There are three Sushi Trains in Winnipeg; this review is for the Sushi Train at the Forks. All three restaurants are similar, with their individual quirks. (For example, the service at the Pembina Sushi Train has historically been a bit frazzled and disorganized, but as we haven’t been there for a long time I can’t comment on what it’s like now.)
Winnipeg is about as far as you can get from the ocean in Canada, so it may be surprising that there are a number of sushi places here. They run the gamut from fantastic to not worth your time or money.
Sushi Train is not fantastic sushi. It’s not even great sushi. It is, however, satisfying and reasonably priced sushi, and is good for filling your sushi needs when you get that sushi craving. If you have a friend who has never tried sushi, this would be a good place to get them started, especially since they have a nice selection of non-sushi menu items as well.
Located in the Forks Market (on the side closest to the CN rail tracks), the restaurant is well-lit and has a nice, informal atmosphere. One downside is that it does not have a restroom inside; you’ll have to run to the other end of the Forks Market to use the public washrooms there. There is seating at both high tables (with barstools), or low booths, or at the bar.
Almost everything on the menu is ala carte, with full inclusive meals only being served for lunch. Good starters would be the miso soup, edamame, or sunomomu salad, the latter of which comes with large quantities of noodles, cucumbers and seafood.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that we’re almost regulars here, although that gives us the luxury of having tried almost everything on the menu. My husband is fond of the ma po tofu, a dish of breaded, deep-fried tofu blocks covered with ground beef and hot sauce. (This item has been on their “special board” for over a year. I’m wondering if they’re just waiting to get their menus reprinted before finally adding it to the menu permanently.) The tempura is also a good dish, especially if your party includes sushi virgins. I would stick with the vegetable tempura basket, as the assorted only contains a token shrimp or two for an extra $2; it doesn’t seem worth it.
As far as the sushi goes, it is almost always perfect. Occasionally the sushi chef on duty gets carried away with the wasabi; this seems to happen most often on the nigiri sushi and in the simple rolls such as the tuna and salmon rolls. If you’re sensitive to wasabi, I would recommend asking for no wasabi on your sushi, or ask them to go light on it. All of the rolls are maki sushi, either regular or inside-out; temakisushi (hand rolls, also known as cones) are available on request.
Sushi Train does not have a lot in the way of custom rolls, although their beach roll (crab, tempura and hot sauce) is a personal favorite. The deep burn of the hot sauce is a lot different from the bright, cool heat of wasabi, so I like to follow the beach roll with anything containing wasabi for the contrast. The chopped surf clam roll is very tasty, as are the California roll and the teriyaki chicken roll. I’ll occasionally order the fatty salmon or fatty tuna nigiri sushi as well, since the pieces of fish in these dishes tend to be thick and generous.
Service is generally attentive and responsive. Be prepared to wait when the restaurant is very busy, however; their service doesn’t seem to scale well when they have many customers to attend to.
There is nothing here particularly earth-shatteringly good, but I can’t recall a single menu item which I would not order again. It’s a great place to meet after work, and a good place to get your sushi feed bag on.
What’s that? Oh yes, the titular train. If you sit at the bar, there is an O-gauge train running all the way around where the sushi chefs are working. The train has several flatbed cars, on which the chefs place various kinds of sushi. If the restaurant is busy, look sharp! The best stuff will get snatched off the train as soon as it goes by. (If there’s something you’re looking for and it’s never on the train, you can ask the chef to make it for you when she gets a minute.) A guide to the prices hangs over the bar: beige plates are $1.75, black plates are $2.75, and so on. You keep your dishes stacked up next to you while you eat, and when you’re done the server will total up what you’ve consumed. (No fair slipping your teal plate ($4.75) into your neighbor’s stack!)
If you’re looking for the best sushi Winnipeg has to offer, this is not the place to go. If, however, you just feel a craving for marinated river eel rolls, be sure to stop by.
*Actually, the subtitle should have been “Sushi just like Mom used to make, had my Mom ever made sushi in her life,” but that seemed a bit too long.
**edit: I’m a bit surprised at the negative comments that this restaurant has been getting. As I said above, this isn’t awesome sushi; this is sushi for the “Did you want sushi?” “Sure.” “Where do you want to go?” “I dunno. I don’t have much cash on me.” “Um, how about Sushi Train?” “Sure, that works.” conversation.
In comparing this restaurant to other sushi restaurants in Winnipeg – yeah, Sushi Train is going to fall short. But I wonder at the commenters who said that the service was rude, or the sushi tasted terrible – did you complain? We’ve had problems a few times at Sushi Train, and it was always corrected after bringing it to the attention of management. The tempura was cold once (yuck) – it was quickly replaced. Another time there was so much wasabi on my nigiri sushi I couldn’t even taste the fish. I explained that while I liked wasabi, this was a bit too much of a good thing! It turns out they were training a new sushi chef, and I received new sushi with an apology.
Anyway, I stand by my original assessment that if you’re looking for great sushi, this is not the place for you. But if you’ve got $5 and a craving for fatty tuna, this is a nice, quick place to scratch your itch. :)