WOW! I remembered going to this little place once, and then thinking to myself last night, "How about that little place in Oak Bay? Didn't they have really good food?"
Since I'm always a sucker for places where I can find rarities such as natto maki, and Tokyo-style soba [What a shame that Kaz is gone!], I rarely go to places that specialize in just sushi. Even then, I've had sushi everywhere in town, including in a few highly publicized places (Azumi lovers, you know who you are...!) that I swear on my mother to be less than mediocre.
This little place stands non-chalantly, across from Chef on the Run on Oak Bay Ave., in the strip mall on the right-hand side. In my mind, this little place has the BEST sushi for the price in the city of Victoria, and the prices were not that bad. Most of the rolls were 4.25 each (instead of the usual 3.75, or 3.95 per roll). The horenso (spinach salad) had a unique lemony tang that was really fresh and sweet, while the kinpira (burdock/carrot salad) was just delish. The crab and avocado, smoked tuna, and salmon rolls were all the best I've had in town, with generous amounts of fish, and perfectly seasoned rice (if that's possible ~ even the rice, itself, was excellent). The owner obviously goes far out of his way to find the freshest fish possible and then gives it his own *star* treatment as it shows up as love in the food and excellent in taste.
I just can't give this place a higher rating than 5 in the Food department, or I would do it. I thought the food was more of a 10, and I'm looking forward to going back as soon as I can...
My husband and I go to Japan nearly every year primarily to eat real Japanese food, as alas,the vast majority of "Japanese" restaurants in Victoria and in much of the NW are mediocre at best. I've concluded that the reason why they can stay in business at all is because the majority of diners simply don't know good Japanese from bad Japanese food, which is perfectly understandable if you have never lived there.
We had pretty much resigned ourselves to eating poor quality rice, and bentos from hell until our next trip back. Then we wandered into this tiny cafe on Oak Bay Ave and finally found what we didn't think existed here; authentic, beautifully made Japanese food.
The reason we didn't make this happy discovery earlier perhaps was because of its name. It doesn't claim to be a Japanese restaurant, but a green tea cafe and the limited menu includes non-Japanese items such as sandwiches and quiche that you order at the counter. True to its name. "Kissako Green Tea Cafe" offers several kinds of green tea, but most people expect free tea in Japanese restaurants and don't want to pay extra for it. I just asked for water.
My husband and I finally decided to give Kissako a try when we noticed a chicken bento for I believe 10.75 scrawled on the chalk board in front of the shop.
My husband was interested in that and I was more curious to try a couple of maki (rolled) sushi. We became hopeful almost at once when we entered and heard Japanese being spoken behind the counter (my husband is fluent in Japanese) as this was an excellent sign that the food would not be the pseudo Japanese cuisine found elsewhere.
And we were right. The minute his bento hit the table, we knew it was real just by how it looked; artistic for lack of a better word. A bento is a box of several compartments, each containing different food. The largest section contained the chicken, which consisted of small cubes of chicken and vegetables, in a light sauce. The other compartments contained some beautifully made Japanese "tapas" consisting of 2 slices of stuffed rolled egg omelette pinwheels (in Japan, much attention is paid to how well this type of omelette is executed) and a gyoza type dumpling, another compartment contained the rice, which interestingly was not white, but brown or "genmai" style rice which has become popular recently in Tokyo. I ordered 2 maki rolls and they were very good, primarily because the rice was of a higher quality than the norm, cooked perfectly, and seasoned just right. In real Japanese cuisine, it's all about rice done right!
The menu, including the sushi offerings are quite limited. This is a tiny green tea cafe not a full Japanese restaurant and it is not open in the evenings. Still, it is a very rare gem and I cannot wait to go back.