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Category: Japanese Page 1 of 15

Tojo’s Restaurant, Cocktail Hour

Admittedly, this is my first visit to the Vancouver institution that is “Tojo’s”. The restaurant has garnered much attention and many accolades thanks to the local celebrity chef with the same name. Tojo-san is better known as the creator of the widely popular “California roll”. And his restaurant on West Broadway has seen sushi trends come and go, but it still remains one of thee spots for authentic Japanese cuisine.

Most recently they have opened their sake bar, and with it a focus on cocktail hour drink specials. Normally, their two hours of discount food and drink is available from Thursday to Saturday from 4-6pm. However, for the winter season, they are attracting more diners by extending the promotion across Monday to Saturday 4-6pm. Ideal for those in search of a warm perch and a cold drink.

For many, their sake bar serves as a great transition into dinner. For most, it is an approachable and cost effective way to enjoy the quality and prestige of “Tojo’s”, at prices one can afford day to day.

The restaurant is a beautiful space, modern and open with plenty of seats. If given the choice, I would opt for the sushi bar. They are the best seats in the house, especially when Tojo-san is behind the bar, and you catch a glimpse of him rolling his career defining sushi. And speaking from experience, he is very accustomed to having his photo taken, posed or not.

Although today we were gathered in the lounge, with vaulted ceiling and a well stocked bar. The locale only seemed fitting given our intended tasting of their entire cocktail hour menu. This was a brighter space thanks to the full window-ed exterior; although with the onset of earlier nights, this was fleeting. Here, bouquets of fully bloomed lilies crowned tables, green leaves and vines added freshness with bamboo accents, and the ceiling is hung with lanterns and a traditional Japanese sun umbrella.

We were all lined up at the bar, to be able to watch the quick hands of their bar manager, Akira; craft “Tojo” exclusive cocktails, created by Jeff Savage of “Fairmont Pacific Rim” fame.

Akira started everyone off light with one of their highballs. The “Japanese” one features Suntory Toki with a Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech Bitters, and Soda. It was easy to drink. It didn’t mask the refined flavour of the smokey whiskey with sugar or syrups, and there no burn to follow. This was the epitome of a simple and clean cocktail, one that even a non drinker can appreciate. Similarly, they had two additional country-themed highballs. The “Canadian” features Lot 40, and the “Scottish” one, Johnnie Walker Black.

Next we had the “Tokaido 53”, which was described as a riff on a martini. It was inspired by “journeys on the ancient road connecting Kyoto and Edo”. It was made featuring Bison Grass Vodka, Kazuki Gin, and an Herb and Citrus Oil. This is for those who like a stiffer cocktail. Strong in botanicals and fragrant florals, with a flavour that transitions as it goes from sip to swallow.

The “Salaryman” was as easy to drink as an iced tea, but with substantial citrus punches. The menu suggested this as a “stern cocktail”, that is best way to end your work day. A Japanese Whisky Blend, with notes of Matcha and Black Sesame. Although I wish I could actually taste more of the latter two, and/or see it as a dusting on top of the actual cocktail.

My favourite drink of the night was “Tojo’s Milk Punch”. Eastern flavours prepared with Western techniques, for something new and different. Bank’s 5 Island Rum, Shiso, Sencha, Mint, Lime, and Clarified Milk. This too I found easy to drink; and great of you don’t like the taste or burn of liquor. My dinner mates described this one as being “dangerous” because it tastes too much like punch with a creamy, milky, sweeter finish.

And lastly we had the “Kitsune Gimlet”, a cocktail that was tart and tangy. A punchy sour that wakes you up, and is made with Kazuki Gin, Yuzu, Honey.

Given that “Tojo’s restaurant” is better known for their luxury experience, you can also indulge in some premium sake. One of the bottles above is $2000 and the other runs for $6k. They are both exclusive go “Tojo’s” with the latter being the last of its kind.

As for food, we got a first hand look at their upcoming yakitori option. Only available during cocktail hour and made before your eyes, the station is a hot griddle with “Chef Drago behind it, at the ready. After a good oiling the heated surface is used to cook sticks of marinaded meat and tofu. And half the fun is watching the colour of either transition to a delicious gold brown, whilst hearing the snap and crackle of a hot oil and juices sizzle.

The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy, seasoned in a simple salt and pepper dusting.

The tofu could have used more dressing in my opinion, but considering what it is, it did offer a nice break between the meat sticks. Firm tofu with a garlicky sauce brushed over generously.

But my favourite yakitori was the beef, flavoured in an orange juice and brown sugar marinade. The milder citrus helped to enhance the natural flavour and juices of the beef.

Much like the tofu, I judged the next plate on my list before seeing it or trying it; and was pleasantly surprised as a result. The vegetarian “Miso mustard lotus root” are cube of taro sitting in a pool of tango miso. They are crunchy in texture and slightly spicy with a chilli mayo. Each block rich and satisfying.

Next, we got tofu a different way with the “Tofu Ankake”. This is describes as an agedashi tofu with eggplant, both sitting in a thick broth. It was a beautiful dish, the vegetable offered some textural interest to pair with the silken tofu. Here, I would have liked some additional broth, to be able to enjoy the whole more like soup instead.

For actual soup we had “Tojo’s chowder”, it looked like a classic chowder, but was much lighter and less chunky. And it still ate creamy, but with Japanese nuances. Mussels, salmon, carrots, and plenty of onions.

The “dashimaki + caviar” was a crowd pleaser: Japanese egg omelette topped with ikura & tobiko. Everyone appreciated the work that went into crafting the thin layers of egg omelette, that folded into one another, seamlessly. I especially liked the mix of textures it brought to my mouth. The fluffy egg, the pops of roe, and the mashed radish.

But my favourite dish for taste was “Tojo’s tuna”. This is one of his signature dishes made with wild albacore tuna in a wasabi and sesame sauce. The delicate fish didn’t need any additional seasonings, but the pool of sauce at the bottle of the bowl was there if you thought otherwise. I also liked the added crunch the crushed peanuts provided, offering up a completely new sensation.

The “Royal Chicken” was deep fried white meat chicken stuffed with asparagus. Beautifully done and presented, but a little dry for my tastes. I wanted more of a saucy gravy to dip it into, instead of the salty plum paste served on the side. Although the plum did pair well with the shisho leaves, embedded somewhere within the roll.

The chicken in the “Citrus and sea salted wings” on the other hand, was right up my alley. Crispy organic chicken, prepared “Tojo-style”, which means mess-free. In fact they take the time to push all the meat to the tip of the drumlet for a more aesthetically pleasing look. There was plenty of crunch to this simplified wing: juicy, salty, meaty, and just well done. And the side of tempura sweet potatoes were well chosen, they added balance and starch to the serving.

The “Bbq scallop” was a show stopper, served in shell with tomato, snap pea, carrots, and enoki mushrooms; all soaked in a bright dashi broth. Delicious.

The “Wagyu sukiyaki” was comforting. Thinly sliced piece meat, fried rapidly with vegetables and a light teriyaki-like sauce. All of which are piled high over chewy glass noodles. I would love a full serving of this for any meal.

And you can’t visit “Tojo’s” without having his “Tojo maki”. As “The Pioneer of the modern California Roll” this one speaks volumes; showcasing local Dungeness crab. It was lovely. A classic and I have no complaints.

We rounded out the night by bringing back the hot grill and “Chef Dragon” got back behind it. With dual flippers in hand, he made everyone their own individual size seafood okonomiyaki. “Okonomiyaki” is a savoy Japanese pancake. This one has shrimp, scallop, and plenty of shredded cabbage; held together with a wheat-flour-based batter. Worth noting is that this rendition had very little batter, allowing the crispiness of the shredded and stringy cabbage to take centre stage. If we weren’t full from all the above, we were now.

And as a amazingly cute gesture, “Tojo” presented each of us a hand picked bag of small Fuji apples, as we said our goodbyes for the night. This gesture is not the norm, but fully appreciated, nonetheless.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In short, and to repeat myself. “Tojo’s” new cocktail hour menu is worth checking out. A taste and teaser of this famous restaurant at great prices, paired with amazingly crafted cocktails; what’s not to love? Don’t deny your cravings.

TOJO’S
1133 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6H 1G1
(604) 872-8050
tojos.com

Green Leaf Café

I enjoyed my visit to the Broadway location so much, that when looking for a place for dinner in Burnaby, I was more than happy to visit their original location. It is a larger space with a larger menu. Although, with so much on their menu worth exploring, I had to take in their restaurant twice, before writing this review.

The Burnaby location is definitely the largest property of the two. A restaurant that greets you with its bar, well lit in the form of their logo. Available seating spills over on either ends. I can best describe the whole as a cabin, with wood planked walls, wooden floor boards, and worn wood tables and chairs that match. Wooden clocks hang on the wall, wooden ornaments hang from light fixtures, and wood crates are repurposed as shelves. The latter of which is used to showcase a collection of rustic antiques, glass bottles, and faux plants as decor. They even serve you the bill in a wooden water bucket.

The menu is pretty straightforward. A list of omelette rices, fritters, meat on grills, “big fresh greens”, “rice house”, stuff from their raw bar, fresh oshi, aburi oshi, pasta + udon, “gimbal” (Korean style rolls), and “social sharing” platters. Self explanatory, but I still could have used a lot more photos, if any. Considering they are a fusion restaurant, it would make the ordering process easier. You also might order more, when being able to see what you will be getting before hand.

They are well known for their omelette rice, and not coincidentally I tried all they had to offer under this category. The “Tornado omelette rice” is available in a sweet and savoury demiglace or in a creamy jalapeño sauce. We got the former, taking in to consideration our server’s recommendation. It is a marvel how they are able to whip eggs this smooth, then churn it like spun fabric. The result, a unique texture that is both chewy and airy. Comforting with the familiar gravy and tender rice.

Similar in taste, but with a varying texture in it eggs is the “House omelette rice”. This too is served in a sweet and savoury demiglace, but with fried garlic flakes, tomato, and chilli. The flavour is similar to a sweet pasta sauce with the inclusion of stewed tomatoes embedded into the rice. Overall good, but I would have liked all it with a sweet Japanese curry sauce instead. Here, the eggs are beaten in to sponge-like consistency, it ate like tofu in the way it melted. But the highlight of the dish, was the crispy garlic chips that added a crunch and some depth of flavour.

The “Soufflé mushroom risotto”, applied a different technique to preparing its eggs. Foamy and light, it was well described as a “Cloud egg omelette”. With jalapeño, it sits over a creamy mushroom risotto. The cloud separated like meringue. It created a nice break, something light and refreshing to balance out the richness of the earthy mushrooms. Together, this made for another comforting dish to curl up with.

In a completely different direction, we had the punchy “Spicy crunch prawn”, under the “tempura” section of the menu. Five pieces of battered and deep fried tiger prawns, coated heavily in a spicy mayo and tangy brown sauce. It all sits on a bed of greens that functions like a mixed green salad. It tasted like the filling of a sushi roll that I have had before, and I wanted it like that again, with its slower burn. With all this flavour, it needed a base to even things out. It needed rice.

“Green Leaf” is also known for their “oshi”, Osaka style pressed sushi. The obvious choice is their flame-kissed aburi oshi in salmon. And although I am sure I would have enjoyed it, I had to order the most interesting of my options, which was the “Basil ebi tiger prawn oshi”. Tiger prawn, basil pesto oshi sauce, black olive, and Parmesan cheese. Not surprising, it tasted like a pasta dish, minus the black olive slice that over powered, and felt out of place. The whole bite left me wanting wanting garlic bread and a red wine, thanks to the pesto and parm combo. Overall, fun for novelty, but not one I would order again. It is probably best along side other oshi, and used as a break in between bites.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Good food, familiar and comforting flavours, and a menu with plenty more worth exploring. Where else can you get eggs like this? Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN LEAF
9604 Cameron St, Burnaby, BC V3J 1M2
(604) 444-9802
greenleafcafebc.ca

Koyuki Ramen, Japanese Tapas

Today I was invited down to “Koyuki” to check out their Japanese fusion tapas menu. Located just off robson on Jervis street, this hole in the wall specialized in Sapporo style ramen.

The restaurant utilizes chalk boards to walk you through the history and heritage of their authentic Sapporo style ramen. Like how they use three types of miso to flavour their soups: red, white, and “mix”. And how it authentic, hailing from Sapporo city, which is also referred to as “ramen kingdom”.

Given this testimony in chalk, we had to order one of their bowls. Their “Tonkotsu ramen” had a pork based broth with Chau-shu, green onion, garlic chips, half a soft boiled egg, and your choice of noodle thickness between thin or thick. We got the latter in this nice simple broth. Which was mild in flavour, compared to all the other dishes below. My guest liked how you were actually able to make out the smokiness of the seared pork within the creamy broth itself, but found the meat dry.

As for their smaller share plates, there were so many creative things to try on their fusion menu. Familiar items I liked, combined together to form something new. Like their specialty, the “Curry poutine”. The curry was a deliciously rich, Japanese style sweet curry, it almost had the consistency of gravy, (like there would normally be in a poutine), and included melted bits of cheese. I could have done without the addition of the pork chunks. They were hard and dry, and really didn’t offer much to the dish. The fries were also quick to go soggy for a mealy potato texture. Although I still enjoyed the dish, and now want their curry over other potatoes like a baked potato, or some that are mashed.

The “Pizza tempura” was another two becomes one for some fun. Frozen pizza (I am only guessing because it tastes like some that I have had from a grocery store), deep fried in tempura batter and served with ranch dressing as a dip. I liked the idea and the extra crunch the tempura gave, but I found it too oily. It would have been nice to find a way to blot some of the greasy off, or to choose a lighter pizza to tempura. Maybe a simple cheese, instead of the deluxe toppings, paired with the classic tempura sauce to dip into for a cleaner dish. Although after a few drinks in, having this as is on the menu, sounds like it would hit several spots.

Similarly, the chicken wings were also oily. From four different flavours I choose the Japanese bbq with melted cheese and mayo. The addition of cheese and sauce over wings were a novel idea, but the cheese was greasy, and its oils pooled on the plate. The weight of the cheese took away from an otherwise crispy wing. I would have liked the melted cheese and mayo as a dip instead.

Their “Japanese pancakes” is one that is highted as being “popular” on the menu. Good enough, but it wasn’t my favourite rendition of this Japanese street snack. It was overly salty with too much sauce. Whereas, I wished it was doughier, with a more satisfying chew.

And my favourite dish of the night was the “Tonpei”. A fluffy egg omelette wrapped around slices of pork and shredded cabbage. It was messy, hard to cut into, and harder to share, on its small plate. But once you were able to dig in, it was a tasty dish offering a variety of flavours and textures to comb through. The pork was chewy, the egg spongy, and the lettuce refreshing with a nice crunch. And it was the sauces brought all together with a tangy creaminess.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A fun spot for some great eats. Creative tapas to try and share, best enjoyed with a beer; because it does get salty and greasy at points. But that is just my own doing in ordering. Don’t deny your cravings.

KOYUKI
795 Jervis St, Vancouver, BC V6E 2B1
(604) 695-9177
koyuki.ca

Kanpeki Teppanyaki, FEAST: Asian Dining Festival

“Feast” is the annual Asian dining festival that encourages guests to travel to Richmond and taste from a collection of its restaurants. Each of the participating establishments have created specialty menus that allow you to try their cuisine at a special cost saving price. And it is not just Chinese food, but restaurants serving Korean, Persian, Japanese, and Indian cuisine are included as well. From October 18th to November 18th, you too can visit over 30 restaurants to try something new, or something you might not otherwise want to, at full price.

In order to get me to a handful of them I was loaned the use of the 2020 “Subaru Ascent” for the week. And although Richmond is convenient to get to via the Canada skytrain, nothing beats a comfortable ride in a well build vehicle.

My first restaurant was “Kanpeki Teppanyaki”. Since I had to travel to Richmond to pick up the vehicle, I might as well stop at one of the restaurants for a late lunch. They are open at 3pm with an extensive happy hour menu, perfect for the after work crowd, or the ones trying to avoid rush hour traffic driving into Vancouver. But we were here to try their limited release Feast menu, and needed to save room for that.

$50 gives you 10 course and then some, which includes appetizers, a show on the Teppanyaki grill, and a dessert. Meant for one, we shared an order and found ourselves plenty full. Although if you didn’t, you could order off their regular menu after, and there certainly is plenty to consider. Premium wagyu beef, raw seafood towers, fresh abalone and uni, and plenty of sushi.

For our “Feast” feast, the first course was a mixed greens salad with an Italian dressing. I was impressed by the inclusion of fig slices amongst the shredded carrot, cherry tomatoe halves, cucumber, and leafy greens. However there was far too much dressing up top, and this took away from all of that. It is better to toss it first, which is hard to do in the small bowl it was served in.

The “Chef’s daily appetizer” varies so what I have might not be what you get. A trio of seafood forward tasters to help open the appetite.

The mound of crab meat was buttery with a sweet finish. I just wished it and the micro greens were sitting on top of a cracker to round out the bite more. A base to give you more texture to chew through, than whispy threads of crab.

The fresh oyster was satisfyingly crisp with the ponzu sauce.

And the “tako” (octopus) chunks were cut down to the perfect size, making them enjoyable to chew through. Each cube tasted refreshing with a light citrus dressing, accompanied by thinly sliced cucumber.

Our appreciation of the deep fried oyster was dependent on timing. My guest enjoyed it just fine, eating it right away. Although by the time I got to my portion, it was soggy with an unappealing sponge-like texture. It also didn’t taste great, giving me an out of place sour cinnamon flavour. In short, always eat the deep fried items first.

The “Seafood miso soup” had plenty to sift through; with clam and crab meat in shell, tofu, and seaweed. The soup was smokey and very flavourful.

Next came the teppanyaki portion of our meal, just as much of a show as it is dinner. Your food is prepared on the heated metal plate at your table. A trained chef tosses, stirs, and shovels with two metal spatulas. They don’t put on a performance here, like they do at other such dining experiences; no fancy egg cracks or onion volcanos. This is Hong Kong style teppanyaki, where the emphasis is on the food, and it showed today.

You are given a collection of sauces, though truthfully you won’t need them. A lemon sauce, a cocktail based one, and a sesame sauce; all made in house, much like the spicy xo sauce scooped to serve.

First to kiss the flame was a jumbo tiger prawn, caramelized in butter. This is one of the largest and juiciest I have had the pleasure of eating and it did not need any saucing.

The rest of the meat and vegetable were seasoned to our specifications. The “foie gras usuyaki” had the foie gras grilled with green and fried onion; then wrapped in a thin slice of beef. The excess oil from the foie gras is saved to be used to better flavour the fried rice to come. Here, is where the sauces above came in handy. The meat was bland and needed some salt and kick. I liked the spicy xo sauce with it the most.

I fully enjoyed the fried rice. It starts with a cracked raw egg, and to it rice and corn is added, green onion is folded in, then a handsome amount of tobiko to finish it off. The result, a very tasty fried rice that I wanted to enjoy alone. The foie gras drippings didn’t go unnoticed, and I enjoyed the mini pops the tobiko offered.

The “Angus beef tenderloin” was perfectly prepared to a medium rare. Seared with fire and cut into cubes for easy sharing. This too was incredibly well seasoned. Especially tasty when paired with the vegetables below.

The “Deluxe fried vegetables” were multicoloured peppers, cabbage, and carrots. Fried crispy with butter, this too didn’t need any additional seasoning.

Where our meal lacked was the ice cream for dessert, available in either green tea or mango. Everything was so amazing and uniquely them, so to end on store bought ice cream, with ice crystal chunks embedded with, left the set at a lower standing.

Overall this was a delicious meal, where the value is in the ability to watch it being assembled before your eyes. This was very much so a show that got you hungrier for what was it follow. A nod to the charming staff who delivered on this, with light conversation and a warming invitation to enjoy what’s before you. The service was great, my tea was never cold, and our setting was well looked after. And at $50 for the full experience, I highly recommend this opportunity if you have never had teppanyaki before!

Once again this $50 Feast menu is only available until November 18th, so best to take advantage and order sooner then later. For the other participating restaurants and what they are offering during this festival, visit the link below.
https://asianfeast.ca/

KANPEKI TEPPANYAKI
8351 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1C3
(604) 821-1323

#asianfeast #subaru #subaruBC #richmondbc
@feast_asian, @docksteadersubaru, @subarucanada, @wolfesubaru @wolfesubaruonboundary @richmondsubaru_bc, @jpsubarunorthshore, @jpsubarucoquitlam, @jpsubarusouth

Fu Fu Cafe

Fluffy soufflé pancakes are Vancouver’s newest food trend. And now you don’t have to travel all the way to Richmond for its eggy goodness. In this post, I got a sneak peek of “Fu Fu Cafe”, Vancouver’s first (and currently only) fluffy soufflé pancake destination.

With custom made furnishings and an interior that is French inspired, the cafe is worth visiting for the decor alone. Several shades of blue cover various walls, embellished with Art Deco lines and roaring 20’s-style lamps.

All picture ready and picture-esque right at the threshold. Like the neon lights spelling out their name and logo. And the dried baby’s breath sprigs, framing two seats by the door. It all made for a very compelling backdrop for a photo or two.

Given that they are still in their soft launch phase, the following may change, or the photos might not be as you may have them.

Their grand opening is on Saturday, September 7th and they have just the promotions to get you down for a visit. The first 50 customers get their “Fufu classic soufflé pancakes” for free. And every one else can enjoy them at 50% off, for the entire day. But be warn, space is limited and due to the intricacies of the product, be prepared to wait (they are also only serving the classic on that day). It takes approximately 15 minutes to make this specialty dessert from scratch. And the staff takes pride in making them perfectly, so the art of crafting them does takes time.

The classic is available one of two ways. Either as a stack of three soufflé pancakes with butter, maple syrup, and their name dusted in icing sugar. Or three layered across the plate with salted cheese, whipped cream, and icing sugar.

I was able to try the former. And there is something just so satisfying about watching a stack of these thick rounds jiggle as a tower. The soufflé pancakes are essentially the same across the 8 menu items, but with your choice of toppings to mix things up. In truth, I love the pancakes as they are, plain with no dressing; , so its nice to have the butter and the syrup on the side as an option. They are so silky and smooth, like eating congealed foam, in the best of ways. A texture so unique that you go back for spoon after spoon, sipping it like soup. If you have never tried it, you should, you won’t find anything else like it.

I would get the “matcha mochi souffe pancake” for all its fun sides to pick though. Two stacked soufflé pancakes with shiratamako mochi, house made matcha sauce, matcha whipped cream, white chocolate flakes, matcha powder, and a scoop of chocolate raspberry ice cream from “Rocky Point ice cream”. All the combined flavours of the matcha was rich and fully formed, but none of it took away from the light eggy custard-ness of the pancake. Although my favourite element to this plate was the perfectly chewy mochi balls. I would tell you to share the dessert, considering the portion size, but you’d want all 5 of the mochi balls all for yourself.

The one that sure to be a fan favourite is the “Tapioca pearl milk tea soufflé pancake”. So highly anticipated that they have already listed it as being in limited quantity, with a specific time frame of availability. Two stacked soufflé pancakes topped with an in-house made earl grey milk tea sauce, with plenty of tapioca pearls on the dessert, and additional pearls in a jug if you want a little extra, or that “pouring shot”.

That covered that menus staple, the following is one of their rotating flavours. Every week they will be offering 3 different flavours of soufflé pancakes, giving your reason to visit time and time again. Great idea honestly. Speaking of which, they have many more in the works, as they continue to churn out unique hits; luring foodies, like myself, in to try all their creative variations.

Creative concoctions like brunch time soufflé pancakes with smoked salmon and avocado, and one that mimics an egg Benedict with two poached eggs, bacon, and house made hollandaise. And soufflé pancake that have a flavour mixed into the batter like chocolate, of mango; and/or maybe even a savoury green onion soufflé pancake? I would expect nothing less from one of the geniuses behind “Mister” ice cream’s crazy flavours at the helm of this. Oh the possibilities are endless here, and I hope they take all of them in consideration!

But back to the soufflés at hand. Opening week they will have a Nutella and caramelized banana soufflé pancake, a tiramisu one with espresso sauce and mascarpone; and the following “lemon creme brûlée pancake.

Two stacked soufflé pancakes poured over with a house made lemon creme brûlée sauce, lemon yogurt ice cream, and seasonal fruits. And a sprinkle of sugar atop gets torched for that tell-a-tale creme brûlée crackle sensation. The citrus helps to break apart the otherwise decadent serving of cream and sugar. A unique interpretation to a classic recipe.

For those looking for variety, this cafe also serves up fresh baked goods, daily. Sweet morsels from the kitchen of pastry chef, Remi. (Also known for his delicious works, available at “Argo”, “Prototype”, and the “Paragon Tea Room”.) today we were able to try his hojicha cookie, espresso cheese tart, Japanese cheesecake, and matcha short bread. I liked them all and would travel for them, and to gift them. The cheesecake was a heavenly sponge. The two toned cookie gave me slightly bitter matcha partnered with buttery biscuit, for an excellent balance. And the cheese tart was creamy and flakey, and gently kissed with notes of coffee.

As for drinks, they serve coffee from “Argo” coffee roasters and are working on bubble tea in the future, an easy win considering that they already have half the ingredients.

In the meanwhile, you can and should try their fresh fruit sodas available in mixed berry, peach and lemon, passion fruit and pineapple, and grapefruit and orange.

I don’t like passion fruit normally, so was surprised by how much I liked it in the drink here. Passion fruit pulp and pineapple chunks mixed with a sparkling soda. Crisp and refreshing with the effervescent bubbles popping in your face, as you sip and chew through crunchy passion fruit seeds.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
“Fu Fu Cafe” serves as a great after dinner, dessert destination, for dategooers and diners alike. They are in a great location, with no other dessert options in the neighbourhood, let alone any deserts like it in this vicinity. And with plenty of things in the works, you will come once and be back again soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

FU FU CAFE
1266 West Broadway, Vancouver BC

Saku Broadway

Today we were at “Saku”, my girl friend has been wanting to check out their Japanese pork cutlets for a while now, as they are the only place in Vancouver that specializes in them. The Robson location also serves ramen, but today we were at their newest shop on Broadway.

Luckily she came early enough to beat the dinner time crowd, and the need to write your name on a wait list. The restaurant is pretty simple, high stools along a curved bar, more by the window out front. Tables against a booth and a couple of round surfaces for larger parties. All in all pretty minimalistic. We got one of the two tops available. Each table is set with a tray of condiments. Before we ate, our server asked if we have dined with them before. Given that the answer was “no”, she walked us through each one of the sauces. The sesame dressing is for the salad, the seeds for any thing you like, the tonkatsu sauce is in addition to what you are given with your entree, and lemon salt to use as a tangy seasoning.

Their menu is a beautiful representation of their food. The first page greets you with the sourcing of their ingredients. Pork bred to Japanese specs, raised here in Canada. The finest cuts with the perfect amount of marbling and fat. Their panko is Japanese style bread crumb, baked fresh every morning. It is prepared by a local bakery, from a specialized recipe, that ensures the panko doesn’t absorb too much oil. (I can certainly vouch for this to be true). And their tonkatsu sauce is made using fresh fruits and vegetables with the addition of premium white sesame to enhance it.

The rest of the menu is categorized by type of protein: pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables, each getting a coating of panko. They also had a specials list. I was interested in the potato croquettes on it, but by 6:30pm they had already run out for the day.

Instead I had the “Ebi hotate curry”. Deep fried and breaded jumbo size prawns and scallops, served with their signature curry. I was amazed by how large the pieces of seafood were. With two of each, there were more of them than rice or curry. Here, I am not complaining, just noting the rarity of such a thing. This was plenty of food, including 4 sides. Well worth the $19 cost, given how tasty it all was. Certainly one of the crispiest panko breaded items I have ever enjoyed, and all without the grease. You were still able to taste the natural flavours of the seafood. The curry was scrumptious, rich and savoury ending in some sweetness. Served in a gravy boat for you to dip into or pour over your rice, as you like.

As for the sides, the miso soup was given a unique twist with the inclusion of boiled onions to chew through. It offered a French onion soup quality to it, and the onions ate like strands of cooked melon.

I was surprised by how much I liked the salad. It is a bottomless serving. Servers roamed between the tables, offering up an additional tong-fulls of shredded lettuce from their giant metal bowls. But it was the sesame sauce that made me go back for more. It had a great flavour, furthered by a couple of shakes from the sesame grinder.

And lastly, the small dish of rainbow pickles offered a change in taste through a variety of tastes and varying tartness. Altogether a great meal, I just wish they had tea to pair with it instead of soda or juice (which they too ran out of by 6:30pm). Or some dessert to end on.

My guest got their “Cheese katsu”. It is deep fried, breaded mozzarella wrapped with thinly sliced pork loin. You get more cheese than any of the pork flavour. Like my entree above, she too got pickles, rice, miso, and salad. But to it added a side of seasonal vegetables.

Three pieces of deep fried and breaded seasonable vegetable for $3.50, which turned out to be 2 slices of yam and one of pumpkin. Much like tempura but extra crispy-crunchy.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If frying things can taste healthy, this is it. And if you are craving authentic Japanese style tonkatsu, it is here. Don’t deny your cravings.

SAKU BROADWAY
548 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E9
(778) 379-5872
sakuvancouver.com

Green Leaf Sushi

Today I was at the “Green Leaf” located in Kits, based off of a recommendation. And seeing how many people were waiting to enter right when they open at 5pm, alongside with me, it seems like I made the right decision. Here, it was nice they had benches around their exterior to seat those waiting.

We grabbed a couple of seats by the window bar. The space is maximized with short, narrow tables, a necessity given how they all quickly filled 15minutes after they opened. And throughout our stay, the restaurant saw a continuous turn of people sitting, eating, and leaving. Not including all the take out and food delivery orders.

As for the decor, it is more about what materials they used and where, as apposed to a collection of artifacts or art. Tile floors, panelled walls, wood block features, and wooden table and chairs. What didn’t seem to fit was the type of music being played. I found the classic styling of Frank Sinatra a little too jazzy for this causal, fast food, sushi and Japanese shoppe.

When it came to the meal, I liked the option of having either hot or warm tea. I choose the ready to drink room temperature version.

As for the food we shared a collection of items that jumped out at us. The “Aburi tobiko roll” is filled with wild sockeye salmon, cucumber, crab meat, and tobiko; topped with oshi sauce and green sauce. It was a tasty roll, especially with the crunch from the toasted tobiko, and the warming heat from the jalapeño. I would order this one again.

But I would skip the “Kani-ume oshi sushi” the next time around. Real Dungeness crab, tiger prawn, ume oshi sauce, and crispy capers with ume dressing. You could taste the quality of the crab, but the amount of mayo used was overwhelming. It needed more tang to cut into it, and I didn’t find the salted plum or the capers complimentary or effective in this regard.

Our server mentioned having uni in today, so I took advantage, by adding $6 a piece to the “Uni meshi ishiyaki” rice bowl. I ordered two pieces and they gave me two smaller ones when the second piece didn’t measure up. I ended up enjoying them as is, to not take away from their creamy flavour.

As for the mushroom bowl base it was shiitake and shimeji with rice in a hot stone bowl, served with a seaweed sauce. It also comes with a side of miso soup. It was like a Japanese style risotto with the sweetness of the shiitake mushroom coming through. The green onion added freshness and any excess uni acted like a creamy fermented egg to help sauce up the rice.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on the what we had, and all the creative menu items we considered, I would definitely like to return to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN LEAF
3416 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6R 2B3
604-568-9406
greenleafcafebc.ca

G-men Ramen Steveston

We were in Steveston and looking for lunch. Though this being a Saturday, the historic fishing village was busy and all their popular spots saw lengthy lines.

So wanting to eat sooner than later, we stopped at the new ramen place that just opened up, Steveston’s first. Although, had I known the restaurant was without air conditioning, I might have reconsidered our idea of hot noodles in broth on a hot summer’s day. None-the-less here we were, two amongst many with the same idea. We were able to grab two stools at the very back bar. And there we would be ignored by the busy staff, after we ordered and they delivered our two bowls of ramen. To paint a better picture, it was a struggle to get our bill to settle up and leave. This was despite a line at the door for those wanting to dine in.

I went for their most popular choice, the miso ramen, I added butter and corn to it for $2.50 more, and added an egg for $1 more. Authentic chicken and pork broth with their homemade miso seasoning and thick noodles. This was already a rich serving, and I don’t think the butter made a difference in that regard, except for additional calories. I did like the sweetness the corn added and how they popped with each bite.

My guest ordered their “RCMP” ramen advertised as being “addictively spicy”. She too added an egg, because after all ramen isn’t the same without a soft boiled egg. It was exactly as she expected, spicy with a bold red broth, but manageable in terms of heat.

Everything was good, but one bowl isn’t enough to properly assess the restaurant, especially since their menu is one of the largest I have ever seen at any ramen place. On top of 8 different types of ramen and all their variations, “G-men “ also offers plenty of appetizers from mixed nuts to a chicken dip with crackers, raw octopus to pickled squid. They have salad with and without seafood or meat, plenty of sashimi as is, seasoned and in combos. There are rice bowls and poke bowls, and a section just dedicated to deep fried and bbq items.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t travel all the way to Steveston for ramen, and when there I would choose somewhere to lunch that better showcases the town. However, for the locals this serves as the only, and therefore best place for ramen in Steveston. Don’t deny your cravings.

G-MEN
3711 Bayview Street, Richmond BC, V7E 3B6
604-275-4636
gmenatsteveston.com

Black Rice Izakaya, summer menu 2019

Summer is in full swing, it is hot, you are sweating, and “Black Rice” is here to help. They are offering up another creative menu for this summer season, a few heat reducing dishes, served with Rosé.

The Rosé was great with our meal, but we had some soju to get us there. “Kashidaru” is Japanese soju aged in a whiskey barrel, exclusive to “Black Rice”. It is from one of Japan’s oldest sake breweries and comes with an interesting story. Their President passed away and they discovered this batch in his personal barrel room. And without any records they had to do some sleuthing to discover its vintage. This soju was aged for minimum of 13-15 years old. And after “Black Rice’s” four cases are done, and the other 10 left are gone, there won’t be any more, ever. And for $11 for 2oz or $120 for a bottle, I can see that happening soon.

As promised the menu served up temperature appropriate dishes, like chilled soup and cold fish to cool you down. And I can attest that this it did just that. I came in to the restaurant from under the sweaty sun, and left cool inside and out.

The “Spicy cold sashimi soup” is a common dish in Korea, and a nice way to start our meal. Cold spicy broth, seabass sashimi with salad. The lovely white fish was a nice compliment to the zing of the hot spice. There were perfect together, without overpowering one another. It would have been nice to have a bowl of rice or a handful of noodles to enjoy the rest of the broth with though, after all the fish is gone.

“Miso ceviche” in a miso broth with truffle oil, onion, peppers, and seabass. Served with taro chips that make for good scoops. It didn’t taste much like miso, but I appreciated the twist with the use of yuzu citrus instead of lemon or lime. I also made out the strong flavour of shiso leaves, which I didn’t prefer. This was another refreshing summer offering, but you were left with so much ceviche, and not enough chips to eat them with; and especially not enough fish roe to top each bite with. Without the chip it was just soggy fish salad.

“Teishoku D” is their cold noodle box option. Plain soda noodles, 3 assorted tempura, 2 pieces inari sushi, a side of tempura crumb, agedashi tofu, assorted oshinko, and green salad. You dip the noodles into the sweet sauce and slurp as you like. With a variety of sides, this makes for a fulsome lunch box.

Their “Pad Thai Yaki Soba” was another creative fusion dish. You take the idea and flavours of a shrimp pad Thai, including the tamarind; but instead of flat rice noodles you use buckwheat soba noodles. And the result is an extra tasty dish that has a great heavy starch chew from the noodles, and an extra kick from the korean bbq sauce, gochujang. Delicious, but a little watery.

The “Ika feast” was one squid two ways. Squid tubes sous-vide in butter and finished on grill, and its tentacles battered and fried in tempura. We were given a choice between two presentations and we all agreed that although the grill was a nice visual, the one without it would be more practical when serving. The hay set on fire in the grill creates smoke and a distinct fragrance that could effect everything else you eat to follow it.

As for the squid, I preferred it grilled, especially with the creamy and tangy sauce you dip it into to. The fried version was more like Greek-style calamari, especially with the cooling tzaziki it was served with. The sauces were definitely the highlight and what gave everything its flavour.

The “Soy chicken karaage” was classic Korean style street food, double fried. Juicy dark meat karaage, battered, powdered, deep fried, and then glazed in their house soy sauce. It had a medium level of spice to it, with the ability to adjust it more or less to your taste. A great tapas option, best enjoyed with one of their many specialty beers.

And since we were already there, we had to try some of our and their customer favourites. Like the “Unagi” roll, which always makes for a great show. A prawn tempura and cucumber black rice roll topped with eel, and drizzled with a sweet brown sauce. It is torched table side for some extra caramelization.

Their “Lollipops” are a great way to enjoy sushi, gluten-free with no rice. Thinly slices of radish are wrapped around sockeye salmon, bell pepper, tamago, oshinko, cucumber, asparagus, avocado, and spinach. I liked the novelty of holding it by the stick, but would have liked to dunk it into something. Some sauce to flavour, before I took a bite that had it crumbling. As is it was bland, yet was too much like a salad roll to dip into soy and enjoy.

My favourite and the must have, anytime you are here is either of their “Aburi platters”. 6 piece aburi salmon hako, 8 piece black mentaiko roll, and 4 piece chef’s choice aburi nigiri. You are asked to allow them 20 mins to prepare it all, and I can tell you it is worth the wait.

Their “Aburi Hakozushi platter” was a complete set of their 4 signature aburi rolls. Aburi salmon, aburi saba, aburi negitoro, and aburi scallop. A great one for sharing. A collection of textures and flavours for any sushi lover who likes their raw fish a little cooked, and their sauces creamy and warm.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
“Black Rice” continues to be one of my go-to’s for creative Asian fusion. They are so very thoughtful in their food offerings. Trying new things and catering to the season and their explorative clientele. If they keep this up, I will most definitely be back time and time again. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BLACK RICE
782 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2R5
7781379-0416
blackrice.ca

Ton Ton Sushi

Today I was on the South Cambie restaurant strip, checking out a new sushi addition. There really isn’t anything any visual that has this place standing out, inside and out. My decision to visit was based on an invitation.

They have been open since January of this year, and there really hasn’t been much of a buzz surrounding their opening. Although the restaurant was steady with locals on a Tuesday. They were cleverly catering to the neighbourhood, offering approachable Japanese tapas and sushi with North American twists.

The menu was a novel, 10 pages of small plates, combos, and drinks. With so many possibilities to siphon through, having high resolution photos were helpful. In my case, I allowed my guest to do the ordering.

We started with their raw oysters, which unlike at other places, come dressed. At $1 each during happy hour we did a dozen. Twelve Fanny Bay oysters of various sizes, half dressed in soy, the other six in sweet Korean chilli. The flavours were good, but they fully hid the oyster, so I can’t actually review the quality of them.

Similarly, the quality of the fish used in the “Italian seasoned tuna tataki” was hidden behind the heavy handed Italian spices. This was an interesting interpretation, one not need repeating. It overpowered the fragrant tuna with the flavour of salt, tangy, and capers.

However, I finally got to appreciate the quality of their seafood with the “Ituna and ikura”. A lean fish with a creamy finish, topped with roe that popped in your mouth.

Similarly, there was nothing to hide behind with the sea urchin. Served as a two bite nigiri with seaweed. Serving smaller pieces, they combined three to create enough for one. Once again another quality product. Slightly sweet, completely creamy, melt in your mouth uni.

The “Sushi pizza” was another fusion offering, a concept that had been done, but this the “Ton Ton” way. Just looking at it you can’t tell it was meant to be presented as a pizza. The very thick slabs of tuna and salmon covered the crispy and chewy brown rice patty base. And there was much more of it, where for pizza the crust typically is the platform. The flavour was good with the creamy and spicy dressing, but I wanted the pizza easier to eat. The fish chopped up into cubes, and slices you can hold and take nibbles from.

The crispy wings were a spicy pub-style wings. Tasty enough, but really not what I would recommend ordering from a sushi place, given all the fresh seafood they have to offer.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They offer quality for those looking for raw and fresh fish. And familiar flavours for those who need some fusion to edge them in. Not a destination, but a good option if you are in the area. And with everything at reasonable prices, I can see why the neighbourhood came out for dinner tonight. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TON TON SUSHI
4018 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Y 2H5
604-428-2742
sushitonton.com

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