It seems that every time I try to visit Kazu Japanese Restaurant (the new authentic Japanese restaurant on Hastings), some act of nature will try its best to prevent me from doing so. The first time I try, they are closed on Mondays, and the second time I try, they cancel their lunch hours from Tuesday to Thursday. So last Friday, I tried one last time, only for Translink to cancel two consecutive buses for the route that would get me there. My determination for sushi got the better of me, and even though I was running nearly half an hour late, I decided to count on my lucky stars and go on the journey anyway. I was 99% sure I wasn't going to make it back to campus for my afternoon class on time when the bus driver decided to drive at 20 km/h so that he could finish the last bits of his lunch. Sigh, bus drivers these days ...
When I arrived, there was heavy construction work in front of the restaurant in the form of road paving across several blocks of Hastings St. Still, my determination did not waver, and I walked all around the construction work and behind the fencing to get to the restaurant. (The paving seemed to be complete by the next day.) Despite the extreme technical difficulties of getting to the restaurant itself, the restaurant was still full of diners and had a small crowd waiting at the door for seats. That's when you know you're running a successful business. I hastily ordered the Tempura Roll, a few pieces of nigiri and the Bento Box A and then proceeded to enjoy the relaxing bossa nova music they were playing in the background.
Tempura Roll - A-
The Tempura Roll came with tempura prawn, lettuce, avocado, radish sprouts, tobiko and mayonnaise. It was essentially the version of the Dynamite Roll with smaller pieces. The prawn was meaty and still warm from the fryer while the avocado was fresh and provided a nice, subtle touch of creaminess to the roll.
Unagi Nigiri - A-
Saba Nigiri - A
Toro Nigiri - B+
The nigiri were particularly well-formed and the fish-to-rice ratio was flawless. The unagi was quite savoury and dressed with teriyaki sauce. If it was a bit thicker and more meaty, it would have been excellent. The Saba Nigiri was flavourful and had a deliciously smooth fatty layer in the center. It was garnished with green onion and ginger and had just ther right amount of saltiness. The Toro Nigiri came with a generous cut, but was a bit underthawed. The wasabi is real Japanese horseradish!
Miso Soup - A
The Miso Soup (which accompanied the Bento Box A) contained seaweed, green onion, and tofu. The miso paste was finely ground to create a nice, smooth texture and a rich taste.
The Bento Box A consisted of the miso soup mentioned above along with tuna and salmon sashimi, appetizer tempura, chicken teriyaki (choice of beef available), and shrimp sunomono. Tempura dipping sauce and rice were provided on the side (not pictured). Considering the amount of diners they had, I was quite surprised by the speed and efficiency at which the kitchen and sushi bar churned out dishes.
Salmon Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - B
The Salmon Sashimi was cut into small pieces and ended up being a bit flimsy, but it was fresh sockeye salmon and had a nice, smooth sheen. I would give it an A if the cuts were large enough not to detract from the flavour of the salmon. The Tuna Sashimi satisfied the melt-in-your-mouth criteria, but I found it overly mild in flavour.
Prawn Tempura - A-
Green Bean Tempura - A-
Carrot Tempura - B-
Sweet Potato Tempura - B
Yam Tempura - B-
The prawn tempura (2 pieces), like the Tempura Roll, was meaty and covered with a flaky, crispy batter. I found it a little too thick in places. The Green Bean Tempura (2 pieces) was decent and preserved the moisture inside quite well. The Carrot Tempura (1 piece) and Yam Tempura (1 piece) were both sliced much too thin, and the carrot completely slid out of the batter casing when I tried to eat it (whoops). The Sweet Potato Tempura (1 piece) had a strong sweet flavour, but decided to join the bandwagon of thinness as well.
Chicken Teriyaki - C+
The Chicken Teriyaki came with barely any sauce and the bean sprouts under it were virtually undressed (there was only a small amount of oil at the bottom). The chicken had a smooth texture, but was slightly rubbery (overcooked).
Shrimp Sunomono - B+
The Shrimp Sunomono had a couple of soft mini shrimp. The vinegar base was quite light compared to other sunomonos I've had. The vermicelli used was a thicker variety which I found smooth and slippery.
The service was quite decent and the sushi chef (Chef Kazu?) seemed quite nice and friendly. He also received quite a few compliments from customers while I was eating at the bar. The prices are very reasonable, especially for an authentic restaurant, and combined with the above average quality of the food, I could see why so many people chose to ignore the construction outside and enjoy lunch at Kazu. The well-formed, fresh nigiri were the highlight of this meal and I wish I could stay to sample more dishes, but because the bus driver (mentioned earlier) was too busy enjoying his lunch, I didn't get enough time for mine. I would have much preferred the endlessly cursing bus driver (the other main species of bus driver) as opposed to the unprofessional, sloth-speed, lunch-eating bus driver. On the bright side, at least I made it to the restaurant after so many tries.