After reading Oishizo!’s positive review from just over a year ago, Emme and I gave Blue Star Japanese Bistro a try despite the fact that it isn’t, as denoted in the aforementioned review, Japanese owned or run. Perhaps the service and kitchen staff have changed since then, however, because I don’t really have anything good to say about our experience there this year. (Another negative review?! How shocking. Maybe I’ll become known as the harbinger of bad reviews.)
We initially journeyed over to W 4th to eat at Maenam… for which we did not have reservations, and even at lunch it was extremely busy. Somehow, I guess I thought you’d only need reservations for dinner. Turns out it’s a popular lunch place, too! Though it’s not open for lunch on Sundays or Mondays, I believe. In any case, Blue Star Japanese Bistro is right across the street. Needless to say, we did not exactly start off on a good foot. When we walked in, the restaurant was deserted at lunch time on a Saturday. We stood awkwardly at the entrance for a couple of minutes while the two sole waitresses chatted at the very back of the restaurant near the register, and the sushi chefs off to the left of us, despite looking extremely bored, didn’t actually do anything to grab their attention. After calling out, “Are you open?” to them, one of them seated us in the booth closest to the door. (Is it supposed to be a ‘seat-yourself’ sort of place? Then this all would’ve made sense.)
Emme claimed she wasn’t that hungry, but ordered Beef Yakisoba alongside some Edamame. The edamame was… cold. And, as the photo may show, barely salted. (At least give us some extra salt on the table then, come on!) Have you ever had cold edamame? It’s not that appeasing. I’m starting to think part of its appeal comes from the fact that it’s meant to be nice and hot. This was not. Moving on…
As for the beef yakisoba, it was disappointing. Emme didn’t have much to say about it besides the fact that the sauce was far too salty, watery, and had almost no sweetness, the beef was from bad cuts of whatever steer it came from (all chunks of fat, pretty much. She hardly ate any of it… and I’m pretty sure, despite what she said, that she was hungry), and the dish was 80% bean sprouts and noodles. The noodles weren’t even soba. They were Chinese noodles; lo mein, actually. Essentially, what happened was this: Emme ordered beef yakisoba… and got stir-fried beef lo mein.And since when does Japanese cooking involve zucchini?!
I went out on a limb and ordered sashimi; more specifically, Hokkigai Sashimi. It may look okay in the picture, but it was poorly cut and not fresh. Or rather, you could say, it wasn’t “thawed properly”. It tasted off. None-too-ironically, my gut was off later that afternoon. I could tell it wasn’t fresh when it arrived — the idle sushi chefs hadn’t cut any sashimi or prepared any before my order came, so maybe it was cut in the morning and left in the fridge or something… maybe even overnight? — and voiced this to Emme, who warned me not to eat it if that were the case. Yet… I hate wasting money, and did anyway. And suffered the consequences. Lesson learned.
To balance out the sashimi, I asked for Hot Vegetable Soba for some carby and veggie goodness. It looked like there were lots of vegetables at first, but… there weren’t. Similar to how Emme’s beef teriyaki was mostly bean sprouts, my soba bowl was closer to 90% noodle. Don’t get me wrong; I love soba – but it was seriously too much, and not even soba to begin with. I get why Chinese people will run Japanese restaurants (Vancouverites seem more willing to eat Japanese than Chinese, perhaps because of the stigma against Chinese food that developed years ago once it was pointed out that Chinese restaurant food contained a lot of MSG and was behind a lot of the “Chinese restaurant syndrome” headaches), but it’s not really… I don’t know, fair? – That is, not fair that they serve Chinese food with a Japanese label. It’s misleading and, in my opinion, downright dishonest. At least it came out hot, although the noodles (lo mein again) quickly turned mushy. The broth had no flavour. The few veggies that were present were… fine. I’m using the word “fine” very loosely, though, since I did not think it was “fine” at all. Red pepper? Eggplant? Zucchini?! Corn?!? In soba?! Blasphemy! Maybe in ramen, yes, but not in a bowl of supposedly traditional hot soba!
The service stayed consistently bad throughout the meal. Cups of green tea and water glasses were only filled once – when food was delivered – and never again. The two waitresses chatted at the back the entire time. The sushi chefs apparently did not make anything fresh, since they just stood behind their counter and eventually started to talk to each other after some time. Maybe they finished all of the rolls ahead of time, in the morning? I don’t know. It was kind of strange.
As for ambiance… Well, it was decorated specifically to look like a Japanese restaurant. It’s actually not too bad. Pretty clean. The lighting from the front is a nice bonus. If my experience weren’t so tainted by the bad service and disappointing meal, I would probably be singing the ambiance and/or décor’s praises right at this point. They had Chinese music playing in the background – probably tracks that the waitresses wanted to listen to – and maybe that’s okay, if most people can’t tell the difference. Aside from the decent atmosphere and rare quietness (probably a bad indication in this case, though), the value seems pretty bad for what you get, as evidenced by the tiny salad, and beef teriyaki that was made from poor cuts of beef and mostly overcooked sprouts.