The Best Sushi in Medellín

Salmon Nigiri
Salmon Nigiri
Salmon Nigiri
Salmon Nigiri

Writer’s note: This is the 11th story in a monthly series on the “best of” Medellín and the surrounding area. To read the tenth story, click here 

Sushi seems to be gaining in popularity in Medellín, so much so that you have more than a handful of places to choose from in the city.

We’re going to help you make a decision, and I say, “we,” because Dave decided to team up with me on this “best of” post. He also loves sushi.

You’ll find below what we feel is the best sushi in Medellín.

I saw Dave’s fave’s when I posted mine, and naturally, they were different. But that’s one of the things I like about working with Dave: we have different perspectives.

We’ve also updated the post this September (2014), to stay current with the boom of sushi restaurants in the city. A Top 3 is no longer sufficient. We need a Top 5.

The influx of sushi also forced me (Ryan) to say goodbye to my original Nos. 2 and 3 restaurants, Sushi Train and Sushi Market, although “forced” might be too strong a word because those places only made it by default in the first place, thanks to a sparse market. I was never really a fan of either.

So let’s find out exactly what we have in this new and updated Best Sushi in Medellín story…

Ryan’s Top 5

The volcano roll was good and filling.
The volcano roll was good and filling.

1. Envy Sushi Bar

Calle 9A #37-16, Poblado, Parque Lleras

I had heard about Envy Sushi Bar, because of its location atop the 5-star Charlee Hotel, but kind of overlooked it as just another locale with overpriced food. I was wrong.

At the urging of friends, who swore the sushi is worth the high price, I finally gave it a try, and the only thing that upset me was that I hadn’t gone sooner.

I started with the hamachi carpaccio (18,000 pesos or about $9.50), which was so good, I nearly shed a tear when I was done. Love the toppings of jalapeños and crispy fish skin, and the sauce it was bathing in, a mix of soy sauce, maybe a little ponzu sauce and a touch of lime, made it not just my favorite raw fish option in the city, but my favorite item to start a meal.

After that I tried the volcano roll (25,000 pesos or about $13). It wasn’t like the volcano rolls I had gotten used to in the states because it wasn’t really spicy, but it was still good and filling, stuffed with scallops and topped with fried shrimp.

Can’t wait to return and try the other rolls too.

The fresh and various options at Sushi House will not disappoint.
The fresh and various options at Sushi House will not disappoint.

2. Sushi House

Calle 35 #80A-09, Laureles

A paisa friend told me he and his family think Sushi House the best sushi in the city, and I came to agree, even though I’ve since changed my mind, but it’s a close second so that’s good, right?

The fish is fresh and there is enough variety to satisfy the most contemporary tastes.

My favorite roll is the krakatoa — prawns, avocado and cream cheese on the inside, eel on the outside. I like salmon sashimi they stuff with avocado and cream cheese too, what they call a geisha.

Maybe that name could qualify for a Tosh.0 comedy segment of “Is it racist?” but I don’t care. The sushi is too good.

Others are finding out too.

The Laureles restaurant has expanded into the space next to it, providing twice as many seats, and the friendly staff is more than happy to serve you. They even offer a sushi class now.

Go on a Tuesday (10 percent discount on everything) or Wednesday (three rolls for the price of two). Or, if you live nearby and don’t feel like going out, give them a call and have some sushi delivered.

The newest sushi spot, Sushi Shop, caught my attention with its akako roll.
The newest sushi spot, Sushi Shop, caught my attention with its akako roll.

3. Sushi Shop

Carrera 35 #7-108, Poblado, Via Provenza

Sweet mango and spicy wasabi make a great pair. Throw in some rice, seaweed and red snapper and you make a pretty good sushi roll.

I learned that after eating at Sushi Shop, the newest kid on the block in the sushi boom that has come to Medellín.

A business meeting earlier brought me by the location on beautiful Via Provenza, one of Poblado’s best streets for restaurants, and I couldn’t resist trying at least one roll, the akako.

Next time I’ll have two.

I always get the salmon skin roll when I go to Sushi Taste.
I always get the salmon skin roll when I go to Sushi Taste.

4. Sushi Taste

Carrera 76 #34-06, Laureles

My ideal night at Sushi Taste: salmon skin roll for an appetizer, teppanyaki for the main course.

But let’s focus on the sushi for now.

As I already said, I like the salmon skin roll. I’ve tried basically every roll on their menu so I can say with authority that this one is the best.

Not that the others aren’t good. So give it a try.

The eel roll alone gives Ginger a spot in the Top 5.
The eel roll alone gives Ginger a spot in the Top 5.

5. Ginger

Calle 30 #4A-80, Poblado 

Ginger loses points for geography, all the way up in the hills of Poblado, along the Inferior. It’s too bad. The sushi is good.

Eel is one of my favorite things to eat so that’s the roll I ordered, and I really enjoyed it.

I like that they didn’t douse it with too much eel sauce because that would have taken away from the vinegar flavor and everything else that makes sushi so special.

I used a lot of wasabi, as I always do, and the collision of sweet and spicy made for a good meal.

Dave’s Top 3

The sushi bar at Sushi Train in the Calle Diez Hotel
The sushi bar at Sushi Train in the Calle Diez Hotel

1. Sushi Train

Calle 10A #34-11, Poblado 

For the best sushi in Medellin, head to Sushi Train at the Calle Diez Hotel.

It’s the only sushi restaurant that features a conveyor belt, which means you can walk in, grab a seat, and start eating immediately.

On top of the convenience, you also have direct access to the sushi chefs to make special requests. Put in a request for your favorite combination of ingredients, or ask them to surprise you!

Each color plate has a corresponding value, so as your plates stack up, it’s easy to estimate how much you’re spending.

Sushi Train also feature a regular menu with a variety of sushi rolls, but I’ve never actually ordered from it. Still, based on my numerous visits, I’m confident it’s the all-around best place in town in terms of quality, service, and price.

Dinner with friends at Sushi Light
Dinner with friends at Sushi Light

2. Sushi Light

Santafé and La Strada malls, Poblado

The sushi restaurant I’ve eaten at more times than any other is easily Sushi Light, thanks to their two for one sushi roll special on Tuesdays.

Back in 2010/2011, I use to meet friends at the Santa Fe location every Tuesday night and we’d gorge ourselves on sushi.

I quickly made my way through the entire menu. In the beginning, I was enamored with the Napalm roll, which is flambeed in front of you.

The slightly spicy Poseidon was another favorite, as well as the Cangrejo Blanco, but these days, I stick with the Fishen roll, as I feel it offers the best amount of salmon for your money.

Every now and then, when I’ve ordered the Rainbow roll, which includes salmon, tuna, and tilapia, the quality of fish hasn’t looked so good.

Another reason I can’t give Sushi Light top honors is that unless you get there early on Tuesday evenings, there can be a long wait to get seated, and get your food.

I was also bummed to find out earlier this year that they no longer serve nigiri on Tuesdays, as they say the fish needs to be preserved for the rolls.

I’ve eaten most often at the Santa Fe location, followed by the one in La Strada. Sushi Light’s newest location is in Laureles.

Half a Tibet roll, and half an Atacama roll
Half a Tibet roll, and half an Atacama roll

3. Sushi House

Calle 35 #80A-09, Laureles

Ryan wouldn’t let us publish this article unless I tried Sushi House, his #1 pick for sushi in the city. I went over one day last week, with high expectations.

The first thing I noticed was the place was empty, but it was a little late in the afternoon by that point (1:30/2 PM).

I ordered a half roll of the Tibet, a vegetarian roll with avocado, mango, and cucumber, and a half roll of the Atacama, with red snapper, avocado, and salmon tartare. I should’ve stopped there.

Those two rolls, pictured above, were excellent. Both were a nice change from the rolls I’d grown use to at Sushi Light.

But I’m also a huge fan of Spicy Tuna, thinking it was done the same way everywhere. Big mistake.

The menu indicated “Atun sellado” which must mean cooked, because that’s how the tuna arrived.

It wasn’t pink and raw like I expected. It was bland, with the consistency of canned tuna. And of course I’d ordered a full roll of that one!

After the convenience of Sushi Train, and the cost savings of Sushi Light, I think the rest of the sushi restaurants are about even.

What’s your favorite sushi restaurant in Medellin?

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  1. The bottom line is that there is no actual *good* sushi in Medellin but I think these are fine choices as the available options go.

    Sushi House is good “for the tank” as my barber used to say. If you catch it at the right time you can get buy 2 get 1 free specials or 50% off specials. The portions are decent sized and the value can’t be beat if you go at the right time. The quality is passable and the variety is stronger than Envy and others.

    Envy is definitely the best setting and with the exchange rate at the moment it’s fairly reasonable all things considered. That said, I do think the place lacks some variety and the service sucks relative to the lovely, more upscale setting. This is definitely the place to take a date you want to impress or a younger client in a professional dinner setting. I ate there most recently with my girlfriend. Good sashimi plates (the hamachi was excellent, salmon was solid) and two of three rolls we got were legit. The dynamite is creamy and nice, it could use a bit more scallop but has a nice contrast of textures and seamless blend of flavors. The Lima roll was also excellent, nice flavor on the cevich-style salmon. The causa roll left a bit to be desired, I see what they were shooting but it doesn’t carry off well. The potato and crab base is too plain alone but the addition of jalapenos and siracha is too domineering when added to the mix. They wanted something that was explosive over something smooth and plain, but in the end you just get a mouthful of identity crisis. Similarly, their signature dessert, the envy roll, was good in theory but weak in execution. It holds together very poorly and doesn’t have enough of the things that really give it flavors (pistachios, strawberries).

    I thought Sushi Train was mediocre and the chain places are worse. I will get salmon sashimi at Sushi Light but that’s about it. Sushi To Go is an abomination of glue-ridden rice and microscopic portions of fish, and it’s not alone. I will give a shot to some smaller places in the days to come but overall Latin America is not a great place for sushi. You can find some decent places in Lima, Cartagena and Buenos Aires (I have to visit Brazil) but most places are sorely lacking in legitimately good sushi. In Medellin, it’s basically just for snobs and the nouveau riche who want to be trendy.

  2. We tried to go to the Envy Sushi Bar atop the Charlee Hotel but we were denied entry because we had on sandals and not shoes. This was the stupidest reason for denying us entry to this restaurant. We were well dressed with sandals, not shoes. I always wear sandals and have never in my life been denied entry to a restaurant because of my foot wear. I suppose even Jesus Christ would be denied entry. OK, Envy Sushi Bar, you have lost my business as I will never return to your establishment. I am sure your Sushi is very good but I will never know, your loss.

    • I agree dress codes are stupid, and there are relatively few places in Medellin where you’ll be turned away because of it, but Envy is one of them, and Carito club is another (both look at footwear).

      Envy is a rooftop bar #1. That they serve sushi is secondary. So it’s not that you were denied access to a restaurant, it’s more like you were denied access to a trendy bar that serves sushi too.

      It’s not uncommon to see Colombian actresses and models hanging out there. Management is trying to keep a certain standard of dress, and I can appreciate that from a business perspective. It doesn’t mean I agree, but I’ve also never tried to run a rooftop bar catering to rich people and models.

      There’s a half dozen other sushi places you can eat at within a few blocks (ex: Sushi Train, Sushi World). The sushi at Envy isn’t any better. I like going there because of the retractable roof and the fact that it does have a certain air of exclusivity (at least compared to all the other bars at street level in the park).