Sea Monstr Sushi, new on the scene in Gastown and soon-to-be licensed, offers a warm, spartan decor and mostly traditional Japanese fare. Monstr Chef Keith believes in walking as hard a line as possible when it comes to authenticity. Fusion food is good, he says, but he feels it should be kept seperate from traditional cuisine.
Occupying a narrow space at 55 Powell Street in Gastown, Sea Monstr strikes me as a cozy place for lunch or dinner with a small group, but not particularly suited to larger parties.
Spinach Gomae $3
Anchovy Potato Salad $4.5
Ebi Roll $6.5
Una Tama Roll $4.5
Une-Shiso Maki $2.75
Spicy Tuna Maki $4.5
An excellent example of a staple sushi appetizer, Monstr's peanut gomae was steamed al dente, keeping the spinach flavourful and fresh-tasting and not letting it turn to mush in your mouth. I'm not usually big on gomae, but this was a notable exception.
Anchovy Potato Salad
A fishy twist on a more Western dish, this appetizer was smooth and smokey with sauteed onions adding just a bit of sweetness and crunch. Usually a very strong, distinct ingredient, the anchovies were understated, providing a hint of ocean salt without being overpoweringly fishy.
Nothing at Monstr is deep-fried, so the chefs have adapted this ebi roll to take the place usually reserved for the classic dynamite roll in the standard sushi lineup. Although comparatively bland if a dynamite roll is what you're craving, the ebi roll's tender shrimp contrasted nicely with the textures of tobiko, precooked tempura crumbs and fresh, slightly spicy dikon sprouts.
Una Tama Roll
This delicious combo roll encorporated unagi (eel) with tamago (sweet egg). The sweetness of the tomago was a great compliment to the smokey unagi sauce, and again crunchy dikon sprouts left a refreshing, wasabi-like finish.
Not something I've seen in sushi restaurants before, this chef's favorite was a very interesting and unusual addition to the meal. The herb shiso, also known as perilla or Japanese basil, gave the roll a complex floral, refreshing taste much like a heatless chili with a hint of cilantro. Also in this roll were slices of Japanese sour plum adding notes of salt and sour vinegar that made themselves known before being quickly soothed away by the shiso.
Spicy Tuna Maki
A tasty take on a sushi staple, this tuna roll was made with the chef's proprietary spicy sauce. Oviously not your run-of-the-mill chili paste, it added a dark, complex piquancy with a hint of sesame. The tuna was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the heat from the sauce came in late, then subsided when it was just short of becoming too intense.
Sustainability-minded, Sea Monstr works to minimize its carbon footprint by serving water that has been distilled at sister restaurant Boneta using equipment provided by Vivreau Pure Water. Instead of using disposable containers, Monstr serves its water in appealing glass bottles that are then sent back out to be refilled.