A Plea for Ki

There’s a short list of things that make me really sad.  An empty wine fridge. A bad massage. Flying coach. Ben the Bachelor. High wasted jeans. Oh, and genocide. But something I find a real crying shame?  A really fabulous, totally delicious, completely empty restaurant.  It’s just not right.  I don’t know why a restaurant starts to fail.  I can imagine it has to do with all kinds of reasons, like location, or the economy, or bad reviews, or maybe just super godawful food. And a lot of restaurants deserve to fail, believe me.  But some of them don’t. Some of them sit in far corners of the world unnoticed and unappreciated, like the patient, shy dark horses that they are, until they just plain old run out of money and have to shut their glorious doors. And dammit if I’m not a lover of a dark horse!  I also like ponies. And sometimes unicorns. But that’s a whole ‘nother analogy.

So let me introduce you to a stallion. It’s a place called Ki, and I dare say, Vancouver, it’s got the best sushi in town. Most people here in the city are on the Tojo’s train, rabid loyalists claiming it’s the only place to go if you really want to enjoy a stellar Japanese meal, but I vehemently disagree.  Chef Tojo’s adorable and all, and his being best friends with my crush/someday lover Anthony Bourdain is a surefire plus. But I’ve always thought the menu was a little boring. Especially having lived in Los Angeles for a few years and eating at some of the best most creative sushi places you could ever hope to visit, all trying to out-do each other in the umami department (Oh, Hamasaku, how I miss you so!). Ki is the closest thing I’ve found to my beloved LA sushi havens, doling out an array of crazy-delicious delectables you simply cannot find anywhere else in this city. But I’m scared, guys. Because it’s rather dead. And the food is so good, it just has to stay afloat. Hear me out:

Owned by the Keg/Gotham/Hy’s Steakhouse head honcho David Aisenstat, Ki is unsurprisingly gorgeous, plush and expensive looking and glamourously, tastefully decorated, the kind of place you can take a romantic and/or business prospect you’re trying to nail/impress. Aisenstat’s no dummy, and he’s smartly hired Blue Water’s sushi chef extraordinaire Yoshi Tabo to helm the menu. And what a menu. Kushiyaki skewers like pancetta wrapped unagi, saki-braised pork belly, and marinated swordfish, out-of-this-world maki made with tempura butterfish or panko-encrusted smelt, pan-seared halibut with lemon confit, yuzu-marinated rack of lamb…. It’s an embarrassment of riches, much like my shoe collection. And you know how I feel about my shoe collection.

Some highlights:

fresh-to-death hamachi nigiri with jalapeño
SUBLIME miso chowder with seafood and a drizzle of truffle oil
melt-in-your-mouth seared beef tataki with garlic chips and ponzu
and the infamous “sushi pizza”, tuna and salmon sashimi atop crispy rice. OMG!


(A word to the wise: this lotus flower from heaven of a pizza is not on the menu, but those in-the-know just ask for it. So do yourself a favor and ask. And try not to swoon. Just try.)

Granted, this isn’t going to be the cheapest meal of your life. But I’m all for paying what’s fair for the freshest seafood around, great service, and an altogether lovely experience. Aren’t you? So, if you please, grab a date or that higher-up at work you’ve been meaning to wine and dine, or just your best sake-swilling friend, and GO. It deserves your business. And if it closes down anytime soon, I’m going to have to hop a plane to LA to get my next sushi fix. And that shit gets expensive.

I thank you and love you.



PS. Ki has locations in Toronto and Calgary now, too!  Ki it up, son!

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Ken says:

    Ummmm… that Sushi platter looks wonderful. Too bad I’m on the east coast.

  2. Maryann says:

    Im not a fan of sushi. But I love that you are putting these Candian restaurants on the map for others to hear about. You are basically a traveling restaurant guide book;)

    Maybe some day you will come to Ottawa and talk about restaurants from here…

    Not sure why this blog post wasn’t put on twitter?! I guess you have your reasons;)

  3. mitree says:

    As ki’s homepage states: „ki (n. pref. japanese) pure;“ I totally believe your pictures caught just that. The color! If anyone could see something that vivid in advance there will be a crowd in frond of those glorious doors… and frankly, I don’t know how many will actually use all that for food and not just hang it on the wall…

    People, listen to Jewel, GO! Hey, you there, you too!

  4. Ribac says:

    There are few very different and very distanced sushi restaurants where I live, and I don’t have any company to go because ”Ewwwww, who’s gonna eat raw fish!?”. Sigh, I need my own local Jewel…

  5. Neeroc says:

    Ugh. I was in Toronto 2 weeks ago. I wish I’d known!

  6. rednikki says:

    Say, Jewel, do you tag your restaurant reviews by location? I’d like to look up your LA restaurant write-ups, as I’m about to spend a lot of time there…

  7. John says:

    *cries* That looks soooooooo good… but I’m stuck at work in Nigeria for another month. *SOBS*

  8. Warren says:

    Good sushi is never cheap and that’s not really *that* expensive. Can we go to the one in Toronto and tell them to provide partial credit to the restaurant in Vancouver? But then I’m planning to visit an old friend in Portland in September…not very far…

  9. DWG says:

    I think writing in detail about food this good, that may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from our mouths, constitutes cruel and unusual treatment of a fan base. Keep it up though, we love it! Your style and wit are quite entertaining, no matter what the subject.

  10. Quill says:

    “High wasted jeans”? Aren’t those the same things? ;P

  11. Brooke says:

    Oh my lord, this looks amazing – and they have a location in Calgary? Sold!

  12. Brooke says:

    (Oh, and Tall Nick says hi!)

  13. phil says:

    I’d imagine it’s because thanks to the economy folks just aren’t eating out. It’s sad really, as I love a good sushi place as much as the next raw fish enthusiast.

    Why does flying coach make you sad?

  14. Rose M. Rose says:

    Jewel, like I told you in Orlando, you need to write a book , or at least make a book from these posts. They are wonderful, entertaining and informative. Keep up the awesome writing!

  15. Dale says:

    Jewel, thanks for the heads up about Ki. I had been by the Toronto Location a few times awhile back but hadn’t had the opportunity to stop in. I’ll certainly make the effort to do so the next time I’m down that way. And should I possibly venture west again, I’ll aim for the Vancouver location straight from the airport!
    If your work on your new show in Toronto has you needing/wanting to head north sometime, there is a great sushi/martini restaurant here in Barrie called Monsoon Lounge, a combo I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to not indulge in given the opportunity. I can’t say if the sushi is as high a quality of Ki, but it’s likely not far off. If you’re ever up this way, it would be great to introduce you to it!

  16. Twi says:

    I’ve driven past the Ki in Calgary a number of times… and I have to say, it looks classy, but higher end dining is something I tend to avoid. (Oh budgets!) …but I think your review and photos have me convinced. I adore sushi more than anything else you can tempt my pallet with and I’m more than willing to leave preparation of it to the experts. That sushi pizza looks like a scrumptious work of art! So, wish me luck!

  17. Leona says:

    I love your reviews! Have you ever considered writing a book?

  18. Eothair says:

    I know this post is 8 months old, but I´ve just discovered your blog, and I never thought you were such a food enthusiast.

    And I regret deeply being from Spain, because I have yet to discover a place like this here. I´m seriously thinking about spending next year holidays on Canada, so I´ll do my best to pay Ki a visit.

    I fracking love sushi. And your blog. You´re equally irreverent and/or brilliant (I´m not sure wich one, or even if both….)

  19. Jacob says:

    Bad news – I arrived in Vancouver yesterday, only to find out that the local Ki closed down in December. 🙁

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