Inglewood is a thriving community in Calgary, best defined by two rows of brick-walled complexes which border each end of 9th street, affording an old-fashioned, industrial appeal to the retail shops that continue to breathe life into the neighbourhood. At the west end of 9th street, a path brimming with popular Calgary restaurants and stores, you will come across Inglewood’s one and only sushi joint – Ari Sushi.
Somehow, despite being one of the few stand-alone buildings on the street, Ari Sushi is easy to miss if you are not careful. The exterior evokes the simplicity of a single-storey home and stark-white walls provide a stylish contrast to a flat, black roof. Although unassuming on the outside, especially compared to the grandiosity of competing sushi restaurants in and around Calgary, Ari Sushi provides some of the most elevated and authentic Japanese cuisine that the city has to offer.
The first thing to note while entering Ari Sushi is the interior’s intimate, but charming, size – a single room only occupied by a couple of tables on the left, elevated booths on the right, and a chef’s bar along the middle with long countertops made of black granite. Bamboo shelves are mounted overhead, displaying elegant porcelain dinnerware and sake bottles. The décor, providing a simple yet rustic aesthetic, certainly evokes the feeling of dining in an authentic Japanese sushi bar, which is further exaggerated by the limited capacity of the interior. Only able to seat a few dozen at a time and increasing in popularity amongst Calgarians, Ari Sushi strongly suggests that visitors secure a reservation before their visit.
For those lucky enough to make it through Ari Sushi’s doors, the food will prove that it was all worth it. Head chef Mike Hakjin Kim maintains a passion for bringing only the best and freshest ingredients to his tables. This includes a menu of rotating ingredients that change based on availability and season, affording diners an opportunity to try something unique in addition to the favourites. One of the latest features is the Bluefin Negitoro wrapped in rare Numatanori seaweed. As the staff will delightedly explain, the deep, nuanced sweetness of Numatanori is a perfect companion to the richness found in the abundant fattiness of Bluefin Tuna.
In addition to the food quality, Ari Sushi takes excellent care to elevate the presentation in every dish. The Ari Special Roll, for example, was elegantly placed on matte-black plates, contouring the vibrant colours found in fresh ingredients like salmon and avocado. The plating choices made by Ari’s sushi chefs also pair function with aesthetics, as exemplified in the scallop sashimi; slices of scallop are layered on a bed of crushed ice with lemon, affording a refreshing acidity to their sweetness in addition to a pop of colour. Regardless of whether you order from the rotating menu of exotic delicacies or something more familiar – like the spicy salmon roll – it is certain that the same level of attention and finesse has been applied to your plate.
Local Calgarians will testify to the abundance of sushi restaurants in the city, and almost every major neighbourhood – whether it’s 17th Ave, Kensington, or Mission – will have more than one. The exception is Inglewood, with Ari Sushi standing alone in both style and cuisine. Furthermore, the reputation of Ari Sushi transcends the borders of Inglewood, pouring into the city of Calgary altogether, thanks to the meticulous care taken by Chef Kim to provide the freshest sushi possible (for a little restaurant in the prairies). Credit is also owed to the team of trained sushi chefs and additional staff, who clearly share a passion for elevating Japanese cuisine in Calgary.