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Okini, Christmas menu 2023

I said I would be back and 2 months later, here we are at Okini for dinner again. When looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate the season at, I looked to Okini, as one that would not only impress my guest, but be one that would be worth the price tag for pageantry alone. I do love a photo worthy moment that would take my breath away, and here, there were many.

This would be my guest’s first time and I was eager to have their staff and cuisine impress her as much as it did me the first time. She especially appreciated the elegant holiday decor.

We would start our night with a bottle of Belleruche, Cotes-du-rhone grenache syrah to sip throughout the meal. We went with red considering our would be order of pork and uni, as pairings to come. Here, I like to point out how user friendly Okini’s wine list is. Offering a selection of premium wines, as per our Chef/owner’s palate and listing the tasting notes to help you discern what would be best paired for your individual meal. Here, our Syrah would have black fruit notes the likes of blackcurrant, raspberry, and roasted plum.

With the wine situation sorted out for in between sipping, we looked for a couple of shots and some cocktails to further the festive mood.

“Take me the the Candy Shop” had me giddy with childhood glee. Sweet hichew infused vodka shots topped with champagne and crowned with a yuzu gummy candy as chase. All served it a cute and gimmicky Hello Kitty branded miniature shopping cart, that just works. The shots themselves were as fun to take as they were to look at with whimsical sparkler. Easy going down, we could have had 2 more to follow and not felt a thing.

For our first round of cocktails my guest went for the classic Corpse Reviver #2 with gin, lillet, cointreau, and lemon. Her choice was based on the fact that this was the only 3oz cocktail, and she wanted more bang for her buck. This was boozy on paper, yet so smooth you couldn’t taste it. She called it “addictive” and easy, as you don’t notice the spirit and it is more lemonade forward than anything.

I had to go the most exotic route, as is my nature. The “Supernatural Grace” was described as being “oceanic, elegant, umami” on the menu, and that was enough to pique my curiosity. 2oz with Drumshanbo Gin, Noilly Pratt Vermouth, and umami bitters; served frozen with ikura. This was basically a Japanese influenced take on a martini with caviar. The ikura to chase made this a more “dirty” martini with its briny flavour. I found it best to have a couple of eggs on your tongue first, to coat your mouth before taking a sip; thus allowing the flavour to meld with the cocktail itself. This was original.

Round two had us reaching for the decorations. The “Treat Yo Elf” was the classic spiked, creamy Christmas cocktail, served in a cute, mini ceramic milk carton. St. Remy VSOP, Creme de menthe, and chocolate milk. Fun as a dessert drink, especially with the refreshing minty finish, but not one that was complimentary to our rich and heavy-handed meal.

The “Holiday Glow” was served in a round Christmas ball. A mix of Per Se Vodka, house spiced syrup, lemon, pomegranate, and Lonetree Cider. However they didn’t have the cider tonight, so we got a complimentary upgrade with Spanish Cava in its place. My guest did the math and this was 60% greater liquor ABV and value, coupled with a price difference we didn’t have to pay. She was ecstatic. With this substitution, the effervescent fizz and the tart berry tang paired better with food.

And being friends with the owners, I couldn’t walk away without buying us all a round of shots to celebrate the holidays together. For this we looked to their “Naughty or Nice” shots served in miniature cooper mule mug. One shot is a “nice” butterscotch whiskey and the other a “naughty” Jameson. You take the gamble and see what side of Santa’s list you make it on.

As for food, there was so much we wanted to try, but only one stomach. Sadly the table side torched salmon feature was not available today. So I asked for a substitution here, as I wanted a private fire show from our Chef. He obliged with the Shiso Wrap starter. Lightly torched A5 miyazaki wagyu, with hokkaido uni, and ikura; served on a shiso leaf. Fiancés and co-owners of Okini, both love the umami, one of a kind flavour of uni, so I knew I had to order a few items featuring it on their menu.

This was a bold start, and a true and accurate look at our Chef’s skills and style. This one bite was an explosion of flavour and creamy decadence that sprang layer after layer. The pop of the roe, the buttery uni, the creamy beef, and the herbaceous shiso to temper it all. I would have liked the shiso less pronounced, but as is it made for a great appertif with the fresh raw herb.

I was going back and forth on it, but did eventually splurge on the Hokkaido Uni Toast. This is the ultimate decadence for anyone who loves uni like I do. Grilled house-baked foccacia with burrata, honey, balsamic, hokkaido uni, and ikura. Front of house manager Steph was upfront in informing us that they don’t make any money on this one, but if you like uni this is a must have and a staple on their menu with salted and cured uni. I have never seen so much sea urchin in one dish, fully loaded from end to end for such a stunning presentation. You can visually see how delicious the uni is by its colour and texture. Each bite so pungent and so fresh. I appreciated the layered decadence of the ikura, but found it unnecessary and its pops distracting at times. However, the crispy toasted bread and cheese offered a nice base to exemplify the creaminess of the sea urchin. Each bite, exquisite.

This our chef followed with a complimentary order of their seasonal A5 Char Siu Don. A full, but smaller serving of honey barbecue glazed miyazaki wagyu on kamameshi-style mushroom rice, served with a free range egg yolk.

This was an elevated play on a classic Taiwanese dish. Homestyle comfort eating with premium ingredients. This such a good dish that I could have eaten it all. The mushroom sauce was divine, the beef wholesome, and the satin finish of the perfect soft boiled yolk brought it all together. Writing this now, I want another. Although, sadly it is no longer available, as it was part of their Christmas only menu.

I have already tried the Pork Tomahawk last visit, but could not deny my guest from having it during her first. This is the one item she came in to Okini insistent on trying. Grilled bone-in Fraser Valley pork with karashi-grainy mustard, peppercorn, togarashi, and pepperonata.

It was just as fatty and tender as I remembered it. Juicy, slightly pink pork, heavily peppered, and not the least bit dry. The mustard on the side adds acidity, whereas the relish offered tang. Here, our Syrah wine really shone, as a palate refresher and a complementary acid bouquet to off set the greasier presentation.

Another Christmas seasonal menu item, that is no longer available is the Lobster Risotto. Their fusion twist on this was to have the lobster as tempura crowning the risotto, alongside snow crab, ōra king salmon, and shiso chimichurri. Out of all the dishes, I was the least satisfied with this one. I found it a shame to not be able to better make out the lobster meat, from behind a shell of airy crisp batter. If I didn’t know what I was ordering, I would have thought it was halibut. At least here, the distinct herbaceousness of the shisho was well tempered as a zestier play on pesto. It went nicely with the salmon, which I wanted more raw for a more complimentary texture and taste. Similar to how they prepare their salmon soba. This, I would have liked this as the topping to the risotto, instead of the lobster that felt out of place. And seeing as the crab meat was less substantial, I thought it would have been better mixed into the risotto, instead of sitting on top of it like a garnish. Overall, I liked the idea of the dish, but not the execution, finding it all jumbled on the plate.

The Yarrow Meadows Duck I did enjoy. Local duck breast with wild mushrooms and baby carrots, served with yakiniku gravy and kabocha croquette. I appreciated how the duck was sliced thick and the meat still blue. Here, they have taken something familiar and have cleverly injected some Japanese influences to it. The sweet potato croquette made the dish more homey, offering a starch to have with the duck. And there was plenty of thick meaty gravy to wrap it all together in harmony.

And just when we thought we were done, our chef surprised us with another complimentary dish. This was their popular Strawberry Lemon Panna Cotta to end on.
Topped with white chocolate namelaka, strawberry shiso compote, and salted lemon crumble. For my tastes, I appreciated that this was not sweet, but tangy and bright with citrus, making it a great palate refresher to end on. Also, its gelatine meets pudding-like texture had a pleasant mouth-feel to savour.

This is two for two, I am just as impressed by Okini today as I was during my original visit. Elevated plating and design, you pay a steeper price, but you get a lot of food; for fine dining, with large portions. I will continue to recommend them to anyone who likes Japanese fusion, pageantry, and attentive service from their restaurants.

Okini Restaurant & Bar
1864 W 57th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6P 1T7
(604) 263-0155

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