Dragon's Eye maki roll.

Volcano Japanese-Vietnamese Restaurant
4226 Gateway Blvd.
780-756-2218
Volcanoedmonton.com

Delivery: SkipTheDishes.com

Sun. to Thurs. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Food:  2.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 2.5 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two, excluding drinks and tip: basic, $20; loaded $40

By GRAHAM HICKS

Oh dear.

As a restaurant reviewer, I read social media restaurant reports, check with friends in the hospitality business, monitor dining-out blogs such as Sharon Yeo’s OnlyHereForTheFood.com.

Because noteworthy new restaurants in this town are quickly recognized.  Conversely, hundreds of restaurants initially aspiring to high culinary standards are ignored. They don’t live up to their hype.

Last week, we took younger friends out to dinner. I was looking for a south-side eatery that was quasi-trendy, had visual and culinary style, and a menu with something for everybody.

The pickings were thin. The Weekly Dish had already reviewed most of the chain restaurants in South Edmonton Common and around the Whitemud/Calgary Trail intersection.

Next to Nando’s (already reviewed) in the fancy strip mall south of the Whitemud between the Calgary and Gateway Trails was Volcano – Japanese and Vietnamese Restaurant.

The storefront and the signage looked reasonably stylish. Volcano is unknown in Edmonton’s online culinary circles, but why not give it a go? Hidden gems and all that …

Oh dear.

Volcano looked appealing from the outside, and still had some interesting design elements from its opening two years before. But the place appeared not to have had a deep-cleaning since – that subtle deep-fryer odour long absorbed into the walls and leatherette.

Oh dear.

When the server brought the menus,  I ought to have suggested leaving Volcano then and there. The plastic-encased menus were physically falling apart. If an owner/manager tolerated this slovenly detail, what did it say about the kitchen?

But we stayed and ordered, asking that the kitchen take its time delivering the dishes so we wouldn’t feel rushed on a Thursday evening in the near-empty restaurant. Our server did manage to wait 15 minutes between the delivery of our gyoza appetizer … but then, bang, bang, bang, bang – our four main choices all arrived at the same time.

Nothing stood out. The best was adequate, the worst was appalling.

It’s hard to go wrong with gyoza dumplings. These weren’t bad, though oily and only browned on  one side.

Volcano’s gyoza dumplings.

The spring rolls arrived on lettuce so wilted as to be unfit for rabbits. Their innards were made from some meaty mush.

The “deluxe” sunomono salad consisted of two split shrimp on top of a cooled brine in which floated cucumber, vermicelli noodles and bits of seaweed.

Sunomono salad: Noodles, seaweed, cucumber and shrimp floating in brine.

The two maki rolls weren’t bad, but they certainly weren’t good. At least the deep-fried crispy salmon in the Dragon Eyes Roll was not oozing oil. The spicy mayo sauce drizzled on top was as uninspired as plum sauce, but adequate.

Nothing erotic about Volcano’s Erotic maki roll. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUN

Would that the Erotic Roll lived up to its name! Nothing about the crab meat/shrimp roll hinted at voluptuousness of taste – it faded from the memory seconds after eating.

The kitchen’s lowest hour was yet to come.

One of our party, not keen on seafood, had ordered a Vietnamese pork and noodle dish, Bun Nem Nuong. Eight  shriveled mini-pucks of over-roasted something arrived, dry and devoid of flavour,  perched on a pile of vermicelli.

Dry, leathery pucks of pork.

Dessert was banana fritters with vanilla ice-cream. As you might suspect at this point, everything other than the (deep-fried) fritters themselves came out of a bottle or can – the whipped cream, the ho-hum chocolate sauce, the ho-hum ice cream, the ho-hum fritters.

Banana fritters with ice cream

Rarely have I had a less appealing meal – other than cheap bus tours where tourist-trap lunches were part of the package.

Serves me right, however. Whoever runs Volcano isn’t in the business of providing quality, definitely  isn’t looking for reviews, and must rely on  location and long hours to pay the bills.

If you haven’t heard from two or three sources that a restaurant is worth visiting … don’t go!

FOOD NOTES

Good news! Acclaimed restaurateur Nate Box (District Café, Elm Café, Little Brick Café) will be taking over the charming and soon-to-be-restored historic La Boheme restaurant space in the beautiful Highlands neighbourhood east of Gretzky Drive.

Decades past, arts entrepreneur Ernst Eder made La Boheme a vital part of the city’s character before he skedaddled off to Argentina. The beautiful space is way overdue for re-discovery. Nate’s also excited over a 50-seat patio planned on the La Boheme building’s third floor. We’ll have to wait until the spring of 2019 before the space is ready for business.