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Category: Japanese Page 1 of 14

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

Guu Davie, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was at “Guu’s” newest location on Davie street. A great space with plenty of seating, but one that is hard to find. It has been 4 months since they have opened and I am only realizing now that the former “Speakeasy” bar that held the space is a thing of the past.

The glass covered walk way does little to draw you in. The sandwich boards advertising their izakaya and their $1 oyster deal is lost. You miss both, unless you rotate your head 90 degrees. And when you find the entrance, you question if it is the right one. Walking in feels like a journey, as you travel half the length of the restaurant just to be able to hear the hostess at the very end.

Past this corridor the restaurant does open up with seats by their sushi or liquor bar. And a second floor with additional tables by the patio. They currently have artificial turf on their patio, but this space remains empty.

My guest and I choose seats on one of their Japanese style tables. The ones that simulate eating on the floor, and requires you to remove your footwear. In bare feet or socks you walk over, and climb on to your cushioned seat. And for the sake of convenience, if you need to move around or use the washroom, they have communal sandals you can slip on easily for the duration of your stay.

I like they style of their menus, with Japanese kanji in bold and the English descriptions and pricing printed neatly under it. We started off with some drinks. I was immediately drawn to their “Wasabi Caesar” for $8.80. I don’t normally list the price of dishes, but am doing so here, as I really found their small plates to be at reasonable prices, allowing you to try more.

This was a Smirnoff caesar mixed with soy sauce and wasabi; and garnished with sun dried octopus, kelp, and a boiled egg. From looks alone you have never had a caesar like this before. They really sold me with the toppings. The egg was perfectly soft boiled, the seaweed nice and chewy. But the octopus tentacles were hard as a rock and impossible to chew off. Thought my guest was content with nibbling at its suction cups. As for the drink itself, it had a great, warming heat thanks to the wasabi, but other than that, the caesar lacked spice and seasoning, and there was no spice rim to help.

By comparison, the drink to get is the virgin “Hanayori Dango” for $7.80. This was basically a dessert for sipping. Matcha ice cream, warabi mochi, black sugar sauce, milk, fresh strawberry, and whipped cream was listed on the menu. Although I did not see any black sugar sauce or whipped cream. I could only and barely taste strawberry in the soda used, so it wasn’t fresh. And there was definitely no chewy mocchi. None-the-less, this served as a great summer refresher.

Seeing as we were between 3-6pm and in time for Happy Hour, we took advantage of our timing by ordering the “ebi mayo with chilli mayo” at a discount. 3 pieces for $5. I liked the size of the prawn, but other than that this was pretty standard. A fluffy, deep fried batter coating, hiding a mushy prawn, sitting in a flat, and slightly spicy mayonnaise. We took one each and didn’t even bother with the third.

We much more preferred the “Dessert style oden”. “Oden” is a traditional Japanese dish made by simmering various ingredients together in a single pot. Together, they slowly simmer becoming soft and flavourful. Their Warabi mochi version went for $4.80. It lacked a flavour enhanced broth, but it did nail the soft texture part, with the deep fried battered oden tofu. It was topped with vanilla ice cream, black sugar sauce, and roasted soy bean power. The folded tofu had an interesting texture, similar to a thin mocchi: chewy with a doughy-like quality.

The “Shlokara” we ordered out of curiosity, and even though we hated it, at $4.80 a dish, no real tears were loss. This was an acquired taste, one that lingers and that we couldn’t get rid of. This was raw squid cut into string-like noodles, which is the marinated in salt and squid guts. It was incredibly salty, with a gamey quality to it. A lip puckering sensation with a raw egg yolk-like texture. It didn’t have a great mouth feel, and its flavour comes back up to haunt you. Thankfully they offer mouth wash in their washrooms to help in this regard. More on their washroom later.

When we brought up how much we hated the raw squid to the server, she was quick to mention that not many people like it. Here, it would have been great to get this tidbit prior to ordering it.

And lastly we had their “Gyoza wings”. Deep fried chicken wings stuffed with gyoza ground pork. 3 pieces at $7.80. They were completing in this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s “Chicken Wing Challenge”. Ans I was one of the judges, here to try their contribution, and to eventually crown 1 out of the 5 contestants winner; based on originality, taste, and presentation.
It was an interesting take on stuffed wings, but it was more gyoza meat than chicken. You only got bits of chicken skin with the wing tip. Like they grafted a half eaten wing together with a gyoza, but left out the best part: the wrapper. It tasted good, but was a little salty. Though the pickled vegetable and the crunchy chip were most helpful in balancing out the dish.

I like izakaya washrooms for their fully stocked counters. Here they had wet wipes, cotton swabs, tooth picks, and mouthwash to keep you well groomed and your breath minty fresh. And best of all they have Japanese toilets in each of their stalls. The ones that have heated seats and a bidet function. I enjoyed the former, but passed on the latter. I don’t like something being so intimate to me in public washroom.

 

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.
At the end of the day I am always glad to have tried something new, and in this blog I will always order the weird stuff, so you don’t have to. But at “Guu”, I can do both without a hefty price tag. Our meal may have been hit and miss, but that’s half the fun of trying something new. So round up your most adventurous friends, and why not try raw squid guts for yourself? “Guu” has already proven themselves successful with a hand full of busy locations, and now you have a new one to consider when you are craving their traditional style izakaya. Don’t deny your cravings

 

GUU
1239 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1N4
604-687-8890
guu-izakaya.com

Yuu, traditional Japanese tapas

It feels like summer in spring and one of my favourite fusion Japanese tapas place is reminding us that they have a unique way for you to stay cool while still enjoying the deliciousness of ramen.

I have been to this restaurant a few times before, but thanks to their ever evolving menu there are plenty of reasons for me to return time and time again.

Located in a busy out door plaza, it is easy to get to with free parking available. And with plenty of seats and staff at the ready, getting a table is as easy as walking in and pointing to one. The staff are all attentive, rushing to you with the slightest eye contact. Ready to answer questions and take your requests from a very easy to navigate menu. There are plenty of coloured photos to point and order from. A collection of Japanese favourites and a handful done with North American twists. Like their new ramen to go cups that you shake up like you would a salad. These were 100% customizable and include topping choices like kimchi, crispy fried onions, and crushed up hot cheeto dust.

As tempting as that was, my guests were visiting from London and were more keen on a traditional Japanese dining experience so we had a collection of tried and true favourites.

We had the popular street snack “takoyaki”. Octopus dough balls dressed in okonomiyaki sauce, shredded seaweed, and bonito flakes. These were soften globs of dough with a chewy chunk surprise inside. A classic snack that tastes just as you’d expect it to and no different from the last set you tried.

Their gyozas are made in house, pan fried and served sizzling on a hot plate. Crispy dough covering chucks of pork meat, that are great for sharing. They are so good that they have earned themselves a coveted spot on Tourism Richmond’s “Dumpling Trail”. A self guided tour that highlights and recommends where to get the best dumplings in all of Richmond.

The deep fried tofu in house special is another popular Japanese appetizer. Crispy tofu in a light soup-sauce, slightly salty but more on the sweeter side. This made a great option for the vegan of our group. But sadly it was only one of two menu items that met her dietary restrictions. (The other was a teriyaki vegetable hot plate.)

I really liked their mentaiko (pollock roe) udon for its flavour and texture. Pan fried noodles generous coated in a creamy white sauce with plenty of fish eggs. The latter offered up small pops and a unique texture to accompany the slippery, thick strands of noodle. And the various mushrooms and onion embedded offered some chewiness and some freshness to the mix. Overall this left me with a great feeling in my mouth.

We also ordered one of their Japanese hot pots, wanting to experience the traditional set up; which included a pot equipped with a towering spout sticking out from its centre. But sadly the menu misinformed and they didn’t actually have any such pots available. None-the-less the stewed root vegetables, fish cakes, seafood balls, and tofu bobbing in the soy flavoured dashi broth was still delicious. As a whole this dish was warm and comforting, a clear broth that was deceptively tasty. This is something I would love sick and would crave on a rainy day.

We also had some of their deep fried, crispy, boneless chicken as a side to their novelty “beer ramen”. The juicy chicken came to the table hot, coated by a crispy breading.

They made great side and contrast to the cold ramen in bonito broth with white egg foam top. The latter simply added a sweetness to the broth, and finished off the imagery of a foamy beer. You pulled long noodles out from the stein and slurped them up just like that, or were able to top your noodles with accompanying edamame, pickles, green onion, wasabi, and seaweed.

“Yuu” is also known for their fun drinks. Like the “Grapefruit mojito”, sans alcohol. Grapefruit, soda, and fresh mint. Served in coloured layers, you stir everting up for a sparkling beverage.

But one of their most popular is their slushes garnished with a syringe. This is the “calpis melon shot slush”. The melon syrup looks toxic with its neon hue, but is super refreshing with the icy yogurt slush base.

 

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.
I only wish they were closer to my home and easier for me to travel to more regularly. I love their traditional dishes and adore all the fun they have with their food. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YUU
1111-3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond BC, V6X3Z9
604-214-7722
yuutapas.com

Ramen Taka, Aberdeen Centre

“Ramen Taka” has opened a second location, and now you can get their Hokkaido style ramen in Richmond’s “Aberdeen Centre”. An opening that has already seen many line up to try their soup noodles, most notably finished off with a scoop of sizzling liquid lard.

Like their original location this new one is happy with a small cluster of tables, a few bar seats, and a family style large share table. The lighting is also the same; giving the room a golden glow from hanging incandescent bulbs.

The only empty wall space is home to their mascot, sketched in black and white. An eagle with out stretched wings looking fierce. Fitting considering, “Taka” does mean “eagle” in Japanese.

The menu is the same from Vancouver to Richmond, although it is worth noting that it has changed several times, since the popular Japanese ramen chain has made the Lower Mainland their home. They are here to offer up their traditional Hokkaido ramen, but are also open to their customer’s feedback. Each table has comment cards and pens, which gives the diner the ability to rank their food and service, as well as leave the restaurant suggestions on how they can improve. “Taka” has taken the latter to heart, and now offers up the ability to customize their ramen for your palette. Like the ability to have less or no lard. And more recently a creamier noodle soup.

Hokkaido style ramen uses a clear broth with plenty of lard, and is traditionally saltier than other versions of ramen. But for the Vancouver appetite they have created a “Vancouver special soup” that gives diners a heartier and ricer broth: paitan. “Paitan” is a creamy white tonkotsu broth made with pork bone. And today would end up trying both this new version and their classic, in order to compare the two.

But first appetizers, and their Hokkaido fried chicken that cannot be missed. An order of the “Zangi” is available in either 4 or 8 pieces. I suggest getting the latter because one taste is not enough and you won’t want to share. Juicy, white meat chicken with pockets of fat, made crunchy in a thick and jagged batter. Each nugget is gently seasoned to allow the natural flavour of the chicken to come through. Dare I say, this might be my new favourite place for fried chicken!

We also had to try the “Kakuni” given how delicious it looked in photo. The menu was right in describing this as “Melt in your mouth braised pork belly”, served in a pool of their tasty “special sauce”. The meat was so tender around the sinew of fat, and so juicy from the sauce it soaked up, that it had a different texture to it. Different than chewy and stringy pork meat; it was almost like liquid, which easily broke down from the weight of your tongue. The sauce was also super tasty, I didn’t want to waste a drop of it, so wished we ordered some rice to absorb it all with.

Next, we moved on to their ramens. Ordering two bowls of the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” flavoured with soy sauce. First was the “Paitan”, easily identified by the murky broth. Once again, this creamier version came to be due to the request and preference of their North American clientele. It was definitely creamier as promised, but the fullness of the flavour is missing. Something that you do get in full from their original “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu”, below.

I highly recommend coming for their clear soup noodles, this is what they are known for and you can get a version of the one above from every other ramen shop. But you can only get the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” from “Ramen Taka”, and it is worth traveling for. This is a great light broth for first timers. It is simple and clean when it hits the tongue, but then unpacks its flavour the more you take in. Each spoonful leaves a film of oil on your lips, just so you know the fat is there. Here, you don’t need many toppings. The ones included simply add a change in texture; like the perfectly soft boiled gooey egg, the crispy to chewy seaweed sheet, and rubbery bamboo with its distinct bitter note.

The only down side, you can’t take anything you don’t finish home. When we visited, the lids of their to-go bowls didn’t connect. We were told to make it fit, and this photo is the result. We showed the server and he was satisfied with the outcome. I, however, was less then impressed; soup doesn’t travel well already, now you are adding a hole to the equation!?

 

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.
I would visit the downtown location first, due to its proximity to my home. Although when in Aberdeen and looking for traditional Japanese style ramen, this is the one to visit. A soup base like no other and sides so tasty. I would come back just for the chicken. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
Aberdeen centre, 2nd floor
2780-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
ramentaka.ca

Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge, Omakase

This one has been a long time coming. My friend is a big fan of sushi and when she saw the Omakase menu from Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge, she immediately reached out for us to dine with her. Unfortunately it is only available for lunch during the weekdays, with limited quantities available. This meant we all had to book a day off to enjoy this fresh seafood feast. So we three gathered together on a Thursday between 11-4pm.

In my opinion, this is one of the nicest hotel lobby bars in the city. Past the comfortable lounge with live music and glass fireplace is a bright space. All white with clean tables and stools, in front of a small sushi bar. We were given a spacious table in front of the three sushi chefs, who would be crafting our assembly to come. It was set with a couple of books and a couple of artificial potted plants.

Once again this feast is by reservation only, there isn’t even a listed menu, it is what ever is on hand on the day, and at the whim of our chef. Previously there was a 4 person minimum requirement to your party, but they have since been more flexible on this rule. It is $50 per person, served all together family style, but with the ability to divide servings evenly.

To start with, I decided to indulge in a cocktail flight. A limited edition trio that pays tribute to the four vintage and couture Versace dresses and jumpsuit that they currently have on display in the lobby. At $45 you are paying $15 for 3 smaller drinks, made with premium ingredients. The cost also included the lovely flight sheet with each cocktail’s descriptions and sketches of the fashions they took inspiration from.

The “Bombshell” was a light and fizzy glass on the sweeter side, but with pops of punchy liquor. It was finished off brilliantly with a tart cherry at the bottom. The cocktail was as bold in flavour and full of complexity as the pop art details of the jumpsuit it drew from. This was a fashion silk print of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Like the ruffled silhouette, the “High noon” too took its inspiration from the “Great American Cowboy”. Smokey, full bodied, and easy to sip with rich notes of sarsaparilla and all spice. It promises to keep you warm throughout the dark winter nights.

The “Pop art cosmo” takes inspiration from the 60’s, just like its dress pairing. Pop art graphics and bold colours. This twist on a cosmo includes cranberry and a hibiscus vodka. It is accented with mezcal and black raspberry liquor, giving you a deep and more alcohol forward beverage with tart pops.

As for our Omakase feast we started with their sablefish miso soup with pork belly, tofu, seaweed, and green onion. This was certainly the most luxurious miso soup I have ever enjoyed. With plenty of ingredients it ate more like a stew than soup. It was sweet and smokey, along with the regular salty and fishy flavour of miso. Although, I could have used a touch less oily grease per spoonful. Nonetheless I drank the bowl clean.

Next we each had two raw oysters in shell each. Typically they go for $5 per, and I can see why. These were some of the plumpest oysters I have ever had. Tasty and fresh. My guest said, “they were on steroids!” Served with tiny bottles of tabasco and the typical tomato and lemon vinaigrette, plus plenty of fresh horseradish to ladle on.

The following dishes were all presented on a long serving board, propped up on two wooden blocks. Everyone was given a taste of the following, grouped together before us. Four appetizers, four nigiri, and six various specialty sushi pieces. The following is the order in which we enjoyed them, doing so from lightest to heaviest.

The seaweed salad was a hearty mix with two clams in shell, two pieces of juicy shrimp, and a chunk of light sable fish.

The tuna tataki and spinach gomae was served room temperature. The pieces of tuna were tender and lightly seasoned, but I would have liked more sauce or some on the side to dip into. I passed on the mound of spinach, not enjoying the texture of wilted greens. Though my guests were more than happy to gobble up my share, so it must have been good.

The wild salmon was fragrant, a flavour only dampen by the amount of onion you could taste on it. A flavour that came from the gathering of onion sliced at the bottom of the cup, and not from actually eating any.

Next we enjoyed the nigiri that all came pre-seasoned with soy and wasabi. The Sardine nigiri was salty with no soy needed. It was a tangy and overwhelming on flavour.

By comparison the Shrimp nigiri was very light, fragrant with a hint of sweetness.

The Wild salmon was tasty, with more salmon flavour than the appetizer version above.

And the Tuna belly was luscious and certainly my favourite of the four.

Next we enjoyed some specialty rolls. Like their house roll: the “Lobby lounge roll”. An asparagus, avocado, cucumber, and shisho roll topped with salmon and hamachi. This was on overly herbaceous roll thanks to the herb.

I preferred the California roll made with real crab meat. The real shredded crab with creamy mayo made all the difference.

The Sesame albacore roll was made with plenty of sesame oil. It was fragrant and so nice that I wanted another taste.

Whereas the Wayu roll was disappointing. It was like a bite of meat and rice with vegetable. Whereas I would have liked the meat by itself, as an appetizer. It felt wasted to hide the grilled char of the meat behind rice and cucumber.

The Salmon motoyaki was my favourite of the six rolls. The gooey cheese sauce flavoured it well, adding a mouthwatering creaminess to the bite.

And the Lobster roll was good, but it tasted much like the California roll crab, but saltier. I wanted a more buttery flavour from this and from lobster in general.

And we saved the best for last. A serving of creamy uni made into a salad with ikura, shisho, and seaweed. My guest immediately declared, “This is what good uni tastes like”. It didn’t have a strong seafood taste, it was mild and melted in your mouth. Rich, buttery, and good.

And as a nice treat the restaurant surprised our birthday girl with a celebratory dessert platter to share. An assembly of chocolate, chocolate covered fruit, and macarons on a bed of cocoa nibs.

The Chocolate covered Strawberry with edible gold paint was delicious. I definitely recommend ordering yourself a plate for your next occasion.

The Yuzu macaron was citrus fresh, a little orange and a little lemon in a crisp shell with smooth cream.

The Cherry blossom chocolate was a beautiful dark chocolate enrobing a tart cherry centre.

 

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.
The omakase menu is definitely worth checking out during lunch time. But as a whole Lobby Lounge is one of my favourite places to grab a beautiful cocktail at, with live music in an opulent setting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOBBY LOUNGE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C OB9
604-695-5557
lobbyloungerawbar.com

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