Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

To celebrate my good news, I told L that I was taking him out for dinner at Sukiyaki House. Judith, Justin and Chef Koji Kobayashi must have also been in a celebratory mood because they spoiled us rotten with complimentary bougie treats. For this post, let’s listen to “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil’ Troy.

Judith treated us to a taste of Masumi, a sparkling sake that is fermented using an ancestral method. The sake tasted like a mellow champagne. When I sipped on this liquid gold, my entire scalp tingled.

sparkling

Judith also poured us a glass of an exclusive bottle of sake. Jikon is a sought after brand in Japan – there are only 30 stores that carry this sake. She informed us that Kiyashō brewery was going down the drain until his son decided to take sake into a different direction. He wanted to make a better product, so he focused on a smaller batches of sake, paying more attention to koji and rice quality.

sake glass

Judith added that omachi is one of the oldest rice strains with no cross breeding. This type of rice is extremely hard to grow due to its tall height, which can get damaged easily in the wind. Omachi rice grain is also difficult to brew due to its fat round shape. Brewers prefer to work with a flat grain. The extra effort is worth it because omachi rice creates sakes that are layered, earthy, diversified, and herbal.

sake

As we were enjoying our sake tasting, Chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning plate of red snapper sashimi. His food is art because it appeals to our sight, smell and taste. Sorry Koji, my poor attempt at photography doesn’t do your work justice.

sashimi

The fish was so buttery soft it melted on my tongue. With each bite, I’d take a piece of snapper, swirl it in the ponzu sauce and then top it off with the micro greens and a flower. I thought I could taste sesame in the little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top.

bite

We ordered the Assorted Tempura ($20) and a pint of the Asahi Draft ($7). Our tempura arrived steaming hot. This is the first time since Japan that I’ve been impressed by the taste and texture of tempura.

beer

Judith instructed us to add the grated ginger and daikon into our tempura sauce. The batter was pale blonde, ultra light and crisp. The tempura tasted clean, not the least bit oily or greasy. Double damn – this was some fine ass tempura.

Tempura

My favourite pieces of tempura were the kinoko (enoki mushroom) and black tiger shrimp. I enjoyed the process of pulling the delicate enoki legs apart and then dipping it into the sauce.

mushroom

The shrimp was cooked until it was a pretty pink hue. The shrimp meat was delicately crunchy and sweet. Next time, I want to special order just the shrimp and enoki mushrooms. The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care (Emily Dickinson, 1862).

platter

We ordered a selection of our favourite pieces of nigiri. Aka Maguro ($4.20); Hotategai ($4.20); Amaebi ($4), Ebi ($3); Kani ($3.70); Maguro ($3); Shake Atlantic ($3); and Sockeye ($3.50). Always having the same sushi chefs at the helm means that we can expect the same consistency when we dine at Sukiyaki House. Yet again, the sushi rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This is important to me, as personally, I think the rice is just as important as the fish.

ebi

I preferred the firmer texture and richer flavour of the sockeye salmon over Atlantic salmon. Compared to the sockeye, the Atlantic tasted milder and fattier. The cooked shrimp was excellent, with its trademark crunchy texture and sweet flavour. Unlike other Japanese restaurants, the ebi at Sukiyaki House actually has flavour.

shrimp

The regular maguro (tuna) was smooth and tasty, but the fatty, satiny aka maguro (blue fin fatty tuna) was mind blowing. Spend the extra dollar and get the blue fin tuna! Best buck you’ll ever spend. L enjoyed it so much he wanted to get a second piece.

scallop

I love the way the sushi chef prepares the hotategai. The scallop is sliced so that all the silky crevices glide all over your tongue. Sensational! I don’t know any other sushi restaurant that does this.

second order

L’s colleague Dallas recently told him that he dined out at a fancy Japanese influenced restaurant.  One of the dishes was a $12 slice of raw fish. Dallas said he wished the server told him why this piece of fish was so special to warrant the price tag, because as someone who doesn’t know much about sushi, he wanted to know what he was eating. L wants to bring Dallas and his wife to Sukiyaki House to get an understanding of the high standard used in excellent Japanese cuisine. At Sukiyaki House, not only do you get Koji – who is trained in Japanese fine dining and Yuki – a sushi artist, but you also get educated by servers whose knowledge of saki and food enhances the experience by giving you a deeper appreciation of the food and drink you are consuming.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vietnamese

Cooking Mama YYC – COVID-19 edition

Lovegastrogirl did it again! When I opened the bags she dropped off for our dinner, L shook his head and said, “You finally met your match. I don’t think even you can top her.” If this was a competition, she would have won. For this post, let’s listen to “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Snow Dogg.

Lovegastrogirl said she was bringing over snacks. In reality, what she brought over was an epic feast. As she had food for her fiancee Pomp sitting in the car, she wouldn’t join us for dinner. I was able to persuade Lovegastrogirl to enjoy a glass of wine with me. When she left to bring Pomp their dinner, we opened up the treasure bags she left behind.

We started with Assorted Sashimi ($24.99) and Coho Salmon ($10.99) from True World Foods. The pieces of fish were sliced thick and bursting with flavour. The sashimi at True Worlds reminds me of Japan. There’s a noticeable difference in the freshness, moisture and the texture of the sashimi.

L and I were impressed with the rich, buttery taste of the tuna sashimi. The salmon was marbled and smooth with a rich mouth feel.

The sashimi with the translucent colour had an enjoyable, crunchy-like texture. The sashimi with a beige like colour tasted smoky with a rich, fatty flavour profile.

Lovegastrogirl drove across the city to pick up two special dishes from CookingMamaYYC. The feature of the day was Crack Cha Nem ($16) – shrimp spring rolls with vermicelli. Anyone who is a fan of Vietnamese food needs to try Cooking Mama’s crack rolls and steamed rice rolls.

Lovegastrogirl contacted Cooking Mama and asked if she could save an order of Cuon Thit Heo – steamed rice pork rolls with sausage ($14) from the previous day. Cooking Mama is a one-woman show – so she only makes a set number of select dishes per day.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

I reheated the spring rolls in the oven until it was crispy. The dominant flavour of the thick shrimp shell reminded me of the famous garlic prawns from Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. I’ve never met Cooking Mama, but I can tell she cooks with love, generosity and mad culinary skills.

The mixed mushroom and noodle filling was very tasty. L noticed that the noodles were thicker, smoother and bouncier than the usual vermicelli noodles at Vietnamese restaurants.

I loved the pork steamed rice rolls as much as the crack spring rolls, though the two dishes are completely different from each other. These rice rolls were total comfort food – savoury, soft and squishy.

L and I both enjoyed the slices of pork. The texture reminded me a bit of a fish cake. The flavours were perfectly balanced – there was no jarringly sweet or sour notes. The softness of the rolls contrasted with the fried shallots and steamed bean sprouts. The sprouts tasted sweet and clean. The portion was so generous that I gorged myself and still had leftovers.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

Cooking Mama told me I should try their rice rolls when its fresh. I resteamed the rolls in my rice cooker and this dish was so good, I can’t imagine it could be even better. Cooking Mama’s food is making it on my Best #YYC Restaurants, even though technically, it’s a home business.

As I ate, I could sense my rapturous cries alarmed L. I looked up from my food and asked him if this was not the most exquisite food he’s ever eaten? He said the food was excellent and he would be happy to order again, but he felt my enthusiasm was in part due to the fact Lovegastrogirl and I had consumed a bottle of wine. I informed L that I have enjoyed wine prior to a meal before and I didn’t experience this euphoric joy. L referenced an incident eight years ago. My neighbour the Wine Wizard and I indulged in a couple of drinks and a pizza from Papa John’s. I had proclaimed the pizza the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I remember that night well. I told L I would order catering from Cooking Mama for a future party and then we can settle this dispute once and for all.

I asked Lovegastrogirl what she thought of Cooking Mama’s food. She thought it was fantastic. Pomp said it was great considering the food sat in her hot car for over three hours. Sorry Pomp, I can get a little chatty. I promise I’ll make it up to you.

Lovegastrogirl also bought us mochi from True World and a bottle of wine her father-in-law recommended. Holy moly! This is serious business. How am I going to match her, let alone top her?

I have a few restaurants in mind. If you have any suggestions, shoot me a message. Thanks again Lovegastrogirl for making my week. I’ll break open that bottle of wine you bought me when you visit me in June.

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Dinner

My last meal at Sukiyaki House was so memorable, I returned a week later to celebrate my milestone birthday. That day, L and I were literally counting down the hours before our dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Number 1” by Goldfrapp.

Justin called L to confirm our reservations. He also wanted to check with him that the ingredients and price range of the two dishes that head chef Koji Kobayashi wanted to create for our meal was suitable. That’s some next level customer service. We were impressed with Justin’s consideration of our taste and budget.

sake 2

L and I toasted to my old age with a flute of Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($12). I thought this sake was fragrant with a viscosity similar to a riesling.  I also tried Kuheiji ($15), which in comparison to the other sake was more delicate. If pretty had a flavour, it would be Kuheiji. I’m a fan of both sakes.

glass

Koji made two special off the menu dishes for us. The first to arrive was Koji’s signature dish – Duck Breast with Braised Daikon, Foie Gras Mousse and Matcha Potato Brûlée ($24). Personally, I think Justin should have charged much more for this dish. The portion was huge, and the flavours were stunning. I could tell a lot of labour, love and talent when into this dish.

duck

The duck is sous vide for five hours, resulting in tender, succulent meat. The edging of duck fat melted beautifully as I chewed. The duck gravy was so mouth-watering that I wanted bread to mop up every last drop. The matcha brûlée was lacy and crisp, a nice contrast to the velvety smooth foie gras. The daikon was so warm and juicy, it made me weak in the knees. I know it’s early in the year, but so far, this is the best dish of 2020.

duck piece

The second dish Koji prepared just for us was Aji Four-Ways ($45), but I think it should be called Aji Five-Ways. L thought this dish showcased Koji’s talent for knowing how to combine different flavours and ingredients together.

platter

Koji used an entire horse mackerel flown in from Japan to create five different experiences. The sashimi showcased the strong flavour of the mackerel –  light and not fatty like tuna or salmon.

tartare

For some reason, I thought the mackerel nigiri was more mellow in comparison to the sashimi. L thought the fresh wasabi and the crispness of the scallions were the perfect pairing for the fish.

fish nirg platter

The mackerel tempura was tossed with matsukaze matcha and rice cracker batter that reminded me of cornmeal. The texture of the fish reminded me of a fish meatloaf nugget. – creating a scrumptious bite that illuminated the fish’s oily, dense flesh.

tempura

I found the mackerel tartare light in flavour but heavy in texture. I could taste a hint of  fresh ginger, soy and mirin in the mixture. I love the colourful garnish of flowers and greens on top of the tartare.

fish bone

The deep-fried bones made for a nice crispy snack. At this point, I was getting too full so I only nibbled on the meatier bones. I appreciated that Koji used a type of fish I’m unfamiliar with. The texture and taste of horse mackerel made me think because it wasn’t the usual salmon or tuna I’m accustomed to eating. This dish was a thoughtful creation and got us out of the comfort zone of eating the more common and popular types of Japanese fish.

uni

Justin informed me the Uni Sea Urchin ($15) I ordered has a premium platinum status. Flown in from Hokkaido, the uni was unlike the more common type in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten uni so sweet and creamy, it melted in my mouth. So good, I had a foodgasm.

nigiri platter

The Aki Maguro Chu Toro ($4.20) was nice and fatty. I also liked the fat high content in the Shima Suzuki Striped Seabass ($5). The bass was smooth and firm, with a sweet aftertaste. The Ebi  ($3) at Sukiyaki House is consistently superior than other Japanese restaurants. The steamed prawn was crunchy and flavourful.

crab

The Kani ($3.70) was also a winner. The crab was sweet and juicy. The texture of the crab meat was tender and flaky. I’d order this again.

shrmip head

I happily chomped on my Amaebi ($4). The raw shrimp was perfectly crunchy and cool on my tongue. The fried shrimp head was still warm when I ate it. Oh my goodness – turning forty never tasted so good.

chopped

This part of our meal always gets my heart racing with sweet anticipation – raw scalllops. The Special Scallop ($3.80) was full of buttery goodness, dotted with the crunchy, salty pop of fish roe. The chew of the nori was a good contrast to the creamy scallop mixture.

scallop flower

A highlight of our selection of nigiri was the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was sliced in a way that it gave the same sensation of being chopped. The scallop crevices glided over my tongue like silk. When I chewed, the scallop fell apart in my mouth in a textural explosion. Below is a photo of me after eating the hotategai. I have to credit sous chef Yuki Koyama for his sushi masterpiece. Phenomenal. Yuki truly is an artist.

me

For dessert, we shared the Matcha Shiratama Zenzai ($9) and a glass of plum wine – Ume Niwa No Uguisu Tomari Umeshu ($10, 3 ounce). I don’t normally like plum wine, but this wine was delightfully tart and refreshing.

UMI

I knew the moment our dessert hit our table that L would be pleased. After ten years together, I can read him like a book.  If you appreciate the subtlety of Japanese sweets, you will love this dessert. The mochi was soft and smooth. The flower was still warm, and I thought I could taste the essence of mandarin oranges. The grapes gave a nice pop of sourness, a contrast to the natural sweetness of the red bean paste.

dessert

L and I were surprised that we didn’t have a favourite dish of the night. Everything, from the specialty dishes to each piece of nigiri was spectacular. I highly recommend that if you want to try something authentic or non-pedestrian to call ahead of time and arrange something with Justin. My Instagram friend lovegastrogirl is the opposite of me and she is a super baller. I told her to contact Justin so he and Koji can prepare something special for her.

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 5.23.04 PM

Sukiyaki House is something special. This is artistry and craftsmanship in culinary motion. With Koji and Yuki at the culinary helm and Justin at the hospitality front, they are an unstoppable trio. Thank you for preparing such a memorable meal for me. You are ichiban (#1) in  my books.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Ichiban (#1 in #YYC)

Now that L and I no longer have our annual trip to Japan, we crave sushi all the time. I noticed on Instagram, Sukiyaki House receives constant praise from foodkarmablog, Miss Foodie and Loaf2go. Sukiyaki House is located in the heart of downtown core. Pro tip – after 6:00 p.m., there is complimentary heated parking.

Loaf2go

Sukiyaki House is known in Calgary for Head Chef Koji Kobayashi’s elaborate omakase dinners. Chef Kobayashi was born in Osaka and trained in “kaiseki”, the highest form of Japanese fine dining. Below is a picture I took without permission from their Instagram account.

koji best

Foodkarma recommends the agadashi tofu, tempura and special event dinners. Miss Foodie orders the sukiyaki hot pot and other specialty dishes. I like to focus on the nigiri. For this post, let’s listen to “Lights Out” by Santogold.

L knows the owner’s son – Justin – a graduate from the Haskayne School of Business. I think it is endearing that when we visit, there are other U of C graduates dining there. I’m thinking of organizing a get together with our previous Japan kids at Sukiyaki House, who are also Haskayne alumni.

IMG-9828

Justin impressed me with his knowledge of sake. He treated us to a glass of premium sake – Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($90 bottle, 3 oz glass $12). Wowzers. The sake was flavourful and it smelled incredibly nice. I loved the dryness and the viscosity of the sake. This is hands down my favourite sake. I would order this again.

IMG_2744

We started our meal with a dish off the regular menu – Sawara Tataki ($24). Holy Mackerel! This dish made me appreciate the subtlety of fine dining. The delicate textures of the daikon and chrysanthemum was a nice contrast to the mackerel. The greens and garlic chips added a dainty crunch to each bite.  The sauce was refreshing and perfectly balanced.

IMG_2760

We ordered an assortment of nigiri and maki rolls, as well as a pint of Asahi ($7, 16 ounce). Justin informed us that he imports the beer from Japan. I could tell the difference between Asahi made in Japan and the stuff made elsewhere. In 2019, L and I visited the Asahi factory to learn about their brewing process.  Asahi made in Japan tastes purer and the bubbles are tinier.

IMG_2750

The Aka Maguro (red tuna, $4.20) is a must order. The tuna was firm in texture but rich and fatty. The tuna literally melted in my mouth when I slowly chewed it. L noted that the fish to rice ratio was balanced.

red tuna

Amaebi (raw prawn, $4) is one of my favourite things to order. The prawn was cool on my tongue, sweet and crunchy.  Equally delicious was the accompanying fried shrimp head, dusted with matcha salt.

IMG_2790

The shrimp head was served still warm. The fried shell was covered in a soft, light layer of tempura. The texture and taste of the shrimp head meat reminds me of fried soft shell crab.

IMG_2766

I think Sukiyaki’s Ebi (steamed prawn, $3) is the best in town. The prawn was tasty with a pleasant crunch to it. We both thought the Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) was creamy with a rich, smooth flavour. The Tamago (egg omelette, $2.40) was sweet with a light, almost foamy texture.

IMG_2761

The Hotategai ($4.20) was large and plump. The freshness of the scallops was exceptionally lovely – silky smooth with a clean flavour profile. L noted the use of wasabi in the sushi was just as it should be – present but not overpowering.

IMG_2793

We also ordered one of the specials of the night –  Sawara ($6). When I put this piece of Spanish mackerel in my mouth, my head exploded with the realization that I don’t have to go to Japan in order to eat excellent sushi.

IMG_2773.JPG

L enjoyed the Special Scallop ($3.80) even though he doesn’t care for scallops or mayonnaise. Despite the thick and almost buttery dressing, I could still taste the freshness of the scallop. The pop of saltiness from the flying fish roe added to this insanely decadent bite.

IMG_2770

L ordered a Prawn Dynamite ($11). What a rookie move! I didn’t want L to order a dynamite roll but sometimes you gotta let your man order his food.  Don’t get me wrong – the dynamite roll was made well, but there’s so many better things you can get. For example, my Shake Skin Roll ($12). Now this is a roll worth ordering.

IMG_2783

The semi raw salmon was scorched on the top. The salmon skin was crunchy and smoky. I enjoyed the sauce which added a touch of sweetness. L doesn’t like salmon skin but he admitted that he now understands the appeal of BC rolls.

After our meal, L spoke to Justin to book my milestone birthday at Sukiyaki House. I normally shy away from extravagant meals but at Sukiyaki House, I see the value in such an experience.

dishes

The sushi was so excellent, I couldn’t stop raving about our meal. I haven’t been this excited in a long time. When we went to bed, I told L that if I died that night, I would die happy. I was serious. If you love sushi, you must check out this restaurant out. Hitting the Sauce thinks Sukiyaki House is the best sushi restaurant in Calgary.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond – Sushi Hachi – L’s birthday dinner

I booked L’s birthday dinner at Sushi Hachi Japanese Restaurant. Run by a husband and wife team, Sushi Hachi is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are required, as the small restaurant is perpetually booked.

Sign

I invited N and Beep Beep to L’s dinner. N asked if she could bring her new gentleman friend A-OK. When I spoke to the owner to request an extra seat, I confided to the owner that I was excited to dine at his restaurant. He sounded pleased, but cautiously mentioned that he only serves sushi and sashimi. There is no teriyaki or tempura on the menu. I told him that was fine with me, as I’ve been to Japan before and I’m aware of the difference between real sushi and the North American version. He sounded worried and humbly stated that he didn’t want to get my my hopes up, as his sushi is not as good as what you can get in Japan. For this post, let’s listen to “Saw You in a Dream” by The Japanese House.

When we were seated, L commented that he knew Sushi Hachi was a good restaurant based on the tantalizing smells wafting from the kitchen and sushi bar. Unfortunately, the description of the food we ate won’t be as detailed as I would have preferred. Beep Beep and I were too busy sizing up A-OK. I usually hate the guys N dates, but A-OK was a refreshing break from the norm.

sayuri.jpg

A-OK and I shared a bottle of cold sake – Hakutsuru Nigori ($17). The flavour was floral, lush and milky in texture. L, Beep Beep and N refrained from drinking alcohol. Beep Beep was driving. L wanted a good sleep. N just came back from her second ayahuasca trip in Peru. Her shaman said she could eat seafood again, but not alcohol, meat or soy sauce. I asked A-OK if the next time, he could slip the shaman an extra twenty bucks so N could eat meat again.

miso soup

The Miso Soup ($2) was subtly different from the norm. I read in other reviews that the female owner makes her fish miso in small batches. Each bowl contained a collarbone.

nigiri

I ordered four Chef’s Special ($120) – a selection of ten pieces of nigiri and tuna maki. We were given a description of each fish, but I didn’t have time to write any of the names of the fish down.

maki.jpg

The balance of vinegar and sugar in the rice was perfect. The temperature of the rice was neither cool or warm. I noticed the rice was a bit softer than I’m used to. L and I liked the proportion of fish to rice.

piece

My favourite piece was the bright white glossy piece – it was both crunchy and creamy. The simplicity of garnishes on the nigiri still let the freshness of the seafood shine through.

scallop.jpg

The scallops were tender and sweet. My favourite version was the chopped scallop. There’s just something so winning about the combination of delicate scallops and the rich egg flavor of velvety Kewpie mayonnaise.

extra.jpg

I enjoyed crunching into the raw prawn ($3.50). Cold, sweet and with a texture that was both gooey and crunchy. The uni ($4.00) was the most buttery and briniest I’ve ever had. I’d order this again.  L ordered an extra piece of his favourite sushi –  tako ($2.50).

piece 2.jpg

L noted he’s never tried so many pieces of white fish, each with its own unique flavour. All the seafood tasted pure and clean. 

bite 3.jpg

A-OK and N ordered a plate of Toro ($18) and Sockeye Salmon ($14). No comment as we didn’t try any of it.

sashimi.jpg

A-OK also ordered the Grilled Squid ($10.50).  The squid was tender and the juices were reminiscent of charcoal. This dish was simple and delicious.

grilled squid.jpg

N ordered a Tempura Roll ($6) because she was still hungry. She took one piece and announced she was full.  I ate a couple of pieces.  The roll was crunchy and warm from the tempura, made even tastier with a generous slathering of mayonnaise.

sushi .jpg

N mentioned that while she can eat fish, she only wants to eat white fish. She felt that the fish with a pink tinge was closer to meat. I disagreed but didn’t feel the urge to argue with her. I’m not a hot shot shaman.

sushi 2.jpg

My favourite part of the night was when L thanked the sushi chef. In Japan, locals go crazy over my husband’s enunciation while I am generally frowned upon for breaking protocol. After L broke out his perfect Japanese, the  chef’s expression didn’t change and he simply nodded to L.  When I went to thank the sushi chef in English, he beamed and bestowed me with a big grin. Take that L.

octopus.jpg

Sushi Hachi is a gem. Now that L and I are no longer going on our annual trip to Japan, we can look forward to dining at Sushi Hachi. I’m eager to try more of the adventurous seafood on their sushi menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Sushi Hachi two fat thumbs up.

Sushi Hachi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Shokunin – New Winter Menu

L received good news and to celebrate, he told me to pick a restaurant. By the time L finished his sentence, I had already booked a table at Shokunin. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Like This” by Faith Evans.

Aside from the new winter menu, I noticed the seating between the tables is more spacious than before. And to keep up with the fast pace of the restaurant, there’s an army of cheerful, happy looking staff. From what I could see and experience, customers are well taken care of throughout the evening.

To start off our meal, L ordered a beer – the Okami Kasu (6 oz, $7). I ordered two glasses of red – Orofino Gamay ($15) and Dom Charbonniere ($11) because I wanted to compare the two wines side by side. The latter was sweet and easy to drink, with a fuller body. The Orofino was lighter and tart with a more pleasing bouquet.

L’s is obsessed with the Japanese Potato Salad ($8). Since I’ve been a customer, I have tried about three different versions. Past potato salads were served colder and with a chunkier texture. Another version used more red pickled onions with a balance of creamed and solid pieces of potato. This time, all the potatoes were whipped and creamy. We could taste a strong tang of horseradish. With the addition of half an egg, this version was creative, just like Shokunin.

The Foie Gras Don ($25) is my favourite dish of the 2019 menu. The moment this bowl hit our table, we could smell the roasted nori. The rice was perfectly perfumed with vinegar and each grain was tender but dense. For L, the highlight was the teriyaki sauce and rice. The sauce wasn’t sweet but true to the traditional teriyaki flavour you get from a homemade sauce.

For me, the foie gras stole the show. Each piece was warm, delicate and so buttery it melted on my tongue. The flavour was so explosively rich and fresh, it reminded me of a raw westcoast oyster. This dish was so distractedly decadent, I neglected my two glasses of wines. The side of tempura mint was lovely, as it combined the refreshing taste of mint with the salty thin crunch of the batter. I’d order this dish again.

 

L requested we order the Chicken Karaage ($14). Our chicken arrived blistering hot. I burnt my tongue because I didn’t wait for the karaage to cool down. I was surprised the meat was so juicy.

This karaage tasted different from past versions. I’m think the chicken is now skinless. All the crevices in each morsel was covered in a fine, crunchy batter. It was almost like the meat was scored and dusted with the seasoning mix. In any case, the karaage was scrumptious.

The Duck Udon ($19) is my favourite bowl of noodles in city. I find udon more satisfying to eat than ramen. I like the slippery smooth texture and the chewiness of the fat noodles. The slivers of spring onions were crunchy with the strong, sweet flavour of fresh green onions. The earthiness of the meaty mushroom slices and the creamy egg rounded out this bowl of treasures.

 

In my past visit, the duck slices were thicker, rare in the middle and satiny in texture. Now the meat is thinly sliced and it looks like it was torched or seared. The result is a more delicate texture that blends in with the vegetables.

L remarked that I was smiling as I ate. I told him I was happy and I felt like the Ramen Master on Tampopo. I was elated to eat something that I couldn’t make at home.

L informed me he’s never watched Tampopo. What? The greatest movie of all time? I stared at L like the grocery merchant gaped at the crazy old lady (see video below for illustration). If you haven’t seen this epic movie, go do it. Watch it here.

Hitting the Sauce gives Shokunin’s new winter menu two fat thumbs up. The foie gras don is a work of art and I hope it is a permanent fixture on the menu. Below is a review of my review from my father. As always, he is correct.

“An enthusiastic review characterized by your usual erudite style and entertaining humour. But to neglect or almost neglect your glass of wine. Now that is the ultimate compliment and should not be conferred lightly!”

Ludvig van Louie

Shokunin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Fast Food · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Steamworks & The Cambie

L and I were suppose to meet up with N for dinner. Around 3:00 p.m., we walked over to Gastown to kill time. Since this post is going old school, let’s listen to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. L informed me that no one likes this song and it is hated by many.

We walked by The Lamplighter. I’ve only been here once before, when I brought L home to meet my family in 2010. He met my SFU buddy J. L, Moody and Cuz were so rowdy, they began purposely breaking glasses. I left early with Beep Beep, and after that night, J never hung out with me again. I asked L what he and his friends did to J. He said nothing and J seemed like he was having a good time.

lamp.jpg

Since it was raining, we ducked into Steamworks.  There’s always fruit flies hanging around and the food isn’t good enough for me to eat, but there’s always seats and the location is convenient.

beer.jpg

I had one beer – Sanctuary – a collaboration between Blasted Church + Steamworks ($10, 500 ml, 7.5%). Blasted Church makes some decent BC white wines. The Gewürztraminer saison was light and peppery with citrus notes. It was so strong I felt intoxicated.

sanctuary.jpg

I asked L if he wanted to walk the area I surveyed for my research project in 2008. He politely but firmly declined, and suggested instead we go for a drink in a nicer area. I mentioned the nearby watering hole, The Cambie, was closing for good this November.

cambie.jpg

I’ve only hung out here a couple of times, at the request of work or school friends. The Cambie attracts a diverse, laid-back crowd. I was happy to see the conditions of the washrooms have improved. I recalled a poutine ($10) that I enjoyed 10 years ago and I wanted to try it again.

poutine.jpg

The poutine was tasty, but there were fewer cheese curds than I remembered. The gravy was dark and salty. The fries were crispy and mealy. I’d order this again, but The Cambie won’t be open when I return.

At 6:00 p.m., N responded to my text, saying she would be ready around 7:00 p.m. However, that lone beer I drank from Steamworks made me dizzy, and not in a good way. My face was still red and I felt queasy. I told N that I would get something to eat to see if my condition would improve.

L and I popped into Kita no Donburi. I liked that all the dishes had the calories listed on the menu. I noticed most customers were eating tonkatsu curry (1,500 calories). The restaurant was busy, most likely due to the location and cheap prices.

L ordered Tendon ($9.95, 786 calories). His dish came with organic veggies, salad, two prawns, a purple yam, sweet potato, tofu crumbles, and kaki-age (mixed vegetables). He wasn’t impressed. He complained the tempura sauce was too small, and in Japan, tendon is served the sauce already poured over the tempura. I thought his dish was tastier than mine.

I ordered Chirashi ($12.50, 722 calories) even though I would have preferred the tendon. Dr. Quinn, my family doctor, has been after me to eat more fish. My bowl came with salmon, tuna, wild salmon, ebi, hokkigai, tamago, saba, ikura, spring mix lettuce and avocado. None of the ingredients tasted fresh or flavourful. Everyone thinks the food in Vancouver is so great. It can be amazing, but there’s a lot of mediocre restaurants here too. This was one of them.

I still wasn’t feeling well, so I cancelled plans with N. L and I took the train back to Richmond and I called my mother to pick us up. L asked me if I thought it was weird that my parents still drive me around. “I can rent a car when we visit so your parents don’t have to do that. We are adults.” This is the third time L has brought this subject up to me. I didn’t respond until we were in my mother’s car because I wanted Boss Lady to give him a definitive answer. She did, and that was the end of that.

Kita No Donburi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Shokunin Izakaya – The Final Table

For our five-year wedding anniversary, L took me out to celebrate at Shokunin. The owner and chef – Darren MacLean – recently competed on the Netflix show – The Final Table.

Shokunin has changed since Darren was on the show. Without reservations, it’s now difficult to score a table. When L and I got there on an early Monday evening, his restaurant was packed. For this post, let’s listen to Jidenna – Chief Don’t Run.

Darren switched to fatty yellow chickens for his yakitori. He informed me that yellow chickens are ridiculously expensive but he feels it is worth the extra cost. Whole chickens are butchered daily. New to the menu are: wing flap, skin on thigh, skin on breast, sweetbread, knee and rib. The price ranges from $3-5 dollars a skewer.

chicken
Taken from Shokunin’s Instagram account @shokuninyyc without permission.

The difference between the fatty yellow chicken and the previous chickens used is noticeable. I thought the taste of the charcoal was more prominent. The chicken was silkier and tastier. I also prefer the addition of skin on the meat because it adds a contrasting texture and the skin soaks up the charcoal smoke.

yum .jpg

We ordered the Alberta Bison Tataki ($19). I’m not normally a fan of tataki but this version was a pleasing combination of insanely delicious flavours and textures – the bright sauce, the succulent meat, and the tang of the pickled onions. The portion was pretty generous too. This is a must order dish.

The Roasted Duck Breast Udon ($19) is my current favourite bowl of noodles in the city. I’ve never had duck so flavourful and satiny. The meat was served rare and cut thin. I ate as slowly as possible in order to savour the tender morsels. The noodles were fat and chewy. The egg had a rich, intense flavour. The broth was delicate with a touch of sweetness.

L and I ordered the Grilled Rice Ball ($5, + $2.50 egg) after we saw another customer order it. The eggs were so good it made me want to come by Saturday morning and ask to purchase a dozen. I’ll also take two fatty yellow chickens while I’m at it.

I buy great produce but the eggs here are next level. Just because I’m on an egg roll, take a look at the yolk from my bowl of udon.

I always find a new sake at Shokunin and then I’ll hunt it down for my parties from their supplier – Richmond Hills Wines. There’s a new warm sake I’m crazy about – Aizuhomare Premium Dry Honjozo.  I loved the hint of melon and the general mellowness. For a 5 ounce, it’s only $10! Dreams do come true! The only issue is L saw that Shokunin monitors the temperature of the sake. If I run out and buy this one, I’ll probably screw up the temperature and it won’t taste as good at home.

L was a fan of the draft beer – OkamiKasu – ($10) a collaboration between Ol’ Beautiful and Shokunin. Clean and refreshing, I much prefer Ol’ Beautiful’s version than the previous collaboration between Big Rock and Shokunin, the latter being a bit sweet.

I don’t want to spoil the show for those who haven’t watched The Final Table. I’ll just say that Darren put Alberta on the map as a food destination and did Calgary proud. I’ve said this before but I feel the need to repeat myself. If you are looking for big portions at a cheap price, don’t come to Shokunin. This place is not for you and that’s fine. Not everyone gets what the restaurant is about.

Taken from Shokunin’s website without permission.

I met my family doctor – Dr. Quinn – at the now closed Il Sogno. Her husband is a chef and when she does eat out, she frequents fine dining establishments – five-star restaurants, Michelin star, etc. As she’s use to a high standard at home, she has to seek out places that offer a more exceptional experience when she dines out. I told her to check out Shokunin. Dr. Quinn went and said the sushi was the best she has ever tried. I think she would prefer Darren’s special dining events because it would be quieter. She doesn’t like how loud a restaurant can get when it is busy. She can also experience what Darren likes doing best –  Michelin Star collaborations and his Omakase Sushi Experience.

Shokunin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Big Catch – 2.0

I had a long week. To improve my mood, L suggested I pick a restaurant for dinner.  I remembered Big Catch expanded from its small kiosk inside Market on Macleod into a full service restaurant in the Save-On-Foods shopping plaza (#130-8835 Macleod Tr. SW).

For this post, let’s listen to Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (recomposed by Max Richter). I think this segment suits Big Catch’s food. Also, I find the emotional range of the violin electrifying.

L admired the woodwork across the walls. He wants to create something similar in our new house. When L complimented the interior design, one of the owners – Non  – informed us the interior was designed by Tomo Nakahara.

interior design.jpg

L and I started off with Agedashi Tofu ($6.95) with kalamansi mushroom sauce. L liked how the daikon and sauce remained on the tofu. I enjoyed the crispy, chewy outer layer of the tofu. The brown topping was tasty, made from four types of mushrooms, sake and low sodium soy sauce.

aga tofu.jpg

Non recommended the evening’s special appetizer – Chicken Nanban ($8.75). I noticed the chicken wasn’t heavily battered or super crunchy. As a result, I could better taste the marinade. L raved about the dipping sauce, which he thought was refreshing and light, similar to tzatziki sauce.

karage.jpg

Non was excited when he talked about the specialty rolls – all of which are Big Catch’s original creation. He recommended the Autumn Haze ($15.95) and the Iron Goddess ($15.95).

whole bowl first set.jpg

The presentation was so alluring, I was drawn into the plate. I marveled at the colours painted and dotted along the rim of the bowl. The placement of the garnishes and  flowers on the sushi was stunning. We didn’t even realize that the paint on the bowl was edible until half way through our meal.

special sushi closeu.jpg

Each piece of sushi was bite-sized. I noticed there was no reliance on mayonnaise in any of the rolls. Non confirmed there was only one roll that had mayonnaise – the Passion Sunrise.

whole art nigiri.jpg

L wanted to try the nigiri to see how it compared to their specialty rolls. We ordered a Dynamite Roll ($6.50), two pieces of Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($2.25), two pieces of Albacore Tuna Nigiri ($2.25) and one piece of Bluefin Toro Nigiri ($4.50).

close up nigiri set.jpg

The Albacore Tuna was soft and delicious. The taste of the tuna really shone through and just melted in my mouth. I thought the Bluefin Toro had a stronger, fishier taste. I was almost sorry to eat each piece, as it took away from the beauty on the plate.

nigiri.jpg

I saw several customers dropping in to pick up platters to go. If you check out their takeout menu, you’ll see that there are specially priced combos and platters. I also noticed Big Catch is vegetarian friendly and even has a new vegan roll coming soon.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 9.42.13 AM.png

Don’t expect to get the volume you would get at an all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing. But at Big Catch, the prices are more than reasonable. Our feast come up to $70 and we were both full.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 9.46.47 AM.png

Big Catch is a place for those who appreciate visually gorgeous food in unpretentious digs. L and I can’t wait to return to sample more of the menu. If you are a fan of art and sushi, you need to check out Big Catch. For the full experience, dine in. If you want to eat from the comfort of your house, their takeout is fabulous and well-priced.

Big Catch Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Chinatown · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Point Sushi

Veronica invited me to One Chubby Hamster’s 14th birthday party. She told me she was thinking of having the get together at Briggs Kitchen + Bar. She asked me which restaurant would be appropriate for eight teenagers.

water.jpg
I suggested Point Sushi, Calgary’s first sushi bullet train. I could picture One Chubby Hamster and her friends taking Instagram videos of the train and food. For this post, let’s listen to Runaway Train by Soul Asylum.

We took over two booths next to the bullet train conveyor belt. I noticed a long table next to us with its own conveyor belt running along the table. The music was an interesting mix. When we arrived, there was pleasant jazz music. Half an hour later, it was pop and at the end of our meal, house music.  After we finished our dinner, Jughead had to take a business call. I could just imagine his employee hearing the music in the background and thinking her boss was at a club.

ipad.jpg

Veronica ordered a whole wack of food. The system allows you to order a maximum of four orders at one time. We started off with Chicken Wings ($5), Gyoza ($5), Shrimp Tempura ($4.40), and Shio Ramen ($5.95).

shio ramen.jpg

Jughead and I thought the ramen was tasty. The broth was thick and flavourful. The noodles were firm, which I prefer. The portion was more than decent for the price. I’d order this again.

gyoza

The chicken and vegetable gyoza was soft and floppy. The dumplings tasted better than my description. The dipping sauce had a nice punch to it.

tempura.jpg

The shrimp tempura was heavily battered, doughy and dense. The ratio of batter to shrimp was 4:1.  I couldn’t taste the shrimp. This is the only thing I wouldn’t order again.

tako.jpg

Veronica wanted to order sushi. L asked for his favourite nigiri- tako ($4.50). Jughead looked curious and quizzed L on the flavour profile of octopus, as he’s never tried it.  L offered Jughead a piece but he declined.

chopped shrimp.jpg

I suggested that Veronica try the Spicy Crispy Prawns ($4.50), because since the prawns were cooked, Jughead might try it. When prompted to describe what she was eating, Veronica said it was cold, crunchy and tasted like delicousness. Jughead said it was a succulent prawn morsel.

crab roll.jpg

I ordered a Spider Roll ($6.95). Yum. This was the least sauced of all the rolls that were ordered. I liked tasting the separate flavours of rice, tobiko, avocado and still warm deep-fried crab.

spicy saucy top roll

Veronica ordered two rolls – the Royal Sushi Roll ($8.90) and Ocean Mountain Roll ($6.50). L doesn’t normally like non traditional sushi, but he enjoyed what he ate.  The sauces were a mix of sweet and spicy.

new roll.jpg

It wasn’t just One Chubby Hamster and her friends that enjoyed themselves at Point Sushi. L and I were delighted watching our orders come zooming to our table. It’s fun and entertaining experience, particularly if you haven’t been to Japan. I can see this restaurant being a big hit with families. Thanks One Chubby Hamster for inviting us to your birthday. The party was on point.

Point Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato