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Voyages: Alex Oh Sushi & Rolls

Voyages: Alex Oh Sushi & Rolls

Korean-born chef Alex Oh first discovered his fascination for Japanese cuisine while working at a restaurant in the town of Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. With this newly found passion, Oh set out to make something of himself, cutting his teeth as an aspiring young itamae (sushi chef) in Thailand, Korea, and then Canada.

During his tenure at downtown Toronto’s Yuzu No Hana, Alex took a trip to Halifax and decided that the maritime hospitality, flourishing food scene, and world-class seafood would offer the perfect opportunity to start an establishment of his own. A year and a half later, Alex opened his doors for the first time, treating his first 100 guests to a complimentary roll. That act of kindness and respect for the customer seemingly set the stage for what was to come next, and in my humble opinion, the sushi scene in Halifax has never been the same.

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After countless amazing experiences at Alex’s restaurant on various occasions and many requests from our fans to cover more sushi joints, our team decided that it was time to get in touch with the man himself and booked a visit for lunch.

Despite the fact that it is summertime here in Halifax, the brisk temperature feels more like April so I decide to order something a little more substantial while staying within the bounds of sushi. To that effect, I end up going with the “Alex Lunch Special.” For the price of $25, you are served miso soup, a garden salad, 5 pieces of nigiri sushi, 9 pieces of sashimi, and a 6-piece California roll. While this falls a little more on the expensive side, lunch specials such as the ‘Vegetable Roll Lunch” start at $6 and range in price all the way to the aforementioned Alex special.

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After easily putting away the soup and salad appetizers, the main event begins with the nigiri. Today’s selection consists of 2 salmon, red snapper, lightly charred butterfish, and tamago (Japanese omelette). Wherever he can, Alex uses locally sourced fish and you can tell by the deep flavour and melt-in-your-mouth texture that this seafood is as fresh as it gets. While nigiri may not seem like the most complicated thing in the world, it is important to remember that most sushi chefs spend years just perfecting the preparation of sushi rice before they are even allowed to touch a piece of fish. Alex’s rice is excellent – not too sweet, not too sticky – just as it should be.

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Next up comes a wild-looking spread of sashimi that is skilfully plated with dragon fruit, flowers, fresh herbs, citrus fruit, and daikon radish all propped up on top of a bundle of twigs. If there is one thing you can say about Alex, it is that he treats sushi as an art form just as much as a science. The presentation is absolutely beautiful and again, the delicate slices of salmon, albacore tuna, butterfish, and red snapper are tender, fresh and packed with flavour.

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Finally, Alex finesses the close with a back-to-basics finale – the California Roll. Despite its international popularity and simplicity, even this dish is executed with grace and attention to detail. The ripe chunks of avocado are rolled in perfect proportion to the matchstick cucumber slices and strips of fresh crab. This is California Roll done with textbook precision.

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Looking back on four years of living in Halifax, there are so many good memories that flood my mind when it comes to dining out, but there is one thing I can say for sure – the sushi competition in this town is fierce. While the newest sushi restaurant popping up on every corner promises to charm your taste buds with the best in the city, we at The Starving Sailor believe that there can only be one champion – and our vote is with Alex Oh. If you’re ever taking a stroll downtown and are looking for a sushi experience that will excite, delight, and inspire you, all while filling up your tummy, stop in at Alex Oh and let the master work his magic.

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