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
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

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Ikebukuro Cheap Eats

It’s interesting traveling with other people. You get to learn their quirks. For example, TJ does not like to hunt for a good restaurant. Sometimes, she won’t eat for 24 hours. I asked her how she can go without food for so long. TJ responded I could do it too. You just go without. When she’s finally ready to have a meal, she wants her food immediately. Her criteria in Japan: 1) fast 2) convenient 3) cheap and 4) big portions. I’ve tried to bring her snacks to quell her appetite so I can search for a better restaurant, but I was unsuccessful. I’ve found a few places that meet her criteria. For this post, let’s listen to The Hanging Tree from the Hunger Games soundtrack.

TJ approved of Kareno Lo. I found this katsu curry shop, which was less than five minutes from our hotel. You buy your ticket from a vending machine. The descriptions are in Japanese, so make sure to bring your Google translate app with you. There’s only about 12 seats at the counter. It’s the sort of place you’d go by yourself to chow down and then get the hell out.

Once you get your ticket, hand it to a cook who will fry up your cutlet. The portions here are hearty. For about 900 Yen, you get a generous cutlet, rice and curry. The katsu at Karen Lo is superior to what you can get in Calgary. I’ve had better katsu in Kyoto, but I paid at least double that amount. The difference between Karen Lo and other higher end joints? You get a fluffier batter, different breed designations, variety of cuts, endless bowls of perfect rice, miso soup, pickles, salad, condiments and tea.

TJ tried to find Kareno Lo again without me but she couldn’t find it. I thought that was hilarious. This is a woman who can find any business, cultural site, university or village in Japan. Tj uses real maps, not Google map. She even looks up multiple maps for one location, because each version shows varying degrees of detail. I’ve got my own special powers. I’m a savant when it comes to eating out. I can remember every single restaurant I’ve even been to, everything on the menu, where the restaurant is located,  and what was ever written about the restaurant’s food. Sadly, no one gives out awards for this rare talent. I’d give the katsu 3.5/5.

The third place I found that TJ enjoys is Ginza Kagari Echika Ikebukuro. This noodle shop is located next to my favourite sushi joint by Exit C6 at Ikebukuro Station. There’s usually not a long line-up. I’m particularly fond of the cold soba noodles with the sardine dipping sauce. The cold, grilled vegetables and meats were refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the noodles. Bowls of soba cost 1000 Yen and up. I’d give the sardine noodles 4 out of 5.

I’ve tried the famous chicken soba soup with truffle mayo. The broth was very fragrant and rich, almost like butter.

I found Iwamotokyu at the end of our trip. Iwamotokyu is not nearly as good as the tendon chain – Tempura Tenya – but it’s open 24 hours. The soba is quite nice, far better than the rice, which was too wet. The noodles were firm, toothsome and almost nutty in flavour. The tempura itself was average. I’d skip the fish and meat and go for shrimp or veggies instead. For about the same price as a meal at the local 7/11, Iwamotokyu does the trick of filling up our bellies. Solid 3 our of 5.

Screen Shot 2018-07-24 at 7.08.24 PM.png

There you have it. There are loads of cheap eats in Tokyo. Not so much in Kyoto. To be continued.

 

 

 

 

Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Tempura Tendon Tenya

L gets annoyed when I use Yelp to find a restaurant. He said the restaurants I find on Yelp are good, but tailored to tourists. I agree with him, but the alternative are restaurants that do not want foreigners. I’ve found a number of restaurants catering to locals that turned us away. Plus, we are foreigners. I can’t even string together a coherent sentence. I found Tempura Tendon Tenya via Yelp, but this one is a winner. For this post, let’s listen to Shonen Knife’s Top of the World.

We were walking around Ueno Station when I opened up my Yelp app and saw the pictures of Tempura Tendon Tenya. I ignored L rolling his eyes and navigated to the restaurant. We were seated right away. I noticed all the customers were old men. Always a promising sign.

poster.jpg

We were given cold cups of tea. I noticed there was complimentary hot tea at a self-serve countertop. We went through the menu to view variations of tempura on rice and soba noodles. We picked the easiest and best value option – mixed tendon on rice for only 790 Yen.

bowl.jpg

The tempura is made by a machine. We waited about ten minutes for our bowls to arrive. Each bowl came with two shrimp, eel, fish, two green beans, seaweed, and a lemon peel. I found the portion quite generous, particularly for the price.

eel.jpg

Despite the bath of sweet tempura sauce, the generously battered seafood and vegetables remained crunchy and delicate. Oh god – this was good stuff. The tempura lemon peel was refreshing and decadent. The eel tasted like an oyster.

seaweed.jpg

The shrimp was crunchy and toothsome. The seaweed was incredibly delicious – there was a layer on top of the seaweed that gave it some bite. The rice was good – firm and sticky. Next time I come, I want to order all shrimp tempura and seaweed.

poster wall

There was an old man who made a loud production when he went to pay for his meal. The cook and staff come out of the kitchen to see who was making the commotion.  L and I were quite shocked because no one in Japan makes a scene unless their drunk. He was yelling and it sounded like he was complaining about the food. The female server said yes, yes, so sorry a few times in a quiet soothing voice. Then she asked him to settle his bill.

I spoke to TJ about our meal at Tendon Tenya. She informed us that Tenya is a chain restaurant and one of her favourite places for tendon. I told her about the scene the customer made and she concurred that it was very unJapanese to make a public spectacle like that. She mentioned that people with mental disorders are often not diagnosed in Japan, implying that the man’s behaviour was abnormal.