Beer · Japanese · Seafood

Seattle – Late Night at Tsukushinbo

Beep Beep and I arrived at the WorldMark Seattle at the Camlin. Beep Beep’s step-mother has a time share there and she gave us the penthouse for the weekend. We valeted Beep Beep’s car and hopped inside to check-in. That’s when the timeshare salesman pounced on us. After half an hour of hearing him talk nonstop about coupons and an Amex gift card for $150 if we attend a meeting (but don’t tell anyone because I’m just giving YOU a special deal), we finally got away to eat dinner. I picked Tsukushinbo based on the numerous and positive reviews on Yelp.

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The front of the restaurant is nondescript. Blink and you’ll miss it. The restaurant was busy and our server was attentive but she looked exhausted. From what I could see, she was the main server for the entire restaurant.

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The miso soup was thick, cloudy, rich and salty. There was lots of seaweed and slivers of green onions.

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We received a complimentary dish of edamame. These lightly salted, slightly warm pods weren’t the cheap frozen ones you get at T&T. The boiled soy beans were sweet. You know when the free stuff taste this good, the food is going to be fantastic.

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Beep Beep is pregnant and she can’t eat raw fish, oysters, and soft cheeses. She also won’t drink any booze, not even a sip. However, since she was craving sushi, I ordered her an ebi onigiri ($5). For her main, she wanted cold noodles ($12.99). I opted for the chirashi ($25).

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Not the prettiest onigiri I’ve seen, but it is one of the most delicious I’ve tried. The tempura crumbs were crunchy and light, and that soy soaked sauce over the perfect rice was mouth-watering. I didn’t try her cold noodles, but she said it was refreshing and yummy. Our server told us that her dish were one of the most popular items at the restaurant.

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My bowl of chirashi was worth every American dollar. The rice had a strong vinegar taste. The presentation and the cut of the fish wasn’t best, but the freshness was incredible. Each piece of fish tasted better than I can get in Vancouver. The eel and snapper, normally my least favourite, were the best. In the past, I found eel has an almost dirt like taste. At Tsukushinbo, you can taste the charcoal essence, the crispy skin and the sweet glaze. I thought the snapper had great texture.  This chirashi was without a doubt one of the best versions I’ve tried.

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I was starving when I got to Tsukushinbo but when I left I was uncomfortably full. We both would have loved to just return here night after night, but we wanted to see what else the city had to offer. Hitting the Sauce gives Tsukushinbo two fat thumbs up.

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

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Bars/Lounges · Beer · Japanese · Special Occasion

Shokunin – Guest appearance with BottleNick and J-Thug

The older I get, the harder it is to find a venue that plays music from my era. I know Modern Steak does a hip hop night on Fridays after 9:00 p.m., but that’s an hour before my bedtime. I recently found a restaurant that’s exactly what the late 90s/2000’s doctor ordered. Whenever I’m craving a night out with my favourite foods and tunes, I head over to Shokunin.

My husband L just came back from a week long conference, which meant I could guilt trip him into taking me out for a late night dinner. Moments after we sat down, two of L’s colleagues stepped inside. Imagine this song came on when we first saw J-Thug and BottleNick, two ballers entering the restaurant.

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J-Thug and BottleNick invited us to sit at their table. As they have never been to Shokunin, I suggested all the food.  I ordered J-Thug and myself a glass of sake, Kaiun “New Fortune” Iwaizake Junmai Daiginjo ($20/3 oz), while BottleNick and L stuck to bottles of Asahi. Unfortunately, the restaurant was again out of the Shokunin/Big Rock collaboration, Okami Kasu ($8/16oz), which is made with Canadian grown rice from the Fraser Valley in B.C. and sake lees from Vancouver. Poo! If you want some, you’ll to wait until June.

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BottleNick is a pescetarian, so I ordered him shiisito ($3) and mushroom ($3) yakitori, Japanese style potato salad ($8), rice ($3), the daily maki roll (scallop $16) and an octopus appetizer. The rice in the maki was a little hard. Looking back, I should have ordered him the scallop isoyaki (market price), which is a large sweet, still sashimi-like scallop roasted over charcoal, butter and soy. Next time.

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I ordered J-Thug the most expensive cocktail on the menu, this cool glass sphere filled with fog ($20). I think the main ingredient was a costly Japanese whiskey, and as the fog lifted, it would change the taste of the drink. According to J-Thug, it was worth the price tag. I tried a sip and yes, it’s out of this world.

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I also drank a lovely cocktail, the Remonado ($12), which is comprised of Beshi sake, Oolong tea and Yuzu lemon sake. Then I drank another sake, the Mikotsuru “Majestic Crane” Junmai Pink ($11).

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For food, J-Thug tried the chicken karrage ($11), which he thought was amazing. He also ordered thigh ($3) and skin yakitori ($2.50). The restaurant was sold out of gizzard, which J-Thug wanted to try.

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All of us except for Pescetarian BottleNick tried a piece of a handmade crispy braised beef tongue gyoza. Our favourite guy at Shokunin, Moto, highly recommended this dish. While I enjoyed the gyoza, it’s not one of my favourite dishes here. Rather, it was a complimentary dish presented by Darren MacLean, the owner and chef of Shokunin, that wowed us.

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Darren brought over a plate of four fresh Japanese Kabura turnips with the greens still attached. The turnip was sweet, crunchy and unbelievably fresh, while the rich saltiness of the red grainy miso and garlic dressing was just incredible.  J-Thug didn’t finish the greens and I really wanted to eat it but since we just met, I held back.

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L and I ordered our usual yakitori picks and Shokunin’s perfect steamed rice. We enjoyed dipping the chicken into the soy cured egg dip, which I’ve never seen before at any other izakaya. I tried chicken neck ($3.50) which was the softest meat ever. I also ate chicken skin ($2.50) which tasted like delicate crunchy fried chicken skin. To date, my favourite skewers rank in this order: chicken neck, chicken skin, chicken thigh (best value/flavour), chicken ass and chicken heart.

J-Thug said he couldn’t understand why this restaurant was getting such poor reviews on Zomato and Yelp. I can’t speak for when Shokunin first opened. However, I will say this place is not for those looking to get stuffed for cheap. It’s not possible with the top quality ingredients and the techniques employed here.

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After our feast, we decided to head over to Milk Tiger Lounge, J-Thug’s favourite bar. While service was very good and the crowd was fun, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear our conversation. All I could see were pictures of tang. I would have preferred to stay at Shokunin for drinks, as the prices are the same (if you avoid the crème de la crème sake and the more extravagant cocktails). Milk Tiger does have a larger and more varied beer list than Shokunin.  

This was my second time in Shokunin in two weeks. I might be in later this week for late night ramen if I can manage to stay up past 10:00 pm. I’m actually not a big ramen fan, but I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about.

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

Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum

U & ME – Dim Sum with the Ivy League Crew

Office Daddy and I were walking to Chinatown for lunch. We spotted Ms. Biz with her friends. Immediately, I told Office Daddy that we were not inviting ourselves to their lunch. Office Daddy snickered and told me when I repeated myself several more times that he heard me. He said, “I bet they are going to U & Me” and then ran up to Ms. Biz to say hello. Office Daddy walked with them for a couple blocks and asked them where they were going. “U & Me”, said Ms. Biz, “do you want to come? The more the merrier!”. Office Daddy gave a squeal like a teenage girl at a Justin Beber concert and looked at me defiantly.

Ms. Biz asked everyone for their input and proceeded to order Taro Dumplings, Chinese Doughnut Crepe, Black Bean Sparerib with Pumpkin, Gai Lan, Chicken Feet, Pork Congee with Century Egg, and Fried Turnip Cake. Ms. Biz gets the staff to fill up the pots with her own tea, which is lovely, fragrant stuff.

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All the dim sum we sampled was very good. The har gow was plump, full of crunchy sweet shrimp with a thin rice wrapper.

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The siu mai was full of juicy goodness, each with a whole fat shrimp, topped with roe. The wrapper was thin and firm, perfectly steamed just like the har gow.

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The Chinese doughnut was a large portion, the doughnut itself arrived soft and not crunchy. By the end of the meal, the doughnut was a tad mushy.

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The sparerib was meaty and not too fatty. The kabocha  soaked up all the juices and fat, yet retained its fluffy, chestnut like texture. Delicious.

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The turnip cake was crispy on the outside, the interior soft and firm. The cake was cooked properly, sizzling hot and cooked through. Some restaurants that are very busy sometimes get sloppy and serve it undercooked, so that the texture is too firm.

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I’ve been trying to eat chicken feet, mostly because I don’t want to seem like a Jook-sing around native speaking Chinese people. The chicken feet was soft and flavourful, but I almost gagged when I sucked the skin around the two claws. I couldn’t finish it. I guess I am what I am.

The Singapore noodles were cooked differently than I’m use to. Instead of the usual notes of curry and heat, the noodles took on that wok hei smell and taste. I also noted that U & Me was generous with the big pieces of shrimp. We all enjoyed this dish.

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The BBQ pork pastry was light and crispy, the filling of saucy sweet BBQ pork was still warm. Ms. Biz nodded in approval of the flakiness of the pastry.

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The pork congee with century egg was flavourful. I noticed the egg was cut up in smaller pieces than usual. The texture was smooth, and it was served piping hot. There was the addition of cilantro, which I personally dislike.

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The fried taro dumplings were incredible. The filling is noodle-like, soft and wet. The airy exterior was light and crisp and melted on your tongue. The flavour is hard to describe. The only thing I can think of is fatty pastry goodness. We actually ordered this dish twice, at Office Daddy’s request.

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The gai lan was cooked just to the point of tenderness. Bright green, crunchy and lightly sauced, I enjoyed meeting my quota of daily greens.

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The best time to eat at U & Me is on the weekdays and weekends, around noon. I’ve been at late night and the food does not taste as good. It makes sense to have the most senior chef working when the restaurant is at its busiest time.

Thank you Ms. Biz for welcoming us party crashers and treating us out for this dim sum feast. I also enjoyed meeting your friends, an affable group of post graduate Ivy Leaguers. It was refreshing to be in the company of intelligent yet humble individuals. My treat next time.

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U & Me Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato