It sits quietly across the street from the slightly more pretentious Globe Fish, going widely unnoticed because its sign blends into the building rather than screaming, “Hey, you! Come eat here!” It is small and quaint, with only five tables and a six person sushi bar. It’s chefs and serving staff are all authentic Japanese, some barely able to speak English. It almost feels as though you have left Calgary, left Alberta, left Canada, and ventured to a far off eastern string of islands know for their raw fish delicacies. It is this feeling that makes El’s feel as though it is truly inspired by authentic Japanese cooking.
We ventured there last week on the recommendation of Peter and Tyler Brill, who said that El’s was hands down the best sushi in Calgary. While I haven’t tried all of our city’s vast sushi joints, I would have to say that El’s ranks quite high.
Upon a first glance of the menu, it may seem like their prices are high. However, when your food arrives you understand the value of El’s. Huge rolls and large portions are what I now realize they are known for. Pieces of Toro Sashimi came nearly twice the size of the next biggest I have seen, rolls were constructed of mostly meat and just a thin layer of rice – it seemed all of their food was about maximizing portion size. Furthermore, when we were confused about the difference between sweet and normal shrimp they were more than happy to not only explain the difference, but go to the back to get samples for us to try.
One of the coolest things I have ever seen however was the result of us choosing to sit at the sushi bar where we had a full view of the fryer and the chef who originally cooked at Zen 8 before the Penny Lane entertainment district was completely demolished. For nearly an hour he flipped tempura in the fryer by hand, dipping his fingers into the hot oil as if it was lukewarm water not scorching hot oil.
With it’s small size it may be hard to find a seat, but that’s no excuse not to eat there. I have heard the best way to enjoy El’s is in your home, picking it up as take out. Try it, you will be happy you did.