Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A little authentic taste of Japan - Furusato

There's definitely an over-abundance of sushi restaurants in Montreal, ranging from the very bad to the very posh, but in comparison, the Japanese population here is teeny tiny. So, as you can imagine, actual Japanese-owned and run restaurants are relatively few as well. That isn't to say that non-Japanese operated sushi restaurants are bad, per se - in fact, some of the most popular Japanese restaurants in Montreal aren't run by Japanese people. But sometimes, you just want some no-frills, authentic Japanese cuisine. And where can you go for that? Why, Furusato, of course.

I've only been to Furusato once prior to this visit, and it was back when it was still known as Osaka. Furusato is a very small and inconspicuous restaurant located in a basement area, with nary even a sign to demonstrate the nature of the establishment. But despite being the Leaky Cauldron of Japanese restaurants, you'll be hard pressed to get a seat here without a reservation. Believe me, I've tried to come here three times spontaneously, and every time the waitress told us that they were booked full.

(Note: Reservations highly suggested.)

Accessibility - Grade: A-
Furusato is located literally a block away from Place-des-Arts metro, on de Bleury street. It's also upwards of a five minute walk from McGill University.

Service - Grade: B+
I've yet to receive bad service from Japanese-run restaurants, and Furusato is no exception. The waitresses were all very nice and polite. Really, the only complaint people might have is that the food takes a while to come out, especially the sushi, but hey, you can't rush art. The waiting time for sushi at Sushi Yasu, another Japanese-run establishment that I visit frequently, is also quite long. But in the end, it's all worth it.

Food - Grade: B+
Furusato has a humble menu, serving mainly some izakaya-style dishes that go well with sake or beer, some personal-sized shabu shabu and some of the freshest sushi in town.  Now, if you're looking for a sushi restaurant that serves up all the fancy fusion rolls, then look elsewhere. If you're looking for solid, no-frills nigiri and sashimi, then look no further.

Miso soup
Our meal came with a bowl of miso soup, which was pretty standard. Not too watery, not too salty.

Chawan mushi
My friend ordered the chawan mushi, which is a steamed Japanese egg custard with seafood and slices of shiitake mushrooms. The custard was was silken and smooth, with a tofu-like texture, and was only mildly salted as to retain the delicate, eggy flavour. The pieces of seafood and shiitake were spread throughout the custard, so digging around for them was a bit like a treasure hunt. A surprise in every bite!

Grilled Calamari
We ordered a plate of grilled calamari, which reminded me a bit of the one I had on my visit to Japan. The squid was grilled to a crisp charcoal on the outside, lending it a smokey flavour, but was still tender and springy on the inside. It came with a little bowl of soy sauce for dipping. My main complaint for this dish was that the tips of the legs were a bit burnt, but the body slices tasted great.

Sushi and Sashimi plate
We also split a Sushi and Sashimi plate, which contains three cucumber hosomaki and three tuna hosomaki, four pieces of nigiri (salmon, red snapper, shrimp and scallop), and six slices of sashimi (red snapper, tuna, octopus and mackerel). It also contains a crabstick handroll. I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that a sushi restaurant that doesn't use the fake plastic leaves as garnish for their sushi is a good restaurant. Well, here you go. No plastic, just a genuine, fresh shiso leaf and shredded daikon.

Unf. The moment I bit into one of their nigiris, I was brought back to Japan, just a little bit. The fish is definitely fresh, and cut into perfect, tapered pieces. The salmon was sweet and buttery soft, breaking apart easily when I bit into it. The tuna and red snapper were tougher and more stringy, but had that fresh briny taste to them. The mackerel came with just the right amount of shallots and ginger to cut the fishy flavour, and the scallop (shown below) was just tender, crisp and sweet. And the rice was the perfect texture: not too firm and not too soft.

While the nigiri and sashimi were great, I thought their rolls were kind of average. They do tend to pack a lot of rice in their rolls, so much that they seem to be bursting at the seams. Their rolls will often be misshapen and BIG, made with seemingly less finesse than the nigiri. The seaweed is fresh, though, seeing as how it's very easy to bite through it. I did find the rice to be a little too vinegared for my taste, and oddly enough, their soy sauce is more salty than the soy sauce you'd normally find in Japanese restaurants.

Price - $$$
Uh. Yeah. This place is actually pretty pricey, but I've yet to find a good Japanese restaurant that isn't expensive, so there's that. The sushi and sashimi combo is $27 before tax, the chawan mushi $7 and the grilled calamari around $10. So our final bill came up to around $57 after tax and tip. Probably not a place students can visit frequently.

Final Grade: B+
Furusato follows tradition, and if you've ever visited Japan, then you'll know that traditional sushi in Japan consists mainly of nigiri, which is what Furusato is good for. Their maki really aren't that interesting, but the freshness and skilled cuts of their fish in the nigiri and sashimi more than makes up for that.

2137 Rue de Bleury,
Montreal, QC
(514) 849-3438
Bistro Japonais Furusato on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Small place, but big on taste!! Very nice staff and the guys making the sushi know their stuff. We sat at the bar & once they warmed up to us they were really nice. I saw lots of to-go orders too, which is good to know. With the high quality of the fish & great service I will definitely be back.

    nori sushi