Sushi across North America

Tonight I had the strangest sushi of my life. I decided to be adventurous and order the “plátano rollo” or banana roll. I was definitely expecting a roll with avocadoes and rice, as per the order, but the Nicaraguan part of my brain thinks that plátanos are plantains, bananos are bananas, and maduros are mature plantains, plátanos verdes are unripe plantains (the list goes on), so that it would have been maybe maduros fritos in the roll. That would have been delicious. A roll with avocadoes, cream cheese unspecified seafood and rice, surrounded by a slice of a banana (or possibly ripe plantain, which in Mexico are plátanos machos), topped with jam, was less delicious than I hoped. I began to make a mental chart, comparing my sushi experiences in Canada, the United States and Mexico (the three countries that together make up North America).

To be fair, I have never been to Japan, nor do I have any idea what sushi tastes like there. In the US, I have eaten sushi in San Francisco, El Paso and Fort Wayne. Each place had its own charm: San Francisco’s Chinatown, El Paso’s ‘main strip’ and a restaurant across from my hotel in Fort Wayne. In Toronto, I have a name twin (first only) and our friendship largely revolves around us having sushi together, her helping me move, and me not returning the favour. In Mexico City I’ve actually only had sushi two places: once near my house and once outside of the Metro Revolución subway stop (that kind had no fish, but it was delicious). The reflections below are from the restaurant. (If anyone would like to fix the chart format, be my guest).

Canada (Toronto) US Mexico City
Types of sushi Many, especially featuring raw fish, crab, and avocado Had delicious sashimi in El Paso that did not come with rice (what??). On little boats in San Francisco, that moved around the cooking area. Many, prominently featuring avocadoes and “Queso Philadelphia” cream cheese.
Fish Meh Depends on location. California, amazing. El Paso, also good. Fort Wayne? Delicious. The fish in Puerto Escondido is better, but it’s the beach…
Special features Lunch specials,Discounts if you pay with cash Cheaper than Canada, tips should be 20 %. I sometimes forget this. Cream cheese. Arriving really late with the bill and inability to split bills.
Nationality Owners are likely immigrants from a country that is not Japan (it’s Toronto, that just seems a statistical probability)Wait-staff are definitely immigrants, also likely not from Japan, female. Never seen owners, except in San Francisco’s Chinatown (I didn’t make it to Japantown. That might have led to more delicious sushi).Waitstaff has been 50-50 male-female and sometimes immigrants.Cooks are all Spanish-speaking and male in Fort Wayne Owners appear Japanese and struggle a bit with Spanish.Waitstaff is Mexican and largely male.Cooks are all Mexican and male.
Level of confusion Medium, depending on English language communication issues Fairly low. Lowered once I realize that all rolls, regardless of description, include cream cheese.

Conclusions I draw: sushi is trendy, immigrants set up businesses they expect will help them earn money, often relying on an authenticity derived from their clientele’s inability to differentiate between Asian countries, and there are some eery similarities in food service between the US and Mexico.

What about you? Where have you eaten the best sushi and why?

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4 responses to “Sushi across North America

  1. Have you been to Ichiriki in Toronto? Definitely the best moderately priced and authentically Japanese sushi downtown. Also, the owner/chef is Japanese =).

  2. Ok, so I’m not insane. Is tip still 15% pretty much in Canadia?

  3. Also, the sushi place I used to go to with Evan all the time in York-whatever had female Japanese waitstaff, Japanese chefs. As far as I could tell.

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