55 Brunswick Boul. /Sources
(in small mall behind Rockaberry)
Dollard des Ormeaux, Québec
Cuisine Type : Japanese /Sushi
Cost =$51.25- (excluding tip and no wine)
Chef Hats : 3.5
All good stories begin and end with tales of exploits and adventures in our favorite places, hence enters Madonna Bailey and Eric Payne, two loyal customers of Mikado on St Denis Street who over 10 years ago decided they spent so much money on sushi (approximately $8000 a year) and decided they should open their own place and so they did; but not only did they open one Japanese restaurant but two in Montreal, one located downtown and the other in the West Island and they took the chef with them.
One princess was called Sho-dan on Metcalfe Street and the other was called Aikawa situated on Brunswick Boulevard in an obscure mall in West Island. Both grew to become two very exceptional fine dining Japanese establishments in Montreal at the time. It was a period in this city where the sushi craze was really starting to take off and patrons couldn’t get enough. Sushi places were popping up all over this city like cockroaches from a Mexican sewer on a rainy day. Some were good, some bad, some generic but these two places always stayed on my mind due to their quality, freshness and innovative styles. The Chef at the time was Chinh Romeo Pham who left Mikado and to this day is still owner at Sho-dan.
Over the years I frequented them less often but decided to revisit Aikawa in the West Island one evening when Brains and I had our very very strong Japanese and sushi cravings. Some say that Aikawa is not what it used to be, rumors are that it has even changed hands, but Madonna Bailey is still listed as the owner. Hummmmm.. I found that Aikawa is still the same.
In terms of décor and food it had not changed much in recent years. The room still has a kind of warehouse feel, with open ceilings and exposed pipes, the inner bowels of the room are dark, the décor and lighting minimalistic. The kitchen and sushi counter can still be found totally in the back of this vast space seating up to 80 people.The location is yet another matter. Not much to write home about, it is tucked away in a small mall behind another small strip mall between Sources/ Davignon Street. A far cry from the neon lights of St. John’s Boulevard, St. Charles or even Sources. The view is not great and the best way to access the restaurant is through Brunswick Boulevard and or Davignon Drive (it is next to a local Indian grocery store called Singh Farms).
This is a true West Island hidden gem and a great romantic getaway for those who want privacy. Aikawa can be listed amongst one of the local restaurants that is above the rest and different from ‘’all you can eat’’ sushi places clogging the arteries of the West Island.
Aikawa serves Japanese fusion, done the modern way and with an “out of the box” concept. It is not a traditional Japanese restaurant, but then who wants boring! Yet on this particular night we noticed some Asian men enjoying wine and eating up a storm. The only thing missing was the Geisha’s. Instead we got a young Japanese waitress dressed in black pants and white crisp shirt with a really funky blue spiky hairdo.
On the menu you can find your typical and not so typical Japanese fare and some of my old favorites like the Besamo Mucho and French Kiss or any of the chef creations which are truly worth the steep prices.
Tonight was a cheap casual night for us and I really wanted a tempura, so I ordered the combination shrimp and vegetable tempura. Our plate came beautifully presented with four long shrimps that were crispy, flavourful and fresh. The vegetables consisted of zucchini and sweet potato tempura . Not rancid or oily and enough to be shared by two. We also ordered Green tea for two at $ 3.25.
Brains and I also shared the Sushi for two platter which contained a mix of Sashimi, nigiri, makis, futomakis and one chef special and some salad – a total of 31 pieces for $ 40.00. Maybe a little pricy for lots of people, yet this was not the generic type and everything tasted fresh and delicious. Sometimes you need to pay for quality.
What we liked most at Aikawa was the comfort level and friendliness of the staff, the quiet ambiance the look and feel of the place and mostly the food. “Dommage as it can be steep for a quickie night but then a few weeks before we picked up sushi around the corner at another local shop and 24 pieces of sushi cost $ 38,00, at least at Aikawa for $ 13.25 more, we received 7 extra pieces of sushi, vegetable and shrimp tempura and a pot of tea. I call that good price for the quality. Aikawa, you are not completely de-throned yet. Still a gem, just wish the prices would be a little lower and the location a little nicer.