OK, I admit it. I’m a sushi snob. Having lived in Vancouver for 3 years where one is spoiled by the freshest fish in the sea outside Japan–not to mention the cheapest–sushi is a hard sell for me. I have tasted the tuna at Tojo’s. And in Tokyo. And the uni in Hokkaido. Montreal is landlocked so all fish here have to be flown in from either Halifax, Vancouver, or somewhere else. Sushi here is expensive and often inauthentic. As a sushi aficionado, I must say this rather offends me. Although I always enjoy a little ingenuity on my plate, sometimes it’s straight up simplicity that I want. A hunk of fish dipped in wasabi and soya sauce. Maybe a little rice nestled underneath it. Maybe not.
Montreal sushi is an entirely different beast than real Japanese food. The rolls here are Canadian-sized, which means: bigger. Creative combinations of fish rolled into often [not-so-little] neat bite-sized packages. It is very hard to get certain kinds of fish. Surf clam [hokkigai] seems to be rather scarce, for example. It is very easy to find rolls topped with avocado or different kinds of fish. Even sushi pizza. But this is not my style. When I want sushi I crave the real thing. Yet amidst this rampantly chaotic space, I haven’t give up hope. Authentic, delicious sushi exists here. I know it does. And I think I may have finally found it.
Ironically, the place isn’t run by Japanese, but that is beside the point. The sushi is amazing here. Welcome to Tri Express. We went there on a Tuesday. Five friends and myself. Famished. It was pouring rain outside. A sign on the cash register read: “Cash only, no cards”. I looked around me and it looked like we could have been in a small boat at sea, but a very nice boat filled with… delicious Japanese raw fish and other delicacies. Varnished wood everywhere. A simple ambiance, but cozy.
We ordered the chef’s recommendations for $25 each. For this we received (and devoured) tuna and salmon carpaccio, scallop and shrimp tartare (not really Japanese, but delicious), two mountainous plates of maki rolls–some simple and authentic like spicy tuna, others wrapped in cucumber instead of nori (seaweed) and constructed with varying degrees of complexity, as well as a few pieces of tuna and salmon nigiri. The scallop tartare was mind blowing. The fish was fresh, tasty, and well-cut, and the rolls weren’t so big they wouldn’t fit into a single mouthful. Both price and ambiance were right. I must admit, despite my purist tendencies, I found the creativity of ingredient combinations, flavors and textures tasteful and refreshing. I will definitely go back. But next time I want to dive a little deeper into their menu and see what other fish they have to offer.