Japonais Bistro

11806 Jasper Ave.

780 760 1616


Food: 3 of 5

Ambience: 3.5 of 5

Service: 3.5 of 5

Dinner for two (excluding drinks and tip), basic, $30; loaded $60.

Maybe it was the time - a Saturday lunch.

But that's no excuse.

A good restaurant should produce good food at all times. My money is worth no less depending on the time of day or week.

The buzz around Japonais Bistro, on Jasper Avenue West between Earl’s Tin Palace and Famoso, has been of a Japanese sushi house with a contemporary, "fusion" take on North-American style Japanese cuisine.

But such was not the lunch our party had.

It was a thoroughly normal Japanese lunch, the same sushi (the variations on fish, rice and seaweed wrappers) as is found at every Japanese restaurant.

The fish was not as fresh as one would expect from a sushi house with a reputation. It wasn't particularly fresh at all.

On the patio of what was for many years Suede Lounge, we ordered two "custom-designed" bento boxes - the traditional Japanese lunch with four or five options, a mixed sushi plate, the "cheezy dragon" roll and beef tenderloin.

The bento boxes were basic bento boxes - I opted for a sunomo salad (sunomo being the tart, slippery tiny noodles served cold as a salad base), veggie tempura, tuna maki (six bite-sized pieces of tuna in the centre of a mini-rice roll, wrapped in seaweed), mixed sashimi (four bite-sized raw fish filets of salmon, tuna and a white fish) and good ol' edamame.

Maria's bento was a variation on the same theme - seaweed salad, shrimp tempura, salmon maki, a dynamite roll and extra rice. The bentos were good, but two days later, writing this review, I can't recall anything outstanding, other than being disappointed in the less-than-top-quality sashimi. The tempura was a basic tempura, the maki your basic rice/fish/outside seaweed covering, the salads cool and refreshing. Nothing jumped out.

If anything would illustrate Japonais Bistro's uniqueness, it'd be the "cheezy dragon roll." The restaurant's rolls - beds of rolled rice topped with ingredients - are a selling point. This one came built around shrimp tempura for crunch, cream cheese and avocado for smoothness, eel, dill and sweet soy for taste. Again, it was good, visually pleasing as most Japanese dishes are, but no knock-out in the flavour department.

The steak was visually interesting, sliced then re-assembled as a filet on one side of the plate with sliced and piled veggies on the other. The menu suggested a miso-reduction sauce. What I tasted was pretty good beef and veggies in I would have thought was teriyaki. As for the mixed sushi, it was basic, a dozen pieces of well-presented, but common sushi. Same as every other Japanese restaurant.

Where Japonais Bistro may have garnered kudos (by the way, the name may be trendy, but there's no French connection) is in its "fusion" dishes. The chef - a former Mikado employee now doing his own thing - has items like Godzilla and cherry blossom logs, sushi tortillas and spicy mango prawns on his extensive menu. He also has weekly oyster appetizer and Japanese beer specials.

The Japonais Bistro may not be geared to a Saturday lunch crowd. The chefs may not have been at their best. But that's no excuse. The prices are still the same. The quality should be uniform.

For my money, the best sushi house within driving distance still remains Sherwood Park's Sumo Sumo.

*Classy move at the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre’s annual Rib Cook-Off luncheon last Sunday: TV/cooking personality John Berry had been a long-time judge. With John’s passing from cancer in June, this year’s contest was dedicated to his memory. I was one of four judges, all friends of John. Eight BBQ team contestants fed several hundred visitors while competing for best BBQ’d ribs. The “Backyard” winner was the Town of Devon’s Ribbers’ team, the “Kicking Ash” winner Clearstream Energy’s Canadian Smoke team. 

Graham Hicks

780 707 6379