Donate blood and find delicious sushi.  Those were my goals yesterday.

I’m happy to report I accomplished them both, without fainting during the first (I have a history) or eating my weight in tempura (a history here, also).

Needles and seaweed have something in common for me: at one point I was afraid of them both.  The aversion to needles stems from a childhood bout with mono, during which time I experienced one too many blood tests for my poor little arms to handle.  I hated it.

The fear of seaweed began when I was about 14 and tried sushi for the first time.  It was a homemade carrot and cucumber roll made by the mother of one of my mom’s students.  Before I ate it, my mom pointed out how finely and precisely the vegetables inside it had been cut.  It was beautiful.  I put it in my mouth and bit down, then ran straight to the garbage and spat it out.  I can’t remember a single other time I’ve done that, and I’m honestly quite ashamed.  It was a utterly foreign flavour, and I hated it too.

I eventually came around to loving seaweed (if at first you don’t succeed…..) and also outgrew my fear of needles.  I now donate every 3 months at Canada Blood Services, and do so for two reasons: 1) It could save someone’s life, and 2) they ask you to please sit down and have a juice box + snack before you go.  There are trashy magazines and plenty of timbits, and I enjoy the forced break.  I recognize the first reason is significantly more important than the second, but reading about Angelina Jolie while eating donuts is still swell.

Sushi is now also a regular part of my existence, though unfortunately it doesn’t save lives.  Today I was joined by some friends at Ichiro Sushi, a popular and highly recommended spot in Steveston.

It’s a friendly place (upon arrival we were greeted not only by the servers but also the chefs) with minimalist, chic décor.  They have a large menu, and with a few suggestions from our server we were able to narrow down our order; we shared the Assorted Sashimi, Assorted Tempura, Gomae, Kaiso Salad, Steveston Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, and the House Prawn Roll.

The Assorted Sashimi  – salmon, tuna, and hamachi (yellow tail tuna) – was gorgeously arranged and clean-tasting.  It’s nice to have all three fish together, as it gives you a better appreciation for their distinct flavours, textures, and colours.  The tuna, for example, is so much milder than the savoury, darker hamachi.

The tempura platter included prawns, onions, carrots, green beans, and thinly-sliced sweet potato.  It was fresh, light and crispy.  The Japanese do such a wonderful job of making battered and deep-fried vegetables seem good for you.

Though they look modest, the Gomae (sautéed spinach with peanut sauce) and the Kaiso (seaweed) Salad were my two favourite dishes.  The seaweed was finely julienned and marinated in a rice vinegar dressing, with the chewy/crunchy texture of a slightly undercooked rice noodle.  It tasted ever-so-slightly of the ocean, reaffirming my good fortune to be living next to the Pacific (whether it came from there or not!)  The spinach in the Gomae was tender but not over-cooked, and tossed with one of the best peanut sauces I’ve tasted.  I could easily eat it every day, like a worldly Popeye.

The House Prawn Roll (on the left) had prawn tempura, avocado, cucumber, tobiko, and mayo sauce.  It was good, though not spicy as the menu claimed it to be.  Our server did tell us it was more of a sweet spice, but I personally didn’t get any heat at all.  I loved the combination of prawns, mayo and crunchy tobiko (flying fish roe), however, and would still order it again.  While the Steveston Roll (centre) with sweet shrimp, salmon, tuna, cucumber, and salmon on top is definitely for salmon-lovers, it was a little too plain for me.  I’m beginning to realize just how much I love strong flavours.  My favourite of the three was the Spicy Tuna Roll (right).  Filled with tuna and cucumber, it was drizzled with a spicy, smoky sauce that made it a standout.

Ichiro isn’t cheap (our bill came to $71.06 for three), but it is a place to go for beautifully presented, fresh and refined flavours.  I recommend the Gomae, Kaiso Salad, and the Spicy Tuna Roll, and would certainly go back.

Look at me talking up seaweed!  I’ve come a long way since my mono and 14 year-old garbage can-self.

If you’re for a great food documentary to watch, I highly recommend Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Perhaps eat at Ichiro first though, because if you’re a sushi lover, you do NOT want to watch this thing on an empty stomach.  Trust me.