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The allure of colourful balloons strung together as five petal flowers and in spiral pillars led me to “H-Mart” today, to celebrate their 9th year anniversary. As a result I couldn’t resist their 15% off sale on “Tony Moly” cosmetics and had to try a sample from their first floor
bakery. And since I was already here I might as well enjoy dinner at their food court one story up.

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Up the escalator and through the crowded Korean grocery store, I followed the single lane path until the very end. There “Zac Zac” stood, in this limited food court. Based on look and care taken to up keep aesthetics, I deemed this stand the best. It stood out against the premade and prepackaged Korean fast food stall and the Chinese noodle stand. Though its appearance was surprising, considering this was a Korean themed shopping plaza and “Zac Zac” dealt specifically within Japanese cuisine. Their claim to fame was their authentic Japanese style curry, but they also served other Japanese classics like tonkatsu and donburi. Breaded deep-fried pork cutlet and rice in bowls. I flashed back a couple of months to the fast food meals of Japan, and I had to have some. And this place seemed just as good as any. Later, speaking with friends, they echoed its quality, one such claimed it was her favourite spot for Japanese curry in the city. Another declared she preferred them much more when considering they worked out of a food court.

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The stall was in the corner, a confided place that three women worked out of. Their entire menu was laid out in photos: curries, rice bowls, and bento boxes. Over 33 options with plenty for the vegetarians to choose from.

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Japanese curry is like no other, and after my recent trip to Japan, I hailed it my favourite of all the curries. With its sweeter gravy opposed to the more commonly thought of yellow powder, spiced with a chilli powder heat. As curry doesn’t travel that well I opted to have some in the building. At a small table amongst others overlooking the sidewalk below. Not the greatest setting to dine in, but it sure was convenient, not unlike the fast food shoppes in Japan. I was here to eat in a hurry anyways. “Katsu curry”. Fried pork cutlet over rice, with a side of sweet Japanese curry. If you haven’t tried Japanese style curry yet, I suggest you do. It is a flavour like no other. Easy to eat, this is the kind of stew you end up licking your plate clean of. Actually the consistency is more like a soup than a chunky stew. Not much to look at visually, but so flavourful that I could have a bowl of just curry sauce over rice. The pork was just a nice break in texture, a crunch with the pool liquid. Fried crisp without being over oiled. Cut into thin strips it was easy to dip and easy to chew, dry or not. Though with the excess amount of curry, a quick dunk was easy to rectify any dryness. The pink pickles were just like the ones they served in Japan. Tangy, with just a bit of sweetness they did well to cleanse the palette between bites.

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I took their “ebi furai bento” to go. Surprisingly the contents in the box held up well. Four pieces of deep fried prawn, over a shredded lettuce salad, with a side of steamed rice and chilled potato salad. The sprinkle of black sesame over the rice, the single cherry tomato, and the few unsalted edamame pods included were a nice visual touch. The shrimp kept crisp through to the last bite, so much so that I ate the tail and all. The brown sauce included not only slightly moisten each bite but provided a nice tang to every mouthful. The salad too came with its own sauce. A container filled with orange citrus vinaigrette. It gave the salad some much needed life. The potato salad, like the rice, served as a great platform to feature the crispy shrimp on. Cold and starchy it offered both a creamy texture and a break in heavier flavours.

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Their “beef teriyaki don” travelled especially well. I requested my portion without onions and as a result it isn’t much to look at. However its taste by far made up for this. The beef was served with a clump of vinegar pickles. Pickles like the ones commonly offered in Japan, stored in self served containers on the side. Except here it was gathered at the corner of the bowl that the beef and rice came in. The meat was tender, the sauce was thick. I devoured the entire portion in one sitting, with no break, and no need for any additional sides. Most satisfying.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I appreciated “Zac Zac” even more having been to Japan and having tried the real deal. Here they come real close, if not on the nose. After my first bite, I was ecstatic to have found such a gem. I definitely will be going back for more when the craving strikes. Don’t deny your cravings.

ZACZAC
H-Mart Food Court
2F-590 Robson Street, Vancouver BC
604-608-2887
ZAC.ZAC Japanese Curry House on Urbanspoon