Geisha Tapas Bar

I have been searching high and low for Victoria’s best sushi, and at Geisha Tapas Bar I found it.  It may just be the best sushi I’ve ever had, served in a serene and beautiful setting by warm and attentive staff.

It’s pretty clear from the get-go that this isn’t your average sushi joint.  Their distinctive window beckons prospective diners to take another look.  If you do, you will find a large and airy space, warmly appointed in rich jewel toned paints and natural woods.   A large bar, complete with fresh sushi station, adorns one side of the room.  Small tables are arranged in front of booth seating in a chocolate weave.  We’d barely peeked in when a smiling host welcomed us and seated us by the window, menus in hand.

The menu is part sushi house and part tapas bar, and offers selections for diners ranging from the beginner to a far more adventurous palate than most local sushi restaurants are willing to venture towards.  Aside from your usual rolls and sashimi, you will find horse tataki and chicken gizzard skewers here.  While these dishes may not be for everyone, Geisha also offers more selection than most in their raw menu: hamachi, amaebi, and hotate sashimi grace the list.  One thing I really appreciated is that the portions are smaller (and more affordable, at under $5) than the usual, so if you are dining alone or have different tastes from your companions, you can still order just what you’d like.

Another notable item is their raw oysters.  Offered at only 99 cents each daily, these are the best priced bivalves in the city.  We placed an order for a dozen (the minimum), and were pleased to see they were a smaller Japanese variety when they arrived (versus the ubiquitous Fanny Bay generally served for Oyster Hours elsewhere).  They came atop a bed of ice, and garnished with a touch of soy, lemon, and chives – the perfect accompaniment to their sweet, cool freshness.

It is that same freshness which sets all of Geisha’s sushi head and tails above some of the other fine local establishments.  The tuna and salmon sashimi was absolutely the best fish I have ever eaten.  I was loathe to even dip it in my wasabi & soy mixture, it was that good.  Those who know me know that salmon is one of the rare foods I do not enjoy –  irrespective of the preparation, I find a certain briny flavor to it which just doesn’t agree with me.  Geisha serves a salmon sashimi which even I devoured, and the tuna was butter-tender in my mouth.

Another exceptional feature of their food is that all their rolls come with brown rice – not as an option or an extra, but standard fare.  Pricing on rolls is about par for Victoria, but not only did we find them particularly filling due to the brown rice, each order offered 8 generously proportioned pieces.   The tunacado roll was bursting with fish, the california roll tasted of real fresh crab, and our yam tempura roll was drizzled with a tasty sauce.  Everything arrives so beautifully arranged, it was hard to dismantle initially but the flavors make it clear that taste above all rules these plates.

Some more interesting selections caught my eye in the Specialty Rolls section, for future exploration.  The house favorite is a Spicy Tuna Berry, which pairs strawberries and black tobiko with the “spiciest tuna roll in town”.  The only thing I might love as much as sushi is cheese.  I’ve never imaged putting them together, but Snow White does just that: chopped scallops & avocado roll drizzled with melted mozzarella. I’m game to try!

We’d driven in this night, so we didn’t have a chance to try anything off their Cocktail Menu either, but word is they make some of the most exciting concoctions in the city.  The Lychee Bellini called my name, while the Kamikaze Carrot and Teriyaki Cure piqued my curiosity.  Next time, I’ll be cabbing so I can try them all!

I would be doing Geisha a sincere disservice if I didn’t take a moment to mention their exceptional service.  Food arrived in a steady and perfectly timed procession.  Someone was always there to refill water and tea, offer more ginger, or clear away unnecessary dishes.  From the warm greeting of the host at the door, to our smiling server (who exhibited unimaginable grace in her kimono), to the owner himself enquiring how our meal was as we paid, we couldn’t have felt more welcome or appreciated.  We promised we’d be back soon – it won’t be soon enough.


~ by Dee's Cheap Eats on September 29, 2010.

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