While Patrick was looking for the perfect venue to celebrate his birthday, one of the first places he considered was his favourite restaurant: Miku. Miku's Blue Sky private dining room, with a spectacular view of Burrard Inlet, was a perfect fit for our group of 22. However, Patrick was informed that we had to spend a minimum of $1,600 (just under $80 a person). That didn't work for us for two precise reasons. One, we were students, and two, not all of us were whales.
Instead, Patrick let the group choose between Cactus Club and JOEY. One key difference between the two restaurants is that JOEY serves sushi and Cactus Club doesn't, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when JOEY got the popular vote. Also, due to my cultural background, if I am not using chopsticks at a restaurant, then it won't feel right to me.
We were here on a Friday night, and everything from the kitchen to the dining areas and entrances was packed. On the one-page menu was a simple assortment of some Western and some East-meets-West appetizers, burgers, and entrées. As JOEY restaurants are designed to be ideal places for fun gatherings, the drinks menu was much more impressive than the food menu. Unfortunately, Patrick banned me from drinking on this adventure because the last time I drank in front of him, my brain completely went to Narnia. To make up for my loss, I gracefully dealt with the situation by ordering three times as much food as anyone else.
Sushi Cone - B+
Among the first items to arrive at our table was the Sushi Cone, which consisted of tempura prawn, avocado, spicy mayonnaise, tobiko, and a small amount of daikon. The soy wrapper that held the cone together was very light and barely noticeable texture-wise when eaten. The prawn tempura had a nice crunch, but was a bit on the drier side.
Osaka Style Pressed Salmon Sushi - A
As JOEY's main focus is not sushi, I was pleasantly surprised when the Osaka Style Pressed Salmon Oshi ended up being one of the best versions of the popular Aburi Salmon Oshi dish I've ever come across. Topped with thinly sliced serrano peppers, the salmon had a melty, creamy texture and was very rich in flavour. A sprinkle of tempura bits provided some textural contrast to the soft bed of rice underneath. Salmon was also inserted into the rice layer to ensure that both the top and the bottom of each piece of sushi had sufficient flavour.
Rainbow Roll - A-
From the category of East-meets-West fusion items, the Rainbow Roll came with ahi tuna, salmon, crab meat, avocado, and Sriracha aioli. The crab meat had a flavour akin to that of a tuna egg salad, and despite the appearance of large amounts of rice, the flavours were actually well-balanced. I also enjoyed the light spiciness provided by the drizzle of spicy mayonnaise on top.
Ahi Tuna Club - B+
Feeling a little adventurous, but not wanting to stray too far away from my natural habitat, I went for the Ahi Tuna Club, consisting of ahi tuna (grilled rare), bacon, sweet pepper relish, onion rings, and a toasted sesame bun. It also comes with a side of standard-fare Caesar salad. The best part of the burger was undoubtedly the juicy and smoky ahi tuna. However, I found the crispy onion rings rather hard, and they also made it slightly difficult for me to hold the bun together. Nonetheless, the ingredients created a nice mix of sweet and savoury flavours, and I enjoyed this dish despite the fact that it was not sushi.
Despite how busy the huge restaurant was, there was enough staff on duty, and thus, the service was on point. The fusion-style sushi was also on point and justified the higher prices. However, the food is not particularly filling, so it took me about five slices of birthday cake before I felt full. Even then, I still had the stomach room to go for a few drinks afterward when Patrick lifted my ban. Well, sort of...