The philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote in celebration of the flâneur, the wandering person of leisure in urban spaces. Flâneurs soak their cities in, stroll around, see the sights and maybe park themselves at a café to people-watch while appreciating a delicious pastry.
Leisure is within your reach as the end of the semester fast approaches. Take some time to wander, step off the beaten path and visit Aburi Sushi, a small and underrated restaurant tucked into a strip near Confusion Corner on Pembina highway.
Start off with the gyoza if only to appreciate Aburi’s gyoza dipping sauce. Most gyoza sauces are made with vinegar and soy, but Aburi spins its recipe with sesame seeds for a distinctively nutty twist. Scallions scattered on the gyoza make the whole dish run the spectrum from tangy to sweet and savoury.
The restaurant is a sushi spot in Winnipeg that serves Osaka-style sushi or box sushi. Like the name suggests, this style of sushi is pressed in a box — giving the pieces a distinctive cubic shape — as opposed to being hand-pressed like nigiri or rolled in seaweed like maki.
From Aburi’s Osaka-style sushi selection, go for the Aburi shrimp sushi. It is served with a small piece of fried egg at its centre and a slice of shrimp cut open and laid flat on top of the rice. What makes the recipe even more unique is the addition of lime zest, as well as the way the dish is served with a few sprouts tossed on top.
The flavours are bright and colourful with faint smoky undertones from the shrimp. Like so many other things on Aburi’s menu, the shrimp sushi has a pleasant range of textures from the shrimp’s chewiness to the sprouts’ fibrous crunch.
The way Aburi garnishes sushi is memorable and unlike almost any other sushi place I have visited in Winnipeg. Also from its Osaka-style sushi menu, the spicy tuna salmon mix sushi and salmon pro both come with slices of jalapeño peppers on top.
Western sushi restaurants often drench their spicy dishes in hot mayonnaise to the obliteration of all other flavours. Aburi’s use of jalapeño is conservative and does not wash away the rest of the dish’s identity.
Aburi’s sushi rolls are no less extravagant. The baked seafood roll is one of my personal favourites. A cucumber and scallop maki is topped with shredded imitation crab mixed in a mildly spicy sauce, mango salsa and sesame seeds.
These rolls are summery and full of surprises — a little sweet and fruity from the mango salsa, while also a little savoury from the sesame. You have to take some time to meditate with the baked seafood roll and uncover all of its secrets.
Saving room for dessert will not be easy for those eager to explore Aburi’s menu, but working in the white magma vanilla or black magma chocolate ice cream balls is essential. These are not normal desserts. They are transformative experiences.
The ice cream balls are deep fried, which is not the oxymoronic anomaly it sounds like. First, a ball of ice cream is frozen until solid, wrapped in a layer of cake and once again stored in the freezer until the outer layer is also frozen. Once cooled, the cake-ice cream ball is dipped in tempura batter and deep fried.
Aburi plops this decadence onto a small milk chocolate puddle, adorns it with whipped cream, drizzles the whole dish with dark chocolate, sprinkles mint flakes on the whipped cream and adds a chocolate truffle on top as a finishing touch.
The result will elevate you. These desserts taste like you might imagine those sumptuous indulgences set on display in chocolatiers’ windows do as you longingly pass them by.
Unfortunately, Aburi’s prices can be prohibitively expensive, with some eight-piece orders of sushi almost hitting $15 in price. The restaurant does offer buy-one-get-one half-off deals on Mondays and Wednesdays for those wanting to treat themselves without breaking the bank.
Otherwise, this place might be better saved for special occasions, such as a post-exam celebration.
Aburi is a gem buried in Winnipeg’s span of suburbia that is easily missed by those who only experience the city from the perspective of their cars. The restaurant’s quality rewards embracing your inner contemplative and sentimental flâneur, the part of you that finds treasure by allowing yourself to just walk in the world.
When you eat, let flavours roll around your tongue. Chew a little longer to feel how the textures evolve and let the temperature of the thing change. Eating should be an experience that you linger in. Wander around your city, take a seat, eat well and watch Winnipeg go by.
Aburi Sushi is located at 311 Pembina Hwy., for hours of operation, visit aburi-sushi.com.