I have gotten this question in online forums a couple times, as well as seeing that people are actively searching the terms on my travelogue, so I thought I would write a reusable answer for this question. My first question to anyone even thinking about having Japanese food in Trinidad …
With the variety and fusion of foods in Trinidad that are excellent, why bother trying Japanese food in Trinidad? It’s not to say that Trinidadians couldn’t import a decent “Itamae-san” to create great sushi and prepare sashimi in the right way; but there is a fundamental problem with this cuisine in Trinidad. Trinidadians are “texture” and “savoury” type diners who like things with tons of herbs, spices and heat are the norm. Japanese food in its essence, values freshness and natural taste of the ingredients with very little addition in the way of tons of herbs and spices. See the problem, the two philosophies of cuisine are fundamentally different.
Trinidadians are also famous for “copy-catting” anything that is popular in North America; specifically the east coast, since the majority of Trinidadians have relatives who reside on the east coast (Toronto, New York, any place in Florida or Atlanta). The problem with copying North American style sushi/sashimi/maki … is in general, standard fare is not authentic because of east coast tastes and because of price point. Authentic sushi/sashimi prepared by a well trained Itamae with the right ingredients costs a lot of money. Try getting fresh salmon belly everyday flown in from the west coast and see how much it costs!
There are amazing and authentic Japanese restaurants across North America, where you will get sushi and sashimi prepared in the true fashion but the price point of a meal, typically runs 80$-100$ a person. That’s definitely not what I expect to pay for 13.95$ CDN “All you can eat” at Aji Sai or Island Sushi in Toronto. (Which by the way, is a spectacular value for the taste and meal – we’re definitely blessed in Toronto and Vancouver for this). In my opinion, there are two types of Japanese restaurants:
- The first kind is what they would say, localized (for the local tastebuds) and this can be slightly fusiony but retaining Japanese elements. While at some of these places you can find the stupid name giant rolls equivalents, they incorporate local ingredients or elements from local cuisine. The ubiquitous “Spicy tuna roll” – this will taste different at 10 different restaurants and 10 different places, because local tastes and wallets drive what is popular.
- The other kind is strictly traditional Japanese, even though a local interpretation, but in some ways catering to not just those with traditional tastebuds, but also traveling Japanese expats on business. These businesses spend the time, money, and resources to do it right (and at times cheaper). Some go to extremes to hire Japanese chefs, or send their own folks over to Japan to train (some even the old school way of apprenticeship).
The average Trinidadian cares more about the amount of food they get and how much pepper sauce they can put on it. So I ask again, why bother with sushi and sashimi in Trinidad? It is a setup for disappointments galore.
Additionally, finding the required ingredients for sushi is very difficult in Trinidad. Of course, in true Trini style, they never tell you they are out of an ingredient till you order. Sure there are a couple sushi restaurants scattered here and there in Trinidad, but after trying them and experiencing mismatched soy sauces, no ginger, terribly overcooked rice, (as if the only rice you can find is applicable to dhal, rice and bhagi), I have always been left with soul crushing sushi experiences … so why bother??.
This is all one person’s opinion … I’m not a food critic, but I have had sushi all across the world, from the US/Canada, Europe, South America … gotten ripped off in Ginza and woke up for 7am white bait sashimi at Tsukiji fish market, so at least I have had some degree of exposure. There is no right or wrong in this conversation .. I like 25 yr old single malts, my friends back home swear by Black and White scotch or Dewars, it is a preference. I’m sure there are those in Trinidad that love the “sushi” that they get and I have no problem with that, but those who ask me, whether I would have sushi/sashimi in Trinidad and my answer would be a resounding
If you still feel like sushi in Trinidad, here are a couple links, but don’t say I didn’t say so….