Sushi Azuki brings simple, standout Japanese cuisine to Hamilton

Sushi is an unfailingly popular takeout option in Hamilton, and it’s not hard to see why. 

From individual-sized selections to massive party platters that can feed multiple people, good sushi is fresh and flavourful, light yet satiating, and both healthy and indulgent at once. 

Among the countless sushi spots peppered all throughout Hamilton, a more recent addition to the city – Sushi Azuki – has quickly proven itself to be one of the Hammer’s best.

With its flagship takeaway location at 184 Locke Street South and a recently-opened sister spot in the east end at 209 Ottawa Street North, Sushi Azuki’s success was far from a given; in fact, they had numerous obstacles stacked against them from the get-go. 

The restaurant was opened by co-owner and manager Erick Kim alongside his father, both Toronto transplants with previous restaurant industry experience who decided to make the move to Hamilton in 2020 and open a new sushi restaurant. It was a venture that, for numerous reasons – including the pandemic – they decided to launch on a safely small scale. 

“Going into a city where we didn’t know anyone, much less with any type of connection whatsoever, we weren’t confident yet in trying to invest our time and money into going big like opening a dine-in establishment,” says Kim. 

“Besides, the then-COVID-related restrictions prevented any restaurants from operating dine-in options when we were location scouting.” 

The arrival of any new sushi place in Hamilton is going to draw a considerable amount of interest, and Sushi Azuki did just that upon opening their tiny takeout spot on Locke Street – barely big enough to hold their counter and kitchen – and launching a thoughtful, focused, simple menu that prioritizes quality over quantity with a no-frills selection of exceptional, hand-crafted sushi and maki. 

“Many Japanese restaurants offer teriyaki meals, tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlets), and bento boxes (an assortment of hot and cold items on a single large tray), but we knew Hamilton demanded a place that can make really good sushi,” Kim explains. 

Though the Locke Street menu is more condensed and considered than other Japanese spots in the city, it doesn’t mean there isn’t variety here; in fact, Kim and his father have ensured there are plenty of sushi options from tuna to crab to salmon to tempura shrimp to unagi, as well as a whole bunch of vegetarian rolls and some appetizers and accompaniments for good measure. 

The spot turned out to be a hit, with Sushi Azuki thriving from the get-go due to its outstanding food paired with its takeaway-only model, which made it an easy choice for locals to grab dinner during pandemic restriction as dining rooms were forced to reduce capacity or even fully shut down. 

“When we first opened on Locke Street back in December 2020, I remember us selling out every weekend of our first month,” adds Kim. “We had underestimated how busy we would be (and yes, this was a very good problem for us). Our strategy of focusing on sushi and maki rolls only was working back then, as it still is now.” 

The success has kept Sushi Azuki going strong for more than two years, and allowed Kim and his father to open a second location further east in Hamilton as part the Crown Point neighbourhood; a spot they had even considered while searching for a home for their first location back in 2020. 

“We already saw the potential Ottawa Street offered back then, we’re glad to see that potential has grown since then. When we noticed that a possible location was up for grabs on Ottawa Street, we signed the lease right away,” Kim explains. 

The Ottawa Street location has the benefit of being larger than the Locke Street flagship, which has also allowed Sushi Azuki to expand their menu with a bigger selection of sushi rolls on top of dishes they also offer at their Locke location like donburi, entrée-sized sushi meals, and inarizushi: a dish that sees sushi rice stuffed inside a deep-fried tofu pockets. 

In spite of the culinary demands of a larger menu on Ottawa Street, Kim still ensures that high-quality sushi is always the top priority. After all, a dish as simple and no-nonsense as sushi leaves virtually nowhere to hide when shortcuts are taken. 

“Its flavour completely depends on the quality of the fish and the rice that we use,” Kim explains. “We’re lucky to have experienced sushi chefs working with us, and we collaborate with them to offer the best quality of sushi and maki rolls we can offer to everyone in Hamilton.” 

Kim is quick to express the pride he takes in being a newer resident and small business owner in Hamilton, and how much life in the city exceeded his family’s expectations. 

“My dad and I lived in Toronto for a long time. We’ve endlessly heard how bad Hamilton is, but mainly from people who never bothered to actually visit Hamilton,” he says. 

“This city is more than a passing sight to see on the Burlington Skyway on your way to Niagara Falls. It has its own vibrant culture, identity, and unique communities that stand out in Canada. It deserves to be seen in a different light.” 

Kim is very right about that; and we have excellent food spots like Sushi Azuki to thank for playing a role in putting Hamilton’s cultural scene on the map. 

Visit Sushi Azuki at both 184 Locke Street South and 209 Ottawa Street North. See more and order food on their website, and follow them on social media here.

Images courtesy of Sushi Azuki 

Comments 1

  • Ann Bennie

    11.02.2023 1:44 am

    Love your recommendations, absolutely love sushi!
    We will have to visit the Ottawa Street location, thank you!!


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