MARIKO (551 Bloor West, at Bathurst, 416-516-3030) Other location: 353 Danforth, at Chester, 416-463-8231. Complete dinners for $20 per person including all taxes, tip and a beer. Open Monday to Wednesday and holidays 11:30 am to 11 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11:30 am to 3 am, Sunday 11:30 am to midnight. Danforth open for lunch Sunday to Wednesday and holidays 11:30 to 3:30 pm, for dinner 4:30 to 10 pm, Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement; Danforth barrier-free. Rating: NN
How much all-you-can-eat sushi can you eat at a restaurant where, when you ask the waiter what kind of salmon is used in the nigiri, he laughs uncomfortably, says, “Ah… I don’t know” and that’s the end of the conversation?
How much all-you-can-eat sushi can you eat at a restaurant that isn’t smart enough to hide the pest-control traps where customers can’t see them?
How much all-you-can-eat sushi can you eat at a restaurant that tells you not to sit at a booth because booths are for four, so you sit at a table for two and about 30 seconds later they seat two people in a booth?
How much all-you-can-eat sushi can you eat at Mariko on Bloor? Lots, if you don’t give a flying fish about quality Japanese food.
Judging by the vast quantities of stuff I saw being consumed by the capacity crowd, you could probably serve ping-pong balls to this group. They would smear them with wasabi, dip them in soy sauce and continue talking on their cellphones, possibly to each other.
The AYCE comes in at $14.99 and offers uniformly uninspired fare. Yakatori are three just-cooked skewers of plain chicken in a pedestrian, sweet soy-based sauce. Dynamite roll with deep-fried shrimp and futo maki consisting of imitation crab, egg, mushroom, cucumber and dried melon are loosely formed and very similar to what you’d get at any corner store. The mystery salmon nigiri is fresh-tasting but casually constructed.
That’s about all I can eat.
Assuming that AYCE isn’t always going to show a restaurant in its best light, we try the vegetarian sushi dinner ($12), which comes with veggie California rolls, cucumber maki, avocado maki, a vegetarian hand roll and vegetable tempura.
Again, presentation is less than stellar and none of the flavours excels. Tempura is dominated by sweet potato, rolls are just rolls, and the vegetable hand roll with carrot, pickled radish and avocado is almost more of a tube than a cone.
In keeping with its collegial demographics, it’s worth noting that the beer costs $3.50. Maybe all you can drink is the way to go.