Sunday, August 30, 2015

Episode #114: Narita Sushi

Coquitlam, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Last Tuesday, my friend Tamsen and my family joined me on a bowling adventure at Zone Bowling Coquitlam to take advantage of their 2 Buck Tuesday special. We had a blast. The highlight of our bowling adventure was when I scored a strike so epic that I broke my glasses in the process. No longer being able to see properly as only one of the lenses were still intact, I called for a celebration of my incredible moment by going to nearby Narita Sushi.

Narita Sushi is a small Korean-operated Japanese restaurant that I had visited several times in the past whenever I needed a quick Japanese meal. On previous visits, I have found the service to be friendly and efficient and the quality to be above average compared to the other Japanese restaurants in Coquitlam. Due to its small size, the restaurant has difficulty seating groups with more than four people.

If you're coming from the SilverCity across the street, take note of this discount!

Salmon Sashimi - A-

The first item to arrive was the eight-piece Salmon Sashimi. My mom kept complaining the pieces were too small, but I thought that the superior freshness of the salmon made up for the smaller cuts. The sashimi had a nice, smooth texture and a delicious, creamy flavour.

Tuna Tataki Roll - A-

Next up was the Tuna Tataki Roll, which consisted of tuna, crab meat, avocado, cucumber, tuna tataki, and spicy sauce. Again, the pieces were a bit smaller than I had expected, but I do not have a problem with small portions if the food is executed well, and in this case, it was. The tuna was quite soft and had a delectable tataki flavour that was accentuated by a drizzle of spicy mayonnaise. The chopped green onions provided a nice crunchiness to the roll.

Spring Rolls - B-

While we were enjoying the Tuna Tataki Roll, we were presented with a complimentary dish of Spring Rolls! I really appreciated this gesture, but unfortunately, the Spring Rolls were soggy and the pastry was a bit hard to chew. On the bright side, the teriyaki sauce helped to enhance the flavour of the meager amount of filling.

Energy Roll - B+

The Energy Roll consisted of crab meat, unagi, cucumber, salmon tempura, and potato crunch. I liked the soft texture of the unagi, but the roll tastes a bit too salty if dipped in a normal amount of soy sauce. The salmon tempura was one of the better-executed ones I've had. The salmon was juicy and moist, and the tempura had enough crunch, although it was slightly thick in places.

Chicken Popcorn - B

This was executed well on previous visits, but not so much this time. The deep-fried chicken was sufficiently tender, but the batter was too thick, making the Chicken Popcorn chewier than it was supposed to be. Flavour-wise, I enjoyed the slight spiciness of the sweet chili sauce.

Dynamite Roll - B-

The Dynamite Roll tasted a little strange as the crab meat was much colder than the rest of the ingredients. The prawn tempura was a little heavy with the batter, but the amount of rice on the outside was just right. 

Orange Dessert - B

At the end of our meal, we received a complimentary Orange Dessert! We all thought it was strange how there were only three oranges for the five of us until we noticed that there were actually five toothpicks. The oranges were sufficiently juicy but neither particularly sweet nor sour. 

I found the quality of the food reasonable for the prices, but the service was quite disappointing. The waitress seemed really disgruntled the whole time, and it got to the point that some of us began to lose our appetites. Furthermore, our dishes were never cleared. With the exception of Le Crocodile, this was the worst service I have had at any restaurant this year. Without the complimentary dishes, our experience would have been quite a disaster. I can no longer recommend this restaurant due to the service I experienced during this visit, and I won't be returning either. 

Click to add a blog post for Narita Sushi on Zomato

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Episode #113: Sushi King House

Vancouver (Southwest), $ (Budget)

I know that there is a quest to make the best sushi in town, but apparently, there is also a quest to make the biggest sushi in town. Today, I shall introduce you to Sushi King House, whose slogan is "The Biggest Sushi in Town." Of course, I wasn't going in with high expectations. After all, it's a little hard to have high expectations for a restaurant that decides to use a dreadful combination of bright yellow, bright red, and bright purple as its exterior colour scheme.

Sushi King House is a small restaurant chain with two locations in Vancouver and one in Surrey, and I chose to visit the one on West Boulevard out of convenience. This location was quite small and seated a maximum of 14 people in total. There were no diners in the restaurant when I walked in, but the Cantonese family running the restaurant seemed amply entertained by chatting with a family friend in the back.

The first thing that arrived at my table was the Special Bento Box C.

Tempura - B-

The Tempura came with two prawns and one piece of sweet potato. The prawns were fresh and meaty, while the sweet potato was sweet and had enough moisture. The batter was crunchy, and although it was a bit thick, it wasn't as hard as I had expected based on appearance. The frying oil, however, appeared to be slightly overused.

Chicken on Rice - B+

The Chicken on Rice came with some flavourful pan-fried chicken. A slight sprinkle of black pepper and sesame seeds helped to enhance the flavour of the juicy chicken. The skin was crispy just the way I like it, though they could lighten up a bit on the salt.

Hokkigai Sashimi - C+
Ebi Sashimi - B
Tuna Sashimi - C
Salmon Sashimi - B-

The Assorted Sashimi in the Special Bento Box C came with one piece each of hokkigai, ebi (shrimp), tuna, and salmon. The Hokkigai Sashimi was quite chewy, but it was weak in flavour. The Ebi Sashimi had a pleasant, sweet flavour. The Tuna Sashimi did not taste particularly fresh, but the portion size was extremely generous. Also humongous was the cut of Salmon Sashimi. I enjoyed the smooth texture of the salmon, but it was also quite lacking in flavour.

Salad - A-

My favourite part of the Special Bento Box C was the Salad, which was dressed with a darker-coloured Japanese salad dressing that tasted almost as if there was a very slight amount of pesto sauce mixed in. As a result, the Salad tasted quite rich in flavour.

Hawaii Roll - B-

So many people seem to be having a wonderful vacation in Hawaii these days and I didn't want to feel left out of the fun, so I also ordered the Hawaii Roll, which came with pineapple, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, deep-fried tuna, and unagi sauce. Now, unless you are a pelican, it is pretty much impossible to eat one whole piece in one gulp. Each of the pieces were the size of a hockey puck! The juicy pineapple and the melty avocado were the best parts of the roll, but it was pretty much impossible to see what all the ingredients tasted like together due to the massive size of the roll. 

Toro Nigiri - B-
Jelly Fish Nigiri - B

Like the Hawaii Roll, the Toro Nigiri was also colossal! One side of the toro tasted deliciously creamy and juicy, while the other side with the prominent vein was tougher in texture. I liked the dash of unagi sauce on top, which helped to enhance the flavour. I ordered the Jelly Fish Nigiri out of curiosity, and I found the jelly fish on the softer side with an appealing snap. The jellyfish was rich in flavour with the help of a touch of sweet chili sauce, but the sushi rice needed more flavour itself.

The waitress had a very friendly attitude, though she stayed in the back quite often. This was okay for me because otherwise, she would have nothing to do but stare at me as I eat (which would probably lead to some awkward moments). The food was better than I had expected for a restaurant that goes by size as its selling point. Many of the items were rich in flavour with the exception of the sashimi. Overall, Sushi King House does a decent job of what it tries to do, which is to serve large portions of sushi at very affordable prices.

Click to add a blog post for Sushi King House on Zomato

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Episode #112: Kamei Royale

Vancouver (West End), $$$$ (Luxury)

One fine morning, I woke up and got ready for a highly expensive and luxurious lunch at Fairmont Pacific Rim's RawBar. Out of convenience, I went to SFU to purchase my textbooks and pay my tuition for next semester prior to having lunch. I clearly did not think things through. First, carrying a backpack full of heavy textbooks into a fancy restaurant felt about as right as giving a formal presentation in my pajamas. Second, I was feeling light in the wallet region after paying an arm and a leg for tuition as well as ten sushi adventures' worth of money on three textbooks. In the end, I lugged my bulky textbooks into Kamei Royale instead.

Kamei Royale is located on the second floor of the Burrard Building and is the largest Japanese restaurant in Greater Vancouver with the ability to accommodate upwards of 250 guests. The colossal dining area features bar seating, tatami rooms, and regular tables. I would say that the ambience at Kamei Royale is my favourite among all the sushi restaurants I have been to. The noise level is just right, the amount of spacing between the seats is just right, and the amount of activity is just right.

One of the things on my bucket list was to eat an entire boat of Japanese food all by myself, which I fulfilled by ordering the Unaju & Sashimi Boat ($17.95). This was actually easier to accomplish than I had previously thought.

Miso Soup - A

The Unaju & Sashimi Boat also came with a Miso Soup, which contained green onion, seaweed, and tofu. The miso paste was quite rich with a tasty seaweed essence. 

Goma-Ae - B-

The Goma-Ae was less impressive and served with too little sesame sauce. Although the spinach was easy to chew, it tasted almost like plain spinach.

Tuna Sashimi - A
Salmon Sashimi - A

The sashimi was very fresh and displayed superior knife skills. The salmon had a delicious creamy flavour, and the tuna was soft enough to melt in my mouth. The thickness of each piece was just right. This was the best part of the whole boat.

Unaju - B+

Here's a fun fact: BBQ Eel on Rice is known as Unadon if served in a bowl and Unaju if served in a box. Technically, this one was served in a box-shaped bowl, but Kamei Royale went with Unaju anyways (as "Unajon" doesn't sound very Japanese). Naming aside, the BBQ eel had a soft texture and was savoury with the added seaweed and sesame seeds on top. There was ample unagi sauce for the unagi, but it would be nice if there was a bit more sauce for the hot steamed rice as well.

Prawn & Vegetable Tempura - B-

I really liked the dipping sauce for the Prawn & Vegetable Tempura, which was cleverly infused with minuscule pieces of radish to enhance flavour. The Prawn & Vegetable Tempura itself consisted of two prawns, one piece of green pepper, and two pieces of sweet potato. The prawns were the best of the bunch. The main issue with the tempura was the lack of crispiness in the batter. The batter was soft like bread in most places but as hard as a crouton in others. 

House Roll - B+

The final part of my lunch involved two gigantic pieces of the House Roll, which consisted of a ton of crab meat, tamago, avocado, tobiko, and cucumber. The imitation crab meat was sufficiently sweet with the correct amount of mayonnaise. I tried to eat one whole piece at a time, but my efforts were futile (each piece was about three or four mouthfuls for me). After finishing all the crab smithereens that fell out as I was eating the roll, I was nearly full and unable to finish another main dish.

The service wasn't fine-dining quality, but it was friendly and pleasant. Overall, the food was decent (other than the tempura) and most of the prices on the menu were reasonable considering the location. The only things that seemed very expensive were the nigiri sushi and sashimi if ordered separately. Now, with my mission to consume an entire boatload of Japanese food complete, I shall add eating a sushi boat for two all by myself onto my to-do list. Yes, challenge accepted!

Click to add a blog post for Kamei Royale on Zomato

Monday, August 17, 2015

Episode #111: Sushi Ville

Vancouver (Northeast), $ (Budget)

Every time I try to get my mom to experience some of the best Aburi Salmon Oshi in town, something always goes wrong. When I tried to take her to Miku, it was closed and in the process of relocating. When I tried to take her to Victoria Sushi, it was surrounded by police. This time, when I tried to take her to Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen, there were nine parties ahead of us in line. There were probably less than nine tables in the whole restaurant, so we began to head back towards our car. That's when I noticed that the Korean-operated Sushi Ville was located just where we had parked our car and was bustling with activity. I stepped right in and grabbed the second-last available table.

The service was very "professional." We were only ignored for ten minutes after we were seated. After that, my sister went over to the other side of the restaurant (as raising our hands was an epic fail) and asked one of the two waitresses to give us a menu. That's when someone finally came over to our table to inform us that they had run out of menus. WTF?! I didn't even see that many menus lying around on the other tables! The other waitress then began to solicit menus from the other diners so that we could have one. Oh deary me...

Miso Soup - B-

One of the things that we ordered was the massive Sushi & Sashimi Bento, which came with a Miso Soup among other things. The Miso Soup came with green onion and tofu. I found the Miso Soup quite salty, but my main problem with it was its weird orange colour that made it look like a case of mining contamination. Fear not, I drank half of it and I'm still okay.

Ten minutes later, Part 2 of our Sushi & Sashimi Bento arrived. They automatically omitted the steamed rice for us, claiming that other diners have complained that the bento was too big. Yes, it might be big for one person, but come on, there were four of us! More importantly, there was me! Shouldn't we at least be asked if we wanted it omitted or not? Well, at least they brought it to us after we requested it...

Tempura - C

Whoever made the Tempura managed to wow me by showing me how hard one can possibly make tempura batter. The two pieces of prawn tempura were more like tempura batter disasters with tails. I could barely taste the prawn inside! The kabocha and sweet potato (one piece each) fared slightly better as they were sufficiently sweet and moist.

Chicken Teriyaki - B-

Next up, I tried the Soggy Wonderland... whoops, I meant the Chicken Teriyaki. The pan-fried chicken skin may have been crispy (who knows?), but ended up all soggy and mushy, possibly due to an overuse of sauces. The teriyaki sauce was quite sweet with a hint of spiciness.

Gyoza - B-

The pork filling for the Gyoza was juicy, but the dough wrapping was devoid of any crispiness. The edges were a little hard too, making the Gyoza a nice workout for my molars.

Salmon Nigiri - C+
Tuna Nigiri - C
Ebi Nigiri - C

The Salmon Nigiri was underwhelming in terms of freshness and flavour, but at least it had a soft, buttery texture. The sushi rice, however, was horrible. It was mushy and tasted more like steamed rice than sushi rice. It was also compressed too tightly, making it hard to enjoy the softer textures of the fish on top. The tuna was sliced thin and was weak in flavour, while the ebi (shrimp) was sweet and soft.

Salad - B+

The one thing in the box that actually tasted good was the Salad. It was essentially a coleslaw with thinly sliced cabbage and a few neatly arranged pieces of cucumber on top. I haven't had a coleslaw in a bento box for a long time, so I found this one quite refreshing. 

Tuna Sashimi - B
Salmon Sashimi - B-

Part 3 of the Sushi & Sashimi Bento came with a beautifully presented plate of sashimi with two pieces of tuna and two pieces of salmon. The Tuna Sashimi was the fresher of the two and had an enjoyable soft texture. The Salmon Sashimi was cut rather thick, but I found its flavour a bit dull.

Dragon Roll - C+

There were a large abundance of rolls listed on the menu and the walls, and my mom got too excited and tried to make me order seven rolls. Contrary to the laws of physics, I was the one who had to insist on ordering less food. For my special roll, I chose the Dragon Roll, which consisted of cucumber, crab meat, prawn tempura, BBQ eel, avocado, and tobiko. It was neatly constructed, and they took the effort to make it look like a dragon by adding eyes and antennae. The unagi was soft with a smooth texture, and the honey mustard and teriyaki sauce combo worked well with the ingredients inside. Unfortunately, I forgot that the prawn tempura was going to be rock hard, so I almost managed to injure the top of my mouth when I bit into it.

Dynamite Roll - C+
Spicy Tuna Nigiri - C+
Chicken Teriyaki Roll - C

The regular rolls were about as good as all-you-can-eat rolls. The Dynamite Roll was quite large (even though I didn't supersize it) and contained lettuce, cucumber, crab meat, avocado, prawn tempura, and yam tempura. Tempura and sushi rice aside, the crab meat and the avocado tasted decent, albeit a little heavy with mayonnaise. The amount of spiciness in the Spicy Tuna Nigiri was just right, but neither the tuna nor the sushi rice was soft. The Chicken Teriyaki Roll came with a generous amount of chicken, but the chicken here was noticeably worse than the Chicken Teriyaki from the bento and not as tender. 

Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi - A-

The Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi came with eight large pieces of sushi and an exquisite cup of flowers. The pressed salmon was topped with spicy mayonnaise and thin slices of jalapeño. Inside the rice, there were a few small bits of cooked mushroom, which really enhanced the flavour of the oshi sushi. Yes, that actually worked! There wasn't really a seared flavour, but the toppings were rich with spiciness. This was the highlight of the meal.

The two waitresses were friendly, but were also obviously overwhelmed by the number of diners. The service was very sparse, and our iced water was never refilled. The food was very cheap, but the quality was also very cheap. Most of the food was about as good as the food from an average all-you-can-eat restaurant. Perhaps the chef was overwhelmed too! That being said, there are other places that serve budget sushi at a higher standard, such as Sushiyama, Sushi Town, and even Sushi California. 

Click to add a blog post for Sushi Ville on Zomato

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Episode #110: Sekai Udon Bar

Burnaby South, $$ (Moderately Priced) 

My parents had an afternoon of dim sum planned, but after visiting a family friend, it was already 2:30 p.m. and much too late for dim sum. Of course, I seized the opportunity to turn the afternoon into a sushi adventure instead by suggesting Sekai Udon Bar at Metrotown, to which everyone agreed.

I was in luck because as soon as I got to the restaurant, I saw a sign advertising 20% off all food items from 3 to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday! This meant that I could unleash my desires and order everything that looked good to me on the menu. Oh wait... if I did that, I would probably need to use all the tables in the restaurant. Anyways, since we arrived a little early, I spent a few minutes entertaining myself with the meow critters in the pet shop next door.

Sekai Udon Bar is Chinese-operated, and the interior of the restaurant is quite spacious. However, the restaurant was nearly devoid of customers despite the significant Happy Hour discount. The menu had a large assortment of udon and sushi items, but before I even finished reading the first page, my mom had already unleashed her desires instead and planned out our whole order. I scrambled to write down the names and descriptions of everything that she ordered into my notebook, but by the time I finished writing, there were already three dishes on the table (the food came out surprisingly fast). Then, by the time I finished taking photos of everything that had landed on our table, the Japoutine was almost all gone. My head was spinning before I even started eating!

Wild Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - B-

The first item to arrive was the five-piece Wild Sockeye Salmon Sashimi. From the photo, it is evident that the knife skills were rather crude. The sashimi was soft, but it was also weak in flavour and not the freshest I've had.

Japoutine - A-

Garnished with cheese and seaweed powder, the Japoutine was the tastiest item of the meal. The fries were large, crispy on the outside, and soft and moist on the inside. My dad and my sister kept eating the Japoutine like there was no tomorrow, but at least they left a few fries for me to sample.

Dragon Roll - B

The Dragon Roll consisted of prawn tempura, unagi, avocado, tobiko, mayonnaise, and unagi sauce. The unagi was sweet and savoury, and there was a nice crunch from the tobiko. The batter on the prawn tempura was a little hard, but overall, there was a nice harmony of flavours.

Atlantic Salmon Oshizushi - B-

The Atlantic Salmon Oshizushi smelled really good when it arrived, and the dish was noticeably heated. There was a fairly large amount of rice under each piece - or so it appeared. I looked a bit more closely and saw that there was a large piece of ginger sneakily hidden inside the rice! As a result, the oshizushi tasted quite discordant even though the seared mayonnaise on top was delectable.

Okonomiyaki - B+

The Okonomiyaki was especially soft in texture. There was a good mixture of mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. However, my dad couldn't get used to the tangy flavour of the Worcestershire sauce, so I got to have half of the whole Okonomiyaki.

Tonkotsu Udon - A-
Tempura - B+

Finally, we got the Tonkotsu Udon (pork and chicken bone broth with chopped green onions, bean sprouts, and baby bok choy) with a side of Tempura. The udon noodles are freshly made in-house every day and had a relatively soft texture. The pork was tender and its flavour was nicely absorbed by the udon broth. The Tempura came with two prawns and one piece each of yam and zucchini. The frying oil was good, but I found the batter a bit thick. The flavours were preserved well, and there was enough juiciness in each piece.

The service was efficient and friendly, and the food came out very quickly, but perhaps this was because there were virtually no other diners in the restaurant. Thank goodness the dining tables were on the larger side, or we would have to start putting stuff on the floor! Overall, we found the food decent, especially for a mall restaurant. If I needed to have sushi in Metrotown, I'd much rather eat here than at Kawawa Japanese Restaurant.

Click to add a blog post for Sekai Udon Bar on Zomato