Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Golden Child

L has been busy burning the midnight oil. By Friday, I was itching for some TLC, so I announced he was taking me somewhere nice for date night. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suggested Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Son of a Preacher” by Dusty Springfield.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time reading about restaurants. If there were an award for knowing the most random tidbits about the best food in Calgary, I would win it. I recalled seeing an Instagram reel showing Steve, the former owner of Sushi Club, handcrafting the gyoza at Sukiyaki House. As a student, I would pop by Sushi Club in Kensington for lunch as often as possible. I still remember how much I enjoyed those solo meals, as I had just moved from Vancouver to Calgary.

We sipped on ice-cold glasses of Asahi beer as we poured over the menu. I was feeling piggish, so I wanted to order a whack of appetizers. We selected the Chicken Yakitori ($9), Gyoza ($12), Spicy Prawns ($13), California Roll ($14), and an assortment of nigiri ($3.20-$5).

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a gift – tuna tataki. What a beauty! His creativity always makes me shake my head in wonder. I scooped a little of the fish eggs, raw tuna, avocado and pea shoots on top of the nori and pushed it together like a taco. The fried seaweed curled like a dry leaf in my hand and melted in my mouth. The fragrance of the ponzu sauce and the delicate crunch of all ingredients made this appetizer sensational.

L and I haven’t enjoyed yakitori since Japan, pre-Covid. I loved how the chicken was meaty and still juicy. The crevices were nicely charred. The teriyaki sauce was subtle and not sweet, letting the flavour of the grilled green onions come through.

What was the big surprise of the night was the house-made gyoza. Wowee! Now, this is a mother f#%*# dumpling! Steve doesn’t play around. The wrapping around the toothsome filling was beautifully crimped. The chicken and vegetable filling was hot and sausage-like, bursting with flavour. The rayu rice vinegar sauce was spicy and tart, brightening up the rich taste of the meat. L said this was the best gyoza he’s ever had. I would order this again.

This was my second time trying the spicy tiger prawns. If you like calories, you’ll love this dish. Each prawn was giant and battered like a fritter. I don’t know where Sukiyaki House purchases shrimp and prawns, but it’s the best I found in Calgary. The shrimp is always sweet, with a snappy texture.

I would order the spicy prawns again, but only if L ate his share. The chili aioli was so decadent that I felt dizzy. I blame L, as he kept pushing all the shrimp on me because he knows how much I love all things creamy.

Sukiyaki House offers two types of California rolls – one with capelin (fish) roe and another with sesame seeds. I’ve tried both. The version with caviar comes with rice paper, which gives a chewier texture, like the tapioca dumplings (banh loc tom thit) at Song Huong. The pairing of the crunchy fish roe, mango sauce and real crab meat was sublime. I have to say, though, that I prefer the version with sesame seeds a smidge more because of the flavour profile of the fresh crabmeat, roasted nori, avocado and toasted sesame seeds. Sukiyaki House may not have invented the California roll, but they perfected it. This is the only Japanese restaurant I’ll bother ordering a California roll.

It’s impossible not to snap out of a bad mood while eating Koji’s food. L said he felt sorry for people who come to Sukiyaki House and don’t appreciate it because they are used to McDonald style sushi. I thought those people wouldn’t want our pity nor appreciate us looking down on their taste buds. If someone said something similar about me as I’m happily devouring a Dave’s double cheeseburger, I’d tell that person where to go.

The food here is eye-rollingly good. L and I ended the night by morbidly proclaiming that we would die happy if we died that night. I don’t know why we always equate excellent food with our deaths.

My younger brother Jacuzzi is visiting me for the first time in Calgary. He doesn’t want Chinese or Japanese food, as there’s a plethora of both in Vancouver. However, I’m still tempted to take him to Sukiyaki House for certain dishes they do so well that aren’t sushi, like the tempura, butter clams, agadashi tofu and various tatakis.

Japanese · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Belated Valentine’s Dinner

There are so many new restaurants, recommended by chefs and influencers who really know their food, that I haven’t been to before — for example, Pat & Betty (@janohansen), Rau Bistro (@thehungrygnome), Golden Sands (@miss_foodie, @foodkarmablog), and The Curryer (@miss_foodie). I should try more places out because, truthfully, I think I have the most repetitive blog. If I find a restaurant I love, I’ll write about it post after post. The problem is, I don’t particularly like trying new places. Let’s listen to “Over and Over” by Nelly for this review.

I told L I wanted to go to Sukiyaki House for our belated Valentine’s dinner. I like coming here because I know what I am getting. When I visit on Wednesday, I know that Sukiyaki House receives its fresh fish straight from Japan. When the restaurant is slammed with orders, I know we are in good hands because Koji Kobayashi, the head chef, is so efficient; he’s equivalent to three chefs. I know that extra staff get called in when it gets unexpectedly busy. I also know that the team monitors the food quality. Once just before I finished eating a dish, Justin came over and asked if I liked it. I said yes. He said he was checking in with me because I was looking at the food carefully and eating much slower than usual, so he wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong with the food. How’s that for customer service? I’m not the only one that sees what a gem this place is, as Avenue Magazine just rated Sukiyaki House one of the 10 best restaurants in Calgary.

I was craving something fattening and delicious, so we ordered Chicken Kaarage ($13). I paired this dish with a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and, later, a crisp Asahi draft beer ($7). The squeeze of lemon cuts nicely into the crunchy crevices, adding brightness to the succulent chunks of chicken. The flavour of the julienned green onion was prominent.

Holy maki, Chef Kobayashi stuns again with another unique creation! The tuna tartare was paired with dainty pieces of nori that were battered and crunchy like a thin potato chip. The tuna was creamy with tiny crunchy bits, similar to watermelon. The scent of cucumber perfumed each bite. L raved about the subtle spice in the tartare that crept until you felt its heat. I noticed L was smiling as he ate.

We did our usual round of nigiri: Amaebi (Raw Shrimp, $4), Ebi (Steamed Shrimp, $3), Hamachi (Pacific Yellowtail, $4.20), Hotategai (Scallop, $ 4.20), Maguro (Tuna, $3), Shake (Atlantic Salmon, $3), Tako (Octopus, $3), Toro (Tuna Belly, $4.50) and an Aka Tekka Roll (Red Tuna, $6.50).

L wondered how they could get the steamed shrimp to taste so good. The shrimp is always so crunchy with explosively shrimpy flavour. The salmon and tuna were creamy, soft and cool on the tongue. We noticed that all the fish was served at the optimal temperature, neither cold nor warm. The flavour of bluefin tuna made my whole body tingle. I felt like the toro was richer and thicker in texture than the Maguro tuna. The Hamachi was meaty and tender, with a pleasant texture and flavour. The raw scallops were fat and clean tasting, with a silky, gorgeous mouthfeel. The scallops were so good I chewed as slowly as possible to enjoy the sensation and flavour. L loved that the nori (seaweed) in the maki roll still had teeth to it – like it was just toasted and had that dryness that snaps apart when you break into it.

I announced to L if I died that night, I would die happy. He agreed and said if this were our last meal, it would be an excellent way to leave the world. It’s always a good litmus test of a restaurant if you happily contemplate the end of your life after eating such a meal. I asked L how is it possible that one restaurant might give you so much pleasure? L responded that Sukiyaki House has a dream team – Anna, Judith, Justin, and Koji.

Even though I love coming to Sukiyaki House, I know I have to venture out. So I’m going to take a deep dive into the top ten list. I am usually skeptical of recommendations outside of my circle of friends, but I recognize several incredible restaurants on the list, which indicates this is a list worth investigating.

17th Ave · Fusion · Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In – Revisit

Another boring Saturday in what I consider the worst month of the year. January is generally cold, dull, and downright depressing. The only thing keeping my mood up is my latest obsession with Joan Jett. Now, that’s a chick who knows how to rock and roll. Let’s listen to “Do You Wanna Touch Me” for this post.

I told L I was taking him out for dinner at Sushi In, a Japanese restaurant in our neighbourhood. We ate there once when it first opened, but I gathered we went on an off night based on recent reviews on Instagram.

Our sushi and sashimi were the first dishes to come out. L enjoyed the Dynamite Roll ($8). This roll was simple – filled with a small piece of tempura shrimp and a smidge of avocado. He also tried the Salmon ($2.50), Tuna ($2.50) and Tako Nigiri ($3). He said the portion of fish to rice was proportional, and the seafood tasted fresh.

The Salmon Aburi ($12) is worth ordering again. Most places that serve aburi make it overly sweet. At Sushi In, the salmon had that perfect amount of char, just faint enough so that the flame-seared flavour wasn’t overpowering. The squeeze of lemon added an excellent brightness to the fish. The fatty flesh of the salmon was tender and warm.

The Assorted Sashimi ($25) was also a winner. Except for the surf clam, each piece was large and plump. The scallops were large and lightly seared. The hamachi (yellowtail) and salmon belly were rich and buttery. The tuna was creamy and smooth. The surf clam was sliced into segments, the texture was crisp and chewy. Our only qualm was the sashimi was served too cold. After letting the dish sit for about 10 minutes, the temperature was optimal. L and I both agreed the sashimi is worthing ordering again.

I noticed other customers raving about the Best Ever Roll ($9). However, this style of sushi was not for us. The roll was drenched in a sweet, crunchy coating. I could taste the garlic and seasoning that reminded me of spicy bbq potato chips. I know Sushi In is popular with customers for its specialty rolls, bedazzled with sauces and crunchy adornments. However, L and I prefer the traditional dishes, like the sashimi and nigiri.

The Vegetable Tempura ($10) was toothsome. All the vegetables were served still sizzling from the fryer, coated in a crunchy batter. I particularly enjoyed the rich, creamy texture of the pumpkin and avocado. I was also a fan of the zucchini, which melted in my mouth.

L wanted to try the Spicy Chicken Karrage ($10.95). This boneless chicken was spicy, saucy, and a little sweet. I enjoyed it, but I still prefer the crispness and flavour of Sukiyaki House’s chicken karrage.

I’m glad we gave Sushi In another try. We found the sashimi and sushi fresh and affordable. If you are looking for some neighbourhood sushi joint – traditional or fusion, I would recommend checking out Sushi In. Hitting the Sauce gives Sushi In two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Mega Sushi – Richmond

L, Jacuzzi and I went out for sushi. Since it was Christmas Eve, our options were limited. I picked Mega Sushi because our family friend recommended this restaurant. Let’s listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Coldplay for this post.

Mega Sushi is located on Chatham Street in Steveston. As we walked over to the restaurant, I saw seagulls swooping and screeching along the pier. I always find their cries comforting, because it reminds me of my walks along Granville Island.

The service was friendly and efficient. I could hear the chefs speaking softly to each other in Korean. It’s not a big restaurant. There are about a handful of tables. However, this restaurant does heaps of takeout – throughout our visit, there must have been at least a dozen orders going out.

L and Jacuzzi told me to pick all the food. I heard the specialty rolls at Mega are popular, but all those rolls are covered in creamy sauces and filled with deep-fried seafood. We wanted sashimi and the simpler rolls. I ordered a Salmon Maki Roll (Atlantic, $3.99), Negitoro Maki Roll (tuna belly and green onion, $4.50), two Chopped Scallop Rolls ($5.50), Deluxe Sashimi ($35.95), two Hokkigai Surf Clam ($2.50) two Tako (octopus, $3.25), Aburi Combo (Atlantic salmon and toro $13.95) and two Miso Soups ($1.50). 

The deluxe sashimi contained 18 pieces. The portions are generous – the sashimi was sliced into thick slabs. Each piece was from two to three bites.

The red tuna would have been perfect it wasn’t so cold. The salmon was fatty and creamy. I preferred the leaner, richer flavour of the sockeye. L was pleased with the octopus, which had a good crunch. 

The surf clam was firm and sweet. Jacuzzi rarely eats out. He mentioned the tuna melted in his mouth. Jacuzzi was enjoying the taste of sashimi so much, he would smile, close his eyes and chew as slowly as possible. Then, in between bites of fish, he would cleanse his palate with ginger to better appreciate each new piece. Damn little brother, I have to take you out more often. 

The salmon and negitoro rolls were nicely done. The seaweed was crisp and dry. Of the two rolls, I preferred the flavour of the tuna belly and green onion over the chunky filling of Atlantic salmon. I thought the sushi rice was nice, but L said it was a little too firm for his preference.

The chopped scallop roll was so good, we ordered a second. I liked the crunchy pop of the tobiko and the rich, eggy flavour of the Kewpie mayo. The scallops were plentiful, cool and silky on my tongue. 

The seared Atlantic salmon and toro were tasty, I could taste the smoky flavour on the top layer of the fish. I’m glad I tried the aburi-style sushi, but I still prefer the more basic sushi.

We all agreed we would go back for the sushi and sashimi. The highlight for me on this visit was the freshness of the seafood we sampled. Hitting the Sauce gives Mega Sushi two fat thumbs up.

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. 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.

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 can 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.

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.

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.

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 (bluefin 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