The Dine Out Vancouver™ Festival runs from January 18 – February 3, 2013. This gives people in Vancouver a chance to get out and experience the city’s cuisine during the coldest, wettest, and darkest month of the year.

Fresh fish is so common and plentiful in Vancouver that it’s hard to find bad sushi — hard but not impossible. I tend to avoid the fast food sushi joints because there are so many great affordable takeout sushi restaurants in Vancouver… why would you eat sushi that sits in a package all day long?

Oceanwise is also a contributing factor in which sushi places I will choose and recommend. All the restaurants listed below are ocean friendly and a step up from the run of the mill quick sushi restaurants like Mo-Mo and Fresh.

5. HAPA IZAKAYA (1479 Robson Street)

Hapa Izakaya is one of the older high end sushi restaurants in Vancouver (2003) and was probably one of the first to step away from the standard sushi/sashimi cuts of raw fish with avocado and rice. Their menu is based on a Japanese tapas philosophy and they offer a range of other popular Asian dishes. My personal favourite is not the sushi, but their hot stone bowl meals.

I have a rather love / hate relationship with Hapa Izakaya. While I love the restaurant and think the food is fantastic, I find the wait staff consistently disorganized and rather dizzy. When dealing with a food allergy/restriction be very very clear in explaining, remind them again at the end of ordering, and check the food when it arrives to make sure it’s yours.

4. MINAMI (1118 Mainland St.)

Minami is the sister restaurant to one of my favourite sushi places, Miku — quite literally. Both restaurants are named after the Japanese owner’s daughters. Like Miku, Minami specializes in flame-seared aburi sushi and a matching of sauce to fish. Almost as fantastic and beautiful as the rolls are the unique Japan-Euro desserts that come after the meal.

Minami is a rather new addition to the city and is located in Yaletown. While Miku is loud, boisterous, and busy, I found Minami to be a calmer and more down to earth.

3. OISHII SUSHI (780 Denman Street)

During one of my first visits to Oishii, I sat next to a couple who had recently returned from a long trip to Australia and Thailand. They hadn’t even unpacked their bags and were sitting in Oishii because “they’d missed the restaurant.” Unlike all the other sushi places listed here, Oishii is rather unassuming and looks exactly like you’d expect for typical sushi restaurant in Vancouver… with a few surprises like the Fire Roll, the Kakisu and the Tataki Sashimi.

2. Miku (1055 West Hastings Street)

Miku is a foodie paradise. There’s plenty of unique artistic food creations, the restaurant has a history that goes back a generation and spans continents, and the aburi sushi is fantastic. Aburi style simply means that the fish is partially grilled using a blowtorch; and, if you sit at the bar in Miku, you can watch the chef do the blowtorching.

I wrote about Miku here.

1. Shizenya (985 Hornby Street)

This is one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. While people are lining up to get into Guu down the street, it’s a breeze to walk in to Shizenya and order a meal. This restaurant makes eating healthy easy. All ingredients are organic, use brown rice, and items that are gluten-free are identified on the menu by a sticker.

In my experience, there’s nothing on the menu that’s a bomb, however some real winners are the Sakura Blossom Roll, the Ocean Quartet Salad, and the Prawn Sunomono. I wrote about Shizenya here.