Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Japanese food crawl in Burnaby: Sushi Oyama and Kamamarui

The biggest daily dilemma each day is perhaps figuring out what you want to eat for dinner, especially when you're in the area you're somewhat foreign in. That's right for me, it's Burnaby.

Thus, I turned to my trusty apps Urbanspoon and Yelp, exploring photos of dishes that catch my eye. I stumbled upon delicious looking ramen at Kamamarui and intriguing images of sushi pizza from Sushi Oyama. Both places seemed equally tantalizing and when you roll with me, when both options are desirable, why choose ? My fellow diner and I decided to go to both. 

Our first stop was at Sushi Oyama, a giant restaurant that looked like it was converted from a gigantic historic mansion.  Line up was starting to form around 6:30 pm but luckily we didn't have to wait long. The staff moved quite quickly and were well organized. However, if you're looking for authentic Japanese cuisine , this place isn't it. However, they have a large variety with pages of special house rolls. The price is about mid range and very competitive when compared to other similar sushi restaurants. I'd say they're probably Sushi Garden's biggest competitor, if they're still in the same league.

The place was huge and it gets filled up very quickly. We ordered lightly as it was our first stop: negitoro roll, kaki fry (fried oysters), toro nigiri, Las Vegas roll, and of course sushi pizza. 
Kaki fry was quick to arrive. The oysters were baby size but there were about 6-7 on a bed of greens (I ate way too fast to properly count). The sauce that accompanied the dish was a sweet concoction of honey mustard. 

Negitoro roll was pretty comparable to any other negitoro roll, but you pay slightly less for it. I was super impressed with the $1.55 toro nigiri because I haven't seen anywhere else that serves them for lower than $1.75. Of course, they're incomparable to places like Hachi when it comes to sashimi grade. I'm a huge fan of toro though, and I'd have to say that right there was value. 

I saw as many Las Vegas roll photos popping up so being a queen of deep frys, I had to figure this out. They're basically maki roll filled with salmon and imitation crab meat topped with generous amount of sauces and bonito flakes. The roll was deep fried with golden crispy crust.  I've tried deep fried rolls before and they were always either too hard or the rice was too crusty. Sushi Oyama did a pretty good job preserving the sushi rice without making them go soggy with oil or overcooked to the point of no return. 

Finally, what we came here for. The glorious sushi pizza, also a concept I've tried at Mikado in Edmonton. Topped with spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, tobiko and generous amount of sauces, you really get a nice full and flavorful bite. The "crust" was again made with deep fried rice cut into pizza slices. The exterior was really crispy.  There was quite a bit of rice so of course both Las Vegas roll and sushi pizza will fill you up before you realize it. 

My, my. The two of us polished off all the starters and we were stuffed by all the rice. Nonetheless our gluttony carried us down to block to our next destination. 

Kamamarui 

The menu was simple and to the point.  It seems they want to focus on their unique specialties rather than trying to cater to everything. Being rather stuffed, I was quoted distraught that their fried chicken only came in full-order and no half sizes. So I ordered prawn tempura instead. They were served with a thick, sweet sauce. The kind they serve with tendon in Japan. And this is the dish I am most excited writing about. I have yet to find a place in Vancouver that serves the most divine bowl of tendon. So if any readers out there could make recommendation and guide me to the right direction, I'll be forever in your debt. 

Now, the tempura. Just looking at the textured batter, I already knew it was going to be a delight. I was right. It was light, EXTREMELY crispy, and the prawn inside was crunchy not rubbery. Combined with that sweet and savory sauce, order a bowl of rice, maybe a size of poached egg. Boom. Close to my tendon fantasy. 

The poached egg we ordered was served with a soy-yuzu sauce and came with a small cute scoopy spoon. Two of us shared a bowl of chasiu miso ramen. While Ramen Santouka still reigns of Vancouver ramen champion in my heart, Kamamarui still delivered a solid ramen with their own signature. The barbecue pork slices were tender with a hint of smokiness. The broth was flavorful, comforting during a cold rainy night. There were condiments at the table with 2 kinds of chili sauces. I love my food with a spicy kick, but I didn't feel the need to add any this time. 

We later suffered the consequences of overeating but we still enjoyed our food adventures nonetheless. If you can still enjoy a dish despite being really full, that's gotta say something about the food, right ? 
Sushi Oyama on Urbanspoon Kamamarui Ramen & Don on Urbanspoon





Friday, October 4, 2013

Manhattan's finest, Bouley by David Bouley


 

If you are looking for an exquisite dining experience in Manhattan, bring yourself and your loved ones to Bouley, a French contemporary restaurant in Tribecca and try their 5-course tasting lunch menu. I may advise that you either clear out your schedule for the afternoon or give yourself about 2.5 to 3 hours for the complete course.  Trust me, when you are seated in this luxurious oasis in Manhattan, you would not want to rush through your meal. 

My first visit was in mid September and the experience was exceptional from the moment you walked through the entrance corridor and greeted with the intoxicating scent of fresh apples. The waiting room was elegant with a sophisticated Old World vibe.  The boutique dining room with a lavender theme makes diners feel welcomed and relaxed. The service, as well, was impeccable. 

The amuse bouche of the day was a simple tomato gazpacho topped with yogurt and lobster, and a side of cracker with creme fraiche and black truffle.  It was gone quickly, but at Bouley, they do not leave their guests to starve. Before we could have time to peak through the back, looking for our first course, a man pushing a cart of daily-made artisan breads reeled the wheels to our table. The selections were endless. We tried as many selection as we'd like. 

Then, arrived the first course; fresh oysters paired with kiwi and New England Big Eye tuna.  I've never thought oysters and kiwi would work together and initially found it bizarre. It was no accidental experiment, though. The combination was a dynamite. The tartness and sweetness of the kiwi balanced out with the fresh-from-the-sea flavor of the oysters. 

My sister's Big Eye tuna was even more of a knock out dish. An extremely sophisticated dish, slices of fresh tuna were placed on top of a delicate and aromatic apple foam and topped with caviar. If the oyster and kiwi was a smart pair, this was Einstein.  My palate went into a frenzy trying to figure out what these new flavor combination  meant. This would be one of the dishes we would fly back to NYC for. 


Another dish that captivated my soul was the second course: the porcini flan. If I had to share this dish with anyone, it would be the ultimate test of my love and devotion for that very person. Inspired by traditional Japanese steamed egg pudding dish, chawamushi, this was a French spin on the Asian classic. The egg pudding was soft and delicate, disintegrating immediately as you take the first bite. The broth infused with porcini and black truffle was earthy, savory and fragrant. The meaty pieces of dungeness crab in the broth also elevated everything.  A very refined dish and one of my favorites. 


For the main course, I ordered the duck breast in the sweet, caramelized, and savory sherry date jus with clementine confit and polenta. My sister ordered the organic chicken baked "en cocotte", which was extremely moist and tender. It was served with emerald hued kale and roasted garlic. 
 


Moving to the fourth course, what I call an intermission, I had the white peach soup topped with sorbet, while my sister refreshed her taste buds with strawberries rhubarb and gelato. 

By the time the final dessert course arrived, we felt like we were entering food comatose state.  My sister ended her course with hot caramelized Anjou pear with Breton biscuit lemon verbena and delicious hot toffee sauce. The dessert also came with a side of Tahitian vanilla and lemongrass ice cream.  I indulged in the decadent chocolate soufflĂ© accompanied by a white coffee cloud, white chocolate ice cream and a fluffy chocolate mousse.  We were one step closer to going to food heaven. 


Just as we thought we were finished, we were offered with more delectables...

If you are looking for a fulfilling gastronomic experience that will entice your every senses, make a reservation at Bouley. 

Bouley on Urbanspoon
Bouley Restaurant on Foodio54

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spanish tapas: Sardine Can and Espana

The Sardine Can

Every single time we stopped by the Sardine Can, it was always running at maximum capacity with hungry diners pacing around the front door, praying there would be an open seat soon (doesn't matter where).  The night I hit up this Gastown gem with my friend S was no different. Luckily, we didn't wait around too long and got 2 cozy spots at the bar.  Created by the same folks behind Pied a Terre and La Buca, the name "Sardine Can" was quite fitting, as we did feel a little bit crammed in the modest, yet crowded space. 

 I was quite intrigued with how simple and minimal their kitchen was.  And much more intrigued by how fast the chef was able to fly out those orders, keeping consistency with excellent quality control.   As we both were not too familiar with Spanish tapas, S and I weren't quite sure what we should order and so we only order 3 dishes like 2 old shy introverts who didn't go outside that often.  Now that I looked back, we should have ordered at least 2 more dishes; smoked ham wrapped prune stuffed with Mahon cheese , and slow cooked pork cheeks.  What were we thinking?
 
The smoked sardine on toast was probably what they are known for.  For only $5, I thought the portion was reasonable and the taste made this a steal and a half.  When you think 'sardine', some of you (me included) might think of small oily canned fish served whole.  However, the smoked sardine was a smooth spread, dressed with lemon juice, perhaps capers.  It was not fishy at all.  Instead, it was salty, tangy, refreshing on crisp toasted baguette.   A wonderful dish that left me wanting more.
We also ordered steamed clams with chorizo sausage and mushrooms in sherry cream sauce.  I enjoyed the clams.  They were meaty and not all shrivelled up. The tomato sauce had just the right acidity and the chorizo sausage had just the right spice and smokiness.  I ended up filling my belly scraping up sauce with sourdough bread.  Lastly, the mushrooms were cooked well enough that the texture was tender, but still firm and not soggy.   The sherry cream sauce was fantastic, but I wish they had baked it with cheese.  Just eating a big bowl of mushrooms got mundane after a while.  


Despite being constantly insanely busy, service was prompt and our food never took too long to arrive.  However, I did not feel like the ambience was somewhere I could sit down, be comfortable and enjoy my meal for very long.  Everything there felt so hectic and so we decided to venture out elsewhere. S and I did regret not staying to try the chocolate terrine on toast.  

Sardine Can on Urbanspoon

Espana

The second Spanish tapa restaurant the girls and I hit up recently was Espana on Denman.  The atmosphere at Espana was warm and inviting.  It was dimly lit and the bar area showcased their wine collection.  Walk into Espana after 7 pm and you will find yourself in the same predicament as at the Sardine Can.  And they don't take reservation here either.
 


B and I tried out red wine concoctions; mixed with lemonade, and one with cola ($6 each).  The first tasted like sangria, the latter just tasted like coke.  It was worth a try.
P described her wine to be smooth, light, easy to drink and doesn't overpower the food.
 
Iberian ham croquettes arrived with a wedge of lemon.  After tasting it, the rest of them certainly did not require any sauces.  The croquettes were exactly how they were meant to be; crispy batter, smooth, creamy and well seasoned inside.  We got a taste of the ham in small bits, not huge chunks.
The second dish that arrived was "OMG" good.  It blew us away.  The 2 pieces of 'toasts' arrived looking like slices of cake.  The thick bread was a spongy with crispy edge, topped with a thick layer of pate of chicken liver infused with anchovy and sherry.  The flavour was pretty much a party in my mouth.  As a bonus, the acidity of the balsamic vinegar cut through the pate making the party with a twist that could go on all night.  It was sooooooo good.
  
If there's one dish we never go without ordering, it's crispy pork belly.  Check out the marbled layer.  The skin was thick and, most importantly, crispy.  The meat was tender and came apart easily, the fat just made the world go round. Despite being served with my nemesis, white bean, they managed to get me to eat it too.   Props go to the supporting romesco sauce topping on the crispy pork and pesto mixed in the white bean.  
The octopus salad was on the special that night.  When it arrived, we had to double check with our server, "I think we ordered octopus salad".  "This is it,"she replied, "the octopus is there....there and there."  It was so dark, everything looked the same, and so we couldn't tell what was what on the plate.  It was a warm salad, a bit too salty in my opinion, although I really liked the chorizo on this dish.  It was slightly crispy with full-flavour.  The octopus was surprisingly tender, chewy but not rubbery.  The arugula tossed in lemon juice and olive oil livened everything up.  The fingerling potatoes were crispy and made good fillers. 
The house-made morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) with fried egg and mushrooms was a special dish.  It would easily be an excellent brunch dish also.  It's got all the proteins and iron one would need to face a hard day.  The sausage was savoury with a crumbly texture, and swimming in a light gravy-like sauce.  
We actually debated for a long time whether or not to order the paella.  Although we were already full, I knew in my heart if I didn't order it, I'd spend the rest of my life wondering "what if?".  There's certainly no room for that! Actually, what pushed me was the key ingredient, squid ink.  It always tastes so good in pasta, and even bread, but I had never tried with paella before.  For $32, the paella arrived in a large pan, black as night.  The flavour of the rice was amazing, full of flavour, zesty from lemon juice and probably hundreds of capers mixed in with the rice.  Despite the octopus being done well, tender and not rubbery, we all wished there was more seafood or more topping on the rice.  The ratio just didn't seem to match.  


We were full to the brim, yet this time, we all called for desserts. And, we were glad we did.  The catalan cream custard arrived in a ramekin.  Once we dug in, it pretty much revealed itself to be a creme brulee.  The burnt sugar was so thick and crispy and I love the taste of burnt sugar so much.  The custard cream was light, fluffy and creamy.  It was worth the weight gain.  
Again, speaking of weight gain, I don't care if I end up doubling in size from eating this dessert everyday.  Initially, we thought the trifle was 'too big'.  After digging in, pfft...there was no such thing.  The cake was saturated with sherry and layered with tangy blood oranges, pomegranate, and fluffy whipped cream.  I learned a lesson tonight. I shall always drench cakes with sherry before I eat it.  It was too good.  Or, maybe I just love the taste of alcohol too much.
Espana Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Takeya Sushi

Takeya Sushi may seem like a typical Japanese takeout & dine in restaurant, but it is always just as busy as its sister restaurant, Ichiro.  Finding where to dine is a routine habit  ritual for me and I wonder how the two would compare.  So, we sought out the modest restaurant on No. 1 road one Saturday night.  As I sat down and flipped through the menu, I began to question how authentic it was going to be.  It seemed the style was leaning more towards Western style Japanese cuisine with some fusion, hence spring rolls and dry deep fried gyoza.  Regardless, I later discovered their nigiri were solid.  
Toro pon nigiri, all dressed up for a party with sliced onion, mayo, roe, and light ponzu sauce.  The ponzu amount was very little and didn't really enhance much flavour.  I thought maybe the sauce should have been drizzled on top of the nigiri, so the onion would have a chance to absorb the citrus flavour and wouldn't be so strong tasting after.  Also, their toro was already great on its own with super fatty, melt-in-your-mouth texture I crave for so much.   Therefore, I felt the add-ons were not necessary and didn't enhance the taste of the fish that much.  
I think I will always order this at Takeya from now on, Takeya nigiri; seared toro, salmon toro, saba, amebi, eel, salmon and tuna roll.  The seared tuna and salmon toro hit the spot just right; smoky, faintly charred flavour on fatty toro.   The saba didn't have that strong, distinct fishy taste and was quite lean for saba.  Unagi was a good size and very saucy with buttery texture.  The amebi was plump but not as sweet as Hachi Sushi.  The tuna and salmon roll made great fillers.
Another dish that just made it on my list of favourite things in Richmond, salmon pon, Takeya's version of tataki. Thinly sliced pieces of seared salmon (or tuna) were dressed with spinach, onion, roe, mayo, and bathing in citrus ponzu sauce.  The dish had the right amount of burst in flavours, and contrasting crunch from onion and popping roe.  

The first three dishes were all from Chef's special menu which may change monthly.  I really hope all three dishes are here to stay. 
Tempura don and udon set made savoury fillers, because heaps of nigiri and sashimi just couldn't fill us up the way noodles and rice bowls can.  Although everything about them may be typical, they are also a great in value and portions.  Most of all, they get the job done.

To go with the udon, I needed a side of chicken karaage, but a small portion with 4 pieces.  The batter was crispy and flavourful while the meat was juicy and tender.  

Can you believe all that food was shared between 2 people?  Like Ichiro, Takeya also places more emphasis in delivering fresh and decent quality sushi and sashimi.  While I found the cooked food to be on par with the rest of other Japanese restaurants, some items offer great value and serve their purpose just fine.  

Takeya Sushi on Urbanspoon