Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Episode #178: Matoi Sushi

Coquitlam, $$ (Moderately Priced)

To celebrate my birthday, I decided to go to the movies with my family and watch "Finding Dory" in order to make me feel better about my awful short-term memory. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper celebration without sushi, so before the movie, I went to Matoi Sushi, one of the most well-known sushi establishments in Coquitlam. Lo and behold, after struggling to remember to bring the movie tickets with me, I completely forgot to take a picture of the front of the restaurant. To make up for it, I created the graphic below, which should give you an excellent idea of what the restaurant looks like.

Matoi Sushi is an authentic Japanese restaurant that has been praised constantly in online reviews. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only authentic Japanese restaurant in Coquitlam other than Osamu Sushi. The restaurant was packed soon after we sat down (as I expected), and since grilled fish is one of their greatest strengths, I made sure to include the Salmon Kama in my order.

Prawn Tempura - B+

The Prawn Tempura came with four prawns and one piece of green bell pepper, which my dad snatched before I could even see what it was. At least he told me it was very good... The prawns were also good as they tasted juicy and fresh. The batter had a good amount of crispiness, but I found it a little thick and weak in flavour.

Hamachi Sashimi - B-
Tuna Sashimi - C
Tako Sashimi - B
Salmon Sashimi - A-

Surprisingly, their sashimi was not really up to par during this visit. The Hamachi Sashimi tasted fishy, and the Tuna Sashimi not only shared the same woes, but was also mushy. Nobody in my family was willing to eat it, so yours truly temporarily morphed into a garbage can once again. The Tako Sashimi, though it wasn't very smooth in texture, at least tasted fresh. The Salmon Sashimi was the clear winner here, with a fatty, smooth, and adequately soft texture.

Aburi Toro Nigiri - A-

Fortunately, the Toro Nigiri tasted juicy and fresh. The rice formation was good, and the toro was seared just the right amount.

Gyu Roll - C+

The Gyu Roll (Beef Teriyaki Roll) is one of the cheaper special rolls and looked like a fitting choice for me since I like both beef teriyaki and sushi rice. The lettuce bits in the roll added some crunch, but unfortunately, the main ingredient, the beef, was tough and not really up to any of our standards. The sauces were also a little thicker than expected. Once again, I got the opportunity to eat pretty much the whole thing and pack on those calories. As strange as it might be, I believe I have the highest tolerance for crappy food in my family.

Unaten Roll - A-

The Unaten Roll featured prawn tempura, cucumber, radish sprouts, mayonnaise, and BBQ eel. It was much, much better than the Gyu Roll (although at nearly twice the price). The savoury, grilled unagi went very well with the meaty prawn tempura, and the mayonnaise worked to tie all the flavours together. This time, since everyone wanted some of this roll, I only got two measly pieces... 

Beef Udon - B+

In the Beef Udon, the broth was well-balanced and absorbed the flavour of the beef well. The udon noodles were quite tasty and had a nice al dente feel to them. This was mainly for my dad (who refuses to eat cold food even when it is 30 degrees outside), and for the most part, he was satisfied with this dish. The only issue that all of us noticed was, of course, that the beef was tougher than expected.

Salmon Kama - A

Just like that refreshing feel at the end of a nice massage, our dinner came to a happy ending with the Salmon Kama. Yes, the fish head has a somewhat ominous and creepy gaze, but the small amount of meat in it was juicy and had an appetizing grilled flavour. This dish brought light to an otherwise lackluster meal and exemplified what Matoi is best at: grilled fish.

Despite how the restaurant was rather crowded, we still received friendly and timely service during our visit. The quality of the food was unexpectedly hit-and-miss. They excelled at the salmon sashimi and the grilled fish, but the beef and tuna were remarkably weak. I suppose this is another example of how authentic Japanese food does not always trump inauthentic Japanese food.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Episode #177: Kawa Sushi

Vancouver (Southeast), $ (Budget)

One of the most horrific things that can happen to anyone in the world just happened to me. Yes, my shower drain got clogged. To make matters worse, there was a pool of discoloured water left in the shower base, and neither a plunger nor a wire hook would clear up the blockage. I tried to brainstorm a few possible causes of this catastrophe, which included a dead rodent in the pipes, a tree branch growing in the wrong place, or perhaps a very plump spider, which would be the most terrifying of nightmares. After nearly spraining my back trying to unclog the drain and almost falling face-first into the crap-infused water, all I fished out were a few stray pieces of hair. I give up. Since I had no way of using the shower, I decided to cleanse myself by going for some sushi instead.

Being the classic indecisive me, I had my office mates help me pick out a restaurant. After they had mentioned about 20 different sushi restaurants that I had previously tried and blogged about, one of them came up with Kawa Sushi. I had never heard of this Japanese restaurant before (which is rare for me), so off I went to try it.

When I went inside, it smelled as if they had decorated the whole place with Chinatown-flavored air fresheners. Well, pretty much all the neighbouring shops and businesses were Chinese, so maybe that makes it okay? The dining area was nothing fancy, although the menus were clean and nicely designed. The menu featured many low-priced items, and the restaurant got quite busy soon after I had ordered.

Unagi Nigiri - B-
Saba Nigiri - C
Toro Nigiri - A-
Sockeye Salmon Nigiri - C+
Chopped Scallop Cone - B

The Unagi Nigiri tasted like no other unagi I have come across. It was lightly fried and also a bit tough. The Saba Nigiri was a little disappointing as the saba was fishy, and the rice was too tightly packed. The Toro Nigiri was the best piece of nigiri, featuring soft, melty, delicious toro. The Sockeye Salmon Nigiri surprisingly went for $1.10 a piece (far cheaper than another other Sockeye Salmon Nigiri I have seen), but unfortunately, it did not taste very fresh. The Chopped Scallop Cone came with delightfully soft and sweet scallops, but the seaweed that encased it was rather tough. About two bites in, my cone disintegrated into what looked like a DIY sushi kit randomly dumped onto a dish...

Shrimp Tempura Salad - C

I ordered this purely for its novelty, but I was a little concerned when it arrived. The panko batter felt rather hard, and there was very little shrimp meat inside the shrimp tempura. Moving down the salad, the bell peppers and the zingy carrot-based vinaigrette went together about as well as a toddler and an out-of-tune piano. The vinaigrette was also too acidic for my liking. The only plus to this dish was its generous portion size.

BBQ Prawn & Bacon - B+

Faring much better was the BBQ Prawn & Bacon, which came with four plump BBQ prawns wrapped with a flavourful layer of bacon. There was sufficient moisture throughout the prawns, and this was undoubtedly my favourite dish during my visit. It would be nice if the tails were fully removed from the prawns. 

Kym Roll - C+

The Kym Roll consisted of asparagus, tuna, avocado, tuna tataki, spicy sauce, onion, and "garlic flashes." There were many special rolls on the menu, but I decided to order this one because the word "flashes" was very intriguing to me. The "garlic flashes" added a nice crunch to the roll, and the amount of spiciness was very right. Unfortunately, the tuna tasted very wrong. The tuna on top was unevenly seared and tasted fishy, while the tuna inside had as much flavour as the plain, watery congee my mom used to make me eat if I consumed too much junk food.

The waitress was remarkably hardworking and efficient at providing friendly and attentive service to every patron. I was very impressed. If all women were like that, the world would be a fantastic place. Based on this visit, cooked food seemed to be Kawa Sushi's strength, whereas the freshness for some types of raw fish became problematic. The prices here are some of the most budget-friendly that I have seen in this region, but the quality of the food appears to match those prices.

Kawa Sushi Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, June 17, 2016

Episode #176: Nishiki Sushi

West Vancouver, $$$ (Higher Priced)

On a gorgeous, sunny day, I could not think of anything better to do than to embark on a traffic jam adventure to Ambleside in West Vancouver for some sushi. My original plan was to go to Sakura Ichiban for some decent, reasonably priced eats, but since it was closed, I waddled around to find another sushi restaurant. I passed by Nishiki Sushi next, and since there were people inside, I went to go check it out myself.

Nishiki Sushi is Chinese-operated and features a clean, elegant dining space and a quiet ambience. There weren't that many dine-in customers, but they did have a steady stream of take-out customers. The two chefs were overwhelmed with all the orders, and I heard the words "it's almost ready" about as often as I heard the entrance door open. As you can imagine, the food came quite slowly.

Menu-wise, the prices were what you would expect in an affluent neighbourhood: slightly above average. However, I did find a few pricing quirks. For one, one piece of tuna nigiri and one piece of toro nigiri went for exactly the same price. Next, while most of the appetizers appeared to be reasonably priced, the price for 6 pieces of Takoyaki (or "6 balls," to use the wording on the menu) was a whopping $7.75. For that price, those balls better make me a few notches more buff...

Miso Soup - B-

Since the bento boxes were a significantly better deal compared to ordering à la carte, I went for the Bento Box D, which came with a Miso Soup. The Miso Soup was perhaps the most underwhelming item of my dinner because it had a rather thin consistency and tasted quite watery. It came with green onion and tofu, but it did not have a very rich miso flavour.

Here is the rest of the Bento Box D. The price tag on this box was $14.95, which I found slightly expensive considering the amount of food given.

Goma-ae - B+

The Goma-ae was made with tender baby spinach, which made it nice and easy to digest. The sesame sauce was spread evenly for a more well-rounded sweet flavour, though I would have liked to see slightly more of the sauce.

Unagi Donburi - A-

The Unagi Donburi tasted remarkably similar to T&T's pre-cooked Unagi Kabayaki packages, and it came with juicy, fatty pieces of eel. I don't have a problem with T&T's Unagi Kabayaki if it is prepared properly (my mom is an expert at making T&T's unagi taste heavenly). The unagi here was prepared well, and the steamed rice was amply dressed with sauce.

Chicken Karaage - B+

This was listed as "Chicken Wings" on the menu. Now, if these are indeed chicken wings, then I have been lied to my entire life. The chicken here was tender and came with sufficient moisture. The deep-fried exterior layer was not hard, but a little simplistic flavour-wise.

Salmon Sashimi - B+
Tuna Sashimi - B+

The Salmon Sashimi came with a smooth texture and was cut neatly, though it was not especially flavourful. The Tuna Sashimi had a soft, smooth texture. One piece was nice and fatty, while the other tasted slightly fishy. 

Stanley Roll - B

After the Bento Box D, I had the Stanley Roll, which consisted of a dynamite roll topped with "fired salmon." I literally have no idea what "fired salmon" means. Does it refer to a salmon that lost its job because it couldn't swim like the other salmon? In either case, I tried to make an educated guess and assumed it was seared salmon, but that was clearly not what came to my table. The salmon that lost its job was cooked and lightly coated with tempura batter. The tempura prawns inside were quite greasy, and the sauces were quite thick. The mayonnaise was rather strongly projected. On the plus side, the prawns were plump and juicy, and the sweet avocado helped bring the flavours together. 

The waitress had a friendly attitude, but she was obviously overwhelmed by the volume of orders. Attentiveness understandably suffered as a result. The food was decent and generally consistent, although not especially outstanding. It would be nice if they edited the menu to remove any inconsistencies or possible sources of confusion. All in all, Nishiki Sushi appears to be an average Japanese restaurant that may be a convenient choice when nearby Sakura Ichiban is closed.

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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Episode #175: Sushi Nami

North Vancouver, $$$ (Higher Priced)

I think my life has reached a whole new level of boredom. With only one course this semester (instead of my usual four), I have had much more free time, which turns out to be both a blessing and a curse if you don't know what to do with it. To spice up my life a little, I have been partaking in some more thrilling activities, such as flossing my teeth, eating all the cookies in my cabinet, and lying in bed while staring at the ceiling. The climactic moment of my past few days was when I cleaned my desk, which made me feel so accomplished that I decided to reward myself with a sushi adventure for passing such an important milestone in my life.

Sushi Nami is a Korean-operated fusion Japanese restaurant that is considered to be one of the fancier Japanese restaurants in North Vancouver. My first visit to Sushi Nami occurred way before I started my blog, and I remembered the food to be above average. However, Sushi Nami is one of the most expensive restaurants on Lonsdale Ave., which is probably why it is not the most popular restaurant in the area.

Perhaps we are paying some sort of premium to see Christmas decorations at any time of the year?

Nami Castle Sashimi Salad - A

It is evident from Sushi Nami's Facebook page that the staff are quite proud of this creation. The sashimi was a mix of soft, melty tuna dressed with Japanese salad dressing along with fresh sockeye salmon. There was a decent amount of sashimi in there, which was accompanied by some red onion, strawberries, mango, and avocado along with a pile of cucumber slices. The fruits provided a refreshing side to this aesthetically pleasing salad.

Toro Tataki Nigiri - A-

The Toro Tataki Nigiri was nicely prepared with juicy toro on the underside, and the light, sweet teriyaki sauce on top helped livened up the flavours. The rice formation was also above average, though the tataki would benefit from a more pronounced smoky flavour. 

Ebi Mayo - A

The Ebi Mayo was a rather pricey dish ($12.95) that consisted of six deep-fried prawns accompanied by something they called "yogurt mayo sauce ice cream." If I were at an ice cream shop, the last thing I would think of ordering is "yogurt mayo sauce ice cream." Looking past the name, the strawberry-flavoured ice cream did wonders to the plump, juicy prawns. The interplay of different temperatures, textures, and flavours was just perfect. This dish was eye candy, mouth candy, and ear candy all at the same time. Wait... yeah, you get the idea.

Labster King - A-

The Labster King is a baked special roll with asparagus, BBQ sockeye salmon, lobster, and avocado. I would like to think that the title contains a typo, but unless you type on a Dvorak keyboard like I do, the A and the O are nowhere near each other. In either case, the Labster King was a calorie heaven featuring a harmonious savoury flavour. There were a few sizable pieces of lobster on top of the roll as well as some additional lobster inside. A hint of sweet chili provided a slight spicy kick to the roll. The only issue I had with this roll was the overly mushy mashed yam, but in the world of sauce-heavy fusion rolls, this one ranks above average.

I received friendly, attentive service throughout my visit. Just like last time, I was very pleased with the innovation, execution, and presentation of the food. If you need some eye-catching food photos for your Instagram account, you can visit this place (provided that you order their creative dishes rather than their ordinary ones). If you need a reward for cleaning your desk (like me), you can also visit this place (or maybe just have sushi in general—that will do as well).

Sushi Nami Fusion Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Episode #174: Sushi S Japanese Restaurant

Burnaby South, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Since I was quite free during office hours, I used the time to write a blog post, but of course, I got distracted as soon as my coworkers strolled into my office. It was all fun and games while we did some personality tests and discovered that I was the most extroverted out of all of us (which I was really surprised about). We then delved into some more somber topics such as how I should see a doctor about my horrible memory and my tendency to inadvertently distract others and be distracted. Afterward, it was time to make things more positive with a sushi adventure, but I had forgotten which restaurant I had wanted to go to and could not concentrate on searching for a restaurant online. Sigh... In the end, I just went to one of my favourites: Sushi S Japanese Restaurant.

I first discovered and tried Sushi S in 2013, and it has long since been my favourite Japanese restaurant in South Burnaby. It is a Korean-operated restaurant that offers a convenient choice of sushi for BCIT students. Sushi S was once a little-known restaurant, but has now become very popular. The restaurant was completely full as I walked in on a Tuesday. Their menu featured some new additions, and in a bid to sample as many of those as possible, I ordered six dishes of food, which garnered many strange stares and curious looks from the chefs, the waitresses, and the tables sitting around me. It sure felt wonderful to be a professional attention whore.

Wild Sake Nigiri - B+
Unagi Nigiri - B
Inari Nigiri - A-

The Wild Sake Nigiri (sockeye salmon) came with a generous amount of salmon, though it didn't have the brightest of flavours. The Unagi Nigiri, on the other hand, was quite small and would benefit from a more smoky flavour as well as a slightly thinner sauce. The Inari Nigiri was the best of the three, with the bean curd exhibiting an appealing chewiness and the rice delectably seasoned.

Ankimo - B-

The Ankimo (monkfish liver) came with four small pieces for $4. While it had a nice soft texture, I didn't really agree with the light teriyaki sauce dressing. Ponzu sauce is a much better dressing for this dish as it provides more moisture and a tangy flavour that complements the delicately sweet flavour of the ankimo itself. 

Seared Toro Nigiri - B

I apologize for possibly the crappiest picture on my blog thus far. The Seared Toro Nigiri was presented as an eye-catching mini tower, but the toro (tuna belly) was slightly overdone, so it felt cooked rather than seared. However, the light ponzu-soy sauce combo helped livened up the flavours.

Aburi Salmon Oshi - A-

Onto my favourite Japanese fusion dish, the Aburi Salmon Oshi here featured Atlantic salmon and avocado. Unlike Japanese Bistro Hatzu's version, which made me cry, this one featured the right amount of spiciness (in my opinion). The Atlantic salmon on top was soft and exhibited a hint of smoky flavour. The avocado brought a creamy feel to the oshi, but it did make the sushi rice seem slightly drier than it was supposed to be.

Kushiyaki - B-

The Kushiyaki consisted of skewered, grilled prawn, scallop, and butter garlic sauce. I liked how they used a sprinkle of herbs to spice up the flavours with this dish, and the prawns had a nice buttery flavour. However, the skewers were slightly overdone, so the scallops ended up tougher and chewier than expected.

Awesome Roll - A-

For my special roll, I went with the roll that matches my personality the best—the Awesome Roll. I mean, what is more awesome than a forgetful, distracted attention whore who has a love relationship with one very specific type of food? This roll came with baked salmon and yam tempura bits on a California Roll. The yam tempura bits had a sweet, spicy, wasabi-like flavour and would work as a nice Asian snack. In terms of the roll itself, the creamy crab meat and avocado inside went well with the soft baked salmon on top. The roll lost the distinctive smoky flavour it once had (possibly due to being prepared by a different chef), but nonetheless remained an above-average roll.

Considering the number of patrons at the restaurant, the servers did a remarkable job of being friendly and bringing out the food quickly. In fact, my dishes were brought out so quickly that my table literally looked like the Louvre Museum of food. My clumsy camera and note-taking skills just could not keep up with the pace! With its popularity, the quality of food has slightly degraded from what it was three years ago, but Sushi S still remains my favourite Japanese restaurant in South Burnaby. However, I must say that Sekai Udon Bar, with its continual attempts to improve, is slowly catching up.

Sushi S Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato