Monday, 17 July 2017

Episode #226: Kimu Japanese Cuisine (2nd Visit)

Vancouver (Southeast), $ (Budget)

Every semester, I try to organize a sushi meet-up so the TAs in my office can meet and get to know each other. This time, however, my attempts to organize were more or less a fail. Despite drawing a huge availability schedule that spanned our chalkboard and personally bugging each TA to fill out the schedule, more than half of the TAs ended up cancelling hours before the dinner for various reasons. Somehow, 15 confirmed guests became 7, and plus-ones almost outnumbered TAs that actually share the office with me. Nonetheless, the dinner went on with Andrea, Angus, Anya, Ashton, Patrick, and Sean in attendance.

Even though the restaurant still displays a "Grand Opening" sign, it has actually been open for many months. It has been gaining popularity, and now, it is one of my go-to places for casual group dinners.  Their menu features a great assortment of fusion dishes, most of which are Instagram-worthy.

As is usual for dinners with me, no ordering took place until around 45 minutes after we had sat down at our table, by which point the restaurant began to get busy and the service became sparse. We placed all our orders at the same time, but for some reason, my food came way later than anyone else's.

Belly King Roll - B+

After awkwardly staring at my friends enjoying their food for a very long time (some of them were already finished), my Belly King Roll finally arrived. This roll came with avocado, negitoro, seared sake toro (salmon belly), jalapeño, capers, garlic chips, balsamic reduction, and pesto olive sauce. Despite its small size, the roll was very successful texture-wise, especially with the smooth and soft seared salmon. I thought the salmon could've used a bit more smokiness though.

Spicy Crunch Roll - B+

Since Sean was with us, we got the obligatory Spicy Crunch Roll. A deep-fried California roll topped with spicy tuna, tobiko, tempura flakes, spicy house sauce, and BBQ sauce, the Spicy Crunch Roll packed a lot of flavour, and it was nice that the batter was not too hard. The spicy tuna had a delectable, soft texture, but it was slightly overwhelmed by the aggressive use of chili sauce.

Beef Gomae - B

Next, I had the Beef Gomae simply because I'd never seen the dish at any other restaurant before. It was essentially beef sashimi accompanied by gomae. The beef was tender and went well with the sweet gomae sauce, but the tangy ponzu sauce on the bottom complemented neither the beef nor the gomae. I had to let the ponzu sauce drip down before each bite.

Rainbow Sushi Pizza - B+

In honour of one of our guests, who really likes colourful things, I ordered the Rainbow Sushi Pizza, which came with crab meat, salmon, tuna, ebi, hamachi, tai, unagi, tobiko, BBQ eel, and wasabi mayonnaise. The crispy layer of rice at the bottom was slightly overdone, but the mixture of creamy sauces and smooth cuts of fish worked well. The tai and unagi were the highlights among the seafood.

Hamachi Toro Nigiri - A-
Madai Nigiri - A-
Shima-Aji Nigiri - A-
Uni Nigiri - B+

Ordering my nigiri turned out to be quite laughable for my entire table because they had run out of most of the more expensive types of nigiri. After having my order rejected again and again (feels bad), I finally ended up with the nigiri above. The nigiri was fresh and came in generous cuts. The delicate sweetness of the shima-aji and the smooth texture of the madai were highlights. There wasn't a lot of uni in the Uni Nigiri, but it still had a nice, creamy texture.

While the service was a little sparse as we came at prime dinner time on a Saturday, it was at least friendly. Once again, I enjoyed the innovation and the consistency in execution. I can foresee more adventures to Kimu, as there are still many creative dishes that I haven't tried yet, such as the Dontoro Bites, the Volcano Eggplant Seafood Yaki, and the Honeymoon Roll. Okay, maybe that last one will have to wait...

KIMU Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 14 July 2017

Episode #225: Sushi Den

Vancouver (Downtown), $ (Budget)

While waiting for our movie to start, Puzzlefighter and I were in Chinatown looking for Japanese eats. Puzzlefighter likes fancy nigiri even more than I do, but when we eat together, we always end up ordering insane amounts of food. One time, the two of us went to MYST and ended up paying more than $90 for dinner. I literally have no idea how we ended up in that predicament. It's not like we're particularly big guys. This time, since both of us were quite hungry, we went to Sushi Den to keep the bill within reason.

Sushi Den is a moderately large Japanese restaurant located near International Village. It is quite popular due to its cheap pricing and decent assortment of menu items. Unfortunately, this meant that there was no way that Puzzlefighter and I were getting out of there while still able to walk properly.

Toro Sashimi - A-

The Toro Sashimi was just $9 for 6 pieces, and we were pleased with the freshness. The toro was smooth and buttery, and it came in generous slices. Some of the pieces were noticeably softer than others.

Negihama Roll - B+

Next up, the Negihama Roll (chopped yellowtail with green onion) was neatly wrapped. The green onion gave off a nice zing and a slight crunch, while the seaweed was not too chewy. However, the flavour of the hamachi was not particularly rich.

Out of Controll - B

Since we went out of control on the ordering, we thought it would be fitting to get the Out of Controll, a special roll with "lots of stuff." We found salmon, tuna, tamago, and sockeye inside the roll, which was dressed with spicy mayonnaise and coleslaw dressing. Although it did seem like the chef went a little out of control, the fish was fresh, and the roll was very large and filling. We found the roll a little rice-heavy, which weakened the flavours of the fish.

Flower Tuna Nigiri - A-
Flower Salmon Nigiri - A-
Ikura Nigiri - B
Uni Nigiri - B+

Of course, we had to try both types of flower nigiri, which was essentially sashimi wrapped around masago and cucumber (no rice). The Flower Tuna Nigiri came with really soft and fresh tuna, while the Flower Salmon Nigiri contained fresh, buttery salmon. We felt that the cucumber was just there for visual appeal, as it didn't really match the flavour or texture of the fish. 

The Ikura Nigiri came in huge portions, and the creamy flavours of the uni and avocado worked well together in the Uni Nigiri. The seaweed wrapping was a little tough though, which made it hard to eat the nigiri neatly.

Tai Nigiri - B-
Unagi Nigiri - A-

The Tai Nigiri (snapper) was not tough, but came with a little too much sushi rice, which overwhelmed the flavour of the tai. The Unagi Nigiri, on the other hand, was really juicy and meaty. The unagi had an excellent smoked flavour.

Beef Short Rib Yakiniku - A-

The Beef Short Rib Yakiniku is a fun dish where you can grill your own short ribs on a small tabletop grill. Since I didn't want to set the restaurant on fire, I let Puzzlefighter do most of the grilling. When done correctly, the short ribs have a nice charred flavour. The mild marinade did not overpower the ribs, and the meat was not tough due to the thin cuts.

Ten Zaru Soba - B

After all the food above, we decided to get a filler to really hit it home. The Ten Zaru Soba came with 5 pieces of tempura (two prawns and one piece each of yam, sweet potato, and kabocha). We found the tempura quite greasy, but sufficiently juicy and crispy. The cold soba was refreshing, and the green onion and sesame seeds livened up the dipping sauce. We quite enjoyed the soba until Puzzlefighter found a slight error.

Yes, there was a stray udon noodle in the soba! While the udon noodle didn't really bother us, we thought they ought to be just a little more careful, in case other things slipped into their food...

Overall, the food was decent given the prices, and the service was friendly and adequate. Although the atmosphere isn't particularly fancy, it is a place where you can get a good variety of food for budget prices. Despite the amount of food we ordered, our bill was only slightly over $60 altogether.

Sushi Den Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 7 July 2017

Episode #224: Kisoya

Port Coquitlam, $$ (Moderately Priced)

I've always been confident that I knew about all the sushi restaurants within a 15-minute drive from my place, until Linda managed to come up with one that had completely slipped from my radar. After I got through a few moments of utter shock and horror, we agreed to have lunch at Kisoya.

Kisoya is a rather large (yes, I don't know how I missed it) Korean-operated Japanese restaurant located in the north part of Port Coquitlam. It is one of the oldest Japanese restaurants in Port Coquitlam and features an extensive menu with a wide array of special rolls. However, there is no modern Japanese fusion on the menu, so you won't find any Aburi-type sushi here.

Crabmeat Mushroom Salad - B+

One thing on the menu that caught my eye was the Crabmeat Mushroom Salad. On the menu, it looked like an imitation crab sundae topped with colourful berries for decoration. Most of all, it was served in a wine glass, and I don't pass up things served in wine glasses. The berries didn't make it into the final product, but there was an abundance of sweet crab meat. It erred on the drier side, and a little more mayonnaise might have helped.

Power of Love Roll - A-

Since sushi is always a good way to experience things, I decided to get the Power of Love Roll. This roll came with unagi, deep-fried salmon, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, and unagi sauce. With crispy deep-fried salmon on top and crispy unagi inside, this roll was a good mix of flavours. 

Spicy Chicken Box

When choosing lunch boxes, I always like to choose the box with the least vegetables, the most meat, and the most special items possible. This led us to the Spicy Chicken Box.

Miso Soup - B+

The Spicy Chicken Box came with a Miso Soup. The consistency was on the thinner side, but there was sufficient miso paste to give the soup a rich flavour.

Ebi Mayo - C+

The Ebi Mayo was made with panko batter and dressed with a mix of mustard and mayonnaise. The batter was slightly hard, and the prawns were noticeably overdone.

Washington Roll - B+

Next up, the Washington Roll consisted of crab meat, cucumber, avocado, fresh salmon, wasabi and peanut sauce. Like the Power of Love Roll, the ingredients in the Washington Roll worked well together. The salmon and avocado topping created a nice creamy texture, and the wasabi provided a subtle hit of spiciness to the roll. 

Salad - B+

Dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, the lettuce-based salad was fresh and sufficiently flavoured.

Spicy Chicken Teriyaki - B+

The Spicy Chicken Teriyaki came with tender chicken and savoury bean sprouts underneath. The chicken had a pleasant grilled flavour, though parts of it were a bit oily. The spicy sauce was quite spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.

Prawn Tempura - A
Yam Tempura - B+
Sweet Potato Tempura - B

Without a doubt, the best part of the lunch box was the Prawn Tempura, which came with crispy, juicy prawns that had a nice snap to them. Interestingly, the batter on the yam and sweet potato was considerably thicker.

Overall, considering that this was a restaurant that I had never even heard of, the quality of the food surpassed my expectations. However, the service was a little sparse even though we were pretty much the only ones in the restaurant. The atmosphere ended up rather quiet as a result, but then again, once you wander east of Coquitlam, bustling sushi restaurants are like sunny November days in Vancouver.

Kisoya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato