Located on the corner of Division and Queen, Arisu is in close proximity to a handful of other sushi restos, which are arguably closer to Queen’s University and thus more convenient to the time-strapped student set. Over the past few years, Arisu has earned a solid reputation as a great sushi spot, attracting hungry diners north of Princess Street and into their modest establishment. Within the past decade this property has been home to a pizzeria, a deep fried chicken factory, and if memory serves me correctly, a vacuum cleaner parts distributor. With seating for approximately 40 people, Arisu consistently packs them in, and as I’ve witnessed while dining in, they also do a considerable amount of business via take out.
I don’t pretend to be a huge connoisseur of sushi, but I know what I like and I know what good tasting sushi tastes like. Arisu’s menu is much the same as the other haunts we frequent, which is to say that it’s jam packed with enough special and classic sushi rolls, sashimi, and various other items to keep you happy and full. During my latest visit, I sat down with an old friend who wasn’t as familiar with sushi as I, so our order might seem less adventurous to some. We started out with the dumpling appetizer ($5.50), which you can order fried or steamed. We obviously opted for the fried option, which yielded 5 generously sized dumplings, packed with what I identified as lightly seasoned pork and a variety of vegetables. Although we ordered a less healthy option here, the dumplings were not dripping with oil, as they offered just the right amount of crunch.
Our second app, probably one of my favourite menu items, was the tempura ($6.50) which consisted of two pieces of shrimp and four pieces of vegetables including squash and zucchini. You can, however, order this dish without shrimp, which is served with 8 pieces of vegetables, but honestly, who would do such a thing? The massive shrimp are by far the best part of this dish, as they were cooked to perfection and again, not at all greasy. I think the price of this dish, and the menu at large, is consistent with other local sushi restos, so the value is on par.
One of the big things I love about sushi is the fact that you can pick and choose a bunch of little things to make up one satisfying and filling meal. As was the the case for Arisu, individual menu items are combined onto a single platter that’s elaborately decorated. This presentation gives a big boost to the meal, and makes for an experience that is far from ordinary. From left to right on the above platter, we order 6 Spicy Tuna rolls ($6.50), 3 pieces of sashimi tuna ($6.50), and 8 Dynamite Rolls ($11.50), which consisted of shrimp tempura, fish roe, avocado & mayo. I found the Spicy Tuna had great amount of heat, far more than I’ve experienced elsewhere, which really cut down on the amount of wasabi that was required. The sashimi tasted as fresh as can be expected in Kingston. The Dynamite Rolls are a favorite menu item of mine at other sushi spots, however I wasn’t a huge fan of Arisu’s version. I found the roe to be somewhat overpowering, however I was pleasantly surprised with the taste of their mayo. It’s not something that I expected to mix well with the other ingredients.
All and all, I think that Arisu is a solid competitor amongst a growing field of downtown sushi restaurants. The fact that it’s oftentimes hard to get seat at this place speaks volumes about the quality of food, and the friendliness of the staff. Not only was our waiter patient and helpful while we determined what to order, but he also stepped out from behind the counter to open the door as we left. It’s a small thing, but gestures such his go a long way to attracting and retaining customers. I will be back soon.