Showing posts with label sushi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sushi. Show all posts

Friday, April 18, 2014

Omakase at Octopus Garden

P and I have always wanted to try the omakase (chef’s choice) menu. So we chose Octopus Garden and aimed for the gold star $100 menu. Hey, we don’t do this every day if we’re going to try it out might as well go big right?

- prepare your stomach for an epic battle
- spare at least 2.5h for the meal (and we eat pretty darn fast)
- menu changes every day so don’t expect to get the exact same thing if you do revisit

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ultimate Nigiri at Ichiro

When I asked a Japanese customer what she thought was the 'best' Japanese restaurant in Richmond, she quickly replied, "Ichiro, it's authentic".  Thus, later that evening, I dragged poor Mr. C to Steveston and found us a table for two.  I observed the environment, the restaurant was quite spacious, yet busy. Service was prompt. Also, the staff were all Japanese.  Could this be the first sign of authenticity? 

One of the sushi chef was in his late 50's, maybe early 60's.  He stood behind the sushi bar with a watchful eye.  I noticed he looked assertive and had an aura of Jiro (Dreams of Sushi), which made me more curious to try the sashimi.  C was already excited by the pages from the menu, filled with pictures and variety.  I was just as ecstatic and didn't know where to begin.  Everything looked and sounded good, particularly from the sushi and sashimi section.  I could swear we wanted to try something that was unique and a specialty, but somehow we just ended up ordering most of the usuals -__-
Have you ever recovered from a flu, only to be attacked by another cold right after? That's what the worst flu season in Vancouver has done to me.  So, a bowl of miso soup seemed to be a legitimate and comforting choice.  We each got one.  There is a version with clams in it, but we just kept it simple. It wasn't too salty or diluted, just a right balance of flavour.  
Okay, here's a specialty dish Mr. C ordered.  Steveston agedashi tofu was visually appealing. I'm a fan of anything wrapped in nori and deep fried. Of course, there was a harmony of textures between soft tofu, asparagus, imitation crab meat, and salmon. Nonetheless, C expressed his disdain for the texture of the salmon as it was dry and slightly overcooked. I agreed that it could go without. The broth could also be a bit more rich to enhance the flavours. We glanced at the next table and drooled over the golden fried dumplings with prawn tails peering out over the sizzling hot plate.

 A short time later, a small order of assorted tempura arrived, which led to a small altercation between C and I as to why no prawn gyoza was substituted instead. No table flipping involved and, of course, it was me who took the blame for not being interested in any gyoza in the first place. While we were less excited to indulge in the tempura, I dove for the fried bean and it was perfectly crispy. The prawns were good as well.  The batter was crispy and not too heavily coated.
Despite our best efforts to not order any more deep fry dishes, Mr. C and I have too much fondness (or weakness) for oily, crispy things.  Ebi mayo was served with a bouquet of sophisticatedly wrapped up greens and drizzle with an acidic and gingery and zesty vinaigrette. My favorite place for ebi mayo is still Guu Garlic. The prawns here were not overly battered and had a little bit sweetness from the mayo, but they somewhat reminded me of the Chinese prawn and peaches.
I don't really have much to describe about the soft shell crab roll and Steveston roll.  Softshell crab in the roll we both thought could have been a tad crispier.  The latter had sweet shrimp, tuna and topped with salmon.  It was a good size with a good filler-rice ratio.  The toro nigiri was quite fresh and melts in your mouth.  I still think the best and unbeatable toro is at Hachi Sushi where the fish just 'glistens'.   Now, let's talk about the U.I.T.
I knew I had to order this ultimate nigiri.  The U.I.T. for $3.50 per piece doesn't come cheap, but trust me, it's all worth while.  It features the 3 superstars of sushi; uni, ikura, and toro.  It's just glorious and so pretty to look at.
I fit the whole thing in one bite and was chewing for a good 30 seconds trying to taste all the components and how they worked together. Fortunately, the uni tasted like it was freshly plucked from the sea (as opposed to the stench from sitting out for a week).  The ikura was popping out 'sea-water' juices with no trace of fishiness, while the toro was smooth and fatty.  Mmmm.... It was a delightful combination to be indulged and savoured.

Last but not least, I thought their deluxe sashimi was fresh and great quality.  It included the basic and luxurious sashimi items; sockeye salmon, tuna, yellowtail, white fish, octopus, geoduck, surf clam, sweet shrimp.  But the one item that blew me away was the hamachi, or farmed yellowtail.
Check out how marbled that piece is!
Hamachi has really high oil or fat content, but the texture is more firm than toro.  So you still get a firm, but buttery taste with a sweet finishing note.  I highly recommend ordering hamachi at Ichiro as it is probably the best I have come across.

Ichiro has gotten it down for quality sushi and sashimi.  As quality should be over quantity, I would skip the cooked food and strictly do a few items from the sushi bar next time.  I'm definitely coming back for more U.I.T, hamachi, and would love to try their kaisendon too.  

Ichiro Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Minami; Best fusion rolls and place to go on a date

Why Minami makes an excellent choice  to go for a dinner date? 
- Great ambience.  Modern and upscale decor.  Professional service.
- The food.  Unique, fusion, beautifully presented.  While a place like this may seem to serve not so authentic sushi at small portions,  you can count on Minami serving delicious creations with excellent quality control.  If you're not happy, a manager will always make sure you are.  
- Price is higher but still affordable, be expected to drop at least over $100 for 2 people. 
-Good selections of exotic cocktails and wine. 
Conclusion: It's a great place to impress someone with your excellent taste in fine foods.  You can chat about whatever over sushi and cocktails creates a sexy mood.  Meanwhile you can try to flex your knowledge in Japanese cuisine.

And now food and drinks in review.

The cocktails
Finding shiso in Vancouver is just as rare as finding really fresh uni.  So, I was impressed that fresh shiso is used in many dishes and coctails at Minami. I ordered shiso mojito, a Japanese version with muddled shiso leaves and soju, which was really refreshing.  It took me back to memories of drinking shiso umeshu in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

The first drink P ordered also had a shiso leaf in it, but she absolutely couldn't stand the taste.  She was recommended to try Pacific Pimm's, sake cocktail infused with elderflower.  She loved it.  There was no 'cough syrupy taste' in there.  
The very first dish we had was Miso baked duck breast with watercress, ginger braised carrots, potato fondant, oranges.  The duck breast had a sweet glaze, slightly salty.  The meat was plump, slightly charred and smoky.  We would've liked it more medium rare or tender. I liked it with the oranges but no one else seemed to care for it.

Next up, shiso mojito watermelon with citrus cured scallops, goat cheese, pickled celery and micro greens. The shiso was present, but discrete.  The watermelon and goat cheese came together in a weird 'opposites attract' phenomenon which I can't figure out who was the first person who figured these 2 could work together.   The flavours came nicely all together.  But because there were so many competing textures and flavours, the scallops unfortunately got lost in this dish.   I couldn't even tell I was eating it along with everything else.  The last bite of the watermelon I tasted a strong alcohol saturation.  It was a pleasant surprise and I wonder why not all the watermelon pieces were as saturated.

Like its sister restaurant, Miku, Minami also thrives on the same specialty; aburi, flame-seared sushi.  Their "no wasabi no soy sauce" concept at a Japanese restaurant was what I viewed as inconceivable before I set foot inside the restaurant.  

There was no way I was going to enjoy my sushi or rolls without at least wasabi!?!

Alas, I got my head out of the concrete bubble and went in open minded to see what Minami has to offer.  

We read about the Aburi beef, the Minami experience.  It is described as aged premium Angus beef, thinly sliced.  I might add that, when they say "beautifully marbled and tender" on the menu, there was no false advertisement there.  We tried both the carpaccio and the Minami roll.  It is absolutely everything they described and much more, definitely an indulging experience.  
Aburi carpaccio, pictured above, was by far one of the most memorable and unique beef carpaccio variation I have come across to date.  Strong words. But the difference definitely lies in the beef, which was so tender, there's no other word but 'delicious' to describe it.  The other components of the carpaccio just added to it.  Sweet and crisp Asian pear and lotus chips added nice crunch.  Arugula was a great choice and it was great with the zesty jalapeno-garlic ponzu.  The poached egg, I believe the server mentioned it was sous-vide.  At any rate, it wasn't too runny but thick enough to bind everything nicely together into a thicker sauce.  

Sushi chef aburi-ing it up
Before I could get over how good that plate of carpaccio was, our trio of rolls arrived.  They were a good size, not too large or small, and beautifully presented.  My mouth watered over more aburi beef.  

On the far left, we had the Pacific roll which was pretty good.  The albacore tuna was lightly seared with a refreshing dab of avocado sauce on top.  I couldn't really taste the shiso, but with this roll, I wanted wasabi to go with it.   
The Minami roll, aburi beef short rib with spicy prawn and topped with wasabi masatake (soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil). The short rib was more marbled that the carpaccio, which means it had more tender fatty part.  The texture of the beef was already to die for.  The bit of sauce on top of the roll and spicy prawn were awesome flavour boosters, like adding more crowd to the party. I enjoyed every bite of that roll.  

We also tried Miku's famous Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi which everybody always raved about.  it was simplistic, yet it was our number one pick that night.  The torched top layer of salmon was smokey with the texture literally melted in my mouth.  The Miku sauce was some kind of seasoned mayo/aioli.  The pressed sushi was layered with a fresh piece of salmon.  The one slice of jalapeno was a nice kick.  I could've used wasabi and soy sauce here again, but...I didn't feel I need to.  The sushi rice was also really well seasoned to be enjoyed on its own. Wow, the liberation... It was an eye opening experience with a mouthful of happiness. 

Just when I thought my minds couldn't have been more blown away that night, we added Miku roll to the table. It  had typical maki ingredients; flying fish roe, salmon, crab and uni.  But, darn it, just because it had the special Miku sauce and it was torched, it was also one of the best rolls ever.   It was creamy, smoky, and just heavenly.  There was also a lot more crunch from all the popping flying fish roe.  There was less rice than then pressed sushi so it's not as heavy on the stomach.
To end things off, we ordered just one dessert to share, the strawberry rhubarb charlotte.  The strawberry mousse cake was light and fluffy.  Under it was a layer of chocolate chip spongecake.  Along side was a raspberry sorbet, rhubarb compote, fresh berries and whipped cream.  It was a nice finishing dessert that wasn't too sweet, and more tart and refreshing.  

Lessons of the day: 
Minami/Miku serve almost everything torched.
Anything torched tastes good here.
Always order Aburi carpaccio, Minami roll, Aburi salmon oshi sushi and Miku roll all to self.

Minami on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 16, 2012

Centara Grand Hotel buffet: Wagyu beef & free flow wine

Every night Centara Grand opens up not one, but two restaurants for one epic buffet.  Together, Ginger and the World offer a real trip for diners to get the finest fares from around the word.  Located across each other, the restaurants are a fair distance to get to and each being extremely spacious.  Ginger offers mainly Japanese and Chinese cuisines.  At the other side, the World offers Thai, Indian, and intercontinental cuisines, a salad and raw bar, as well as a large selection of fine desserts.  There is a different feature to the buffet almost every night.  Thursday night is wagyu beef night.  Meat lovers, you can't miss this deal.
The first of many to come

Friday, December 9, 2011

Urban Grill & Urban Sushi

After visiting Urban Grill & Urban Sushi, in my opinion, this is an establishment with a great marketing strategy and they are successful at what they do.  I recently went on their website and it is informative, interesting to navigate, offers online ordering, and offers discount coupons with appealing food photos. I often walked pass the restaurant on Granville St., and noticed that it was always busy during the lunch rush.   

Last week, my fellow class/food/soul mate Johanna pointed at the deep fried ice cream being advertised at the front of the restaurant.  Thus, we were convinced to go in and check it out.  After a quick browse of the interior, we decided to sit down and give it a try.  It was the HD flat screens displaying mouth-watering photos of the items on the menu that got us to stay.  The atmosphere is casual, but the seatings are not designed for comfort.  It was more cafeteria-style with long tables and chairs close together, a get-in-and-get-out style.  The restaurant is divided to 2 sections; the sushi and the grill section.  Urban Sushi menu offers a wide range of typical Japanese dishes and price is quite reasonable.  

It was a tough call, but we got the usual spicy tuna roll $4.25 with crunchy tempura bits to make chomping much more entertaining.  The roll had a good filling:rice ratio, and it was pretty much what you would expect out of a typical spicy tuna roll.  

Spider roll $8.50 was served elegantly on a long narrow plate.  Again, the pieces were not too large or too small.  There was a good amount of rice and the soft-shell crab was freshly fried.  It was drizzled with a dark and thick soy sauce that has been sweetened.  It tasted good since there was only a little bit, but too much could be overwhelming.  

Spicy Agedashi tofu $4.95.  The supposed 'spicy sauce' was really tame, and there was no hint of spiciness at all.  Other than that, the tofu pieces were large, and crispy on the outside.

Always a sucker for fried chicken, anytime, any place.  The picture was alluring so I ordered it.  Chicken karaage $6 was a really good deal.  Generous portion of fried chicken pieces with a side of salad.  With a bowl of rice, that's already a meal on its own.  They were crispy and delicious without any sauce.

Despite the fact that we were stuffed to the brim, we had to share the dessert which dragged us in here in the first place, deep fried ice cream with strawberry syrup.  You have a selection of flavours to choose from and we picked mango-coconut swirl... Yum!  The batter was interesting.  It didn't look golden brown like in the picture.  Instead, it was light in colour, similar to tempura batter.  The inside dough had a fluffy bread-like texture which I found too thick and filling, but Johanna didn't seem to mind.  

Overall, the experience was positive.  I would return to Urban Sushi again, and had I still gone to school in downtown, it would've been my go-to place for lunch or after school snacks.  Service was only so-so; prompt, but slow at times.  For the price you pay, the food is not bad, good portion, and extra effort went in presentation.

Urban Grill & Urban Sushi (Granville) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Toshi Sushi

The lineup at Toshi is comparable to waiting for a table at a busy dim sum restaurant on a Sunday Morning.  
It was eternal with no hope, no future.  With 13 tables ahead of us at 6 pm, P and I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel, yet it was impossible to give up now since we felt like we've come too far.  As more customers pour in to this little modest sushi restaurant, those put their names down saw the long list ahead of them and accepted their fate.  Wow, some loyal customers they have here.  This place MUST be something special.  As time went by, somehow, the two of us managed to entertain ourselves with discussions that wouldn't end so quickly ie. religions, politics, philosophies, purpose on this earth, etc.  We figured all that out and my name was still not being called!  At a near state of vegetation, the sweet sound of my name was finally called out.  We gathered what little energy we had left and staggered to be seated at the sushi bar.  It didn't help that we got front seats to salivate over the delicious looking sushi flying out from the bar. There, we got to see the master sushi chefs at work and saw what each dish looked like.  The tuna tataki and overstuffed cones seemed tantalizing.  Since we had an hour to think about what we wanted, we didn't have to take a second look at the menu.   There was no more time left to waste, it was 7 something pm, I needed some food pronto............ T ^ T

 It didn't take too long for our box roll ($7.75) to arrive.  It had the same concept of a rainbow roll with different type of sashimi layering over top.  The filling had avocado and topped with sockeye salmon, scallop, shrimp, and thin slices of lemon.  I really liked the lemony touch to go with the sashimi topping. The downer was that the sushi rice was compressed, which means there was more rice as fillers.
 My new favourite sushi, ikura! and it was topped with quail egg for only $2.25 each.  There was an initial concern how fresh the ikura would have to be if it was going to mix with raw egg.  After the bite, I was relieved the roe was fresh.  As the ikura bursted out, it blended with the egg yolk to form a thick, creamy, and salty liquid concoction.  If you're not a fan of either of the combination, you might find the thick liquidy texture kinda gross. Probably not something I should have a lot of, but it was interesting and I should've gotten more than just 1. For the quality, the price is a deal and a half.

 The dinner box for $16.95 could easily feed 2 people, or should I say girls/moderate eaters, etc.  It would not be possible for me to finish this by myself, well, maybe if I didn't order anything else.  But, the dinner box is a great deal as it comes with 6 well portioned dishes of Japanese staples; tempura, sashimi, nigiri sushi, a maki roll, a sunomono, and a surprise meat dish.  Average Japanese bento box gives you a sliver of each.  The box came with miso soup, but not a bowl of rice.  P and I shared the box and didn't need any more rice as we got enough from the sushi and rolls.
 The special dish of the day was a rolled up chicken breast with asparagus stuffed inside with a teriyaki glaze.  I thought this dish was only so-so.  The chicken was tender but it could definitely use more sauce.  It was extremely filling too.
Three pieces of tempura, 2 shrimp and a yam. The shrimp tempura was SOOOO crispy.  It gave a loud crunch as I bit into it.  The batter wasn't too thick either. I love love love it.
 Six pieces of sashimi, sockeye salmon, tuna, and octopus.  They were fresh and delicious.
 Their california roll was done the "old school" way as the crab meat was not shredded.  I prefer this method better as it had better 'imitation crab' texture and became really creamy when blended with the avocado.  There were fresh and good size 4 pieces of sushi, tuna, red snapper, squid, and shrimp.
 I'm not a big fan of sunomono, but I found this particular one really nice and refreshing.  The vinegar wasn't overwhelming for once and there were many little shrimp swimming in the dressing.

 Here, we ordered a simple baked eggplant with miso glaze ($5.25).  It was baked until it was extremely softened (mushy, rather) and achieved a perfect state of caramelization.  I haven't had an eggplant that was this mushy in a while, and it's not a bad thing at all.  The texture was almost like a grilled, caramelized banana.  It went really well with the chicken that needed a little something extra.

We wanted to try more food, but after the dinner box we struggled just to make it through.  The food was authentic at a reasonable price.  If you are able to withstand long, eternal waits, I would recommend this place.

Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon