All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Quest: Happy Sushi
362 Lacewood Dr., Unit 11
Dinner: $22.99 + tax and 10% gratuity
Lunch: $14.99 + tax and 10% gratuity
Types of Sushi: Maki, Nigiri, Hand Rolls, Pizza
Sashimi Options: Salmon, Red Snapper, Surf Clam, Mackerel, “Crab” Meat
House Special Rolls: Unclear, but there are 7 Dragon Rolls and a Rainbow Roll.
Vegetarian Sushi Options: 12 Rolls, 3 Nigiri (+egg)
Tempura Options: Shrimp, Onion, Vegetable, Shrimp & Vegetable
Kitchen Selections: teriyaki, skewers, dumplings, grilled fish, deep fried dishes, rice/noodle/udon dishes
Happy Sushi was the first AYCE sushi restaurant to come to Halifax, with Clayton Park to be the happy neighbourhood to receive this privilege. I’m seeing reviews that go back to 2010. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that Halifax would see a second of its kind, in the arrival of Genji Sushi.
I expected it to be in a strip mall, and it was. But I didn’t expect the interior to have such a warm feel to it, with its lovely wooden ceiling.
Service was mainly good. Our server came over more than was even necessary to collect ordering sheets, which were the sort that tear off by category so that we could order our courses in waves and to our preferences and timing. The only problem I had was getting my water refilled.
Oh, and the 10% gratuity added to my bill, without any awareness on my part. This information was not on the ordering sheet, but perhaps I missed it on the table menu which we hardly consulted as it was not particularly helpful. Nor was I warned when I held the debit machine prompting me to add a tip. As a result, I double-tipped. When the local standard is to tip 15%, all of this seems confusing and unnecessary.
Prior to this confusion, we really enjoyed our experience at Happy Sushi.
The sashimi was quite limited, with no tuna or even butterfish being available. The surimi was mushier than at Sushi Jet, and the salmon was a little stringy.
The nigiri was much better. The variety we found lacking on the sashimi menu was made up for by the presence of… scallops! Real scallops! This is the only AYCE sushi place in the city to offer any sort of scallop sushi, and the Spicy Scallop Nigiri was a crowd favourite.
Tuna was also available, by itself or as a Tuna Avocado Nigiri, which is a nice morsel. I finally got around to trying Thousand Island Shrimp which is exactly what you’d think it is – shrimps in a salad dressing reminiscent of thousand island. Kind of tangy and not for me.
We tried some of the grilled fish dishes that were available: salmon head, mackerel and salmon belly (not pictured). Denton couldn’t resist a salmon head adventure, but confessed to me that he felt uninitiated in the actual method of eating said salmon head. As he struggled with that, I thoroughly enjoyed my grilled mackerel and Talix her succulent salmon belly.
We made sure to order the Green Onion Beef Rolls that we’ve been ordering at each place, ever since we discovered them at Genji. I think these are the best ones yet! The beef was perfectly cooked and the green onion was in good proportion. There was a nice beefy flavour and just a bit of sauce.
The Deep Fried Tofu may not look like much, but it was actually nice and crispy in places with a bit of chew – which I prefer to a big wobbly gelatinous blob. It wasn’t swimming in the sauce, and avoided sogginess this way.
The tempura, on the other hand, was kind of greasy and meh.
The chicken dishes were all surprisingly good. On this AYCE sushi adventure, most of the chicken has been thin, pathetic, processed-looking chicken cutlets. At Sushi Jet and Happy Sushi, it seems as though a better chicken product is being used.
The skewers, teriyaki and deep fried chicken were more flavourful here than at Sushi Jet – which is basically an admission that I think these are the best of the quest.
We ordered a whole bunch of Sushi Pizza. Veggie, Rainbow, Crab, and Spicy Salmon (not pictured) were all sampled. These were really quite good. I’d have to rank them right up there with Wasabi Asian Cuisine.
We enjoyed some of what I would consider to be “House Specialty Rolls”, even if the menu lumps them in with the regular rolls and fails to describe their contents.
The Veg Dragon Roll comes topped with avocado and “yam” tempura, and replaces the standard tempura shrimp filling with more yam tempura.
The “Asian Dragon Roll” is actually a Golden Dragon Roll, which comes topped with mango.
One of our favourites was definitely the Banana Yam Roll, which contained exactly what it says.
The Happy Roll turned out to be your run-of-the-mill Philly Roll (albeit with fresh salmon, not smoked).
The Toronto Roll contained surimi crab, avocado and a wasabi spiked “Toronto Sauce”, which elevated this otherwise boring roll to one of our favourites of the evening.
Most of the regular rolls were pretty mediocre, and there was an abundance of rolls entitled with the word “crispy” – which means lots of tempura flakes. Lindsay and Mark, neighbourhood regulars who joined us on this occasion, are fans of the crispy rolls. They even ordered a roll composed entirely of tempura bits! I do not share this enthusiasm for crunchy rolls, so I was disappointed that all the spicy rolls were “crispy spicy” rolls. Tempura abounds!
To be honest, the maki rolls were not the greatest. We noted chewy seaweed, cold rice, and under-ripe avocado.
The Hand Rolls, on the other hand, were great. The seaweed was nice and crisp, and they weren’t overloaded with rice. Meghan exclaimed how much she loved her California Hand Roll. I had the Unagi Hand Roll, and it was decent.
The Spicy Scallop Maki Rolls (and nigiri) were the crowd favourite, and we ordered extras of these.
We were pleased with the atmosphere, service and many of the items we ordered at Happy Sushi. I still don’t think the 10% service charge is good policy, as it has the effect of irritating/confusing customers. With that said, Happy Sushi does have the lowest price for AYCE, so long as you are cognizant of the service charge and avoid double-tipping. Now that I’m aware and able to navigate the paying process – hell, I think I’d even go back.
Favourite Rolls: Banana Yam, Spicy Scallop, Toronto Roll, Asian Dragon Roll
Other Favourites: Sushi Pizza, Nigiri (esp. spicy scallop), Green Onion Beef Rolls, Deep Fried Tofu, Hand Rolls, Chicken Dishes, Grilled Fish Dishes
The Good: Service/Ordering System, Spicy Scallop!, Atmosphere
The Not-So-Good: 10% gratuity, limited menu, overuse of tempura bits, lackluster maki