Restaurant Review: Sushi Jade St. Catharines

Date Reviewed: April 10, 2010

Lunch Service, 3 P.M.

Price: 13.99 per person, all you can eat.

Summary Judgement:  Does the phrase “lipstick on a pig” resonate with anybody?  This gussied up shit-hole remains a shit-hole that will see you spend an hour on the toilet upon concluding your meal.

I discovered Sushi Jade in 2006.  Back then, I found the service inconsistent, the decor wanting but the food good enough to mitigate the restaurant’s various faults.  Sometime in 2008, the restaurant entered a golden age where the service finally matched the food’s superior quality.  Then, the head-waiter left and everything fell apart.  Orders were lost, the food quality dropped faster than AIG’s stock and the wait staff became absolutely insufferable.  Shortly thereafter, the place shut down for “renovations”.

Recently, Sushi Jade reopened its doors.  I must admit that upon setting foot into a restaurant that had so thoroughly disappointed me in the past, I was impressed.  The bright colours of the open concept dining room were a far cry from its past motif of rotting wood panels.  Even as I waited for a hostess to acknowledge my presence, I was willing to keep an open mind.

As my girlfriend and I were led to our booth, I began to notice a few potentially troublesome details.   Although the tables were full, not a lot of people were eating.  There was much talking, more drinking but not a lot of eating.  Should not people be eating in a restaurant?  Again, it was late. Perhaps things were winding down.

In so much as I like to think I am Gordon Ramsay, I know that I’m just an arrogant bastard who knows his way around a kitchen.  However, you don’t need a Michelin star to see that Jade’s kitchen layout is completely wrong.  Key to this problem is that the new menu, which features a lot of pan-fried and deep fried crap that I would expect to see at Mandarin, and the open concept hot kitchen and sushi bar.  Sushi is a delicate food.  It needs to be kept at a proper temperature lest its taste, texture and smell goes off.  Clearly nobody on the restaurant’s design team stopped to think that putting deep fryers and gas ranges in close proximity to a climate controlled sushi bar was potentially problematic?  Thus my nightmare unfolds.

On order – an order you fill out on paper and then hand to the server, further alienating wait staff from their customers: edamame, 2 Miso soup, 1 order of dumplings, 1 spicy crispy Salmon roll, 1 red dragon roll, 8 Salmon nigiri, 8 Red Snapper nigiri, 2 Haddock nigiri, 2 spicy Salmon nigiri and 1 steak teriyaki.

The order went in at 3:03PM.  The rolls were first to come out.  I focused on the Salmon roll, my girlfriend on the red dragon.  It’s an odd moment when two people bite into something they expect to be delicious, only to have their expectations dashed.  First, I pretended to like it.  Then, I looked for some sort of visual cue to see if my lady-friend hated her food as much as I did.  “How is it?” I bravely asked.  When the answer came back, “How is yours?” I knew that I had been given licence to kvetch.

My roll was decidedly lacking in both spicy and salmon.  Furthermore, the rice, of which there was an abundance, was undercooked to the extent that the roll’s crunch was not originating from the tempura. Yet we both ate our rolls, hopeful of the food to come.  This would prove to be a mistake of gastronomic proportions.

Then came the Miso soup and the Steak Teriyaki.  You’d think it hard to screw up steak teriyaki, but you can if you douse a plate of over-cooked gristle and fat in teriyaki sauce.  As I crunched what I desperately hoped was a piece of bone, things took a turn for the worse; the nigiri arrived.

Allow me to describe the exact smell and texture of this dish.  Pungent would be a polite word to describe this plate’s odour.  The Red Snapper assaulted my palate with its disgusting firm on the outside and slimy consistency.  It was almost as if the fish was just slightly cooked – I wonder what ever could have caused such a thing.  The Salmon and Haddock were similarly offensive.  In fairness to the chef, I tried a couple other pieces of the nigiri, another mistake, but ultimately sent the food back, deeming it inedible.

Shortly after we returned the nigiri to the circle of hell from which it emerged, the service went right out the window.  It was 3:30 when a server informed us that it was last call for lunch.  Let me make clear that this did not mean a shut down before dinner.  Simply that if we didn’t order more at that exact moment we would be eating off the more expensive dinner menu.  It takes some chutzpah to try and overtly squeeze customers for money.  Most classy restaurants understand that if you come in for lunch service, you get lunch service, regardless of if your meal rolls into what they deem to be dinner hours.  We politely refused any more questionable food instead inquiring after the missing-in-action edamame and dumplings.

“No, you get (sic) everything you ordered.”

Right, because I love to argue with the people who bring me my food.

“No, we’re missing our edamame and Dumplings.”

At 3:45 a plate of store bought dumplings and luke-warm edamame were unceremoniously dropped on our table.  Finally, a tepid appetizer that I ordered nearly an hour prior had arrived.  Motivated only by hunger, we ate the unremarkable soybeans and dumplings.  With our meal complete, we were treated to what I can only assume is a sort of ritual punishment designed to keep uppity customers, like me, in their place.

For half an hour, we sat waiting to be offered any number of things: a tea refill, dessert, the bill.  Of course, I couldn’t catch the attention of a member of the wait staff to save my life.  They simply dawdled about the restaurant, avoiding our table as if it were a leper colony.  At that point, we gave serious thought to walking out on the bill.  Considering most of our main course was returned to the kitchen’s foetid bowels, I think the cosmos would have forgiven our transgression.  Only my desire to write this review from the moral high ground saw me pay for a meal not fit for a diseased jackal.  Even as I stood at the cash register, debit card in hand, I was ignored; the hostess simply swiped my card and motioned toward the handset.  It is amazing how a person can take your money but manage to remain mute during the transaction.

To sum up, Sushi Jade offers: noxious food that comes at a snail’s pace, an incompetent wait staff who lose orders and take it out on the customer and an acceptable decor.  I’d eat raw fish off Sarah Palin’s ass before I go back to Sushi Jade, at least her frigid hind-quarters would keep the fish cold.

Overall Scores:

Food: 40%

Service: 35%

Decor and Ambiance: 60%