Posts Tagged Japanese

Sun Sushi

I’ve been to Sun Sushi multiple times with friends – that is, multiple times without a camera! I do want to enjoy some of my meals without snapping pictures of everyone else’s food. I stopped in for a snack one afternoon after school – i.e., only a few pieces of sushi to squash a craving.

The sushi pieces here are enormous. DSC_0058 copyI know you are meant to eat each piece in one bite, but it is definitely more of a challenge to do so here than at some of the authentic sushi places (e.g., Shiro or Hitoe Sushi). That said, this is a great place to come for cheap, fresh sushi. I’ve never gotten sick eating here, and even though it isn’t “authentic”, the ingredients are always fresh and the portions generous. There are a number of great “bang for your buck” combos on the menu, too.

Ambiance is nothing special (kind of the opposite; there are menus plastered over the front window). Also, I think that there is an assumption – when you visit Sun Sushi – that you are there purely for the cheap sushi and nothing else. The service is pretty atrocious (the servers abandon you after you’ve been served, and they’re not particularly polite and tend to be rather brusque).

Sun Sushi’s great for students. Despite its shortcomings (impolite wait staff, lack of “authenticity”, etc. etc.) I’ll still keep coming back. It’s fast, it’s cheap, and conveniently close to UBC. Even if you have maybe an hour and a half until your next class, you could probably squeeze in a visit to Sun Sushi and make it to your next class on time. And your wallet won’t be noticeably lighter afterwards, either.

Ambiance: 2

Food: 4

Service: 2

Value: 4

Overall: 3.5

Sun Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Shizen Ya (Fairview)

Triple Attack Brown Rice Bowl

If you’re particularly picky about the type and quality of the seafood you’re eating, Shizen Ya would be a top choice for Japanese cuisine. Or, at the very least, Shizen Ya is the restaurant that most blatantly markets their offerings as “organic” and/or “OceanWise certified”. Unsurprisingly, the quality of cooking and food prep here is just as high as the quality of the raw ingredients. Although this specific Shizen Ya ‘branch’ is small, it is still a great restaurant contender when deciding where to go for Japanese food if you’re in the area. The manager has done a really good job of creating an atmosphere that reflects the restaurant’s name (shizen (自然) meaning nature or natural), in the sense that the ambiance is very mellow and the décor conveys a kind of “wholesome” feeling. The service here is also usually very friendly and accommodating, and your water glass and/or tea cup will both always be full. (This is probably due to the convenient size of the restaurant, but even disregarding the latter part of the statement, the waitresses (and store manager) all seem to be very nice. This should be a necessity at restaurants, in my opinion; it is called “service” for a reason.)

Triple Attack Brown Rice Bowl: (for taste/quality, not satiety factor)

As aforementioned, the food here is also top-notch, based on a couple of visits. My personal favourite is probably the Triple Attack Brown Rice Bowl, which has slices of tuna and wild sockeye salmon sashimi alongside some boiled spinach and pickled ginger sitting atop a dome of brown rice. The fish is all very fresh tasting and thawed to perfection. As with most high-quality salmon sashimi, the pieces just melt into your mouth, and at Shizen Ya they are neither too cold nor warm. Like I said: thawed to perfection. I have had the Kheema Curry Combo for lunch once, too, and it was also very good, very flavourful, and really good value for what you pay. While I do love the “Triple Attack”, it probably won’t fill you up if you’re really hungry, where any of the combo meals would for a much better price. As a final side comment: the presentation is wonderful. I love the sprinkling of shredded nori on top not only for flavour but also for how it enhances the aesthetic appeal.

Beef Teriyaki Combo

Beef Teriyaki Combo:

When I came here with Techie and Emme, Techie opted for the Beef Teriyaki Combo. This may actually be the best combo meal on the menu. The sauce is just thick enough to make a good coating for the beef, and the cuts of beef are all of good quality – no blobs of fat or stringy bits. The accompanying salad is, well, a typical salad. It has a nice dressing, though; it tastes more of miso and less like the average “house-made dressing” that you find at other restaurants (that all seem to taste the same). I was personally pleased that the Spinach Goma-ae that comes with the combo was made with actual sesame paste, and not peanut butter (even moreso because Techie is deathly allergic to peanuts). There is a really nice balance between “nuttiness” (I know sesame is a seed… It just has a nutty-ish flavour when it’s all ground up) and subtle sweetness. Actually, I could say something similar about the teriyaki sauce, which avoided the sickly sweet taste that so many other restaurant teriyaki sauces have. All in all, a great meal at a pretty great price. (I kept it at 4/5 for two reasons: 1) I am totally biased and am not really a fan of teriyaki, and 2) it still is nothing “amazing”, although it is certainly better than the average beef teriyaki in Vancouver.)

Chicken Breast Teriyaki

Chicken Breast [Teriyaki] Combo:

This comes with the same accoutrements that the beef teriyaki combo does, so the same comments apply to the side dishes and the sauce. I don’t know why, but the chicken breast was a fair bit tougher than what Emme was used to, although still very good. It may just have been an oddity in the batch of chicken breasts, because I have ordered this myself and it was much better, relative to the one Emme ordered on this occasion. In any case, even with the sauce, it’s pretty standard. Shizen Ya seems to do everything well, so I will say that they did a good job here, too. A word about the brown rice, since I haven’t mentioned it until now: whether or not you like it is obviously highly individual. Personally, I love the taste and chewiness of brown rice, although when eating Japanese I will admit that I would prefer the more traditional white rice. The flavour of brown rice kind of competes with other flavours on the plate, although that wasn’t really a problem here. In any case, it gets a thumbs up from me, only because I have a personal affinity for the stuff.

Again, I must comment that the presentation was well-done – even for the teriyaki dishes. I thought it was kind of weird how there seems to be a lack of consistency in how they present the combos (sometimes like the way the beef teriyaki was served, with the rice and goma-ae on the same plate, and sometimes like the chicken breast teriyaki here, with the rice and goma-ae served separately), but it all tastes good in the end so I don’t think it matters.

Chicken Breast Gyoza

Chicken Breast Gyoza:

I thought these were done pretty well. They weren’t too oily, but still had plenty with flavour, even without the sauce (unpictured! And please excuse the horrible picture). The outside was the best part, in my opinion; while still soft, the cooked parts had a nice touch of crispness that I really appreciated in contrast to all the soft fillings. Speaking of the fillings: this chicken was seasoned well – nice ‘n’ tasty – and even the vegetables were cooked in a tasty manner.

Prawn Sunomono

Prawn Sunomono:

This was yummy. Loved the freshness of the shrimp, and the really refreshing taste of the marinade. It had a less offensive taste than some of the other sunomono dishes I’ve had in the past. Again, a nice balance with the sweetness, which was offset nicely by the slight tang of the rice vinegar and subtle saltiness. The carrots were an interesting addition, and Emme (who always orders this!) really appreciated how the toppings were a bit more plentiful than the vermicelli. (Does anyone else find that, a lot of times, the sunomono served in many places is like 50% noodle, 45% horribly sweet “vinegar” dressing, and 5% actual topping?)

Salmon and Avocado Roll

Salmon and Avocado Roll:

Well, the salmon and the avocado were both incredibly delicious. This was actually a new combination in a sushi roll for me (how lame am I? I vow to be a bit more adventurous with rolls, going forward…) and it worked really well. You can also tell they were formed by someone who actually knows how to make sushi by how well they stuck together. They were presented prettily, and they stayed pretty until I ate them. Nothing much else to say. The brown rice did not really detract from the flavour. Very yummy – and would order again as an appetizer or addendum to something else.

Tofu and Vegetable Miso Soup

Tofu and Vegetable Miso Soup:

Don’t bother with this! It may be “organic”, but this is the only thing I’d whine about. It tasted fine (like any other miso soup, really) but there were hardly any “vegetables” to speak of, and something like four really tiny cubes of tofu. The $2.50 that you could spend on this dish would be much better invested in the salmon and avocado roll (which is $2.95 – barely any more, but much better bang for you buck, I think).

Green Tea Crème Brûlée:

Do get the crème brûlée if you want to finish off your meal with something sweet. It has a nice, subtle taste of green tea – just enough to differentiate it from the average crème brûlée – but enough sweetness to prevent the bitterness of the tea from dominating. The top has a nice, crisp finish and the texture is wonderfully creamy below the surface. I really liked the faint green colour, too, to remind you that there is green tea somewhere in the dessert. (It has green tea, therefore it is healthy. Heh heh…)

Green Tea Creme Brulee

If you’re in the neighborhood and have a hankering for Japanese food, pass up Minato Sushi (about a block and a half away) in favour of Shizen Ya! You and your tastebuds won’t regret it, and I don’t think the prices are really that different. (Even if they were – Shizen Ya would still be much better value.) It may be small, but it really delivers when it comes to good service, quality food, and a peaceful ambiance.

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Value: 4

Overall: 4.5

Shizen Ya on Urbanspoon

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Sushi Village (Whistler)

Emme and I took the opportunity to visit Whistler the other day when the sun had actually come out – to take a breather from the city and to take advantage of the day being beautiful. (This is “Beautiful BC”, but clearly Vancouver is confused over what season or month it is. (Dear Vancouver… The season that comes after spring is, um, summer. Not winter again. Please adjust the weather accordingly…) Ahem.) I actually wanted to visit Araxi, but seeing as it’s closed for lunch, we opted to try out Sushi Village instead.

Miso Soup

So let’s get a couple things straight off the bat. This place isn’t what I’d call “authentic” in that there are some “innovative” rolls on the menu, but it’s got traditional dishes aplenty, too. Also, the waitresses and waiters are not Japanese, which does kind of take away from the experience a little bit, but the chefs are and the little history blurb on the website will tell you that the owners and/or manager are as well. No, I’ve no reservations about being a sushi snob; it does matter to me whether the chefs are trained in Japan or something close to that… especially considering the prices some places charge, like at Sushi Village.

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi – half order

So ambiance is not bad – there seem to be a couple of more traditional seating areas in the back of the restaurant, which I imagine you need a reservation for (or a large group…) – but nothing particularly special. The seating area is nice and bright thanks to the windows. The whole area in front of the stairs up to the restaurant was being torn up for some reason when we were there, which was clearly impacting the number of people going up to visit the Sushi Village and the other restaurant that are up above the ground-level shops. As a result it wasn’t very busy, but that’s fine by me; the only thing to be said here is that “busy-ness” wasn’t a good reflection of food quality.

Yes, the food. As I mentioned before, the prices are incredibly high – bordering on outrageous. So I was pretty sceptical after ordering that my meal would be worthy of its price tag. While I won’t say that the prices are justified, the food was g.r.e.a.t for the most part. I got a half order of Sockeye Salmon Sashimi, which definitely would be ranked amongst some of the best sashimi I’ve had in Vancouver. I had some Miso Soup on the side, which was nothing more than your average, run-of-the-mill miso soup. For the slightly higher price (than average in Vancouver), you’d think they could have at least tossed in some wakame… Nope! So it was nothing special. Not particularly flavourful, not noticeably bad.

Nigiri: Ikura, Ebi, Hotate

I ordered some sushi on the side… Only a couple of pieces, because I was so deterred by the pricey-ness (yeah I’m still going on about that…). Anyway, the Ikura Nigiri was lovely – loved the crunchiness and slightly saltiness of the roe, and for some reason even the nori was tastier than normal. The Hotate Nigiri might be the best I’ve ever had. Super melty, subtly sweet, perfect. The Ebi Nigiri was equally great. Everything was presented beautifully, too. Two thumbs up for both the sashimi and the sushi here.

Beef Tataki

Emme ordered the Beef Tataki… the catch here being that she didn’t seem to catch the word “rare” in the description for the dish. (Maybe it just got lost in the ‘fancy’ description of the dish, ahah.) Anyway, she was pretty shocked when it was served. Emme doesn’t like anything raw, really – the reason I always eat all the sashimi and sushi we order by myself. Nevertheless, she tried it, saying “There’s a first for everything…” And indeed, there is. She thought it was great! Her comment that it was quite obviously very high quality beef. It was cut well and matched the accompanying ponzu sauce wonderfully. The negi (green onions) were a great complement, as well. So, looks like Sushi Village doesn’t just do raw fish well… All the raw dishes we tried get our approval.

Emme also started with some Edamame beforehand. If anything, these were the biggest disappointment. True, this dish is so simple that you would argue it’s impossible to mess up. Honestly, I think restaurants should get in the habit of asking whether customers want them hot or cold, since they are traditionally served either way. Just so happens that Sushi Village serves them cold, and Emme prefersedamame when it’s hot. Also, there was hardly any salt – close to none at all. Could use some improvement on the basic dishes, here.

Edamame

As for the service – it wasn’t bad. I think our waiter found it odd that I ate my nigiri with my bare hands. Argh come on! You’re allowed to eat nigiri-zushi with your fingers, people. ): (Yes, of course I ate my sashimi with chopsticks, thank you very much.) Anyway, our waiter wasn’t particularly attentive, which was the only thing I could complain about. Sometimes it was hard to grab any waiting room staff-member’s attention, but it wasn’t that noticeable. Could’ve been better, considering that the restaurant was hardly what I’d call busy.

If you’re in Whistler and just looking for cheap sushi to stuff yourself with, look elsewhere. But if you’re in the area and looking for truly high-quality sushi, then this is the place for you… even if your wallet feels quite a bit lighter afterwards.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 4.5

Service: 3

Value: 3.5

Overall: 4

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Kibune Sushi

Edamame.

What better way to get back into the swing of blogging than with a review about a Japanese place?! Kibune Sushi! This little gem is located right next to Hapa Izakaya, another stellar Japanese restaurant, though the two are worlds apart in terms of their menu items and entire atmospheres. Despite the fact that they are both great, they seem to co-exist beautifully, neither one putting the other out of business. This is probably because each one attracts different crowds – or at least, people would choose one over the other based on the type of dinner they’re looking for. Want a cool, upbeat scene with more fusion food and sake – a place to feel a part of the “in” crowd? Go to Hapa Izakaya. Want traditional Japanese with a more serene, quiet atmosphere and classic sushi bar? Kibune Sushi’s for you.

Assorted pickles.

Emme, Pita, and I enjoy going here for dinner – though it doesn’t seem to be open for lunch very often (supposedly due to staffing issues). The prices aren’t too bad, although obviously the location seems to dictate that prices be a little steeper in this area. The setting is fantastic, and the food is pretty great, too. The service is sometimes inattentive when busy, which they always seem to be (a good sign!), but otherwise extremely friendly and welcoming. The booths are all very cozy – though limited in number – and the place oozes the feel of a traditional Japanese restaurant you might find yourself in, in Japan. The setting is also quite nice, as it is right by Kits Beach.

The food is decent. Although I really do like Kibune Sushi, I have to admit that I would go to Hitoe Sushi or even Hapa Izakaya nextdoor if I wanted really *amazing* food. The food here is good, but I haven’t had anything yet that’s blown me out of the water, and I’ve tried quite a number of different items from the menu. I’m sure I’ll eventually come across a dish here that’s truly a ‘must eat’!

In any case, we started off with edamame on this particular visit. Pretty standard – warm and sufficiently salted, for the most part. I’m a big fan of Japanese pickles, so I also got some assorted pickles as an appetizer. Again, standard. I’ve long since come around to the realisation that the pickles are going to be pretty identical, regardless of the Japanese restaurant, unless they’re pickled in-house and not just purchased from the same Japanese grocer or supplier as everyone else.

Yosenabe.

For my main course, I got the yosenabe, which is promoted as the healthier option. That may be true, but I have to admit that I’m never really a fan of anything that lacks flavour just because it’s supposed to be “healthy”… The broth had little to no taste – I thought it might just be water. I was disappointed that there was so much tofu and not as much fish, since I ordered it thinking the description of having lots of fish would be literal. In any case, it wasn’t bad… I was just a little disappointed, or maybe I had my hopes up too high. It must’ve been served a while after the pot had been boiled, because the salmon – the first thing I ate – was completely rubbery and overcooked when I picked it out. And there was only one piece of salmon! Yeah, my critique for this would definitely be: too much tofu and too much “noodle”, not enough actual fish.

Beef teriyaki.

Pita went with the beef teriyaki… one of his, and one of Emme’s, staple meals at Japanese places, since neither of them like sashimi (such a shame!). The presentation was very nice, but the sauce was super watery and the beef, while it may look somewhat impressive in the picture, was actually not a very good cut. It was comprised largely of blobs of rubbery fat, and wasn’t very appetizing. The sauce wasn’t too flavourful, also.

Pork katsu.

Emme treated herself to pork katsu, which was probably the redeeming dish in this entire meal. The breading was perfect – not too thick, and not too oily. We’ve previously encountered pork katsu dishes that are actually like 80% cheap breadcrumbs fried in oil, 20% pork. This pork katsu was not like that at all; there was plenty of pork, and the breading was crunchy and crisp. Like I said – not too oily, and not “over-breaded”! Again, nice presentation with the shredded cabbage and lemon slice. If I were to recommend anything here, I would probably recommend the pork katsu. The sushi here, which I’ve tasted on other occasions, is indeed good – just a little pricier and not particularly any better than sushi at your average Vancouver sushi joint downtown.

I do like Kibune, despite all I may say! I think we’ve been here four times or so over the course of a year and a bit, and some visits are definitely better than others. Some of their specials are quite good, too – try the stuffed shiitake mushrooms if they’re on the blackboard for the day. We mostly enjoy coming here for the ambiance; the intimate and private booths make the dining experience quite pleasant and allow you to actually talk to your fellow diners! (Sometimes that’s an issue at other restaurants… Not always, just on occasion!) Aside from its great location and amiable ambiance, though, there isn’t anything extraordinarily special about it. Perhaps I’ll be eating those very words after I’ve tried more of their sushi, though! (I would’ve already done so, if not for the prices of the sushi and sashimi in comparison to their other dishes, which makes those other dishes seem like better deals…) Still, I would choose any of my other favourite sushi places over a visit to Kibune, if I were looking for really great sushi and not just a nice dining ambiance.

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 3.5

Service: 3

Value: 4

Overall: 4

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Blue Star Japanese Bistro

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.)

Edamame

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.)

Beef Teriyaki

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?!

Hokkigai Sashimi

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!

Hot Vegetable 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.

Ambiance: 3.5

Food: 2

Service: 1

Value: 2

Overall: 2
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Takumi

It was just over two years ago when Emme first came to know about Takumi. Checking out The Georgia Straight one week to see what was going on around Vancouver, she found a review in the dining section for a classy Japanese restaurant in a far flung location in West Vancouver. Whoever the author was, they bestowed Takumi with the highest praises and called them one of the best – if not the best – places to grab quality Japanese fare in Vancouver, what with their selection of imported seafood and crew of experienced chefs in the kitchen. Seeing as it was so far, however, Emme and I never paid a visit. The prices certainly did not provide any motivation to go and give the place a try. However two years later, we “stumbled” back across it on a trip back from Horseshoe Bay. After not being able to get into The Boathouse for a bite to eat, our empty stomachs prompted us to stop in and finally put Takumi to the test.

The restaurant was empty when we entered, so we picked our table of preference and sat by the window. The hostess was brusque, almost to the point of being rude, which surprised us as usually service at authentic Japanese restaurants is absolutely top-of-the-line in terms of friendliness and speed. It didn’t put us off, in any case (well, we were hungry and not really willing to wait until we reached Ambleside or Dundarave to seek out more restaurants…), and luckily our actual waitress was much friendlier… although not Japanese. No matter; we knew the chefs were experienced Japanese masters – at least, according to The Georgia Straight’s review from two years ago.

Assorted Japanese Pickles

The ambiance of the restaurant is really quite nice, which makes sense since it’s in quite an isolated spot and is well-lit by natural light streaming in through some large windows at one end of the dining area. The music was turned down low, which we appreciated, and provided only some gentle background noise – enough to break the silence. The décor feels very high class, with seemingly expensive chairs and tables, quality cloth napkins instead of your standard tissue/paper ones, and a tastefully done interior. If not for the chopsticks on the table, you might not be able to guess that it was a Japanese restaurant.

I kicked off dinner with some Japanese Assorted Pickles, or known as oshinko moriawase in other Japanese restaurants. An easy dish; difficult, if not impossible, to mess up, right? That’s what I thought. Where can you go wrong? Use store bought pickles that have that weird synthetic taste to them. Also, it was definitely clear that they serve more “fusion”-type Japanese, even as early on in the meal as this. I’ve never been served pickled lettuce as a part of a set of Japanese pickles… Also, the actual pickles (i.e. the pickled cucumber) tasted funny, as though it wasn’t actually cucumber. The takuan tasted okay, although the neon yellow hue was off-putting. I was happy to have lots of katsuobushi to mask some of the funky pickled cucumber taste, in the end.

Mozuku Kelp

Always the seaweed lover – and usually the only one at the table – I also got the Mozuku Kelp, or mozuku-su. The menu describes it as having a “sweet vinaigrette sauce”. I expected a mixture of sweet and sour, as one would expect with a vinaigrette (sour from the vinegar and sweet from whatever else was added to it), but this vinaigrette was just… plain… sweet. My first mozuku-su, over a year ago, was far too vinegary and made me wince from the sourness. This one made me wince from the tooth-aching sweetness. However, I will say that the presentation was gorgeous and the small bits of kiwi and ginger were very nice garnishes. I imagine the kiwi would have worked really well to offset sourness one would usually get from a vinaigrette, so I’m guessing that was the intention. It certainly would have been the case if the dressing hadn’t been so sweet itself! The freshly grated ginger gave a nice kick to the dish, though.

Deviating from her typical order of beef teriyaki, Emme instead opted for Chicken Teriyaki – probably because it was ten dollars cheaper than the only available beef teriyaki on the menu! (They offer wagyu beef teriyaki, but no “standard beef” teriyaki.) Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, our main dishes took a really long time to come out. I think we waited about twenty minutes after I had finished my appetizers to actually take the first bites of our main courses.

Chicken Teriyaki

Anyway… To be blunt, the chicken teriyaki was not good. The chicken had most obviously not been trimmed, as unappetizing globs of fat were aplenty in the chicken and the chicken was actually lukewarm instead of hot. There was also a lot of rubbery skin. Yes, roasted chicken skin can be delicious. This was not. Also, although I’m sure the sauce is house-made or something, it did not have a particularly good texture or have nice “mouth-feel” to it. There was a strange, synthetic after-taste as well. The veggies and fried piece of unidentified matter on the side? The veggies were obviously not fresh. They were mushy and gross. They seemed like they had been pre-frozen and them steamed to death… And the potatoes, Emme claimed, were the worst she’d had in years. I don’t know whether or not they actually came from a real potato, since I refused to try any after hearing Emme confidently state that the potatoes had come from one of those instant-side-of-mashed-potatoes-type packages you can find in grocery stores, next to “Hamburger Helpers” or whatever. I’ve never had reconstituted potatoes (and hadn’t heard of them up until that point… My mother always cooked food from scratch when I was young) but Emme seemed 100% sure of her statement… Perhaps we will never know the truth. As for the fried thingy: Emme couldn’t tell what it was, either. The breading was extremely thick and the inside was flavourless.

Yosenabe

Unlike Emme’s dish, my Yosenabe came out steaming hot and initially inedible due to the incredible heat. After the tiny appetizers and an already long wait, this kind of annoyed me… but I can’t blame the restaurant. It’s supposed to be hot, and it most certainly was. More disappointing than that, however, was that some of the seafood pieces in it seemed to come out as being already overcooked. Since I was hungry and couldn’t eat the broth right away, I decided to fish out the seafood first. The salmon came out chewy and rather unappetizing, since it had lost a good deal of flavour, and the shrimp suffered a similar fate. The rest were not so bad, though – I think there were some crab and squid pieces as well – and the veggies were good. Not too hard to mess up veggies boiled in broth, though, I suppose. Despite my disappointment with the salmon chunks, overall I liked the dish. I would give it a “satisfactory” or “good” rating. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Emme’s meal.

Perhaps we were biased since we went in expecting fantastic food and outstanding hospitality as the review we saw two years ago promised. Perhaps the food and service is better some nights than others, as other recent reviewers of Takumi have said good things about it. Also, neither Emme nor I tried the sushi (we were looking more for satiety that night, and were not willing to dole out loads of cash to get a appetite-satisfying amount of sushi) so I definitely cannot make claims about that. It may very well be that Takumi is more of a place to enjoy traditional and fusion sushi, albeit very pricey. However on this night, we left feeling rather disappointed and agreed that we would probably stick to our standard go-to, “tested and true” Japanese restaurants (e.g. Hitoe Sushi, Hachibei, Kibune Sushi…). In the meantime, maybe someone can clarify to me whether or not we were picking all the wrong dishes and whether we should have only been shooting for the sushi…

Ambiance: 4.5

Food: 2

Service: 3

Value: 2.5

Overall: 2.5

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Hachibei

After some technical issues that left my computer bereft of… well, everything, I hardly felt like blogging. Not that I really could, anyway, given that all of the restaurant photos were gone… Finally dug around and got them off of my camera and back onto the computer once more!

Anyway… About a month ago – before Emme headed overseas on an important trip – she requested that we try out this Japanese place that she had passed one day on W 16th. Even when going out with friends, I’m usually the one coming up with restaurants to try out, so her suggestion surprised me. And Japanese food?! I’m always the one asking to eat Japanese – so much and so often that I sometimes drive my dining companions insane. In this case, I was quite happy to oblige and accompany Emme on her final restaurant outing before her trip.

Edamame

Hachibei is a rather unassuming place – as it seems a lot of great sushi places are – and I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a restaurant I hadn’t heard of (or read about on Urbanspoon.com). It ended up being a very pleasant surprise, as it not only turned out to be “authentic” and staffed entirely (it seems) by Japanese people but also a place that other Japanese frequent (always a good sign!). Because we came early, we managed to get a table… but not fifteen minutes after being seated, the restaurant was absolutely packed. The space limitation is a downside, but even if you’re eating in cramped conditions and don’t mind your dining ambiance suffering a bit from the proximity of your neighbour, Hachibei is well worth a visit. Both the service and the food are excellent.

Mozuku Su

Emme ordered some edamame to start, and a warm, perfectly salted generous portion of the boiled soybeans came out. It was definitely a good way to start off to meal! As is my habit, I asked for a smattering of dishes — all of which came out before Emme’s, only because she ordered a full teishoku set. I shared the edamame with Emme until my mozuku su came out. It is a [relatively] easy dish to prepare, so there’s not much to comment on… but it was very good, and easier to swallow than other mozuku su dishes that I’ve had in the past, for some reason. I love the taste, but sometimes restaurants serve this up as far too “slimy”… This one was still slimy – it is seaweed – but less so? If that makes any sense. Loved the garnish of freshly grated ginger. It give a nice tang to the ‘marinade’.

Salmon Sashimi – Half order

As my main course, I ordered some salmon sashimi, which was indeed wild sockeye salmon and unbelievably delicious. The melt-in-your-mouth sensation that you get when eating super fresh fish was there 100%. The presentation of the dish was also, I thought, very nice. Not a lot of chefs will take the time or bother with adding garnishes like grated daikon or shiso leaves or parsley sprigs, but it can really add a “refined” and elegant feeling to a dish… especially when it’s a seemingly simple dish like sashimi.

Miso Soup

I followed up the sashimi with a tomato salad, miso soup, and kappa maki. I’m happy to report that the soup had – gasp!more than just broth and a sprinkling of green onions. Really, it kind of peeves me when some Japanese restaurants charge you a dollar (sometimes two) for a bowl of miso paste and hot water. This miso soup had at least a couple of bits of seaweed, and some fat, chunky cubes of tofu. Not the best, but better than the standard miso soup you’d usually get!

As for the salad… Well, it obeyed the basic requirements of a salad! Very fresh vegetables, a vinaigrette that bursts with flavour, and nicely presented as a bonus. The tomatoes were actually the best I’d tasted in a while. They weren’t your standard field tomatoes, and I suspect that they may have used heirloom tomatoes…However, I have gone back and had the salad again, and on the second occasion the tomatoes were just your typical ones. Perhaps they actually take advantage of seasonal vegetables when they can?! I’ve no idea, but I’ve rambled on for long enough about a salad…

Tomato Salad

Oshinko Maki

Oshinko maki is a pretty plain roll, so again, there’s not a lot to say. Crunchy, sweet pickles… and house-pickled ginger! Love fresh ginger, when it isn’t dyed with all sorts of [highly unnecessary] food colouring. I couldn’t tell if this was takuan that the restaurant had pickled or if it was store-bought, but it was still good. The rolls held together well, and the sushi rice was actually flavourful enough that I could enjoy the rolls without soy sauce.

Emme decided to be adventurous and not get any of her usual dishes (beef or chicken teriyaki) and ordered up one of the specials of the day: Spanish mackerel teishoku.  Yes, it’s definitely fair to say that one should really get a teishoku at Hachibei, rather than sushi (as I did). The teishoku sets are a great deal for what you get, and the quality of food is just as fantastic as any of the single items on their menu. The pickles that came with Emme’s meal, we could tell, were made in-house. The normal pickles – i.e. pickled cucumber – wasn’t salty and vinegary enough for Emme’s tastes, so she forfeited them to me. The agedashi tofu, which was one of the sides, was pretty good: a lightly breaded exterior, and sitting in a tasty dashi broth and sprinkling of bonito. Not the best, however; it wasn’t as crispy on the outside as it could have been, but we guessed that it was maybe because it was the first side dish done.

Spanish Mackerel Teishoku

The spinach goma-ae that was sitting next to the tamagoyaki was wonderful. The sesame paste gave a great, robust taste to the boiled spinach. Emme usually hates spinach, and was surprised that the goma-ae ended up being her favourite side dish on the tray. There’s also something to be said for the tamagoyaki: it was firm and held together, but maintained its silky softness and was pleasantly sweet.

The main dish in the teishoku – the grilled Spanish mackerel – was very good, but a little too oily, Emme said. We understand that mackerel is pretty oily in general, but it was unfortunately bordering more on “greasy”. Still, it was perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender – no hint of toughness and definitely no unpleasant dryness.

Clockwise from upper left: Spinach Goma-ae, more pickles, and Tamagoyaki

All in all, it was a great dining experience! True, we did not enjoy having our neighbours sitting so close on both sides of our table, and it made me feel even more awkward about whipping out my camera and taking shots of our meal. My only complaint is definitely related to just that: because of the severely limited space in the restaurant, and in part because of its apparent popularity, the ambiance really suffers. On the other hand, the food is generally very good, the teishoku sets are a great deal and give you plenty of bang for your buck, and the service is fantastic. (In part, I’m sure the service is so good because the waitresses are working in such a small space and can quickly maneuver around tables to take orders or refill cups of water and/or green tea.)

Thanks to its good food and authenticity as a true Japanese restaurant, Hachibei has indeed made its way onto Emme’s and my [short] list of “go-to” Japanese restaurants.

Ambiance: 1.5 (This would definitely be higher on a day when the restaurant isn’t ridiculously busy.)

Food: 4

Service: 4.5

Value: 4 (The teishoku sets are a good deal! Looks like the rice and noodle bowls would be, too.)

Overall: 4

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Hi-Nippon

On another “excursion” for Japanese food for dinner – solely for the sake of satisfying my craving for sushi, again, of course – Emme and I tried out “Hi-Nippon”. We’d actually been there before, over a year ago, and while Emme said it hadn’t been particularly noteworthy on that occasion, I insisted we try it again. After all, some restaurants improve over time – whether it’s their food, service, or décor. (That said, however, some restaurants can also get worse over time in either or all three of those points… and just in general.) Unfortunately, Hi-Nippon didn’t really get better. It didn’t get worse either. But before I even proceed, I’ll just throw it out there that no, we probably won’t go back.

Oriental Salad

We were seated after standing awkwardly at the entrance for a minute or two, as the waitresses chatted in the back and only took notice of us when one accidentally glanced over. The booths are nicely separated, so you have your own little area to yourself while you dine, although you have to take off your shoes to get in one. I have to agree with Emme on the point that it doesn’t seem there is a good reason to do this… You end up having to have your feet on the same floor that you entered on anyway – and if you’re not wearing socks, it’s not the most comfortable nor pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I like the fact that you get your own booth with little “walls” around it, and the ambiance is pretty good in general as well. The only thing I might change is the way that they have random menu items plastered on the walls in equally random places. Perhaps one specials board that people can see would be more useful, rather than having the takoyaki special posted on one side of the restaurant (where some, but not all, customers can see it) and the okonomiyaki option posted on the other side. Some traditional artwork in place of those pieces of paper might be more eye-catching, though just taking those posters down would be nice enough. (Bare walls would be better than having messily written specials posted up.)

Miso Soup

The service after we were seated was pretty mediocre. Even though we were close to where the waitresses were hanging out for most of the time, it was difficult to catch their attention to make menu orders, ask for water or tea refills, etc. They weren’t keen on explaining any menu items that were asked about and were a bit impatient taking orders. In any case, Emme and I received all of the dishes we asked for, so I can’t complain about that, at least.

Plain Steamed White Rice

Emme ordered her typical dish, Beef Teriyaki Meal, which came with a cute little side salad called the Oriental Salad, some miso soup, and also a bowl of  rice. The short of it is that the salad was good, as the veggies were fresh and the dressing gave a nice tart flavour and slight hint of spice to it, and the miso soup was sub-par, with only some lonely green onion bits floating on top, one piece wakame seaweed, and no tofu whatsoever. The rice was just plain steamed rice – not sushi rice… which is fine, I suppose, as the menu didn’t give us any false pretense about it anyway.

Beef Teriyaki

The beef teriyaki dish itself was okay. At the very least, it was well cooked, if a little overdone and a bit too chewy. The sauce was not teriyaki sauce, but something much more pungent and not very sweet. In my opinion, the dish didn’t look very appetizing, and the sauce was too thick. In Emme’s opinion, it was too sour, and the bean sprouts had evidently been way overcooked; it would have been nice if they had maintained even a little bit of crunch, but in turn they were super soggy, along with the other scarce veggies (two little broccoli florets and a few slices of overcooked carrot, I believe). One thing that was nice was that the dish was actually steaming hot, so it was at least fresh, although there were numerous inedible pieces of fat mixed in with the beef. I thought the sesame seeds on top added a nice touch, since they gave a little bit of crunch to what was otherwise a rather soggy and “floppy” meal.

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi

I decided to take a chance and order some sashimi: Sockeye Salmon Sashimi.  Usually sashimi is a pretty way to gauge how good a Japanese restaurant is, I think? It is raw fish, so it boils down to the chef’s technique and the quality of the ingredients, really – two things that are pretty crucial in making delicious food. The presentation was very nice. But that is literally the only good thing I can say about it. It. Was. The. Worst. Sashimi. I. Had. Ever. Eaten. I have had a lot of sashimi, but this was so poorly done that it was just… ugh! I don’t want to use any stronger words of disgust in fear of being too offensive, but it was like eating slabs of flavourless, rubber tire. There was absolutely no taste. At all. This is the first time that I’ve so direly needed to use soy sauce to accompany my sashimi. I think I was doubly disappointed because sockeye salmon is one of my favourite types of fish – if not my number one favourite, next to scallops. Moving on…

Shiitake Mushroom Roll

I got a Shiitake Mushroom Roll on the side. I love mushrooms, and this isn’t a traditional roll (I think?) so I thought it’d be fun to try. To be to the point, it was bad. Poorly formed – amateur-ish, almost. Bland rice. Unusually soggy nori. Artificially coloured pickled ginger on the side. It was disappointment #2, for me.

Vegetable Soba in Soup

Obviously this meal would be too scarce in terms of veggies for a veggie-lover such as myself, so I also ordered Vegetable Soba in Soup. Another disappointment. At first glance, it may seem as though there were lots of veggies… Let me dispel that illusion and say that was not the case at all. There was a thin layer of veggies on the top — spread across the surface so as to conceal the unbelievable and unnecessarily large amount of noodles underneath. The vegetables were okay – fresh enough, and the bowl was not so hot as to overcook them immediately – but the broth had no flavour. Flavourless meals do not appeal to me. Especially when the vegetables need some sort of tasty accompaniment. I could only sadly reminisce about the fantastic-tasting broth at Ichiro.

Hi-Nippon may have seemed promising with its decent décor and extensive menu, but the food itself is miserable and the service is no better. On this particular occasion, the food was almost below average. It’s very standard, sub-par Japanese fare, in my and Emme’s opinions. I honestly don’t get why there is so much praise for this place. Maybe because the décor seems semi-authentic? Or because the menu seems quite extensive? Or perhaps even because it’s not that expensive? Whatever the case, it gets a thumbs down by me. Despite my initial excitement upon looking at the menu (“Ooh, I’ll have to come back to try all the more exotic-sounding dishes!“), I was quite sorely disappointed. There are far better Japanese restaurants in the vicinity for me to dine at, if I want quality – even if those other places have more limited menus.

Ambiance: 4

Food: 2

Service: 2

Value: 3 [Low prices for low quality.]

Overall: 2.5

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Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano)

Always on the lookout for new Japanese places [with good food, of course], it was hard to ignore Hapa Izakaya with all the good things written about it online and recommendations from friends. It also has a great location, and seemed super promising, especially because the place was fully booked with reservations when we visited. Luckily, Emme and I are in the habit of dining relatively early and managed to get a table after giving our word that we’d be out within two hours.

Oshinko

A quick note, to those who care about this (like me): This place is authentic. The kitchen staff and the waitresses are all Japanese. If you take a peek at their website, as well, you’ll see that they’ve won all sorts of awards, one of the most recent being a Georgia Straight Golden Plate Award for “#1 Best Izakaya”. (Kind of redundant having “#1” right next to “best” but whatever. Moving on…)

The izakaya is really quite classy, in terms of its interior and even its exterior. The store’s sign is simple, but simplicity done in good taste. The lack of neon signs advertising “Take out” and missing menu pictures make it clear: Hapa Izakaya is good enough to draw customers in without all of that. It was pleasantly warm inside, and the lighting was dim enough to give off the impression that it is truly an izakaya – a Japanese style bar. Décor is, like the storefront, simple but elegant.

Teriyaki Meatballs

From when we walked in without a reservation to when we were served, the service was consistent and our waitress was attentive and helpful. We were served tea and water and only had trouble getting refills after our food had been served. This is the case in a lot of restaurants – so many, in fact, that I’m beginning to wonder if servers are told to all but abandon tables that have already been served… Anyway – the service was good up until we were served our meals. All waitresses were friendly and polite, and the one that mixed our Ishiyaki bowls was nice enough to stay for a couple of minutes and tell us about the restaurant when we asked. After that, though, we were essentially ignored.

As for the food… It was fantastic. I love Japanese pickles, so obviously I had to get the Oshinko to start. Pretty standard Japanese dish, and yes, it was tasty – although nowhere close to being the highlight of the evening.

While I started on my oshinko moriawase, Emme got some Teriyaki Meatballs to start. These were very good. Thoroughly and perfectly cooked and seasoned. They were very flavourful and lacked the sickly sweetness taste that some teriyaki sauces impart on food. The mushrooms added a nice aesthetically pleasing aspect to the dish, enhancing the presentation of something that isn’t really all that pretty… and, at the same time, they were tasty on their own, too. (Bonus~!)

Sashimi Salad

Being the big veg-eater that I am, I got a dish that combined two of my favourite things to eat: sashimi and salad: the Sashimi Salad. I have to say, I was amused by this salad for quite a while before actually chomping down. I love eating sashimi, but rarely do I get to see the “faces” of those sea critters that I consume… so I couldn’t help but sort of funny but sad to have my dinner looking at me [with dead eyes, mind you]. No, I’ll probably never be a vegetarian, because I love the taste of seafood so much, but anyway… The salad was delicious! The “soy herb dressing” was a fantastic accompaniment and added a wonderful flavour profile to the raw greens and seafood, which were both incredibly fresh. Seriously, do they have a tank of live prawns in the kitchen? These little guys were the freshest, sweetest, and most tender prawns I have ever had the joy of eating.

For our main courses, Emme and I both decided to get one Veggie Ishiyaki each. The waitress guaranteed that it would be delicious and filling — and she was right. A server mixes your rice with its toppings (root veggies and mixed mushrooms, in this case) – as you can see in the pictures – at your table in a very hot bowl. (Seriously, don’t touch the bowl.) Not only was this pretty entertaining and kind of impressive in a way, but it also ensured that the rice in the bowl crisps up a bit, giving an awesome texture to an already tasty dish. It may look kind of oily in the picture, but it really wasn’t. It wasn’t heavy enough to make you feel like you had a rock in your stomach, but was filling and a pleasure to eat. Both the rice and the veggies are plentiful – so the flavour combo is pretty spot on. Both Emme and I loved our ishiyaki bowls, although neither of us could actually finish them and ended up bringing a small amount of leftover rice home. The waitress didn’t seem surprised that we didn’t finish, at least. Definite thumbs up to this dish — generous portions, delicious, and reasonably priced.

Veggie Ishiyaki

Overall, we really enjoyed our experience, although the service did take a dive after we had been served and more customers started to flow in. This is quite customary in popular restaurants, though truly great service is consistently attentive from the time the customer comes in until they actually pay the bill and leave — in my opinion, at least. With the fabulous ambiance and fabulous food, I suppose I can hardly complain. Worth noting is the fact that, despite being a popular izakaya or bar with a large assortment of alcoholic beverages and drinks, it never really got too loud, which both Emme and I appreciated… although it can take a while to get used to the shouting that goes on between the waitresses and the kitchen staff, haha. It bothered Emme when we first entered, but you do eventually just become accustomed to it and tune it out – probably because you’ll be too busy enjoying a great meal. That said, it is obviously a very popular place, so make reservations ahead of time!

Ambiance: 4

Food: 4.5

Service: 3

Value: 4

Overall: 4

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Ichiro

I’d never been all the way down to Steveston before, so Emme and I paid a visit one afternoon just so I could see it. However, by the time we reached it, it was already pretty late and most shops were already closed or getting ready to close. Giving up on the idea of poking around and doing a little shopping or poking around or something, we just settled for finding something to eat. I’d spotted a Japanese restaurant when we were driving around and practically demanded Japanese for dinner… so that’s we went for!

Ebi Sunomono

When we entered, Emme was already warning me that we’d be out the door in two seconds if it wasn’t “authentic”… (We have had bad experiences at places where the chefs aren’t actually Japanese, so although it may seem haughty and purist-ish, we try to stick to “authentic” Japanese places. Seriously excuse me if that seems snobbish!) However, another customer that had just entered with his two kids assured us that this place was nothing short of absolutely amazing, and I have to say that we were very pleasantly surprised with the way dinner turned out that night.

The décor was what you would expect in a Japanese restaurant, but far “classier” than what you will find in many “hole-in-the-wall” sushi joints in Vancouver. It was very clean, in any case, and I liked how the sushi bar, like any truly good sushi place, had all of their fresh ingredients on display in a refrigerated glass container in front of where the itamae works. The music was also Japanese, and overall the place gave me a really good feeling about deciding to dine there. The ambiance was great, as far as I could tell. Obviously, the “cleanliness” aspect is especially important in a place that serves raw fish, and Ichiro certainly had that part covered.

Oshinko Moriawase

The service started off as very promising, too. Even though the restaurant had opened only three or so minutes before we arrived, there were already loads of people flocking to get inside and quite a few tables taken. We were seated in a nice, quiet corner by the window and a friendly waitress brought out drinks pretty quickly and took our orders. The efficiency of the service was impressive, especially since none of the waitresses seemed rushed in the least while still managing to cater to clients quickly and in a personable manner. Only towards the end of the meal, when there was actually a line up and a constant stream of take out orders coming in, did the service start to falter a little bit. It was inevitable, I suppose, but Emme and I took that as our cue to leave, anyway. Aside from that point – since we were basically being ignored after we had finished – I don’t have any further criticism for Ichiro’s service.

Emme started off with one of her typical dishes – Ebi Sunomono. Not much to say… It was very good, and there was a copious amount, so you could actually consider it good value. It’s not too hard to make, so you’d think that more sushi places in Vancouver would be a little bit more giving when it comes to sunomono dishes, like Ichiro…

Beef Teri Don

Even though it wasn’t on the menu, the waitress informed me that they actually had an assortment of pickles when I mentioned that I kind of wanted oshinko maki, although all I actually wanted was the takuan inside the roll. So I ended up getting Oshinko Moriawase, which wasn’t just a collection of your typical pickles, but also some ones I’d never seen before! Never seen pickled lotus, or whatever-the-heck-that-delicious-stuff-in-the-bowl-was, but it was awesome.  Definitely not just your typical, Japanese-grocery-store-bought pickles. I think the lotus root pickles were actually my favourite, which is saying something considering how much I love takuan (the yellow stuff; pickled radish).

Ebi, Hokkigai, Sockeye Salmon, and Hotate Nigiri

Emme claims that fish never fill her up, so she got another one of her favourites that usually manages to satisfy her appetite: Beef Teri Don (just beef teriyaki donburi). Needless to say, it was also great. For once it wasn’t just a bunch of tough beef pieces just sautéed in some teriyaki sauce you can buy from the grocery store. It had its own unique taste, probably because the sauce was house-made, and the beef was all of pretty good quality and very tender. No bad cuts of beef here, it looks like! The rice was also authentic sushi rice… and thus tastier than your average steamed rice that you sometimes get at sub-par sushi places.

Tai Usuzukuri

As is my habit, I got a bunch of nigiri sushi pieces. They were all amazing. Maybe it’s because Steveston is right by the water? I don’t know what it is, but the ebi, hokkigai, hotate (especially!), and sockeye salmon nigiri were the best I think I’ve ever had. Better than Hitoe Sushi’s. I was impressed… and my tastebuds were in ecstasy, I believe. The nigiri made me excited for the other dish I ordered: Tai Usuzukuri. Well, what can I say? If the sashimi pieces for the nigiri pieces are great, I guess it’s a given that actual sashimi will also be fantastic. It is on the menu, but it was also the special of the day on their fresh sheet, and so was a better price… It was also the best red snapper I’ve ever had. Incredibly tender. Was it even previously frozen? It tasted so fresh that I think I may have fooled myself into thinking that they had killed the fish just a couple of minutes before serving it to me…

Vegetable Soup

I finished off with some Vegetable Soup — a yosenabe pot, essentially. For me it was a toss-up between the veggie one and the mushroom (Kinoko Yosenabe, I think) one, but obviously I picked the veggies over the ‘shrooms. With the delicious broth they serve it to you in, though, I’m sure they’re both fantastic. I loved mine. I’ve been let down by broths at other Japanese places, for they’ve always been really weak when I’ve had yosenabe at other restaurants, or even udon dishes. This one was hearty, but not heavy, and was hot enough that the vegetables would cook by the time it was cool enough to eat… but not so hot that they were overcooked instantly. (That takes skill, I’m sure, haha!) The soup was a winner in my books. I’m glad I decided not to get a plain miso soup, though I’m sure their miso is bound to be great, as well.

With the varied menu and all the delicious-sounding dishes on it, and the promise of great food with pretty good service and a nice ambiance, I can’t help but really want to go back to Ichiro. If it weren’t so far away, I would go more often!

Ambiance: 4

Food: 5

Service: 4

Value: 4 [A tad pricey, although you are getting great bang for your buck when you consider how high the quality of the food is.]

Overall: 4

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