Pushing the sushi envelope – Aisuru Sushi’s vegan offerings

I’d heard a lot of good things about Aisuru.  Its vegan and vegetarian sushi offerings for one.  Its entire menu being 100% freshly made to order the other.

Relishing the opportunity to meet the man behind the chopsticks, hubby and I shared a quick meal with Ken, the proprietor of Aisuru Sushi.

It is apparent Aisuru Sushi is not your average sushi restaurant.  Hi-tech touches include iPads to take orders, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for seamless communication and printing of receipts – all housed in a contemporary setting.  The Subiaco establishment is the newest kid on the Aisuru block, a large open space with a family-friendly feel.  And guess what peeps – you can actually making bookings here, unlike its Northbridge counterpart!  Cue mass hysteria and cheer from families, groups and function organisers.

We were walked through the menu and given a crash course in history simultaneously.  His passion, knowledge and enthusiasm are obvious.

Aisuru Subi

Aisuru Subi

8 Little Known Gems

  1. Ken personally trained as a chef in Sydney and Japan to get an intimate knowledge on the workings of a kitchen
  2. No chefs he interviewed knew how to fulfil his vision
  3. The California roll was the 1st fusion sushi roll.  Japanese migrated to the US in droves in search of better opportunities.  When these migrants arrived, they wanted Japanese food.  Salmon was very expensive at the time, and they sought an ingredient which mimicked the texture and consistency – avocado was the substitute
  4. There was joy when the disabled ramp he installed was actually used
  5. The Aisuru menu is 2 years of Ken’s time, perseverance, and dedication
  6. Aisuru offerings only came in 8 pieces, however customers consistently requested half rolls in order to sample more of their dishes
  7. An external consultant was brought on to advise on creating vegan and vegetarian dishes – what to use, what not to use, ingredient substitutions and flavours
  8. The vegan menu was accepted from Day 1 – and not just by vegans

Now what you’ve all been waiting for… the FOOD.

First off the bat, two very popular dishes:  The Crunchy Buddha’s Delight and Veganpillar.

Veganpillar

Veganpillar

The first had a satisfying crunch in every bite, combined with creamy avocado and flavoursome mushrooms.  I chose to have the Veganpillar with plum sauce.  You can also have it with the special mustard sauce.  All sauces are made in-house.

A sight for the eyes is the sensational Beets International.  Deep red beetroot, neon splashes of mustard sauce contrasted with the greens of cucumber, avocado and asparagus.

Beets International

Beets International

Now I love this name… Apple of Love.  Awww.. its actually seasoned and blow torched razor thin tomatoes layered on top of rolls filled with greens.  Why Apple of Love?  Well (another fun fact from Ken here!) when tomatoes first arrived in France, they did not know what it was.  They needed a name for it obviously.  Given their kinda-sorta shape similarity to apples, the French decided to call it the Apple of Love, because of its rouge colour.  So romantic.  So French.  Oui?

Apple of <3

Apple of ❤

Another favourite of customers on the menu is the Magic Mushroom.  No, it does not have any of “those” sorta magic mushrooms.  This G-rated version combines enoki and button mushrooms in the one roll.  This one was lower on the totem pole in terms of flavour.  Rather, the subtle natural flavour of the mushroom is allowed to shine through. 

At the insistence of Ken, we tried the Sweet Corn Tempura.  Literally corn straight off the cob.  Kinda like popcorn shrimp without the shrimp!  Hubby found it hard to stop picking at it, very Moorish and very easy to OD on.  Thank God we weren’t at home in front of the telly otherwise he would’ve polished off the whole plate.

Corn Tempura

Corn Tempura

Hubby just had to try the best-selling double-wrapped Plum flower roll.  Somewhat of a flagship dish at Aisuru, it’s chicken teriyaki and avo wrapped in nori and shari, then wrapped once more in tamago egg and liberally doused with sauce.

A brand new addition to their new 2013 menu (out soon)  – vegan yakitori sticks!!!  We sample two varieties of tofu yakitori:  one with sea salt and ginger, the other with traditional yakitori sauce.

all vegan sweet beancurd skin roll

all vegan sweet beancurd skin roll

By this point I am fighting the urge to undo the top button of my jeans.  Yeah… been chowing down like it’s going out of fashion.  It’s catching up with me!  Taking a sip of water while hubby takes one for the team and demolishes what I can’t finish, my thoughts start to wander to dessert.

As the green tea matcha ice cream isn’t vegan, I opt for the Banana Split Maki.  The description doesn’t do it justice: fried banana topped with fresh fruits and whipped cream.  Sprinkled with icing sugar.  Drizzled with chocolate and raspberry sauce.   We’re told customers throw caution to the wind and actually L-I-C-K the plate clean.  Some don’t even order sushi and just go straight for this baby.

The dish arrives and…

banana split maki

banana split maki

Holy.  Moly.  If looks could seduce… we’d all be in our birthday suits right about now.

Mine is the one on the end – without the cream.  The challenge was to eat the whole thing in one go to get the mish mash of different flavours in your mouth.  Banana split maki – 1.  Friska – 0.  It took me 3 mouthfuls to finish it off!

That topped off our first Aisuru dining experience.  But definitely not the last.

At the end of our meal, I asked what prompted Aisuru to commence offering vegan and vegetarian choices.  He synthesizes what I had been noticing myself.  People want vegetarian food.  People want vegan food.  I have noted it is now less of a struggle for me to buy vegan items in mainstream cafes, restaurants and supermarkets.  Change is happening!

Aisuru wanted to:

a)      Be different

b)      Give consumers the choice

c)       Be innovative

d)      Never compromise on quality

e)      Provide fusion sushi comparable to the most cutting edge restaurants in Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, New York – the renowned “food capitals” of the world.

f)       Cater to the growing ex-pat community who are looking to recreate the same dining experiences they had while living abroad.

What can I say except mission accomplished.

Magic Mushroom

Magic Mushroom

Soon those with food intolerances can rejoice with glee!  There’s gluten free and lactose intolerant options currently being worked on by the team.  The Subiaco space will also have a separate lounge area and a fridge dedicated to cakes and other sweet things to tantalise your tastebuds.

Other than that, expansion is on the cards for Aisuru.  Perth will forever be known as its first home.  Future plans are underway to roll out the concept in South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, and the USA among many others.

I’m chuffed to think we will have a home-grown global success story.  Thinking more near-term, I’m even more ridiculously chuffed for the ability to eat sushi with hubby and non-vegan friends – without having to order the borrrrrrrr-ing cucumber roll.

Thumbs up from me.  Thumbs up from hubby.  Hubby hails from the birthplace of ‘fusion sushi’ – California.   Every so often in a fit of nostalgia he’ll wail in disappointment ‘I miss the food back home!  It lacks flavour here, it’s expensive and service is crap!’

He thanks Ken with deep sincerity “food like this makes being far away from home so much more bearable”.  You know you’re onto a good thing when the proprietors of Little Caesar’s and Jacksons’ are your regular customers.

Final verdict?  Nobu quality, Subway prices.

The finer details…

Aisuru Sushi Subiaco

480 Hay Street Subiaco – Bookings available on 9381 2919

Closed Public Holidays, Sundays and Mondays. Moving to 7 days a week very soon.

Lunch 12 to 230. Dinner 6 to 930 (till 10pm fri and sat)

&

Aisuru Sushi Northbridge

208 William Street, Northbridge

7 days a week. Lunch 12 to 230. Dinner 6 to 930 (till 10pm fri and sat)

selection of thirst quenchers

Karen B: Raw healing – A Nutritionist, Naturopath, Chef and Author heals herself

Karen Bartz, 56, is a fully Qualified Nutritionist and Naturopath who resides in Perth.  She seems to live in Heaven.  No, not the one with the big pearly gates, instead this Heaven is the raw vegan cafe at FERN, short for the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network.  I’m an avid frequenter of the cafe, gorging on the delicious raw vegan fare whether it’s mexican burritos, chocolate macaroons or cold pressed chai lattes.

Four years raw

Four years raw

FERN runs on donations businesses and volunteers.  Monday night is soupi night, a vegan feast by donation. For those yet to drop by, make it a must do on your list!  There are chickens roaming around the grounds, bicycles to ‘adopt’, a free library to browse through and lessons to learn in sustainability, gardening and overall health and well-being.  The cafe is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am-4pm.  Often there are special events such as Drum Circles, Reiki Sessions and Fire Walking.  The FERN website is currently under reconstruction so for those seeking upcoming event information, the Soupi and Fremantle Environmental Resource Network Facebook pages are the place to go.

Karen is the author of best-selling book ‘Raw Food Awakening’ and has been on a raw vegan diet for the past 4 years.  She also runs regular raw food classes.

Below is her story…

Your journey to vegetarianism / veganism:

I became unwell while studying naturopathy and nothing seemed to work.  I was fed up with medical tests and supplements.  One day I doused my food to see what was best for me to eat – so much was making me feel worse!  I switched to 80% raw at that point but still ate minimal amounts of fish.  I totally eliminated dairy and eggs.  Miraculously, I felt better and six months later had an all-raw lecturer at college.

“I then went the other 20% and after two weeks felt better than I had in 30 years.”

I believe by experiencing the 6-month gentle introduction on 80% raw was just what I needed, considering I was coming from the dark depths of unwellness to begin with. Incidentally, prior to raw food I tried the blood type diet.  I am blood type O, according to the diet I was supposed to do better on the Paleo diet.  It was not successful for me.

raw goodies by Karen

raw goodies by Karen

What’s the most remarkable benefit or change (could be physical, mental or emotional) you’ve noticed since becoming vegan?

I feel extremely well and energised!  I could not run the cafe for 6 days a week at the age of 56 that’s for sure.  I cannot eat dairy in any case, as I get a hormonal reaction from it.  With meat I am affected by the adrenalin present in the animals’ system so I get stressed and fearful.

At college they thought I was a little strange but now three of my lecturers from that time work in the raw food industry.

Also, I was not expecting the enlightening experience of spiritual awakening on raw!

A typical day’s meals for you?

Breakfast: Large bowl of chia porridge with homemade nut milk with just vanilla powder and cinnamon to sweeten, topped with chopped fruit.  Today I had pear, strawberry and mango.

Lunch: Large salad with dehydrated onion bread and a nutcheese for lunch.

Snacks: Usually a dehydrated cookie and a large green juice in there somewhere.  Occasionally beetroot juice.

Dinner: Usually more onion bread or dehydrated pizza crackers with avocado and more fresh fruit.

I do drink herbal tea.  Current favourites are lemon and ginger and chai with heated nut milk.

Biggest challenges / obstacles of being vegan:

None.  The pay off is huge plus I get adverse reactions if I stray from my raw vegan lifestyle.  I also surround myself with what is required to stay on track as it’s that important to me, hence I choose to run a raw vegan cafe.  Problem solved!

Advice to newbie vegans:

Follow your heart, consider raw food over processed vegan junk food

Biggest misconception about vegans:

That they are less physically strong.  Studies prove otherwise.
That they are intolerant/aggressive.  Perhaps some are.
But the most successful at influencing others, I have noticed, are the ones who aren’t.

tiramisu

tiramisu

Life motto / personal philosophy:

Follow your heart

Favourite vegan products:

Barefooters, Italian rubber shoes with cork liners, Chia seeds.

Inspirations:

Valerie Boutenko, Fred Bisci PhD

Karen’s Chia Porridge

1 young coconut
3-4 tbs chia seeds

Blend water and meat of 1 young coconut and then stir in 3-4 tbs chia seeds and stir till thick (about 5 minutes).

Alternatively blend a handful of raw almonds with 1 1/2 cups filtered water and then add chia seeds to that.

You can stir in the blender on slowest setting or food processor. Serve with chopped fresh fruit.

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