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.