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.
548 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E9