With the family pretty much socially isolated from others since winter began, dinner take-out has become a fun and unifying family occasion. Additionally, our socially conscientious clan has become quite sensitive to the plight of local businesses and restaurants. We have made it a habit, during these quarantine times, to order-in from a variety of restaurants by proclaiming our Saturday nights as ‘Small Business Saturday’.
As Laurentian weekenders, we have often sought out dinner options in the Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts region. Having enjoyed the area for most of my life, I thought I had pretty much discovered nearly every restaurant from Sainte-Adele to Saint-Jovite. So in the middle of the pandemic, it was with some excitement when we noticed a new sushi place was opening at a recently constructed mini-mall at the intersection of highways 117 and 329 in Ste-Agathe. Since then we have been regulars at Yuzu Sushi.
Our ‘support local business’ mantra worked nicely into the Yuzu story as we discovered that this was in fact a Quebec chain. Started in Quebec City in 2002, the restaurant chain has expanded to 140 locations across Quebec and New Brunswick and was recently acquired by the MTY Group. MTY clusters together many brands across Canada and the US that we are all familiar with from burgers and steaks to sushi, subs and steamies, from ice cream shops to corner cafés, and so much more.
True to their guiding principles of designing innovative culinary creations and frequently offering new menu items focused on quality and freshness, Yuzu Sushi grabbed our attention and we have been very impressed from our first visit.
The local franchise in Ste-Agathe is owned and operated by Jessyca Noel. Jessyca has been involved in the restaurant industry for a number of years and possesses two professional diplomas attesting to her culinary skills. She worked at Sushi Shop franchises (coincidentally also owned by MTY Group) and eventually decided to invest in her own franchise opportunity with Yuzu Sushi.
Jessyca opened her current location in June 2020 and has had tremendous corporate support from the good folks at Yuzu. She began forming her team from scratch and extensive training took place for two weeks last summer. Presently Jessyca employs some 11 staff members from the immediate area.
“I have a great team. They are well trained and very organized,” Jessyca told me. What’s clear to me is that every time I’ve been at Jessyca’s Yuzu Sushi location, her staff are shoulder to shoulder, masked and gloved, working with military-like precision. What’s more, Jessyca and her staff are friendly, helpful and bilingual.
On a recent Saturday night we indulged in a wide-ranging selection from the impressive Yuzu Sushi menu. Right out of their bright orange boxes and reusable cloth bags, my wife Judy remarked how beautiful the selection looked. “The colours and textures are so lovely.”
When you think of sushi, you probably think of miso soup and rolls. At Yuzu Sushi they offer a much larger variety and it all begins with their entrées. We ordered the Kanikama Tartare Nachos. They were crispy and overflowing with chunks of crab-flavoured pollock salad, jalapeno, onion, soybean and sesame with spicy mayo drizzle. Other nachos choices include salmon tartare, shrimp tartare and tuna tartare, in both starter and main course sizes.
As well, we had the unique flavour of the Goma Wakame Seaweed Salad with sesame and a side order of Calamari Salad with ginger, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. We were definitely off to a good start. “I love seaweed salad and this is the best I’ve had in a long time,” my daughter, Nicole, said.
Next we had the Shrimp Tempura which was covered in panko and so crispy and the Coco-Shrimp Poghomaki which had a wonderful coconut coating. Dipped in a spicy mayo both were plump and crunchy – we couldn’t choose a favourite so order both and you can decide for yourself!
Moving onto the main courses, Yuzu’s fried sushi is another winning option. We settled on Judy’s favourite dish, the Kunsei Sesame, which includes five pieces of sesame seed coated rolls filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, then deep-fried. The end result is visually striking; don’t be intimidated by the spotted black exterior – take a bite and enjoy the absolutely delightful, warm and crunchy interior.
While I enjoy a little of everything, my family eats vegetarian and pescaratian options. We opted for the Eye of the Tiger, a vegetarian panko-fried roll with marinated tomato, mango-chipotle seasoning, carrot and asparagus, served with spicy mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce. “It’s an incredible taste, so unusual and unique,” said Nicole. “The Eye of the Tiger was the thrill of the night,” she sang out.
Next up were spring rolls. While we’ve eaten from Yuzu Sushi several times, we had never ordered the spring rolls before but we certainly will from now on. Both the Smoked Kanikama and the Tuna were absolutely stuffed with fresh, colourful ingredients and although cut into two halves, each could easily be halved once again and shared among four at the table. My other daughter, Nathalie, said that this dish would make a tasty and filling lunch.
We had plenty of the staple makis such as the popular California roll packed with crab-flavoured pollock salad as well as the Shrimp Tempura with avocado and sweet omelet. Yuzu Sushi allows you to substitute quinoa for rice in all rolls – just write your preferences in the comments section of your order.
But, what really sets Yuzu apart are incredible creations such as their Yuzumaki and Kyandi. The Yuzumakis have an internal roll as well as an external garnish – Yuzu certainly understands the mantra that you eat first with your eyes.
For example, I had the Cajun Chicken that featured fried chicken, cream cheese, avocado, clementine, green onion and mango chipotle seasoning on the inside and marinated tomato, teriyaki sauce and black sesame seeds on the outside. Dipped in spicy mayo, it was splendid. I also got the Coco Bongo Shrimp with shrimp salad, avocado, sweet omelet, cream cheese, coconut and masago inside and tuna, mango chipotle mayonnaise, soybean and coconut outside. A winning choice! And the presentation is quite lovely, topped with a single edamame like the jewel on a crown.
Speaking of presentation, the Kyandi looks like, and even tastes a bit like, well, candy! The puffed-rice-rolled-exterior is the Rice Crispy Square of Sushi, my kids decided. We had the Tuna Crunch with cucumber and spicy mayonnaise on the inside and spicy tuna tartare, arare, goma sauce and green onion on the outside. Pure delight! On to the Midori with an interior filled with fried marinated tofu, teriyaki shiitake, green onion and exterior of marinated tomato and avocado.
Next up, Sushi-Pizza. “Mmmmm, it’s so good and crunchy,” Nicole yummed. You can choose from two different crusts – thin fried seaweed and traditional rice pattie. “And the shiitake mushroom, OMG!” The pizza topping is marinated tomato, teriyaki shiitake, soybean, jalapeno, sriracha hummus and sesame seeds. Another winning selection that everyone absolutely loved.
My son, Jeremy, totally loves Yuzu’s Sushi-Club. “I could eat this everyday,” he exclaimed. We all indulged in all three choices of Spicy Salmon, Kanikama and Spicy Tuna. They all come with Yuzu rice embedded on panko-fried seaweed along with each of its namesakes: salmon, tuna and pollock. Cut in a triangular shape, stacked and assembled with a wooden skewer, it is the sushi version of a club sandwich. Everyone at the table agreed it was a winning choice. We dipped the crunchy wedges into two-coloured sauce – a mixture of mayo and teriyaki sweet sauce. Jeremy proclaimed this is the “best item on the Yuzu menu”! Nathalie added, “This is one of my favourite six dishes at Yuzu!” I would agree with my kids that the Yuzu Sushi-Club is a superb choice.
The Nigiri was “elegant” according to my eleven-year-old restaurant-critic son. Indeed the salmon was plump, fresh and juicy, elegantly draped atop the sticky white rice.
Jeremy loves wrapping up his Yuzu Sushi meals with one of their dessert choices, namely the Créme Brulé. “I love cracking through the crunchy top layer. The creme is so sweet and rich it helps wash down my whole meal,” my little epicurean chimed. While the Créme Brulé is a more traditional dessert, the Choco-Miso is a chocolate mousse mixed with miso paste creation (trust me, you have to experience it to understand). Each dessert is topped with a milk chocolate square sporting the Yuzu “Y”. We all grabbed a mini-spoon to get our share of the creamy ending of a thoroughly satisfying meal.
“This was a wonderful meal from entrée to dessert and I appreciate that Jessyca is so accommodating with switching out rice for quinoa. A recurring theme is the crunchy texture. I also like the fact that they use recyclable containers and no styrofoam,” Nicole concluded.
Indeed, substitution was no problem at all. My crew loves quinoa more than rice which we switched out of several of our rolls.
On previous visits we’ve tried the Poke Bowls of which Yuzu has many options. They also have a wide variety of tartare bowls if you are grabbing a lunch or eating alone.
The Ste-Agathe location offers us and our up north country friends the convenience of proximity without the hassle of traffic or parking concerns. What’s more, it is easy to order on their user-friendly mobile app (Apple or Google Play) or website and pick up on our way to the chalet, either on the Friday commute or after our daytime activities, be it après ski or after a bike outing.
“I have many regular customers each week,” Jessyca told me with great pride. “About half are permanent residents and half are weekenders. Fridays our business triples compared to weekdays! And we’re very busy each weekend,” she said.
Jessyca told me that while most customers order online and via the terrific Yuzu mobile app, some choose to walk in and either decide on the spot or head over to the counter or the refrigerated grab-and-go selection. Still others call in and ask for help in choosing from among a wide variety of appetizers like the very popular miso soup, salads including the top pick seaweed salad and spring rolls to, nigiris, makis, pokes and full ranging platters. Many customers are happy to go with the chefs choice and to discuss their allergy concerts which Jessyca and her staff will gladly work around to ensure a wonderful meal. There’s even a small area to eat in the restaurant once that’s allowed again.
Fresh ingredients are delivered every week and all dishes are prepped on location (except for the decadent Choco-Miso and Crème Brulé desserts).
While Kamikaze and California rolls are among the most popular choices, Yuzu offers promotions that you can find online. The Chef’s Choice is a big hit and available on Sundays. The platter is predetermined by the chef and offers 30 pieces for $30. Students get 15% off just for asking. Such a deal! Other hot dishes include the Yuzumakis and the puffed rice crunch. The menu is updated several times a year and Jessyca is one of a handful of franchise-owners who volunteers on the chain-wide menu committee.
My family is very pleased that Yuzu Sushi has eco-friendly policies. We recycle or compost everything we don’t eat. They are also a member of the Ocean Wise program, ensuring that they offer environmentally responsible seafood choices.
Yuzu Sushi Ste-Agathe is currently open six days a week and closed on Mondays. While regular hours are from 11:00AM to 8:00PM they are closing at 7:30PM during the current nightly curfew. They are located at 183 boul. Norbert-Morin in Ste-Agathe-des-Mont (a.k.a. Route 117) at the new Canadian Tire Gas Station at the intersection of Route 329. Phone 819-774-3433 or go online at YuzuSushi.ca and download their mobile app. Jessyca is dressed in Yuzu orange while her staff are all in black. Tell her Glenn sent you. We’re there so often maybe we’ll bump into you! I hope this review will help you in making your selection on your next order and be sure to share with your Up North friends.