Zen 8 (Calgary) – No toro?? No tuna?? Whaaa??

I went to Wa’s over the summer and had the bluefin tuna special. Pretty epic. 1 hand cone, 1 small roll of 6 pieces, 6 pieces of sashimi for $25. Pretty darn tasty. I came back 2 days later wanting more and it was sold out. However, I’d heard from Wa’s that the owner of Zen 8 was the person who purchased the bluefin tuna for Calgary so I could maybe check it out there.

Don’t let Google Maps fool you: Zen 8 is no longer on Steve Ave (8th Avenue). It is no longer part of Penny Lane (destroyed now). It is on 3rd street and… 4th avenue. Stupid Google Maps. Led me to a construction site.


Here we have a beautiful example of an excellent R:F ratio. Look how little rice there is compared to fish! Fantastic! This piece of salmon was $3.50. Kinda pricey.


Here we have some beautiful Unagi nigiri. Again, fantastic R:F ratio. There was a bit too much BBQ sauce though. It was overly sweet and I didn’t get a good taste of the fish. $3.80 per piece. Again… kind of pricey.

Sadly, there was no blue-fin tuna to be found. Not only was there no blue-fin… there was no other tuna’s either. There was no red tuna, white tuna, or toro. They only had Ahi Tuna. I realize that Ahi Tuna is really another word for Yellowfin Tuna and that it does not imply searing. However, every single time I’ve seen the word Ahi Tuna on a menu in Calgary, it has been seared. Hence… not wanting to eat a piece of seared sashimi… I passed on the Ahi Tuna.


Here is a series of rolls. The first roll on the left is the Dynamite Roll for $9.60 (prawn tempura, cucumber, avocado, masago, mayo, sesame). Pretty plain. Nothing exciting here. Next up is the Rainbow Stampede for $9.85 (salmon, tuna, prawn, avocado, tobiko). Not very elegantly prepared as you can see a fairly poor progression of the various fishes on the outside of the roll. The fish was fresh though. Next is my favourite of the bunch, the Alberta Roll for $9.75 (sirloin beef, avocado, asparagus, tempura crunch, cucumber, pea shoots). I know you are probably thinking that it is perverse to put beef on a roll but this was actually quite interesting. The beef was seared and layered nicely on top of the roll. It was pretty unique. Finally, we have the Volcano for $9.85 (tuna hot and spicy, calamari tempura, lettuce, sesame). A big mush of flavours. Not very tasty.

Overwhelmingly, Zen 8 seems like corporate Calgary’s solution to lunchtime sushi. The location is nice, the interior is nice but the sushi just lacks substance. If you are interested in insightful, well made, and delicious sushi, look elsewhere.

Zen 8, 103, 414 – 3rd Street SW, Calgary Place, Calgary, AB, (403)237 – 8884. http://driveit.clickspace.com/webpage/1002265/1000243

Zen 8 on Urbanspoon

~ by Russ on September 19, 2009.

3 Responses to “Zen 8 (Calgary) – No toro?? No tuna?? Whaaa??”

  1. Agree with your take on Zen 8. Was there this past April and had some very disappointing and strange rolls. It reminded me of how Earl’s does these awkward takes on Asian noodle dishes.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I totally empathize with you and the strange Asian noodles. It is like my buddy (who I’ve since discredited for solid food advice) that LOVES Ginger Beef at Cheesecake Cafe. Ginger Beef needs to be given the respect it deserves: one of two culinary inventions made in Calgary, but it is not anything more than that: Calgarian-made Chinese food…

  3. just a heads up I would be a bit embarrassed ordering tuna these days — extremely over fished and contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury (toro “bluefin” is the best example of both problems)

    A January 2008 investigation conducted by the New York Times found potentially dangerous levels of mercury in certain varieties of sushi tuna, reporting levels “so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market.” Due to their high position in the food chain and the subsequent accumulation of heavy metals from their diet, mercury levels can be high in larger species such as bluefin and albacore.

    That said, zen 8 understands the sushi taste preferences of corporate calgarians in general (vs aficionados) and as such is a success

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