This is a revisit. My first taste of the place as a take out, really doesn’t do the beauty of their dishes justice. So I was back by the recommendation of my guest today. She has been before and thus did all the ordering for us. Sometimes I enjoy not having to choose what I eat. I am actually not as particular as most of the people I dine with. I like trying new things, I have an iron clad stomach, I don’t have allergies or specific dietary restrictions, and most importantly I don’t bother with calorie counting nor do I diet. Allowing my guest to choose means I am given a chance to try things. Dishes I won’t normally gravitate towards. And for that very same reason I dine with many different people on rotation and am always looking for new friends and foodies to dine with. For example today we had a salad, something I would never spend money on myself. Today I definitely broadened my eating horizons.
Parking may be a difficult find between pricy lots and meters only available at certain times. With a tricky drive past j-walkers and those with no concern for rules of the road. Most transit with the skytrain a block away or take routes heavy with bus representation. Luckily or not so lucky, I reply on my $200 a month reserved underground parking stall.
We walked in with congestion at the doorway and a 45 minute wait to dine indoors. We opted for the immediate seating on their patio. Luckily the weather was accommodating and the temperature cooperating. The
patio was the width of the restaurant, picketed off with black iron railings. A flimsy barrier separating diners from pedestrians. Cramped together small and rickety tables allowed for maximum seating capacity. We had a view of the Granville entertainment strip and we gave Granville street a view of our meal. Such seating is a double edged sword, as we found out today. There was a need to hide from people we once knew, a chance to greet friends who passed by, and front row seats to a brawl with police to interception a few feet away. Definitely not a dull dining experience.
The menu was a laminated page listing shareable tapas, traditional Japanese styles and Japanese flavours reinvented with the chef’s own creativity. The usuals: Agedashi tofu, edamame, teriyaki, tempura, sushi rolls and nigiri pieces, rice bowls and noodle soups; were well represented. Together they were mixed with eyebrow raising choices like a real crab California roll, a vegetarian “enchanted forest roll” with eggplant tempura and miso infused mayo, a barbecued whole squid; and spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. If you haven’t found anything to your liking or have tried it all before, they offer a daily fresh sheet. A one pager printed with the date. A one page assembly of fresh catches and in season seafood only for today. Both our server and the menu literature printed in red suggested the spot prawns and the red snapper.
“Renkon Kinpira”. Lotus root sautéed and simmered in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil with a hint of chilli. The texture of lotus root it’s not for everyone, it is chewy and fibrous; similar to a potato but with more grit. This dish focused on its starchy flavour and the uniqueness of its hole filled demeanour. An easy to nibble on, slightly sweet, but mostly salty starter. I suspected that this was made before hand, to allow this level of marinating to permeate the root vegetable.
“Tako Wasa”. Wasabi leaf marinated baby octopus on cucumber served with miso paste. A do it yourself experience my guest had to first walked me through. I have tried similar on sheets of nori, but this would be my first with cucumber. I questioned their choice of serving the cucumber as sticks, as apposed to round slices. Its slim surface area with multiple sharp corners had us fumbling with the spreading of miso paste that wouldn’t adhere, and the balancing of the octopus salad that wouldn’t stay still. After we managed to get a bite in,the dish was light and refreshing with a citrus like tang. I made the mistake of being too greedy with the miso and salted my tongue to dehydration. Glasses of water was the easy remedy. We needed more cucumber than supplied, the individual components were very salty, and the use of cucumber was needed to successfully balanced things. There was plenty of miso and octopus left discarded as a result.
“Sashimi salad”. And assortment of fresh sashimi wrapped in rice paper with seasonal greens, topped with a mildly spiced dressing. I didn’t see or taste the rice paper mention in its description, nor did I really miss it. As I stated earlier, I normally don’t order salad, but wasn’t shy about picking through it to find what I wanted. Thinly cut, slightly chilled salmon and tuna sashimi. Crisp greens and brightly coloured cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and cucumber (here sliced). All the dressing pooled to the bottom. So there was a need to dig in order to submerge each vegetable for some added flavour.
“BBQ back rib”, Japanese style. Fall off the bone tender Canadian pork back ribs glazed with their own secret BBQ sauce. This was listed as their signature dish so it was a must try for us. Presentation wise it was certainly spot on, large meaty bones stacked neatly on a bed of greens. With every intention for you to use your hands, the serving came with a side of moist towelettes. Four in the dish, one for each bone ordered. My guest declared this as one of the very few she would consider the best she’s ever had. It was fairly easy to pry meat from bone. So easy that I was able to do so without dirtying my hands, I managed with chopsticks. The flavour was smokey with a thick sweeten garlic sauce. Good but the two I had were dried out and over cooked at their ends.
“Yakisoba”. We made ours seafood over the choice of chicken or vegetables. This despite my guest being slightly allergic to shrimp. Their version used egg noodles with beansprouts, tuna, salmon, and shrimp. The use of egg noodles had my guest declaring them nutritious. I enjoyed the noodles having a flavour on their own, almost sweet. I could have eaten them as is without the additional protein. Not that I found the overcook shrimp or fish having added anything to the dish. Though we made the mistake of leaving the noodles to continue cooking on the sizzling hot plate it arrived on. The bottom was half burnt, with noodle strands that needed to be scraped off.
From the daily special menu we added on their “Jalapeño popper”. Minced pork and chicken stuffed jalapeños in a tempura style. Served with a chilli garlic sauce. These were hot and absolutely made to order. The pepper wasn’t as spicy as I anticipated, I was able to enjoy two without the burning sensation I usual expect from such foods. Each bite with a dip in the sauce was substantial, you got all textures and all flavours. Deep fried with a crispy coat of light tempura, and stuffed soft with a meaty filling.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I always find Japanese tapas too light. The food is often good, but for the price paid and with the amount received, I am always left wanting more. I understand that finer ingredients correlates to a higher price, and I agree quality is worth the cost. I just don’t like leaving a restaurant hungry or wanting more after, especially after I have eaten several courses. Yes I could order more, but I don’t have the income to drop $75 per dining adventure. However after spending $50 after tax and tips on 6 beautifully dressed dishes I am changing my tapas tune here. Although not everything tasted as I would have expected: everything was salty, most of it was overcook, and outside of the presentation, you can find similar if not better else where. On a brighter note: we did receive hospitable service, the food came fast with flair, the location was convenient, and we received incredible value for what was paid and how much variety was given.
As they called themselves a sake bar and encourage the pairing of food with drink, I am certain the expectation is that we have a few pints with our meal, hence the level of salt. It’s pronounced presence is to encourage further drinking. Though it is not not worth a trip down when having to deal with parking. This does make a great
first stop on a night involving the adjacent club scene, or convenient for shopping in the surrounding area. Don’t deny your cravings.