Sherman's Food Adventures: Hello Nori (Robson Street)

Hello Nori (Robson Street)

I must profess that when I first saw all the social media hype about Hello Nori, I completely tuned it out.  Now why would I do that, especially since I absolutely love all things to do with Japanese cuisine?  Simple.  I looked at the hand rolls they were serving and thought "meh".  Well, slowly but surely, people were telling me how good it was and what really got my attention was when Mijune confirmed it.  So I decided to follow her lead and go try out Hello Nori on Robson Street.

Since Mijune joined me (she wanted to eat it again), I had no choice but to order the 6-Hand Roll Set (for each of us) as well as 5 more off the a la carte menu.  We started with the Toro (actually it was essentially negitoro) first and any preconceived notions I had about the place disappeared with each bite.  The high-quality nori was crispy which gave way to perfectly seasoned sushi rice.  There was an even ratio of filling-to-rice.  Loved butteriness of the toro, the brightness of the green onion as well as a hint of freshly ground sesame seeds.

Next up was probably one of the best of the bunch in the Ora King Salmon.  The quality and freshness of the fish really came through with natural sweetness and a soft buttery texture.  Once again, the seasoning was enough that the roll could stand on its own.  There was a balance of sweet, savoury and vinegariness in the chewy sushi rice.  Just like all the hand rolls, the crisp nori helped provide a clean textural contrast.

The hits kept on coming with the Yellowtail.  The sweet butteriness of the fish was evident while a hint of the sea really made this great tasting.  There was a side of soy provided, but I only used this sparingly, if at all.  If you have noticed so far in the pictures, there was also freshly-grated wasabi served as well.  For those who have had this before, they will know that it is much milder than the fake stuff and has a touch of sweetness.  This complimented the fish perfectly without overwhelming it.

Probably the most important reason why the hand rolls were so fresh was that they make-it-to-order as you finish the previous roll.  This way, it is ensured the nori is crispy and the rice is warm.  For the Unagi roll, timing was everything as they started torching the eel as I was on my last bite of the hamachi.  As you can see, the piece of eel was large and nicely charred and sauced.  This ate well with soft eel with caramelized flavours.

Something that was new and off-menu (it was on the Father's Day Menu though) was the Tako (or torched Octopus).  Due to the size of the hand rolls, they used smaller tentacles which were first cooked until tender then torched to finish.  This way, the octopus was tender to the chew while still sporting caramelization and a slight crispiness on the outside.  We did get hint of butane due to the torching, but not enough to break the dish.  I'm sure charcoal would not be practical for this type of restaurant.

 Onto something a bit different, we were served the Spicy Shrimp.  Similar to the last roll, this one was fully cooked featuring tender shrimp that still had some bounce in its texture.  It was mixed in with a spicy mayo which was creamy with a small kick of spice.  I enjoyed this with the warm rice as it impacted the mayo in a good way.  So rather than being warm and cold, there was a slight transition from warm, to luke warm to cold.  Loved that temperature contrast.

Continuing on the same theme somewhat was the Spicy Tuna.  Again, this was hardly hot, but in Japanese cuisine, it isn't typical to have something super spicy.  It is all about balance.  This was no exception with soft tuna with a slight hit of spice while the natural sweetness still came through.  Of course the rice added its usual well-seasoned flavour, but the perfectly chewy texture complimented the soft tuna well.

Back to the set menu items, we were served the Hokkaido Scallop with fish roe.  As delicate scallops can be, these were indeed mild, sweet and tender.  There was only a light dressing of mayo that added another hint of sweetness.  Even though this was probably the most light-tasting roll, this was the perfect time to add some of the freshly-grated wasabi.  It just gave the roll something extra without obscuring the scallop.  Fake wasabi would've been too strong.

Onto another delicate-tasting offering was the Crab roll.  Once again, it was not inundated with dressing.  Rather, it was just straight-up shredded real crab meat with the smallest amount of mayo and seasoning.  Therefore, we could really taste the crab in its purest form where the seasoning only further enhanced the natural flavours.  As for the texture, the crab was fluffy with a light rebound.

Our last one for the meal was the Truffle Lobster which also contained a generous amount of filling.  The piece of lobster was firm with the classic bounce texture.  It was sweet with the unmistakable essence of lobster.  And not trying to repeat myself, but it was only lightly dressed with just the right amount of truffle flavour.  Again, the warm seasoned rice just made this complete.  So if it sounds like I really enjoyed the hand rolls at Hello Nori, it is pretty obvious that I did.  I take back all the assumptions and misconceptions I had about the place.  The pricing is absolutely fair for the quality of the product.  It is like a quasi-Omakase experience without the usual price tag.  I'm going back for sure and can't wait for the Brentwood location to open up.  In fact, they have a few more on the way including West Van and Richmond among others.

The Good:

- Quality ingredients

- Good filling-to-rice ratio

- Beautiful decor, cool experience

The Bad:

- Not a place to necessarily linger, seating is bar style and food comes out as fast as you consume it


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