One of my favourite “I have no other place to be” activities is moving slowly through bookstores. While fiction, travel, and photography get quite a bit of love, I inevitably end up in the cookbook section, flipping through recipes, and judging each and every book by its cover. The art of cookbook design is unbelievably influential, and I don’t hesitate to admit its effects on me. I love pretty pictures of food!
In a shopping plaza on Ackroyd Road, there’s a large Chapters just around the corner from Tokyo Joe’s Sushi Factory. I first browsed its shelves, making notes of my favourite titles, then tried desperately to justify their potential purchase over a meal of gomae ($3.50), a Rainbow Roll ($9.95), and a piece of salmon sashimi ($1.60). Seeing as I left the area with nothing more than a receipt for dinner, I did not do much of a job at convincing myself. Hmmmph.
During my first plate, the gomae, I pondered Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. I have their first one, love their restaurants in London, and have been swooning over the book’s cover since I first saw the yogurt-covered blackened eggplant sprinkled with bright, tart pomegranate seeds. I’ve promised and promised myself I’d purchase this book; “I’ll buy it when I get this job,” or “I’ll buy it when I get a raise,” or “I’ll buy it if I get the 365 Days of Dining job!” yet it’s still conspicuously absent from my bookshelf.
I’m very fond of Plenty, but not the gomae. The spinach was tough, chewy, and the sauce was drizzled on top, not mixed in, which I prefer. I wouldn’t order it again.
Next I had the Rainbow Roll, on the suggestion of my server. It had salmon, tuna, ebi (shrimp), avocado, and tobiko (fish roe), and gets its name from the alternating toppings that create a kind of rainbow.
While eating it, I attempted to convince myself of my need to buy The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, from one of Montreal’s most acclaimed restaurants. They share their love of their city and food through recipes and stories, and if I had a gorgeous coffee table, that is where I’d put it.
The Rainbow Roll was decent, but at almost ten dollars, rather on the expensive side.
Finally, the piece of salmon nigiri was eaten while pondering the purchase of A Year of Pies.
The salmon was good, though not great. The fish was fresh but the rice wasn’t to be savoured. At a $1.60, however, it hit the spot.
I finished everything on my plate, then really wanted to move onto a piece of pie from the book, which reminded me yet again of how many times I’ve meant to bake one in the last few weeks. I even have a ‘new’ pie plate purchased at the thrift shop in Steveston, and it’s waiting for some pastry and fruit!
I wasn’t blown away by the food at Tokyo Joe’s Sushi Factory, but here’s what did blow me away: the service. The staff, all dressed in bright red shirts and moving about efficiently, are almost comically positive. They’re like the Westjet employees of the sushi world. Everyone is greeted warmly, I was helped with my order, several people came over to make sure I had tea in my cup and enough ginger on my plate, and they worked together as a team. The small restaurant is unpretentious and cheerful, with surfaces covered by photos of food and employees posing happily with customers.
To me, service is a huge factor in a dining experience, and in this case it left an greater impression than the food. For quick, cheap sushi I would return to Tokyo Joe’s, and know there are plenty more things for me to try. I also have to say I’m quite thankful there’s so many opportunities for me to learn about Asian cuisine in this job, as you can see from my wishlist’s lack of Asian cookbooks I don’t have much ambition for cooking it. I find it too overwhelming!
Here’s one more book to add to the list – I imagine she was also a lady who appreciated good service. Now do tell: what books/cookbooks are on your wish list?
Tokyo Joe’s Sushi Factory
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available
For dine-in, they offer free miso soup!