Some of Montreal’s tastiest sushi is seafood-free

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Dynamite, kamikaze and momo futomaki sampler from Sushi Momo

Montreal is not a city that’s known for its sushi. A recent trip to the West Coast reminded me how refined a roll of sushi can be, and how much higher the standards are for fish — even fast-food sushi is made with more flavourful, less rubbery seafood over there. But looking at the big picture, quality isn’t the biggest problem with sushi — it’s quantity.

The massive popularity of sushi has played a significant role in the drop-off of ocean life worldwide, and industrial pollution has, to varying degrees, compromised the flesh of fish and other sea creatures, particularly in farms and in countries where regulation is lax. In an ideal world, there would be a cap on all unsustainable food sources, and strict regulation to prevent any trace poisons from reaching our plates. And yet, like so many other dubious industrialized foods, seafood is more available than ever.

Miso soup

Miso soup

I’m as guilty as anyone of all-you-can-eating sushi from time to time, but it’s becoming more and more of a guilty pleasure. Luckily one local restaurant has proven to me and and many other lovers of this Japanese staple that you don’t need seafood to make delicious sushi.

Since late 2014, Plateau restaurant Sushi Momo has been serving vegan sushi exclusively, to ever-growing acclaim and popularity. The small space on Duluth, just east of St-Laurent, seats less than 20, so reservations are always required, and line-ups outside are commonplace. (The restaurant is moving to a larger space on April 1 — details below.)

The menu is vast, so a $15 introductory special is a solid starting place: it includes one miso soup and five pieces each of dynamite, momo and kamikaze au patates futomaki rolls. The patates in question are sweet potatoes, packed into the kamikaze alongside tempura flakes, chunks of avocado, diced green onion and rice. The dynamite contains “shrimp” tempura (their quotes), rice, cucumber and avocado, and (as with the kamikaze) an infusion of “spicy sauce” — tangy, with enough kick to feel it in your eyes, but not enough to knock you down (there’s wasabi for that, after all).

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Momo take-out

These sauces, whether infused or, as with the momo roll, dolloped on top, are what make these rolls magical. Sushi Momo’s namesake roll is really something special: Japanese sweet tofu, rice, mango, avocado and cucumber, topped with an oba leaf and a combination of three sauces, described only as basil, sweet and curry. If you try only one type of roll at Sushi Momo, this should be it (though after tasting it, you probably won’t want to stop there).

Aside from standard format rolls, Momo offers their take on nigiri and gunkan, with jack fruit, spicy or sweet tofu, king mushrooms, asparagus and sake-cured bell peppers. They do a variation of sushi pizza, and even sushi poutine, the latter made with fried sweet potato hosomaki, a mysterious vegan cheddar substitute creating an “au gratin” effect and shiitake teriyaki sauce. I haven’t tried these creations yet, nor have I sampled the majority of dishes on Momo’s menu, which offers myriad reasons to return. 

Sushi Momo

8 Duluth E., 514-825-6363/514-419-9935

Note that Sushi Momo will be opening in a new location, 4669 St-Denis (near Mont-Royal), on April 1, and will close its old location for a couple of days at the end of March — check their Facebook page for details. 

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