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Maïko Sushi
387 Bernard St. W. Beaubien métro. Bus 160

Tel. 490-1225. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. $60 for two before sake, taxes and tip. Table d'hôte: $6.95—$13.95 (noon); $14.95—$27.95 (evening).

Managed to go to Maïko Sushi on a Wednesday night.

The party was three, and one of us was late, at 6:45 pm on a Saturday. There were "no tables available."

The place sure did fill up. It's a pleasant enough space, with white-tableclothed tables at fairly roomy intervals, and there's ostensibly a smoke-free area, of which the sushi counter at which we were seated was a part (although at least one malcontent saw fit to light up near me—too bad there wasn't a smoke alarm at every table. Perhaps a fist will do?)

Service was a bit lax, with no menus being provided until our errant friend showed up 15 minutes late, but after that it was very friendly, if confusing. It was like being at an Italian restaurant in Burma—all the familiar words were understood, but stray off the beaten track and they were lost.

Nobody understood "namazake"—"draft" sake, which is served cold, and I was told that all sake had to be served hot or I would have to buy a whole bottle (at room temperature). That was happily not a problem. The lore of sake is huge and even the Japanese themselves get all confused about it. Suffice to say that lots of Japanese like it hot, lots like it cold (like me) and lots don't mind it at room temperature.

My buddies had Sapporo beers and we all ordered. The prices are indeed reasonable. There are table d'hôtes (set menus) for a large combination of items, ranging up to about $29 for the priciest—quite reasonable, considering you get miso soup, salad, a main course (in my case, an extremely chewy filet mignon that had been massacred and covered with a sesame-seed alien invasion over a bed of bean sprouts) with rather uninteresting and generic short grain rice.

Still, my set menu included crisp, grease-free (rare! rare!) battered jumbo shrimp with a very authentic tempura sauce—these people, Japanese or not, did their homework here. They're also very good with sushi. The sushi that came with our combo—tuna, shrimp, and salmon—was fresh and properly cool; however the rice was heavily over-sweetened. The salad was iceberg, carrots and onions, cold and crispy, but covered with a peanut-based dressing.

Our friend, who had ordered the sushi table d'hôte, got a huge plate of what looked to be about 20 different sushi items, for less than $30.

Okay, so my steak wasn't great and the un-Japanese sesame seeds were overly ubiquitous, but the tempura stood out, and after a bit, the waiter was extremely friendly and helpful, and the sake was, well, sake, so the $120 (including tax, wine and tip for three) was not a hardship.

Reviewed by Nick Robinson

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