Whistler or Blackcomb?
Squamish or Pemberton?
Mountain biking or skiing?
These are just a few of life’s big questions. Another one: where’s the best sushi at?
When we first moved to Squamish and we told people where we’d be living, SO MANY people would immediately say, “Oh man — that’s close to Sushi Sen, the best sushi in Squamish.”Well. That’s quite a statement.We needed to try Sushi Sen for ourselves, and we did so several times during the couple of weeks we spent painting our house. There’s nothing better than devouring food that somebody else cooked for you after you’ve been elbow deep in paint all day.And then one Monday, we went to Sushi Sen and it was closed. We panicked — and then we remembered another sushi spot nearby: Umai Sushi. We hadn’t heard much about this place, but this was no time to be picky. Well, guess what — we LOVED Umai Sushi. Possibly even more than Sushi Sen.A lot has happened since then, and the time has come to officially evaluate my relationship with each sushi place. Behold.LocationBoth Sushi Sen and Umai Sushi are located in Garibaldi Estates within a stone’s throw of other. I’m going to give them a tie on this one since most people would consider their locations to be equal, but Umai is just a bit closer to us and so it often wins our business solely due to laziness.Point: TieAmbiance
When it comes to ambiance, the two restaurants are incredibly different.
Sushi Sen seems to buzz with activity, no matter what time of day it is. Some people like this; for example, my sister just loved the energy of the place when she visited. Others (myself included) find it a little too loud and boisterous. It has funky decor and a patio to die for.
Umai Sushi has a more sparse, modern vibe with cool wall finishes and the kind of black leather booths you’d find at a trendy downtown restaurant. It’s got a mellow vibe that I love. There’s just one thing: the music. EVERY time I have been here, they’ve played nothing but country music. I happen to love country music, but not everybody does. And even I can admit it’s a little weird in a sushi restaurant.
Point: Umai Sushi for me, but I’ll admit this one is entirely based on personal taste.
LunchBoth places have several reasonably priced options for lunch. I order the same thing at both: the chicken teriyaki box. I guess here is where I have to admit that I don’t actually LOVE sushi. But I do love chicken teriyaki.
At Sushi Sen, this comes with veggie and prawn tempura (I ask for all veggie), a limited choice of sushi roll (I used to get the veggie sushi, but I discovered I can make a special request for the yam tempura roll, which is good), rice, salad, and miso soup. At Umai Sushi, this comes with one gyoza (recently they have been serving it with a spring roll instead), a salad, rice, miso soup, and THE MOST DELICIOUS yam tempura roll EVER. Bite size with crispy little morsels, I have come to enjoy this more than the chicken teriyaki itself.Before picking sides, I would like to note that both teriyaki boxes are phenomenal — good value and a much better assortment than I’ve had at any other restaurant (and I always order the chicken teriyaki). Both are extremely filling, although I’d say that Umai is more of “oh man, I’m stuffed!” feeling whereas Sen’s is the “how did I eat all that, I think I’m going to die, but I have no regrets #YOLO” feeling.Having said this, Umai’s salad is superior to Sen’s, and Umai’s yam tempura roll is a gift from the gods.
Point: Umai Sushi.
DinnerI don’t have a TON to say about dinners, since we typically do lunch at both places. However, feedback from friends and visitors has me leaning towards Sushi Sen. The one time we went to dinner at Umai, I found it pretty expensive. When we had sushi night from Sushi Sen with my sister and her husband, they were raving about the sushi. My sister said it tasted like it had been made with extra care.
Point: Sushi Sen.
Take OutI’ve never done take out from Umai Sushi, but Cedric had a bad experience. He placed an order once and they told him it would be 30 minutes — no biggie. But when he showed up 30 minutes later, they told that it wouldn’t be ready for another 30 minutes. Not so good.My experience with Sushi Sen is better. We placed a large order during a busy time, and although it took a couple of minutes longer than quoted, it still arrived relatively quickly and the order was almost perfect (one minor mess up, but not bad considering how much stuff we ordered).
Point: Sushi Sen.
Price PointWhen we tell people we like Umai Sushi, most respond with something like “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that place but I haven’t been there”. But I also hear a lot of, “Isn’t that one more expensive?”I find Umai Sushi to have very reasonably priced lunches, but it seems like prices get bumped quite a bit for dinner. Sushi Sen is relatively inexpensive all the time. We fed four people an ample amount of food at Sen for around $100, including tip.
Point: Sushi Sen.
ServiceI have not had exceptional service at either place — neither in a good way nor a bad way. If pressed to choose one over the other, I would pick Umai Sushi. Here’s why: Sushi Sen sometimes feels a little rushed, whereas Umai always makes it feel like they’ve got all the time in the world for you (probably because they are less crazy busy). When my 16-month-old niece visited Umai, they treated her like mini royalty. They also served us the wrong roll once (Sammy Roll versus Salmon Roll — it’s an easy mistake to make) and recovered gracefully.
Point: Umai Sushi.
After Dinner TreatThis one is hard.Sushi Sen won my heart over when they brought the bill accompanied by two mini packets of Pocky. I hadn’t had Pocky since I was little — I used to devour the chocolate dipped skinny bread sticks when I’d visit Vancouver from the ‘burbs of Ontario. It tasted every bit as good as I remembered.But Umai Sushi is so good, too! They usually bring out one peppermint patty per person, and one of those foil wrapped strawberry candies (green on top, red on the bottom) per person. This is optimal for Cedric and me: I get two patties, he gets two strawberries. However, they’ve thrown us for a loop a couple of times — once, we got this fancily cut orange, which was super cool but not the peppermint patty I was expecting/craving.
Point: Sen Sushi, for novelty and consistency.
Let’s tally this up:
- Location: Tie
- Ambiance: Umai
- Lunch: Umai
- Dinner: Sen
- Take Out: Sen
- Price Point: Sen
- Service: Umai
- After Dinner Treat: Sen
With a final score of 4-3, Sushi Sen takes the win.
A final note: Samurai Sushi is also located in Garibaldi Estates. It pains me to say this because this was our go-to takeout in Whistler, but Samurai Sushi simply isn’t on the same level as Sen or Umai.