Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – L’s birthday dinner

On Friday, we celebrated L’s birthday at Sukiyaki House. On that particular night, because the restaurant was short-staffed, I couldn’t request omakase (a special menu curated by the chef). L said that was fine with him, as everything off the regular menu is exceptional. For this post, let’s listen to “Waltz for Roxy” by The French Note.

To start the festivities, we ordered a bottle of Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo ($55). Judith has superb taste – her sakes never disappoint. L marvelled at the smoothness and pureness of the rice wine. He said, unlike other sakes, this one was so easy to drink, almost like soda pop. This sake tasted so pretty; I could imagine fairies sipping it.  

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning gift for L’s birthday – seabass and snow crab sushi. L and I just sat there a moment in silence – admiring the food art. I didn’t notice there was an absence of rice until L mentioned it to me. The silky texture of the fish on fish was sublime. The creamy sauce tasted like roasted sesame seeds with a touch of sweetness. I loved the sea burst pop of the salmon roe and the crunchier snap crackle of the tobiko. I was smiling the entire time I ate. I never experienced this flavour and texture combination before. This dish was incredible – the best thing I’ve eaten in 2021. I thought the seabass sushi illustrated Koji’s wide range of creative talent. After sampling Chef Koji’s specialty dishes in the past few years, I can say he has multiple platinum hits and not a one-hit-wonder.

Our next dish was another beauty – Kanpachi Tataki ($24). I think this was the first time I tried Amberjack. I found the texture of the fish unique – the flesh was substantial and buttery with a clean flavour profile. L appreciated the subtle smoky sear, which he thought added to the experience.

The Tekka Roll (tuna maki roll, $5) was outstanding. The tuna was rich and creamy, which contrasted with the crispness of the toasted nori. I don’t understand how with only three ingredients, a dish can taste so good.  No picture was taken, as I had incorrectly assumed it would taste just like a regular old tuna maki roll.

I don’t know anyone else in the city that can do a better Shrimp Tempura ($12) than Sukiyaki House. The batter was light and flaky, and the shrimp was sweet and crunchy. My favourite part is the tempura sauce because I think the daikon and the grated ginger adds warmth and depth to the flavour profile.

If you like wings, you need to try the Chicken Karaage ($12). This is fried chicken perfection. The meat is so silky and tender, that chunks of meat easily split apart with a mere poke of a pair of chopsticks. The squeeze of lemon was perfect for helping cut into the fattiness of the crispy chicken skin. When I mentioned to L that the karaage was cheaper than wings at a pub, he noted that Sukiyaki House’s version also had no gristle or that purple bone marrow bruising you find in hot wings.

We ordered a round of nigiri: Amaebi (sweet spot prawn, fried shrimp head, $4); Ebi (steamed prawn, $3); Hotataegai (Hokkaido scallop, $4.20); Tako (steamed octopus, $3); Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) and Toro (albacore tuna belly, $4.50). L mentioned all the crevices made eating the scallop an elevated experience.

I enjoy having sake at Sukiyaki House, but for some reason, whenever I eat sushi, I crave a dry white wine. I was happy with the sauvignon blanc ($11) Judith picked out for me as I found it a well-balanced, easy-drinking wine.

For dessert, the birthday boy ordered Matcha Shiratama ensai ($9). I noticed all the fruit was at the perfect stage of ripeness. L loves Sukiyaki House’s homemade red bean. When he was eating his dessert, he looked like a kid enjoying his special treat. I think L was Japanese in his past life. Myself, I think I was Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. L can tell when I’m impressed with a meal because I always announce that if I died that night, I would die happy. I’m glad I woke up the next day because now I get to do it all over again. We are looking forward to Sukiyaki House’s future omakase nights. Thanks, Koji for making dinner a special event for L.

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 · Special Occasion · Sushi

Minami – Yaletown

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For Beep Beep’s birthday, I picked Minami.  She invited her friends Doris, Emma, Tien, Vanessa and my friend Naomi. Naomi, Beep Beep and I arrived early at 6:55 p.m for our seven o’clock reservation. Doris arrived at 7:35 p.m. Emma came at about 7:40 p.m. because she went to the wrong restaurant. Vanessa was only 25 minutes late. Tien pushed convention and arrived at 9:10 p.m. For this post, let’s listen to Carole King It’s too late.

Naomi ordered Miyazaki #2 cocktail ($15). I ordered Beep Beep a bottle of sparkling nigiri – Yauemon Shu Awa ($56/500 ml). I wasn’t feeling well so I refrained from drinking alcohol. I did take a sip of the sparkling nigiri – it tasted like all the other ones I’ve tried. Slightly sweet, cloudy with a pleasant dry finish. I thought the sake was well priced compared to Calgary. The liquor stores in Vancouver also charge less for sake than the liquor stores in Calgary. I’m guessing this has do to with taxation and the liquor markup in Alberta.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Salmon Oshi ($17), Ebi Oshi ($17), and Saba Oshi ($17). Beep Beep liked the salmon version the best. The flavour of the BC wild sockeye salmon and miku sauce was enhanced by Minami’s flame-seared technique. We both took the jalapeño off because you never know when you get a really hot one. I liked how the salmon oshi had two layers of salmon, unlike the ebi and saba oshi.

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Initially, I thought I wouldn’t like the ebi oshi because the flavour profile would be more delicate than the salmon. I was pleasantly surprised that the ume sauce was deliciously smokey. The pressed shrimp had a nice bite, the lime zest added a refreshing zing to it.

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The house cured mackerel was our least favourite. The fish was fishy and the texture was a bit mushy. I also thought the miso sauce didn’t do much to jazz it up. The sushi rice was the perfect balance of sugar and vinegar, so that I couldn’t taste one over the other. The rice was served at below room temperature.

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Beep Beep and I shared the the Premium Trio Aburi Oshi Sushi ($25). My favourite bite was the hokkaido hotate and botan ebi, topped with mentaiko aioli and amaranth. The raw shrimp was cool and creamy. The scallop was sweet.

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I liked the combination in the albacore tuna and otoro oshi. The garnish of tobiko oroshi ponzu and yuzu zest made this bite pop. The quality of the Japanese wagyu and hickory smoked bacon was excellent. The garnish of wasabi negi relish on the meat reminded me of the combination of horseradish and prime rib.

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The deep-fried shrimp head was cold and flavourless. I think it would have been better if the shrimp was fresh out of the fryer, squirted with  lemon, with a little more salt.

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Next time I visit I want to try the shittake mushroom nigiri ($2) and eggplant ($2). Naomi thought the nigiri was plain and needed soy or tempura sauce, as neither were provided. You can order vegetarian nigiri either tempura style or regular style.

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Naomi ordered the Nutigreen Farms Crumbled Tofu Salad ($14). It’s a delicious and flavourful salad, filling too. Chock-full of goodies like avocado, crispy tempeh, organic baby greens, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and shaved apple. It’s the type of salad that taste so good you know it’s high in calories.

I like Minami. The food is quite good and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I do prefer Miku over Minami for service, view and overall ambience. Hitting the Sauce gives Minami one fat thumb up.

Minami Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

View my food journey on Zomato!

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