Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Niko Niko Roll & Sushi

Niko Niko
20 King St. East
Kitchener, Ontario

During our recent trips to Ye's we had noticed that the quality of the food had taken a turn for the worse, not to mention an implicit hike in prices (canned pop was no longer included in the all you can eat price). This, combined with the fact we had gorged ourselves far too many times in an effort to get our money's worth, led us to try Niko Niko Roll & Sushi -- a place that has been favourably mentioned by a couple of our friends. At first it seemed wrong to go somewhere that did not have limitless sushi when it was available just down the street, but it turned out sometimes less is more.

The emphasis of the menu is of course their namesake rolls. There are about 25 varieties to choose from, ranging from the traditional (Rainbow Roll - multicoloured raw fish) to the interesting (Grand Canyon) to the bizarrely named (Love Love). The presentation is top notch with nicely plated items decorated with care, compared to the slap-it-together-as-quickly-as-possible items from Ye's.

Most rolls are reasonably priced from $8-$12 each and 1-2 will fill up the average person. Also available are combos, which come with salad, and you can add a half order of udon noodles for $2. A special roll of the day (one selected from the menu) is also available at a discounted price with the combo and is a pretty good deal at $12.90 including salad and 6 pieces of sushi.

The salad is fairly typical - iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and a couple slices of tomato with a nice Japanese dressing.

We tried the udon noodles for $2 extra with a combo. Again, a pretty safe noodle dish with all the standard ingredients, plus a shaker of shichimi togarashi (be careful, very spicy!)

In our two visits, we sampled the following rolls:

Hawaiian Roll (pictured with 6 piece sushi combo) - It wasn't one of the more interesting rolls, but it was the special of the day so we went with it. It was just avocado and tuna wrapped around a california roll.

Tornado Roll - squid tempura, spicy crab, avocado. Basically a tempura roll with avocado topped with chopped up spicy crab meat. A little on the creamy side with the sauce on top but tasty.

Spider Roll (not pictured) - soft shelled crab, avocado, cucumber and masago. A much heartier portion of soft-shelled crab than at Ye's. Here, there were actual crab legs and claws sticking of out the roll the way it should be. The crab was a little undercooked, or perhaps the oil temperature was slightly too low, as it wasn't as crispy as I would have liked. Otherwise, very enjoyable.

Grand Canyon Roll (not pictured) - eel, salmon, bread crumbs. This one was for the adventurous. Eel and salmon rolled together, topped with bread crumbs and cheese and baked. Cheese seems to be a fairly common ingredient at Niko Niko, appearing in quite a few of their rolls but it's not something I usually expect on sushi. Here it was overwhelming the rest of the ingredients in this roll, plus the warm temperature threw off the taste a little. As a bonus though, there were some crunchy rice bits stuck to the tinfoil like you'd find at bottom of a pot of fried rice.

Love Love (not pictured) - spicy tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber. The spicy tuna was chopped on top, and not much to say about the taste except that it was a combination of the ingredients. The presentation was nice and probably accounts for the second "love".

The restaurant was more than half empty on the two week nights we visited, but I expect weekends to be more crowded. Decor wise the restaurant is well lit on the two week nightsand interestingly is decorated with murals of Venice, presumably from the location's last iteration as Venizia. The main mural was left largely intact, except for the addition of a Niko Niko sign done in a fine black Sharpie on one of the merchants along the canals of venice. See if you can spot it on your next visit!

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the quality of the food and will visit it quite often, especially when we're not in the mood to eat until we explode.