Monday, April 30, 2018

Episode #241: Jiro Sushi & Ramen

Vancouver (Northeast), $$ (Moderately Priced)

Besides "Have you been to Tojo's?", one other question I get asked a lot is "Have you been to Jiro's sushi restaurant? The really famous one in Japan?" While trying Sukiyabashi Jiro is on my bucket list, I am quite the procrastinator when it comes to making travel plans. Reservations at Sukibayashi Jiro are typically made at least 6 months in advance. Unfortunately, by the time I confirmed my travel dates to Japan, there were less than 6 weeks before departure. Not only were seats at Sukiyabashi Jiro long gone, but so were the seats at pretty much every other Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan. Not wanting to give up my dreams of eating sushi, I looked around for a close substitute and found Jiro Sushi & Ramen.

Jiro Sushi & Ramen is a new Chinese-operated Japanese restaurant with a clean interior featuring marbled tables and slim wooden chairs. Opening the menu, I found a good assortment of special rolls and an array of moderately priced items. There were also some cheaper options in terms of rolls and nigiri.

Kung Fu Roll - C+

One thing I lack in life is martial arts skills, so to make up for this deficiency, I went for the Kung Fu Roll, which consisted of spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, salmon, seared tuna, grilled veggies, tempura oba, onions, masago, and orange. With its bright gold and red colours, the roll looked perfect for a Chinese New Year celebration. The spicy tuna inside the roll was pleasantly soft, and the orange slices were juicy and sweet (even though they weren't really part of the roll). Unfortunately, the obnoxious amount of hot chili sauce obscured the flavours of virtually everything else, and the roll was quite rice-heavy.

Tai Nigiri - B-
Sockeye Salmon Nigiri - B-
Toro Nigiri - B
Unagi Nigiri - B-

The Tai Nigiri was not too chewy, but not too flavourful either. The Sockeye Salmon Nigiri came with moderately fresh sockeye salmon, while the Toro Nigiri was soft and neatly constructed. The Unagi Nigiri, at $1.45 a piece, was the cheapest unagi nigiri I have come across in all of Greater Vancouver. It fared alright, though the thin cut dampened its impact. The sushi rice was also quite tightly packed and prevented me from enjoying the softer textures of the toppings.

Chicken & Scallop Teriyaki - B+
Tempura - B+

The Chicken & Scallop Teriyaki came with an option to add $2 for a few pieces of tempura. The teriyaki was the best-executed dish of the whole dinner, with juicy chicken and sweet scallops. If anything, the scallops could've been a little less well done. The tempura came with 2 prawns and 3 pieces of sweet potato. The batter could've used a little more crispiness, but the tempura was rich in flavour. The frying oil used to prepare the tempura was not overused.

The service during my visit was adequately friendly. However, my overall impression of the restaurant was that nothing truly stood out. Although there were no absolute blunders, my dinner lacked a dish enticing enough for me to come back for more. If I were looking for budget sushi, there are also cheaper options in the area. Will Jiro Sushi & Ramen find a way to captivate hearts like the famed Sukiyabashi Jiro in Japan?

Jiro Sushi & Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Episode #240: Sushia

Burnaby North, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Even though I don't TA at SFU anymore, I've still continued the tradition of bringing sushi trays into my office every so often and sharing them with my office mates. Just to keep things interesting, I try not to bring the same trays over and over again, but there are only so many places that are close enough to SFU that the sushi doesn't get cold on the ride there.

Production Station is only a 10-minute bus ride from SFU, but the previous sushi restaurant at the station, Sushi Kaku, was so dead and uninviting that I had second thoughts about going in. For the record, I don't have second thoughts about bussing home from a party at 3 a.m. from one side of GVRD to the other, so that says much about the restaurant. The new sushi restaurant at Production Station, Sushia, looks a lot more inviting, and I strolled in to see if it was a worthy candidate for my party tray adventures at the office.

Sushia is a Chinese-operated restaurant that seats about 25. The prices were rather reasonable, and business appeared to be healthy, with a steady stream of take-out orders and eat-in diners. The menu is quite large for a restaurant of this size, with a good assortment of appetizers, special rolls, rice/noodle bowls, nigiri, sashimi, and the new, trendy favourite—oshi sushi.

Ocean Roll - B-

The Ocean Roll consisted of prawn tempura, cucumber, avocado, imitation crab meat, and tobiko. It came in small but neatly constructed pieces, and the sauces (spicy mayo and unagi sauce) provided ample flavour to the roll despite the roll being slightly rice-heavy. The tempura batter, however, was really hard, and the rice vinegar was too strong, interfering with the sweetness of the imitation crab meat on top.

Salmon Sashimi - B+
Tuna Sashimi - C+
Tai Sashimi - A-

The Appetizer Sashimi, which came with 2 pieces of salmon, 2 pieces of tuna, and 1 piece of tai, was also presented neatly, with a small salad underneath. The salmon was pleasantly buttery and smooth, and the tai (snapper) was fresh with a delectable, sweet flavour. I also liked how the tai was not tough at all. However, I did not like the tuna, which was not soft at all and inexplicably dry. 

Unagi Oshi - B-

I wanted to try the Toro Oshi, but since they ran out of toro, I opted for the Unagi Oshi instead, which was the lunch special of the day (a $2 discount off the regular price). I was initially puzzled as to why there would be a random slice of lemon on my plate, but as soon as I bit into the oshi, I could see why. The unagi was overdone (with some burnt parts), and the lemon was required to give the unagi its necessary juiciness. At least the rice was not too tightly packed, and the creamy avocado inside prevented the rice from feeling too dry.

Amaebi Nigiri - A-
Hotate Nigiri - B-
Saba Nigiri - C

The Amaebi Nigiri did not disappoint, with deliciously sweet and creamy shrimp that had a light chew and a good rebound. The Hotate Nigiri (scallop) was moderately fresh, with a slight overage of rice underneath. However, the one piece that really disappointed was the Saba Nigiri, which was so dry and salty that it might as well have been labelled Dried Anchovy Nigiri. 

I experienced friendly service during my visit, but the food was very hit and miss. They are able to stock fresh seafood and have some appealing menu items, but the consistency will have to improve before this restaurant can attract the vast population of students commuting to SFU. In the meantime, I'm sticking with my top picks on Hastings (Take, Kilala, and Osaka) for my party trays.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Episode #239: Sushi Bar 5517

Sechelt, $$$ (Higher Priced)

It turns out that going to Sunshine Coast is not a sure-fire way to evade Metro Vancouver's heat waves. After a short uphill hike from the coast to Sunnycrest Mall, I felt like a penguin dying of dehydration in a hot desert. Maybe I'm just not as fit as I should be. Either way, I ended up engaging in the one sport you can keep doing without getting hot—swimming—in order to burn off some of the calories from lunch.

Located in the core of Sechelt, Sushi Bar 5517 is a Korean-operated sushi restaurant peculiarly named after its street number. Whereas Sushi Bar Nagomi has an attractive interior, Sushi Bar 5517 has an attractive exterior and looks like it would fit perfectly in a ski resort. The menu is a modern one with creative appetizers and an abundance of special rolls that have spicy mayonnaise in them.

Tuna Goma-ae - A

Having had an excellent tuna poke dish at Sushi Bar Nagomi, I decided to order something similar at Sushi Bar 5517—the Tuna Goma-ae. The fact that sake was listed as one of the ingredients made it all the more attractive to me. Although the sake was only very faintly noticeable, this goma-ae did not disappoint. The tuna was very fresh, and the soy sauce dressing had a slight but appealing tanginess.

Toro Nigiri - B+
Unagi Nigiri - B+
Amaebi Nigiri - B+

The rice in the nigiri was packed a little too tightly, but overall, the nigiri was still decent. The toro was moderately soft and had a nice creamy flavour. The unagi (eel) was soft and smoky and came in a generous cut. The Amaebi Nigiri (spot prawn) was a little weak in flavour due to an overage of rice, but the prawn had an enjoyable light chew.

Lollipop Scallop - B

One appetizer that looked particularly interesting on the menu was the Lollipop Scallop, which consisted of deep-fried scallop wrapped in zucchini and eggplant with spicy mayonnaise. The very juicy vegetables were the best part of this dish. However, the dish needed a bit more teriyaki sauce, and the scallops were overdone. If they replaced the scallop with more zucchini, this might have been an excellent Lollipop Zucchini dish.

Tornado Roll - A-

The Tornado Roll came with 2 tempura prawns, avocado, cucumber, tuna, salmon, sweet spicy mayonnaise, and BBQ sauce. This was a small but neatly constructed roll. Excellent soft tuna and pleasantly sweet sockeye salmon complemented the crispy tempura prawns inside. The sauces were a bit on the sweeter side, but the conservative drizzle of spicy mayonnaise did not overwhelm any of the flavours.

Overall, the food was enjoyable, and the prices were reasonable given the food quality and the location of the restaurant. However, the service was rather poor. My tea was not refilled at any point during my visit, and when I got up to pay the bill and leave, the waitress just looked at me without saying anything. I felt unwanted and unwelcome at the restaurant. It is too bad that the service ruined what would otherwise have been a solid experience at Sushi Bar 5517.

Sushi Bar 5517 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato