Monday, March 30, 2015

Episode #74: Nagano

Port Moody, $$$ (Higher Priced)

The California Roll from Nagano in Coquitlam used to be one of my favourite foods as a kid (clearly, times were tough back then). I would get 3 or 4 orders of it at a time and then bring it home to have a feast. Recently, the Coquitlam branch closed down (Urbanspoon says that this is temporary), so the only branch of Nagano in operation at the moment is the Port Moody branch. The Port Moody Nagano appears to be Korean-operated and has a good variety of dishes on the menu.

Miso Soup - B

Not wanting to spend forever deciding on what to order (as I had a paper due), I ordered the Sukiyaki Dinner, which came with a Miso Soup, an Ebi Sunomono, Sukiyaki (with rice), and dessert. The Miso Soup was the first to arrive and it came with seaweed, tofu, and green onion. The temperature was just right, but it was quite salty.

Ebi Sunomono - B

The Ebi Sunomono was served with baby shrimps. It had a tangy, citrusy flavour due to the piece of lemon that it was served with. I liked how the vermicelli had just the right chewiness, but it would be nice if the shrimps had more flavour to them.

Alien Roll - B+

The Alien Roll consisted of chicken, crab meat, two beans, noodles, broccoli, roe, combined with "an appearance of alien". Normally, I spend a lot of time pondering which special roll to get, but as soon as I saw the words "appearance of alien", I decided that I had to get this roll. It had a distinct aroma due to the tempura broccoli, and surprisingly, the flavours worked well together. My only concern was that the seaweed was quite firm, and any of my attempts to chew it ended up pulling the whole roll apart. At this point, I also noticed that I wasn't given a soy sauce container, so I had to use my Miso Soup bowl instead. Oh well, close enough!

Sukiyaki - A-
It might not look like it in the photo above, but it reality, the Sukiyaki was huge! It would most likely have been enough to serve as both my lunch and my dinner. The beef was sliced thinly enough and had a soft texture along with a nice hint of spiciness. The vermicelli was soft and flavourful, and overall, the Sukiyaki was quite enjoyable. 

White Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream - B-

For dessert, I got the White Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream (there were three different choices to choose from). It had a good amount of sweetness, but it was too frozen, even for ice cream. 

I found the service to be quite friendly, and my server was quite apologetic after I told her about the missing soy sauce container mishap. However, it didn't really affect my meal, so I told her not to worry about it. The food wasn't stellar, but it was good enough for the restaurant to have a nice, steady flow of customers. The prices are on the higher side, but that goes for every other Japanese restaurant in Port Moody that I've been to.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Episode #73: Temaki Sushi

Vancouver (Northwest), $$ (Moderately Priced)

Since I had too many exams and too many papers to write, I did not have time to do any Urbanspoon research prior to my sushi adventure (but note that I always have time for the sushi adventure itself, no matter what). Once again, I had to play the game of randomly picking a restaurant and hoping that it would turn out to be decent. Well, the strategy for this game isn't too complicated: pick a restaurant that looks clean on the outside and has a good amount of people dining inside. That strategy landed me at Temaki Sushi on Broadway.

Temaki Sushi is a moderately large Chinese-operated restaurant and is quite a popular choice among locals. I made it to the restaurant just in time for lunch, so I got the Lunch Special Box B, which contained Miso Soup, Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Gyoza, Gomae, and some Tempura.

Miso Soup - B-

The Miso Soup was served at a nice, hot temperature. It had a good amount of miso paste, but was quite heavy on the salt.

Beef Teriyaki Cone - A-

As the name of the restaurant is Temaki Sushi, I felt compelled to try at least one of their temaki (hand-rolled cones). My server stressed that I should eat the cone right away while it was still hot, so I took a photo of it in a jiffy and jammed it into my mouth as quickly as possible. It was a decent cone, and I enjoyed the flavour and texture of the beef as well as how the seaweed was not soggy. It would be excellent with a touch more teriyaki sauce.

Next, my Box B arrived. It was presented neatly, though at first glance, I was a bit worried that the Gomae would be difficult to break apart since it looked so compressed. I guess we'll see in a second how it turned out.

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

The Prawn Tempura (2 pcs) had some meaty shrimp with a good snap. The Kabocha (pumpkin) Tempura was on the skinnier side, but still had a decent amount of sweetness. The Yam Tempura was cut a bit too thick while the Sweet Potato Tempura was too thin (it pretty much qualified for a potato chip) with a slightly burnt edge.

Tuna Sashimi - B-
Salmon Sashimi - A-

The Tuna Sashimi had a nice soft texture (and wasn't frozen!), but it also had a bit of a fishy taste. On the other hand, the Salmon Sashimi was fresh with a good flavour and a nice, smooth sheen.

Gyoza - C+

I wasn't a big fan of the Gyoza because they were quite soggy. The sauce was tangy with a bit of vinegar, which made it taste a bit like Chinese fast food.

Gomae - B+

The "compressed tower" of Gomae ended up being quite easy to disassemble. The peanut sauce was applied in the right amount for a balanced taste.

Dragon Roll - A

It won't be a sushi adventure without sushi, so I got the Dragon Roll on the side, which consisted of unagi on top of a California Roll. It was neatly presented and I really liked the smoky, sweet flavour of the unagi on top. The texture of the unagi was on target and the sweetness of the crab meat underneath rounded off this enjoyable roll.

The service started off nicely and then began to taper as the restaurant was nearing its closing time. Interestingly, the staff seemed to be enjoying pho in the back instead of their own Japanese food. In terms of the food, my lunch was filled with some splendid items and some mishaps. The prices appear to be modest, but the portion sizes tend to be on the smaller side. Temaki Sushi has its pros and cons, but I wouldn't mind coming back to the restaurant if it happened to be convenient.

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Episode #72: Oysi Oysi Restaurant

Vancouver (West End), $$ (Moderately Priced)

After completing the Urban Grind at Harbour Centre (it only takes 15 minutes to climb to the top!), I was in the mood for fusion sushi and had decided to visit Sushi Ame. Lo and behold, after snapping pictures of the front door, I found out that the restaurant was undergoing renovations. At this point, my memory recalled another fusion restaurant named Kishimoto, so I gave them a call to make a reservation as they are extremely busy. Oh of course, they're not actually open during spring break. Stranded on the street with no sushi restaurant to go to, I looked across the street to see a sign saying Hato Popo Japanese Restaurant. Well, you guessed it ... they were also closed! A million fits and a few stomach growls later, my random walking around finally found me a sushi restaurant - Oysi Oysi Restaurant.

Walking into the restaurant, the first thing that I saw was a nice king crab sitting in a tank waiting for my arrival. Right away, my gut instinct told me that the restaurant was Chinese-operated. However, I don't consider authenticity and I will enjoy any food that is good. The interior of the restaurant is quite large and they did a good job of making a restaurant that was mostly empty seem mostly full. The menu is quite large and most of the prices seemed reasonable at first glance. They also seem to love the word "moé", which means "cute" in Japanese slang.

Miso Soup - B+

I ordered the Moé Oysi Dinner Set Special and the first item to arrive from it was the Miso Soup. Or maybe I should say Miso Soups (with an "s" at the end), because while I was enjoying the first Miso Soup, the server presented me with another Miso Soup! What?! Oh well, getting two for the price of one is never a bad thing after all. The Miso Soup on the right side of the photo is untouched. Both of the Miso Soups were served very hot, but the balance of flavours was good. It would have been excellent if it had a slightly thicker consistency.

Unagi Tempura Roll - B

Having not had Unagi Tempura for a long time, I decided to order the Unagi Tempura Roll (not part of the dinner set). It came with unagi tempura on the top, and avocado and salmon on the inside. I really enjoyed the crispy battered unagi on the top, but I wasn't a fan of the roll itself because it was significantly colder than the unagi. Also, there was something in the roll that made the salmon taste fishy, even though it tasted perfectly fine when I picked apart the roll and ate the salmon by itself. 

Aburi Salmon Nigiri - A
Aburi Tuna Nigiri - B+

Next up, I had the Aburi Salmon Nigiri and the Aburi Tuna Nigiri (also not part of the dinner set). Overall, both were well-executed with a nice amount of juiciness. The vinaigrette on the Aburi Tuna Nigiri took a bit too much attention, but the wasabi mayonnaise on the Aburi Salmon Nigiri brought out the creamy, buttery flavour of the seared salmon quite well.

The rest of my Moé Oysi Dinner Set Special came with Chicken Teriyaki, Salmon and Tuna Sashimi, and Ebi Sunomono. Note that there are several options to choose from for each of the items in the set.

Salmon Sashimi - B
Tuna Sashimi - A-

The cutest thing about the Moé Oysi Dinner Set Special was that the sashimi was cut really small. Both the Salmon Sashimi and Tuna Sashimi came with good textures. The Salmon Sashimi could use a bit more flavour, but the Tuna Sashimi was close to melt-in-your-mouth and was quite enjoyable.

Ebi Sunomono - C+

I liked the softness of the baby shrimps in the Ebi Sunomono, but the vinegar was quite overpowering because not enough sweetness was added.

Chicken Teriyaki - B-

I found the Chicken Teriyaki to be alright. They used the white-meat part of the chicken, but it was just a tad overdone. The sauce seemed to be a bit watery.

The service wasn't a problem for me, but it was relatively sparse and below the standard for downtown restaurants. However, the prices are also on the lower side for a downtown restaurant, and there were some decent dishes, such as the seared nigiri. It isn't a restaurant I'll be dying to come back to, but it isn't bad either. At least they were open during a time when I really needed sushi!

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Episode #71: Sushi Boss

Coquitlam, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Never would I ever expect a sushi restaurant to pop up in Westwood Plateau anywhere other than in Plateau Village, the main shopping plaza for residents of the plateau. However, the unthinkable happened and sitting in a mini-plaza ("mini" because it consists of only a large house where three small businesses operate) is a sushi restaurant named Sushi Boss. Now, you would normally expect buses that run less frequently to at least be more reliable, but the bus that I was supposed to take never seemed to depart from the station. Not wanting to wait another 20 minutes, I took the next closest bus, which meant that I still had to walk most of the way up the plateau. This was a double bummer because the best way to make your allergies 10 times worse than they already are is to go for a hike in Westwood Plateau.

Sushi Boss is a small Korean-operated Japanese restaurant that serves all the main categories of Japanese food that you would expect at a sushi restaurant. In addition, they also serve organic Arabica coffee, hence the word "Coffee" on their sign in front of the restaurant. The meat used for their Chicken Teriyaki and Galbi (beef short ribs) is sourced locally and is gluten-free, but I figured on a previous visit that despite the health benefits, gluten-free meat tends to be tougher.

Salad - B+

My meal started off with a complimentary salad! There was lots of variety in the salad, and I found a gyoza, a blackberry, edamame, and an apple slice among other things. The vinaigrette used to dress the salad was the standard Japanese vinaigrette dressing, but I felt that the richness of this one was just right. The gyoza was just a tad too crispy and dry for me.

Gomae - A

With fresh spinach and avocado and a well-balanced sesame sauce, this was a refreshing and splendid appetizer. The sesame sauce was accentuated by the sesame seeds sprinkled on top for a richer flavour.

Aburi California Roll - B+

The Aburi California Roll (one of their newest rolls) consisted of seared cheese and mayonnaise on a California Roll. The filling had a decent soft texture, while the top tasted like grilled cheese with its sweetness enhanced by a small amount of teriyaki sauce drizzled on top. For the most part, the flavours worked together, but it could have more of a smoky flavour.

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - A+
Tuna Sashimi - B+

The Sockeye Salmon Sashimi was surprisingly fresh with a delicious, smooth texture. It also has a nice subtle smoked sockeye salmon taste to it, and it is some of the best sashimi I have ever had in the Lower Mainland. The Tuna Sashimi could be a bit softer and was slightly on the saltier side, but it was still a bit above average. Furthermore, it finally broke my unfortunate consecutive chain of sushi adventures with not-fully-thawed tuna sashimi!

Unagi Teriyaki - A

The unagi in the Unagi Teriyaki was cut in an unorthodox way, but was soft and very smooth. I liked the addition of green onion and sesame seeds. It could have even more of a grilled flavour, but was quite decent overall. Behind the rice sat a few pieces of pickled asparagus, and the taste of those reminded me of dill pickles.

Toro Nigiri - B+
Aburi Tuna Nigiri - A

The Tuna Nigiri was dressed with sesame seeds and had a good texture. However, it would fare better with even more of a creamy flavour. The Aburi Tuna Nigiri was better-executed, and the sweet teriyaki sauce brought out the flavour of the tasty half-seared tuna. 

The service was some of the best in town, and the friendly waitress constantly made sure that my tea was refilled. In fact, my tea was refilled at least five times during my short visit! It was the type of service that I would be willing to reward with a >20% tip. In addition, I enjoyed the Classical piano music in the background, which reminded me of all the Bach, Mozart and Liszt masterpieces that I used to practise daily. Of course, I also enjoyed the food, and every item that I tried was above average. Who knew that some of the best sushi in Coquitlam would be found high up in the middle of Westwood Plateau?

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

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Episode #70: Sushi Van

Vancouver (Northwest), $ (Budget)

Sushi Van is one of the newest additions to Vancouver's vast assortment of Japanese restaurants and is conveniently located at the intersection of Granville St. and Broadway. I got off the Skytrain at Cambie St. and Broadway and intended to walk over, when I realized that the walk was much longer than I anticipated. Conveniently, the pollen in the air had my allergy senses tingling. When I finally arrived at the restaurant, I noticed that it was Korean-operated and sat slightly underground, but the seating space inside is ample and cozy.

I was attracted to Sushi Van after reading their menu online and discovering their repertoire of unique special rolls. Who doesn't want to try a Sushi Risotto, a Burning Love Roll, or even a Nude Boy Roll? In addition to their special rolls, they also offer dishes in every major category of Japanese food from teriyaki to tempura to udon. Every time I visit a Japanese restaurant, I always want to try food from every category, but it is a sad truth that I am human and can only eat so much food.

They also have one of the best ideas in town for presenting a menu - who would have thought of using a photo album with pink flowers on the front?

Salmon Sashimi - B
Tuna Sashimi - C+
Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - A-
White Tuna Sashimi - A

The Assorted Sashimi A ($8) came with 8 pieces of sashimi for an astonishingly low price. At $1 a piece (and with sockeye involved), I was literally expecting eraser-sized cuts, but the portions somehow ended up being on the generous side. The Salmon Sashimi had a good texture, but the Sockeye Salmon Sashimi had a significantly better flavour. The Tuna Sashimi was unfortunately not fully thawed (how does this happen to me three adventures in a row?!) and had a bit of an icy taste. However, the White Tuna Sashimi (which is actually escolar) was near perfect with a well-balanced level of saltiness and a texture that was like tai (snapper) but much softer.

Note to readers: Escolar Sashimi (often labelled as white tuna) is very tasty but there are risks associated with consuming significant quantities of it. Refrain from eating more than 6 oz. (about 3 to 4 pieces) at a time.

Burning Love Roll - B+

After spending too much time mulling over which special roll to choose, I settled with the Burning Love Roll, which was made with avocado, cucumber, tamago, crab meat, seared salmon, green onion, and sweet chili spicy sauce. The roll ended up being moderately spicy with pleasantly soft textures. The salmon had a nice smoked flavour, but this was somewhat covered up by the bold, attention-grabbing spicy sauce. 

Takoyaki - A-

The Takoyaki had a nice crispy outer layer and the amount of sauce was just right. In addition to being presented neatly, I liked how the small piece of octopus inside was well-defined.

Ebi Mayo - C+

The Ebi Mayo came with 4 large meaty (and chewy) prawns. For some reason, everything other than the sauce and the lettuce leaves tasted quite bland. It was as if the prawns had no flavour to begin with.

The service was friendly and sufficient, while the food mostly decent with a few hits and misses. The prices are surprisingly good when taking into consideration all of the different factors (location, quality, etc.). Furthermore, they are the only Japanese restaurant I have seen in the Lower Mainland to serve White Tuna Sashimi (escolar). If you go to Sushi Van, there is a good chance that you'll see something on the menu that you have never seen at any other sushi restaurant before.

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

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Episode #69: Sushi Bar Iori

Maple Ridge, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Touted by many to be the best in Maple Ridge, Sushi Bar Iori, a small Korean-operated Japanese restaurant, became my next target for my series of Maple Ridge sushi adventures. As their name suggests, they focus mainly on sushi and do not serve cooked items or noodles. Unfortunately, I was stuck in a traffic jam and arrived exactly when their break (from 3:00 to 3:45 p.m.) started. I had to temporarily keep my palate entertained at Yumi's Frozen Yogurt next door. Afterward, since I was in a hurry, I snapped a photo of the menu that was taped to the door and proceded to think about my order inside the small shopping mall to which the restaurant was attached.

Appetizer Tempura - B+

The Appetizer Tempura came with 3 prawns and 3 pieces of yam (even though the menu only says 2 pieces of yam). I was surprised that this would be the first item to arrive, but I was glad that it came out in less than 10 minutes. It wasn't fine-dining quality, but the tempura was mostly decent. The prawns were meaty enough and the yam was cut to the right thickness with sufficient sweetness. The dipping sauce has a nice mild hint of ginger.

Barbie Roll - A-

I wanted to try their seared stuff, so I went with the Barbie Roll, which consisted of prawn, crab meat, asparagus, seared wild salmon and avocado. The roll was cleanly cut and well-presented. The sesame added flavour and the salmon was seared the right amount. The sauce applied was just barely enough, and it helps if you slide the pieces around in the teriyaki and spicy mayonnaise sauce to capture more of its flavour. Despite its name, I think it tastes better than a Barbie, though I can't say for sure because I have never actually tasted a Barbie before. Maybe one day ...

Tuna Sashimi - B-
Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - B
Tai Sashimi - A-
Hokkigai Sashimi - A-

The Half Assorted Sashimi came with 3 pieces of Tuna Sashimi, 2 pieces of Sockeye Salmon Sashimi, 2 pieces of Tai Sashimi, and 2 pieces of Hokkigai Sashimi. The Tuna Sashimi was cut to the optimal thickness, but when I bit into it, I realized why it came last. In fact, they had been trying to thaw it on the counter for the duration of my meal, but when it came to me, two of the pieces were still half frozen. At least they tried. The Sockeye Salmon Sashimi was fresh, albeit sliced a little thick, making it a bit tough. The Tai Sashimi and the Hokkigai Sashimi were both decent and fresh. 

The one waitress was enough to provide sufficient service to all of the tables. I enjoyed the freshness of the food and the neat presentation of each dish. The food at Sushi Bar Iori has a slightly more traditional Japanese feel than Shinobi. However, it is a bit questionable whether Iori or Shinobi serves better food overall. I would say that Iori has better consistency due to its limited menu, but there are some spectacular items at Shinobi that make neither restuarant a clear favourite over the other.

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

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Episode #68: Mega Sushi

Steveston, Richmond, $$$ (Higher Priced)

Sushi restaurants in the quaint Steveston village are notoriously expensive, but tend to serve some of the freshest sashimi in the Lower Mainland since the village has its own Fisherman's Wharf. The two most well-known sushi restaurants in Steveston are Ichiro Japanese Restaurant and Mega Sushi. Mega Sushi, unlike Ichiro (which is Japanese-operated), is Korean-operated and serves a wide selection of Japanese dishes with more affordable prices. They were unbelievably packed for a Tuesday evening, and even a party of one was subject to a 20-minute wait (which was a first for me). Make sure you have a reservation!

The atmosphere inside was quite boisterous due to the number of patrons but the seating was clean comfortable. The restaurant is moderately sized and the decor has a modern feel to it. In my opinion, the restaurant is not very well named, as it is not the type of restaurant that serves jumbo-sized portions with low prices.

Ebi Sunomono - B+

In my quest to try every category of Japanese food, I got the Mega Bento, and the first item to arrive from it was the Ebi Sunomono. It was nice that they brought me a bit of the bento before the whole bento was ready. The Ebi Sunomono was quite cold with a modest amount of vinegar that didn't overwhelm the other ingredients. I found the ebi to be slightly tough, possibly due to the colder temperature that the sunomono was served at.

Miso Soup - A-

The Miso Soup (part of the Mega Bento) was served hot and had a good balance of miso paste and dashi broth without being too salty. I also liked the neat container that the Miso Soup came in.

Godzilla Bite - A

The Godzilla Bite contained deep-fried seaweed and rice, torched tuna, salmon, and chopped scallop, and alfalfa. This was a highly inventive roll (or is it even a roll?) that was very well executed. The deep-fried seaweed and rice formed little soft, crispy pillows on the bottom for the torched tuna, salmon and chopped scallop, which had decent smooth textures. The good balance of sweetness and mild spiciness was highly enjoyable. There is also a small container of crispy rice in the center that was lit up to produce a small flame!

Tuna Sashimi - C+
Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - A

The Appetizer Sashimi came with three pieces of tuna sashimi, two pieces of sockeye salmon sashimi, and a piece of celery as a decoration on top. Unfortunately, the Tuna Sashimi was not fully thawed, though it wasn't very far off either. To fix the problem, I came up with the brilliant idea of holding the Tuna Sashimi over the small flame from the Godzilla Bite above. The resulting tuna tataki tasted excellent! As for the Salmon Sashimi, it was very fresh with a smooth sheen, as expected from a Japanese restaurant in Steveston!

Next, the rest of the Mega Bento arrived. There was Chicken Teriyaki, an Alaska Roll, a Salad, Appetizer Tempura, and Gyoza. Once again, I ordered way too much food to fit on my table!

Chicken Teriyaki - C+

The Chicken Teriyaki had good flavour from the sesame seeds and was tender with a smooth texture. The only issue I had with it was that the skin was really mushy and too reminiscent of mashed potatoes.

Alaska Roll - B-

The Alaska Roll consisted of cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, imitation crab and smoked salmon. The smoked salmon was of high quality and the avocado was fresh, but there was an overdose of cream cheese. I think the cream cheese had a larger volume than the cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab combined.

Salad - B+

The Salad consisted mainly of arugula leaves dressed in the appropriate amount of vinaigrette. It was quite refreshing even though I had already had a larger salad from the Godzilla Bite.

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

The batter on the tempura was particularly well made and had an excellent soft but crispy texture. The Prawn Tempura was by far the best of the bunch and was nearly as good as Ichiro's A+ Prawn Tempura. The vegetable tempura (sweet potato and kabocha) paled in comparison, but still retained the good qualities of the batter.

Gyoza - B-

I wasn't a big fan of the Gyoza as the filling was weak in flavour and the wrapper was a bit dry. However, there was sufficient juiciness inside the Gyoza.

The servers were quite busy throughout my entire visit due to the especially high demand, but they tried their best and maintained a pleasant attitude. Although not every dish was exactly stellar, the restaurant does have its fair share of must-trys, such as the Godzilla Bite. I wanted to try the Mega Tower too as it looked very delicious when others ordered it, but then, I would end up with three salads and so much food on the table that I would have to start putting items on the floor. Oh, the terrible dilemmas I face during my sushi adventures!

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