A bento box of satisfying sushi restaurants in Ottawa

Start mastering your chopsticks, folks. There’s sushi to eat. Whether you prefer made-to-order or all-you-can-eat buffet style, these popular destinations chop and roll some of the best sushi this side of the Pacific Ocean.

Sushi 88

B-690 Somerset St W, Ottawa, ON K1R 6P4

This à la carte sushi spot, located in Chinatown, is chic and intimate – the kind of place that invites quiet conversation. The sashimi is fresh, with a decent range of fish types available. The salamander roll, crunchy on the outside, has a spicy kick. The black dragon roll presents roasted eel wrapped atop a crispy shrimp tempura roll. The service is friendly, but can be a tad slow during busy periods.

Shinka Sushi Bar

150 Laurier Ave W, Main, Ottawa, ON K1P 5J4

The sushi here is “sublime,” says my friend Ira, after dining at New Generation. Being married to a food writer, he knows his sushi. But, then, Ira is merely confirming my neighbour Sylvie’s long-standing conviction that this is the best sushi in town. The fresh fish and innovative presentation win her over every time. The tiny downtown spot seats about two dozen guests – a few on white stools by the preparation bar, the rest at clean, unadorned tables. Try the unagi sushi bites or specialty rolls.

Genji Japanese Restaurant

1-175 Lisgar St, Ottawa, ON K2P 0C3

A downtown destination for Japanese fusion cuisine, with bright blonde décor and a modern take on traditional shoji screens, Genji offers both teriyaki and tempura dishes, along with sushi. The seaweed salad, dressed with sesame dressing, makes a nice starter. Nigiri options include flying fish roe and cuttlefish. Various unusual fruit maki are available at dinner.

Kiko Japanese Restaurant

349B Preston St, Ottawa, ON K1S 1V6

In terms of sheer eye candy, no sushi bar beats Kiko. A touch of Asia in the heart of Little Italy, it has the chic contemporary look that typifies places with exposed ventilation pipes and Zen-like planters of bamboo poles. A patio is an added option in summer. The food is just as appealing. Fresh ingredients are stylishly plated. The Sakura spider and rapture rolls are appealing, and the sake list is impressive. As with many made-to-order sushi places in town, service can be slow.

Wasabi Japanese Restaurant And Sushi Bar

41 Clarence St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5P4

This large, split-level space, supplemented in summer by a patio, is arguably the best sushi place in the ByWard Market area. At night, with candlelit tables and quiet jazz in the background, you can opt for the sakekawa roll (toasted salmon skin with avocado) or a trio of tuna, cucumber and California rolls. Vegetarian options include pickled burdock roll. This is one of the top places for sea urchin, too.

Festival Japan Japanese Restaurant Ottawa

149 Kent St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5P3

With a choice of tatami rooms offering a degree of privacy or seats at the sushi bar to watch your sushi being crafted, Festival Japan is a long-standing downtown favourite. Nicely presented, the always-fresh options include spicy scallop rolls, the usual array of nigiri and sashimi, and temaki cones, such as spicy Atlantic salmon. The bar stocks four types of sake. The fact that there is occasionally live jazz makes for a value-added evening.

C'est Japon a Suisha

208 Slater St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5H8

Suisha is Japanese for waterwheel, and you’ll recognize the place by the full-sized one up a couple of steps from sidewalk level. Established in 1974, Suisha owes its longevity only partly to its richly decorated interior. The owner is Japanese trained, and brings an authentic approach to the sushi bar. Around the bar, pint-sized wooden boats transport plates of fresh, well cut fish. But, downstairs is where to sit for romantic surroundings, thanks to a waterfall.

Sushi Fresh

48 By Ward Market Sq, Ottawa, ON K1N 7A2

You go past one of Ottawa’s top fish markets, Lapointe Fish, to get to the quiet oasis that is Sushi Fresh. Its proximity to a major fish supplier promises top-notch sushi, and they deliver. The bento box combinations are works of art, gunkan and hoso maki are available, and the 32-piece Special Roll Moriwase for two people includes soft-shell crab rolls that are widely celebrated. Be forewarned, though: many find the spicy sushi is extra hot.

Sushime Asian Fusion Restaurant

8 Beechwood Ave, Vanier, ON K1L 8B4

In New Edinburgh, there’s a dearth of Asian restaurants, so this one is especially welcome. From a semi-open kitchen comes an extensive menu of both Korean and Japanese dishes – but you’re here for the sushi, where the Asian fusion theme continues. Offerings such as a bulgogi roll (based on Korean beef) or a sakeyaki roll (teriyaki salmon) are sprinkled among more traditional varieties. The brown rice tea is a tasty end to a meal.

True enough, Ottawa ain’t the city that never sleeps, but that’s not because of a caffeine shortage, especially in Lowertown where coffee shops abound. If you can’t find something to give you a java jolt among these options, you really are sleepwalking.
Hotel bars aren’t a mere convenience for hotel guests. Some of Ottawa’s best are grandly sumptuous: perfect venues for a milestone occasion. Other bars are stylish and sleek, ideal for a dress-up date night. There are those where friends meet after work, and a couple that are perfect for the T-shirt-jeans-and-bottle-of-beer set. One thing our favourite hotel bars have in common, though, is decent drinks and nibbles.
Maybe it’s because our summers are short that all Ottawa citizens flock to restaurant patios as soon as the snow melts, and stay till it falls again. Some eateries plop down a couple of tables just about anywhere outside, abutting busy roadways where they snarl sidewalk traffic. But we’ve found great al fresco dining – from gourmet fare to burgers ‘n’ beer – that eliminates both sunstroke and exhaust fumes.
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