all fair game at AYCE. In fact, while pregnant, I may have once ordered so many bowls of green tea ice cream that the staff started to look extremely concerned.
But that’s the beauty of AYCE sushi: It walks the fine line between quality and quantity. Feel like eating 30 Dragon rolls, eight tempura shrimp, a plate of udon noodles, then wash it all down with five orders of deep fried ice cream? If you have $20 and change in your pocket, AYCE is the place for you. And on this Saturday night, it was the place for us. So we put on our stretchy pants and set out to north Oshawa’s Rainbow Sushi to stuff ourselves silly.
Rainbow Sushi is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall off Simcoe Street, sandwiched between a video game reseller, insurance broker and pub. We arrived at prime dining time, the maneki-neko (a cat statue that acts as a good luck charm), enthusiastically waving as we entered.
It quickly became clear that we were seated between tables of two potential couples on their first dates. But we were here to eat, not eavesdrop (mostly), so we checked the boxes of a a few traditional AYCE dishes – mango salad, hot and sour soup, avocado rolls, spicy tuna rolls, a few pieces of hokkigai (surf clam) and ebi (shrimp) sushi a la carte.
First to the table was the mango salad and hot and sour soup. The mango was slightly under-ripe, thinly sliced and coated in a mildly sweet dressing, while the hot and sour soup fulfilled the promise of being both hot and tart. The rolls also arrived promptly, having been freshly rolled at the sushi station located in the middle of the restaurant. The avocado rolls were small, perfect bite-sized morsels of ripe avocado, vinegar-spiked rice, wrapped in nori, while the spicy tuna rolls were filled with a satisfying crunch of minced tuna, avocado, a sprinkle of tempura bits, and a dollop of spicy mayo on top. The hokkigai were well made and compact: Nori held the firm ball of rice and surf clam together; the hint of wasabi between the rice and the clam enhanced the flavour.
Rather than turn to fried rice or noodles for our next dishes, we headed back to the appetizer menu and ordered two enoki beef rolls, thinly sliced beef wrapped around baby mushrooms, grilled and served with teriyaki sauce, and ikayaki, simple grilled squid, the body cut into rings with the tentacles on the side, plus a plate coconut shrimp.
The plate of coconut shrimp was unremarkable, being both deep fried an sweet, but the enoki and ikayaki were a refreshing antidote to the carb-heavy dishes on the menu. The enoki beef was lean and the mushrooms cooked lightly enough to retain shape and bite, but the amount of teriyaki sauce on top was slightly overpowering. Less would have allowed the flavour of the beef and mushrooms come through. The ikayaki was lovely: Perfectly grilled and sliced into easily-dippable rings. In fact (and this is the beauty of the AYCE concept), we enjoyed it so much we ordered another plate.
Our final order was green tea ice cream, which was a refreshing way to end a heavy meal. But this time I only had one bowl.
Cost: $20.95 per adult, plus $2 soft drinks.
Location: 1180 Simcoe Street North. Phone: 905-240-5666.