Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Welcome back dinner

On June 10th, Alberta entered its Stage 2 reopening. No surprise here, to celebrate the lifting of government restrictions L and I dined at Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.

This is my first dining out experience since I’ve started using Noom – a health and fitness app. I’ve never lasted more than six hours on any diet, but I figured it was time for me to become healthier. After surviving two days, I assessed Noom to be a Debbie downer. There are no fun foods that I can eat without breaking my daily calorie count. As Foodiegyal7 informed me, Noom is not a site for foodies. L timidly observed that I’m noticeably more irritable since I’ve been on Noom. Poor L.


Our server Judith has the best taste in sake. When we asked for a suggestion, she recommended Fukucho Hattanso 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($46, 10 ounce). The sake smelled fragrant. The flavour was light and clean, with a honeyed sweetness. If fairies existed, this would be their drink.

For our first dish, we ordered BC Spotted Prawns (market price). Head chef Koji Kobayashi hit a home run on this creation. The spotted prawns sat in a gorgeous tomato yuzu shisho sauce. The raw shrimp was soft and creamy. The sea lime green sauce was refined and balanced, with bright, summery notes. L said the hint of lime in the sauce reminded him of Mexico. I could eat this dish all day long. The fried shrimp heads were scrumptious. I could tell the difference between the BC prawns and the regular ones. The BC prawns are sweeter and the meat has a lighter flavour.

We ordered Sawagani Crabs ($2.50 each). I’ve seen these crabs before in the food markets in Tokyo and Kyoto. The shell was thin and crunchy, similar to the outside layer of a candied apple. When I bit into the crab, the flesh was warm and juicy, with no fishy aftertaste.


Every time we visit Sukiyaki House, we order the Tako Carpaccio ($16). The octopus was thinly sliced and crunchy. I loved the balanced flavours in the yuzu sauce and the added layers of texture and flavour from the topping of arugula, kewpie mayo and potato strings.

L ordered Kani (Snow Crab $3.7), Tako ($3), and Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($3). He said the salmon melted in his mouth. The snow crab was sweet. L mentioned the sushi rice was a cut above other Japanese restaurants in Calgary. He liked how the amount of wasabi in each piece of nigiri was subtle and not overwhelming like other restaurants.

I ordered the Irodori Hiyashi Udon ($24). This is a great summer dish. The udon noodles were thin and chewy. The tamago (egg omelette) was sweet, with a soft firm texture. I thought the yuzu dashi broth perfectly highlighted the flavours of the hotategai (hokkaido scallop), hamachi (snapper), ebi (steamed shrimp) and Ikura (salmon roe).


We enjoyed being back so much that we didn’t want to leave after we finished dinner. Instead of dessert, I asked for the driest white wine and L ordered an Asahi, so we could sit and soak up the exuberant vibes. You could feel the excitement to be back from the customers. Better times are coming. I’m hoping Calgarians get their vaccine so we can get on with Stage 3.

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Takumi Sushi

I can’t believe it rained all weekend. I felt like I was back in Vancouver. L sensed I was getting squirrelly. He told me to pick a place for lunch and mentioned that a long drive wasn’t an issue for him. I was about to suggest something on my to-eat list when he wondered if I felt like sushi. I said yeah, I could do sushi but Sukiyaki House wasn’t open on Monday. L wanted to try Takumi Sushi to compare it to Nami Sushi. We used to eat at Nami Sushi but noticed that in the last two visits, there was inconsistency with the quality. We found out recently that the owner of Takumi sold Nami two years ago. For this post, let’s listen to “The Rain” by Missy Elliott.

I ordered the Lunch Special ($13.50), which allows you to pick three rolls from a select list. I chose the Salmon Maki, Dynamite Roll, and Salmon, Tuna, and Ebi sushi. I also ordered Hokkigai (Surf Clam, $2.05); Tako Nigiri (Octopus, $2.55); Hotate (Raw Scallop $2.85); Salmon Nigiri ($2.05); Spicy Salmon Roll ($6.95) and a Chopped Scallop Roll ($7.25). Takumi gives 10% off all pick up orders.

I’m a fan of Takumi’s nigiri sushi. The ratio of rice to fish was spot on. The surf clam was tender and chewy. The shape of the clam over the rice reminded me of a top hat, covering both sides of the rice ball. I would order this again.

The scallops were big in size and smooth in texture. The scallop tasted fresh, with no fishy aftertaste. I enjoyed the pop of tobiko, which was sprinkled on the top of the scallop. The rice itself was firm and sticky, fragrant with the scent of vinegar.

The salmon sushi tasted creamy and cool. There was nothing wrong with the salmon sushi and I felt like we got what we paid for.

There are two types of nigiri that I wouldn’t recommend – the tuna and ebi sushi. The ebi sushi from the lunch special was razor thin and fishy tasting. I noticed the ebi sushi was crammed in the box, so that the shrimp was wedged in-between the rolls and tuna sushi. As a result, the rice underneath the shrimp fell apart when I tried to lift it up. The tuna sushi didn’t have any flavour. L said next time, he would go for a fattier cut. I agree – spend a little more and get something tastier.

The maki rolls are better than your average sushi restaurant in Calgary. I noticed that the filling to rice was about 4:1. A pet peeve of mine are Japanese restaurants that give you a disproportionate amount of sushi rice. In the salmon maki roll, you can see how much bigger the proportion of salmon is to the rice.

In the spicy salmon roll, the bits of tempura were still crunchy. If you are a spice wimp, don’t worry. The heat in this roll was incredibly mild, and I detected a little sweetness in the sauce. I would order this roll again.

The chopped scallop roll was banger. Again, there was a generous amount of silky smooth chopped scallops to rice. The richness of the Kewpie mayo added to the luxurious pop of the bright orange tobiko. I liked that there was very little cucumber to scallop, so that the flavour and texture focused on the creamy scallops.

All the rolls were tried were great except for the dynamite roll, which was still fine. The shrimp tempura was crispy and tasted fresh, but proportion of avocado to the tempura shrimp was off. In a dynamite roll, the shrimp should be the dominant flavour, not the avocado. This is the only roll I wouldn’t order again. I would pass on the lunch special, though it’s cheap. I personally would rather spend a couple more bucks and get the sushi that I would enjoy.

Takumi is a solid spot for fresh, inexpensive sushi. Lunch for two of was just over $40. I can’t think of any place that competes with Takumi in this price range. Hitting the Sauce gives Takumi two phat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants

Koji Katsu

On Friday, I told L to pick the restaurant for our takeout. Usually when I ask him, I don’t mean it. I just want to see where he would eat if I did let him decide. L was craving food from Koji Katsu. For this post, let’s listen to “Drunk” by Elle King and Miranda Lambert.

Based on my last experience, I ordered Ebi Katsu ($17). My platter contained five deep-fried jumbo prawns. L ordered the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($18), which has two prawns, tenderloin and two pieces of deep-fried cheese with pork. Each order comes with rice, miso soup, pickles, lemon, two sauces, mustard, and a cabbage salad.

Photo credit: L

Koji makes one of the best ebi katsu in town. The prawns were long and fat, juicy and crunchy. L was surprised Koji didn’t charge more for this dish. I wish Koji could do what he does to the price of prawns for wine. I’d save fat coin.

Photo credit: L

I tried L’s deep-fried mozzarella cheese and pork tenderloin. Despite the 11-minute ride back home, the mozzarella was still creamy and warm. The thin slice of pork added another subtle layer of flavour. This dish is best shared, just because of the pure decadence.

Photo credit: L

The pork was tender and meaty. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly. I could still taste the natural juices of the meat. The breading on the katsu seemed different from my past visit. The batter was softer but still crispy, and the crumbly texture reminded me of breading at Katsuten.

I love nibbling on the side dishes between bites of the katsu. The sourness of the pickles help to cut into the fattiness of the dishes. The miso soup was tasty, loaded with seaweed and strands of enoki mushroom. The large cabbage salad was refreshing. I particularly liked the way the cabbage was julienned; the cool, delicate texture was pleasant to bite into it.

Photo credit: L

L and I couldn’t finish our food. Even after I ate some of his food, there was a mozzarella stick and half his rice leftover. I left behind an ebi and just under a quarter of my rice. When I reheated our food the next day, it was still delicious.  

This third round of restrictions is really hard on restaurants. If you can, support local businesses. L and I will be eating out more often this month, in what I hope is our final lockdown. If I could name this month, it would be Eat, Pray and Love (your local restaurants).

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House

Monday sucked balls. I told my man I was taking him out for dinner. Since we were both in a bad mood, I didn’t want to risk trying a new place. And for L, there is only one restaurant beyond reproach – and that is Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.

We ordered a glass of Sohomare Tokubetsu Junmai Kimoto ($14, 3 ounce), which turned out to be L’s new all-time favourite sake. I found the Kimoto smooth, with a sweetness that blooms on the tongue. The flavour was pure and clean, without the booziness I find in some sakes.

L could smell mushroom and then after we finished our sake, honey. He wanted to buy a bottle for the house, but I don’t want something that delicious in our home. Summer is coming, and I can do without the temptation.

Our first appetizer to arrive was the Tako Carpaccio ($16). Double damn, this is a fabulous dish. The octopus was crisp and crunchy. The citrus dressing, mayonnaise, and crunchy seasoning went well with the greens and octopus.

Chef Yuki Koyama sent out a special dish for us to try – Hachibiki Carpaccio. The flesh was a reddish hue, with a firm, fatty texture. I had no idea that a slice of raw fish could have so much flavour. This fish is downright decadent. L loved the yuzu miso sauce, which he said reminded him a little of gomae, a Japanese spinach salad.

The Grilled Ika ($14) was cooked perfectly – each piece of squid was tender. I thought the ginger sauce made this dish the ultimate comfort food. L said the dish smelled a little like yakitori.

I wanted to try the Volcano Roll ($11) and L ordered a Tekka Roll ($5). The moment the plate hit our table; the smell of roasted nori wafted up. I enjoyed the warmth of the crisp sheet of nori against the cool, creamy tuna filling. The white sauce paired well with the squid in the Volcano roll, the combination reminded me of tzatziki and calamari.

Our selection of nigiri was excellent. I also noticed how much larger the seafood was in the nigiri compared to other Japanese restaurants in Calgary, such as Nami and Takumi.

The Aka Maguro ($4.20) was so good, it induced an exclamation of pure joy from L. The toro was soft and buttery, the flavour was rich and smooth.

I’ve always enjoyed the Amaebi ($4) at Sukiyaki House, but on this occasion, it was extra fabulous. The head was almost the size of a chicken drumstick. The deep-fried shrimp head was covered in a fluffy batter, and the meat inside the shell was hot. The flavour reminded me a bit of fried crab innards, another delicacy L won’t try. I swear, I could eat a plate of these. Had I known the fried shrimp heads would come out like this, I would have ordered two more.

Look at the inside – it was filled with shrimpy goodness! I’m glad I was sitting because surely, I would have swooned.

L does eat amaebi, which he enjoyed. The shrimp was served cool, the flesh was crunchy and sweet.

We loved the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was extra thick and wide. So effing good. The rice in all the nigiri was on point. I thought each piece of sushi had the perfect amount of wasabi – just enough to give each piece a touch of heat.

L was still hungry, so for dessert, we ordered Chicken Karaage ($12). These were gorgeous, crispy nuggets of meat. You can never go wrong ordering the karaage at Sukiyaki House. Personally, I would have liked more salt on the chicken, but I’m a salt fiend. The portion was generous. After eating this, how can I go back to paying $15 for a plate of hot wings at a pub?

The restaurant is at half capacity due to COVID safety regulations, but every socially distanced table was taken. I could hear the phone ringing off the hook, and see all the deliveries going out the door. Despite this, our food and service was excellent. There was one server we noticed in particular, because she exhibited polite mannerisms that reminded us of the culture in Japan, such as bowing and folding the receipt in half.

Thanks Sukiyaki House, your team succeeded in turning our bad day around. Hitting the Sauce is grateful this gem exists in Calgary. We don’t have to drive far to get a taste of Japan.

Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

By Friday, I was getting extra squirrelly. I texted my brother Jacuzzi to ask him how he was dealing with B.C.’s pandemic restrictions. He said he loved staying in and he was happy playing video games with his wife.

L was already a step ahead of Jacuzzi. This ain’t his first rodeo. L suggested we order dinner from Katsuten, as it was conveniently located by our neighbourhood liquor store. For this post, let’s listen to “Ex’s and Oh’s” By Elle King.

Back in the day, Katsuten and Redheads Cafe were the only restaurants in Calgary that specialized in tonkatsu. Months after Katsuten opened, it was hard to get a table. With the pandemic and our cold snap, it was unusually quiet when L picked up our order.

I ordered the Tenderloin Katsuten ($16.50) and L picked the Loin Katsu with Curry ($15.99). Both entrees come with rice, salad and miso soup. I thought the portions were heartier than I remembered from past visits. Takeout from Katsuten travels well – everything was still hot and fresh.

Katsuten’s batter is different from Redheads, Koji Katsu and Shimizu Kitchen. Katsuten’s panko is made from white bread crumbs from Glamorgan Bakery, and the result is a fluffier, airier batter. Despite the fact our tonkatsu was deep-fried, it wasn’t greasy or heavy.

I tried a piece of L’s loin to compare to my tenderloin. My katsu is darker in colour and softer in texture. I was surprised that I actually preferred L’s loin, which is a thicker, leaner cut. The loin had this clean flavour profile that contrasted well with the richness of the batter. I noticed the curry wasn’t chunky like Redhead Cafe’s version, but runnier and more like a soup.

The shredded cabbage is refreshing. The yuzu dressing is tart and fragrant, with bright lemony notes. I also really liked the katsu sauce – much more subtle than the bottled stuff you can buy.

I’m pleased Calgarians have a variety of katsu restaurants, because each place has their unique take on tonkatsu. I would recommend all of them, each for something different. I love Koji’s supersized ebi katsu, Redheads Cafe’s chicken karrage curry, Shimizu’s ramen and tonkatsu combos, and Katsuten’s extra fluffy loin katsu. I’m sure right now, they could all use your business.

Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In

L and his colleagues ordered sushi for their Zoom work dinner. L picked Sushi In – a newish Japanese restaurant in our hood – for his takeout. For this post, let’s listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.

I saw on Google that Sushi Inn has only favourable reviews. That took me by surprise because no matter how good a restaurant is, there will always be awful customers. Sometimes I’ll read a review on Yelp and think to myself that I hope I never have interact with such a wretched human being.

L ordered two of Salmon Nigiri ($2.5), Tuna ($2.5), Tako ($3), Hokky Gai ($2.5), and one Ebi ($2.5) and Red Tuna ($3.5). The ratio of fish to rice was more than double. The rice itself was a little hard and colder than he would have preferred.

I ordered the Chirashi ($24). I noticed the amount of seafood in my bowl was generous. I counted three pieces of salmon, tuna, and sockeye salmon. I also received chopped scallop and two pieces of tamago. The tuna had a strong flavour to it.

The sushi reminds me a little of Red Ember in that you get more fish than rice. The prices at Sushi Inn are more than the nearby E-Mart but the quality is better. At E-Mart, the only prepared food I enjoy is the kimbap and fish cakes.

If I order again, I would try the cooked dishes like the chicken nanban and katsudon. When I went to pick up our food, I immediately noticed the appetizing smell of tempura hung heavily in the air.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Omakase

For L’s birthday, I took him to Sukiyaki House for “omakase”. In Japanese, omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”, meaning you entrust the menu up to the creativity of the chef. I got to say, Chef Koji Kobayashi knocked this dinner out of the park. For this post, let’s play “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles.

L and I toasted to his birthday with a glass of Kamoshibito Kuheiji Human Junmai Daiginjo, 2011 (3 oz, $15). Judith informed us that Sukiyaki House was the first restaurant in Calgary to bring in this particular bottle.

Judith is a sake nerd. Known as the white Burgundy of sakes, she described this sake as “bougie”, with lots of umami and sweetness. As we took our first sip, she pointed out the notes of bruised apple and pear. I thought this sake was light and not overly sweet.

We started off our meal with a plate of Hamachi with Daikon and Ponzu. L liked the seasoning as he thought it complemented the light, sweet flavour of the fish. If you notice my pictures have improved, it’s because L took all the photos below.

Our second dish was the Duck Tempura with Shiso and Mozzarella. The ume jam was tart and plummy, which cut into the richness of the duck. I thought the garnish of nori and green onion was a nice pop of flavour against the warm, velvety cheese filling.

One of L’s favourite dishes of the night was the Rice Cracker with Deep Fried Salmon, Potato Salad and Yam Crisp. Shwing! The crunch of the batter against the soft creaminess of the potato salad was killer. The salmon itself was flavourful, made even richer with Koji’s special homemade teriyaki sauce. Koji’s sauce has this intensity that makes you stand up and notice.

At this point in our meal, I wanted to try another sake while L stuck to a pint of Asahi.  I ventured off and tried a glass of Yamagata Masamune Kimono Akaiwa Machi 1898 (30z, $11).

Judith informed us this sake is made from hamachi rice from the Akalwa region. The brewer uses a traditional method of sake brewing. Rather than having the lactic acid introduced in the fermentation process to cultivate yeast, the sake is allowed to naturally develop lactic acid on its own. This makes for a fuller, complex and richer sake. I enjoyed the melon flavour and the dry, light finish.

Our fourth course was the Matsutake Soup with Crab. The soup arrived boiling hot. The broth was clear and clean, which allowed the subtle flavours of the crab and mushrooms to shine. The wild BC pine mushrooms were thinly sliced, with a fragrance similar to sake. Drinking this soup felt so nourishing – simple but refine.

Next up, Judith showcased A4 Wagyu Nigiri. She torched it and then shaved a ton of black truffles. Real truffles taste so different from the truffle salt I buy. The flavour is gentle and earthy. The texture of the truffles was feathery and light. Seared, the wagyu gave off a mouthwatering smoky flavour. I loved the crunch of the salt. I thought this was an elegant bite.

Our sixth course was the Maple Smoked Anago. L doesn’t normally eat eel, but he loved Koji’s version. The seared aburi was soft, warm and deliciously smoky.

My favourite course was the Lemon Dengaku. Double shwing! Dengaku is similar to a cheesy seafood motoyaki but a billion times better. Half a lemon was filled with mussels, crab, scallops, asparagus, enoki, and matsutake mushrooms, then baked with a creamy, sweet miso sauce.

The flavour and freshness of the the seafood wowed me. The sauce had the perfect amount of saltiness in it. The lemon wasn’t overpowering – just enough to perfume each bite.

Koji created a beautiful platter of nigiri for us. This was an advanced sushi tasting. Each nigiri pairing was an adventure.

The bluefin chu toro was topped with sturgeon caviar. I liked how the salty pop of caviar mingled in with the fatty creaminess of the toro. The “Mother and Child” sockeye with ikura and chrysanthemum petals was another winning salty, creamy combination. The hamachi (yellowtail) was juicy. I found the lime zest with the kanpachi subtle. The cuttlefish had a pleasant crunchy texture. The bluefin tuna in the negitori with shredded kombu was soft and buttery.

Dessert was devastatingly charming. Not only was this the cutest creation, but the mochi had the nicest chew to it. As always, the fruit at Sukiyaki House was served at the optimal ripeness, just like in Japan.

Photo credit – Sukiyaki House

Koji, you truly are an artist. This was the best meal L and I have ever experienced. We are so lucky to have you in Calgary. L and I have an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate in December. We can only order takeout because we are staying with in-laws. We might just have to hit up Sukiyaki House for their new premium bento takeout box of spicy prawns, beef tataki, miso sablefish, a hosomaki, and a mini chirashi. Whatever takeout we end up picking up, we’ll make sure to support one of our favourite restaurants.

Cheap Eats · Curry · Japanese · Tonkatsu

Shimizu Kitchen – Dine-in COVID-19 edition

After a long day at work, L told me he was craving tonkatsu. He wanted to try Shimizu Kitchen, which is located near our house. I’ve been reading good things about Shimizu’s ramen, so I was in. For this post, let’s listen to “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles.

I recommend making reservations, as the restaurant only has a handful seats. By the time we left, every table was full. Shimizu was also busy with takeout orders. I was informed by our server that on the weekends, there is often a line-up outside the door.

The room is cozy, decorated with homemade signs and pictures of food. The overarching branches of the pink cherry blossom tree cover most of the ceiling. I saw an automated ramen contraption by the door, which is a common display outside restaurants in Tokyo.

L and I both ordered a bottle of Asahi ($6). L ordered the Tonkatsu Curry ($13.99) and I requested the Shimizu Miso Ramen ($12.99).

The deep-fried pork cutlets arrived still sizzling from the fryer. L had to wait a few minutes for the tonkatsu to cool before he could eat it. The pork itself was juicy, with a thin, crunchy batter. The spices in the curry was subtle and not as strongly flavoured as Redhead’s version. I thought the portion was generous for the price.

The broth in my ramen was so rich and heavy, with a nice smoky flavour. The broth was boiling hot, just the way I like it. When I pulled the noodles up with my chopsticks, I could see the broth coating each noodle.

The egg was cooked just right. The creamy yolk had the consistency of the centre of a Cadbury chocolate egg. The thick piece of pork was seared, salty and tender. The noodles were chewy and plentiful. Even the vegetables were stellar. The cabbage and sprouts tasted fresh and were crunchy and sweet. L thought my ramen was fantastic, particularly the complexity of the broth.

We received complementary ice cream for dessert. Despite feeling too full, I couldn’t resist polishing off the entire serving. Some people may find vanilla ice cream boring but I like the simple, milky sweetness.

I was chatting on Instagram with someone who knows the owners at Shimizu. She told me that the owners told her their little wooden spoons have grown legs and disappeared. Now they are trying to replace them but can’t because COVID-19 has changed their ability to buy supplies from Japan. For the love of small businesses, if you know of anyone that has taken these spoons, encourage them to bring it back. Wrap up the spoons and slip them in the mail slot in the morning or late evening. Maybe we can ask Crackmacs to retweet? This is what I would tweet out to Crackmacs, along with a picture of the missing spoons:

RT: MISSING RAMEN SPOONS IN GLENDALE! Help the owners of @shimizukitchen1 find their missing ramen spoons. These beloved spoons have miraculously grown legs and ran away. If you see any of these spoons in your kitchen, please return to Shimizu Kitchen, no questions asked. #yyc #yyceats @crackmacs

I’ll be back. The ramen is delightful and I’m interested to try the other noodle dishes. Our server told me he’s been obsessed with the owner’s newest offering – it was either tsukemen or mazemen. I couldn’t hear him properly through the mask, and he was busy so I didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself. Hitting the Sauce gives Shimizu Kitchen two fat thumbs up.

Japanese

Chicken the Hutt Pop-up Event- Bite Grocery and Eatery

Karplop is friends with Kaede Hirooka, the founder and co-owner of Respect the Technique. She wanted to support Kaede and co-owner Jonathan Chung and asked me if I would check out their latest pop-up event at Bite Grocery and Eatery. I looked at the menu and noticed the predominant theme was fried chicken. Say no more, I was in. 

When Karplop called to book our reservation, she was informed that the event was sold out. She told the person on the phone that she knew there were seats available for walk-in. Therefore, he could give her a reservation right when the event was open at 4:00 p.m. I love that about Karplop – she won’t take no for an answer. For this post, let’s listen to “Shut up and Drive” by Rihanna. 

As we examined the menu, I asked Karplop if she would share an appetizer with me. She glanced up and announced that we were going to share everything. Another thing I like about Karplop is that she knows what she wants.

The Gyoza Stuffed Wings ($10) came in a set of three. Is it just me or do these legs look sexy to you? Karplop sized up our appetizer and announced it was going to be difficult to share. 

The wings were lightly drizzled with black vinegar mayo and rayu. Rayu is a Japanese chili oil commonly used on noodles and rice. The pork filling tasted just like a gyoza. I was impressed with how much gyoza stuffing was inside the wing. Karplop noted that stuffed wings are difficult to make. 

Next up was the Fried Chicken Ramen ($15). The spices in the broth made me sneeze repeatedly throughout our meal. The chicken broth was light and the noodles were thick and springy. We both thought the chicken was really juicy and cooked well. Karplop regretted not ordering another piece of chicken because it was that good. Despite the bath of broth, the batter held up and made a loud crackling sound when I bit into the meaty thigh.

The Hutt Sando ($12) came with a macaroni salad. The bun was sweet and the texture was soft and milky, similar to the rolls you get at a Chinese bakery. I liked that the flavours of the tangy slaw, crunchy chicken and melted cheese held up to the heavy proportion of the bun. I can’t get enough of this cold macaroni salad – it is so creamy, generously speckled with mortadella, pickles and herbs. 

Kaede and Jonathan nailed the batter. When I was eating I felt like Jughead Jones in an Archie comic. I just needed a caption with the words “Chomp. Smack. Munch.”

Karplop said she was glad to see Kaede and Jonathan doing more pop-up events. She always enjoys the food and hospitality. I can see why. Looking forward to the next one! Urp.

Cheap Eats · Happy Hour · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Ke Charcoal Grill- COVID-19 dine-in edition

I’ve been hearing good things about Ke Charcoal Grill, a restaurant specializing in yakitori. I convinced L to go, though I warned him that he needs to lower his expectations. L’s eaten his fair share of yakitori in Tokyo, so I knew he had preconceived notions on what it should taste like. Ke Charcoal is popular for its cheap and tasty food. For this post, let’s listen to “Joyride” by Roxette.

When we arrived, the hostess took our temperature. As with most restaurants, there is sanitizer at the entrance. For our safety, all our cutlery and sauces were individually packed. I liked how the tables were spaciously set apart. I also noticed that the staff were attentive and friendly, despite appearing understaffed.

L ordered a glass of Asahi ($6) and I stuck with tap water. I took a sip of his beer and found it flat. I heard from a reliable person with industry knowledge – Jude – that Ke Charcoal’s sake is inexpensive. I’ll have to try some on my next visit.

The Chicken Karaage ($8) is a winner. The chicken leg meat was juicy and the batter was nice and brittle. I would order this again.

To go with our skewers, I ordered two heaping bowls of rice ($5). The rice was fluffy and the fragrance reminded me more of Chinese rice than Japanese.

We started off with two skewers of Hatsu with teriyaki sauce ($4.60). I normally love chicken heart but these skewers were served cold and the texture was rubbery instead of tender.

Next up were two skewers of Mo Mo with teriyaki sauce ($4.80). The chicken thighs were tasty and served hot. The teriyaki sauce tasted heavy and sweet.

The cheese on the Yuki ($5.20) was sticky and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I preferred the plain chicken thighs without the cheese but that’s just a personal preference.

One of our favourite skewers was Negima ($4.80). So simple but so good. The green onion was deeply caramelized and it paired beautifully with the chicken thighs.

The Dunagimo ($2.40) arrived hot. I’ve never tried chicken gizzard before. The gizzard was addictingly chewy yet crunchy, and the flavour was surprisingly subtle. I would order this again.

My favourite skewer was Kawa (w/ sea salt $2.30). The chicken skin was super crispy. When I took a bite, the skin would flake apart and then melt in my mouth. I love eating chicken skin with rice, as the plainness of the steamed rice accents the texture and richness of the skin.

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered Okra ($2.10). The okra was cooked perfectly – there was still a resistance when I bit into it. I loved the crunchy, juicy texture and I could taste the smoky flavour of the grill.

The Asparagus Maki ($4.80) skewers were yummy. The bacon was crispy on the edges but still soft on the inside, coating the asparagus with the flavour of hot pork fat. The texture of the grilled asparagus reminded me of green beans.

We tried both the Tsukkune with teriyaki sauce ($5.20) and with cheese ($5.20). These chicken meatballs were filling, but I found the temperature cool. I think if it was served fresh off the grill, I would have enjoyed it.

I thought that more than half the skewers we tried were awesome, particularly for the price. We ordered way too much food and the bill was half of what we would pay at Shokunin. However, you can’t expect the quality of Shokunin at Ke Charcoal’s prices. Ke Charcoal is an affordable, easy introduction to yakitori. The food reminded me a bit of Torikizoku – a popular and dirt cheap yakitori izakaya chain in Japan. I think the food at Ke Charcoal is far better than Torikizoku.

I told Jude that L wasn’t as impressed as I was with yakitori. She said that the food at Ke Charcoal is great when it’s hot. Sometimes when the yakitori is colder than she would like, she’ll inform the servers and they bring over a new set. I never even thought about complaining. Jude suggested the next time I go, I should ask the servers to ensure the skewers are hot.

Jude recommends the oyster special on Wednesdays, unagi, chicken meatball with shisho, scallop, miso sablefish, beef tongue with daikon and ponzu. She told me to request salt on the yakitori and togarashi on the side for L, so he can get that essence of Japanese yakitori he craves.

I was so excited after talking to Jude that I wanted to go to Ke Charcoal the next day. I told L that I would even pick up the tab. He looked at me sourly and responded, “Look, I know why you want me to go again. You want me to have a different experience. But I won’t. It’s not Japan.”

Wow L! Talk about being inflexible. In the circle of compromise, you aren’t meeting me halfway. I’m not going to pressure him again because I think I am too controlling over where and what we eat. Plus, I know Karplop will go with me. I’ll post an update on my second visit to Ke Charcoal shortly, because this is one izakaya I’ll be frequenting. Hitting Sauce gives Ke Charcoal two fat thumbs up.