Sherman's Food Adventures: Mauna Sushi

Mauna Sushi

So you might be wondering why I'm blogging about Mauna Sushi so soon after the last post...  Well, I really love the place and have actually been back 5 times since then.  Now why am I travelling to Surrey for sushi since I live in Burnaby?  Simple, the food is excellent and well-priced.  To refresh your memory, the chef/owner used to work at Minami and hence, all of the delicious aburi is served at Mauna for a more reasonable price.  Not to mention, their other menu items are rock solid as well.  Sure, the menu is somewhat limited and tends to appeal to the less adventurous diner, but I assure you the aburi is the star of the show.

With so many visits to include in this post, I'm going to try to condense as much as I can.  Now before we get to the aburi, their smaller "appetizer" dishes are really good too including the super tasty Chicken Karaage.  Rather unassuming, these little fried nuggets of leg meat are addictive.  The meat is super tender and juicy with a flavourful marinade.  It is salty, sweet and has a perfect amount of ginger.  There is a light coat of batter and  they are fried until crispy.  One of the best versions I've had in town!

Something that I do not usually get to order is the Takoyaki.  Not sure why because I personally love these little morsels of batter and octopus topped with takoyaki sauce, mayo, aonori and bonito flakes.  These here are solid.  I'm pretty sure they don't use a takoyaki mold, but that doesn't matter as they are lightly crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside with pieces of octopus.  There is just enough sauce and toppings on the outside to make an impact without creating a mess.

I've had their Assorted Tempura many times now and each time it has come out beautifully.  It consists of 2 pieces of yam and fresh shiitake as well as 3 pieces of green bean and ebi.  Although the amount of tempura batter may seem a bit much at first glance, it is crispy, light and easy on the grease.  The items themselves are cooked just right with the beans still being crunchy and the mushrooms being delicate and not overdone. With a light buttery snap, the ebi is on point while the yam is cooked through without going mushy.

The level of care put into preparing the cooked food is apparent and it is best illustrated by the Gyoza.  By appearances alone, the dumplings are good due to the even browning on the bottom.  This in turn means that it is crispy and nicely caramelized.  We find the dumpling skin to be thin and full of elasticity.  Inside, the pork and cabbage filling is well-seasoned while the texture is juicy and tender.

One of the most surprising dishes is the Miso Tofu Salad.  To be blunt, it doesn't look very attractive and in certain aspects, it appears to be unappetizing.  Now don't let that fool you.  The tofu crumble on top has a feta-cheese-like texture and there is plenty of umaminess to it.  Dressed in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette, the spring mix underneath is super delicious.  I highly recommend this.

Staying with the cooked food, the Chicken Katsu Don features a perfectly fried chicken cutlet.  It is coated with crispy panko that is, once again, not too greasy.  Inside, the dark chicken meat is succulent and moist.  It is marinated and seasoned enough on its own that it tastes great without anything added.  Underneath, the rice is dry enough that it isn't soggy, yet at the same time being moist.

Moving to the raw stuff, their selection of sashimi is pretty basic, but it is intentional.  They do not want to stock things that people will not order.  Hence, we have tried almost all of the options in the Atlantic Salmon, Albacore Tuna and Wild Salmon Sashimi.  The slices are fair in size being not too small and not ridiculously large.  Freshness is apparent where there is a nice sheen and things smell right.  Texturally, the tuna is buttery soft without being mushy and the Atlantic salmon is buttery with a bite.  The wild salmon is firmer but still delicate.

If one wanted something more flavourful from the start without needing to dip into any soy, there is the Spicy Tuna Sashimi (also available with salmon).  Unlike some other versions, there is just enough sauce in this one, so it isn't drowning.  The buttery chunks of tuna are coated in a spicy sauce that has a kick, but isn't overwhelming.  There is a background fermented flavour to it that adds depth and umaminess.

Like always, we always in some Nigiri as well.  We've had the chopped scallop, unagi, tamago, salmon and tuna before, but in this picture, it is all salmon and tuna toro..  If you are looking for insanely large pieces, then look elsewhere.  This is more about quality than oversized food.  With that being said, these are not small by any means.  The buttery toro for both types of fish are soft and fatty.    Rice is proportionate to the toppings and is texturally on point being chewy while still delicate.

One particular nigiri that needs to be highlighted is the Tamago.  I'm sure you are wondering why I'm drawing attention to egg sushi...  Well, if you look at the picture, you will notice that it is made the traditional way with proper layering.  Some sushi restaurants serve a solid piece of egg that is just poured into a mold.  This exemplifies the effort and attention to detail the chef puts into his food.  The egg is fluffy and slightly sweet from the mirin.

All of this is delicious, but the real star of the show is the aburi sushi!  The most popular and well-known of the bunch is the Aburi Salmon Oshi featuring wild salmon, aburi sauce and jalapeno.  Now you might expect me to say something like it is just as good as Miku/Minami, but let me say this is better since there is more salmon.  All of the other components are on point as well including the chewy sushi rice, thinly-sliced jalapeno (some places cut it way too thick) and the creamy, yet not greasy aburi sauce.  Equally tasty is the Ebi Aburi Oshi with perfectly cooked prawn and a bright lime spiked sauce on top.  As for the Saba Aburi Oshi, there is a more fish-forward flavour due to the mackerel.  It is also firmer.  The most under-the-radar aburi oshi is the Hotate as the sauce is indeed creamy, yet has a nice finishing kick.

There is one boxed sushi that is not torched.  The Hoki Poke Box (interesting name) consists of sushi rice topped with real crab meat, tuna and avocado.  This is a must order if you have already had a few of the previous aburi oshis.  It is almost like a palate cleanser of sorts that is a nice break from the heavy sauces.  This one is more a study of textures rather than strong flavours.  The fluffy crab, buttery tuna and soft avocado have a good combined mouth-feel.

As much as you can enjoy the nigiri sushi as they are, you can also opt for the Aburi Nigiri.  Here we have the Tuna Toro and Salmon Toro (belly meat) topped with aburi sauce and torched.  The torching affects the nigiri in 2 ways.  First, it caramelizes the sauce and adds a smokiness.  Secondly and most importantly, it activates the fats in the belly meat and it becomes super buttery and the resulting aroma is delicious.

We can't forget about Mauna's Aburi Tart comprised of sushi rice, avocado, seasoned tuna, wild salmon, aburi sauce, baby scallops and ebi.  This is best shared since it may not look that big, but it is quite filling.  The flavours in this work in harmony with the sweetness of the fish complimented by sesame oil and the aburi sauce on top.  Creamy avocado adds another layer of texture that works well with the buttery tuna.  This is a must order.

Onto some rolls, the most popular is the Explosion Roll which is like the Miku Roll consisting of imitation crab, cucumber and tuna on the inside with a mess of torched tobiko on the outside topped with aburi sauce.  The tobiko on the outside gives the roll a nice crunch with pops of the sea.  With soft tuna and imitation crab on the inside, it is a nice textural contrast.  Of course the aburi sauce is the literal cherry on top with smoky creaminess.

The second most popular roll is the Hawaiian with prawn tempura, avocado and cucumber on the inside.  This is topped with spicy tuna and spicy mayo as well as tempura bits.  I can see why this is ordered by so many customers.  It is essentially a dynamite roll, which makes it rather familiar and safe.  However, the buttery and spicy tuna on top adds a kick and plenty of impact to an otherwise mild-tasting roll.

Another Miku-inspired item is the Red Seal Roll consisting of a base California roll topped with red tuna and house-special Nikirri onion sauce and black pepper.  Once again, the roll itself is a California roll, yet the topping of red tuna adds some meatiness.  The real star of the show is the marinated onions as they are crunchy, sharp, sweet and purposefully salty.  In front of it is the Tiger Roll that is has a California roll as its base with the addition of prawn tempura.  On top, there is tiger prawn with kabayaki sauce, special spicy sauce and sesame seeds.  This is rather saucy, yet it is more sweet and slightly spicy than salty.  Lots of meaty prawn texture as well as prawn aroma.

Possibly the largest roll of the bunch is the Spider Roll.  Sporting 10 big pieces, it is stuffed with fried soft shell crab, avocado and deep fried green beans.  Compared to the other rolls, it certainly doesn't look as impressive, yet it is good in its own right.  Since there is so much soft-shell crab, there is a crispy texture giving way to softness.  Love the creamy avocado and the crunch of the beans.

Something that is a bit more usual is the Dragon Roll with a dynamite roll base adding avocado, unagi and tobiko on the outside.  This is a pleasing sushi roll that most people are familiar with.  There is just enough rice on the outside, so it isn't dense.  The combination of unagi and sauce as well as the dynamite roll makes this full of sweetness and some crunch.  So there you have it, a comprehensive look at the menu at Mauna Sushi.  Yes, it is your prototypical neighbourhood sushi restaurant and in reality, the menu is rather basic.  However, if you dive into the specialty items (marked by a blue check mark on the menu), you will come away with food that is served in higher-end spots in town.  I've been here 7 times total and the count will just keep going up.

The Good:
- The specialty items are impressive
- Well-priced
- Super nice people

The Bad:
- Limited menu (exotic items just don't move in this neighbourhood)


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