Friday, November 18, 2016

Episode #203: Sushi House

Richmond, $ (Budget)

I'm only about 40% of the way to conquering all the sushi restaurants in Greater Vancouver, but there are some areas in which I've pretty much been to all the major sushi restaurants. Richmond is one of those areas. Unfortunately, a large majority of Greater Vancouver's escape game rooms seem to be located in Richmond. Tamsen and I were on a roll with our successful escapes, and we weren't going to let the trend stop. Once again, we did our usual routine: start the day with sushi, bubble tea our hearts out, solve a few escape rooms, and then stuff ourselves with dessert. I always feel "great" and "healthy" at the end of it all.

Things started off wonderfully as I arrived way too early and Tamsen had difficulties getting a ride on time. Snapchat was the only thing that prevented my fingers from turning into icicles. Going inside before noon, we found that there were already a good number of diners inside. The menu was quite extensive and featured many special rolls and Aburi sushi (seared sushi) options. Of course, I wasn't going to pass on the Aburi sushi.

Tuna Sashimi - C+
Salmon Sashimi - A-

We started off with a four-piece order of Tuna and Salmon Sashimi. The Tuna Sashimi was not particularly soft and tasted rather fishy. However, the Salmon Sashimi was served at a nice, cool temperature and had a fresh, buttery flavour. 

Ichi Roll - B-
Chopped Scallop Roll - B-

While we were trying to select a special roll, a typo on the menu caught our attention, which led us to ordering the Ichi Roll. They had called it the "Ich Roll" on the menu, and we deliberated over whether the roll would make us itch in some way until we discovered the typo. 

The Ichi Roll came with fresh crab, scallop, tamago, amaebi (sweet shrimp), tobiko, and avocado. The soy wrapper was very thin, and its sole purpose seemed to be to hold the roll together. The sweet tamago overpowered pretty much all the seafood inside the roll.

With the Chopped Scallop Roll, there wasn't enough scallop inside to give the roll a well-rounded sweet flavour. The scallop was overshadowed by the strong, nutty flavour of the sesame seeds on top.

Aburi Smoked Salmon Oshi - C
Kaede Roll - B+

Finally, we had two items from the Aburi page. The Aburi Smoked Salmon Oshi was surprisingly cheap (at just $6.50 for 8 pieces), but my soul died a little when I brought it to my mouth. There was virtually no seared flavour, and the smoked salmon tasted quite salty. It essentially tasted like an Alaska roll with a quarter of the avocado, double the rice, and salt as the garnish of choice instead of an appropriate sauce or vinaigrette. 

The Kaede Roll (with salmon, crab, ikura, cucumber, tobiko, and house sauce) was an attempt to imitate the signature Miku Roll at Miku. This fared much better than the Aburi Smoked Salmon Oshi. Here, there was a nice smoky flavour, along with lots of crunchy tobiko and some sweet imitation crab. The creamy sauce rounded off the flavours well, and I wished there was a little more of it.

The restaurant got slightly busy as peak lunch hours came around, but the service remained reasonably attentive throughout our visit. The food we had was largely hit-and-miss, and it seems that the cheap prices are what attracts customers to this restaurant. 

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Episode #202: Sushi Bar Kilala

Burnaby North, $$ (Moderately Priced)

Sushi Bar Kilala is perhaps one of the most understated sushi bars in Greater Vancouver. Despite serving sushi that rivals locally acclaimed places such as Sushi by Yuji, it typically does not see many customers on any given day. Its hole-in-the-wall appearance does not really help. However, Puzzlefighter and I both knew about Sushi Bar Kilala's merits, so we arranged to have lunch there together. Unfortunately for me, Puzzlefighter claims that he only remembers appointments when they involve good-looking girls, and sadly, I don't exactly fit that description. Needless to say, it took some reminding for this sushi adventure to happen.

Once inside, we were greeted warmly by the authentic staff. Inside, the decor is very basic and does not look like much more than a take-out place. It looks just about as fancy on the inside as it does on the outside. The menu stays true to the restaurant's name and includes very few items besides sushi and sashimi. 

Futomaki (half order) - B+
Negi Saba Shiso Roll - A-

Surprisingly, I have never had Futomaki until now, even though it is such a common roll. Those fancy rolls and Aburi choices on the menu always get the better of me. The Futomaki here came with shiitake mushroom, egg, spinach, kanpyo (cooked gourd), cucumber, and sweet fish powder. The roll had a homemade feel, with the sweetness of the tamago being one of its most prominent features. The mushrooms provided a well-rounded, savoury flavour to the roll, and I enjoyed how the rice was not packed too tightly.

On Puzzlefighter's recommendation, we got the Negi Saba Shiso Roll (pickled mackerel, green onion, and oba leaf), which was also successful. It came with generous chunks of saba, and the light application of wasabi gave the roll a nice moderated spicy kick.

Deluxe Nigiri Combination

Next, to get a sample of their fresh seafood, I ordered the Deluxe Nigiri Combination. More importantly, I ordered this to make my Snapchat friends hungry, because nothing says "bon appetit" quite like a colourful array of beautifully plated nigiri sushi. 

Kanpyo Maki - B+
Tekka Maki - B+

The Deluxe Nigiri Combination typically comes with Kappa Maki (cucumber), but since I'm "just a child" (a reference to Episode #162) and not a fan of crunchy vegetables, I substituted it with Kanpyo Maki (cooked gourd) instead. The Kanpyo Maki had a rich flavour somewhat like that of mushrooms. The Tekka Maki (tuna) contained soft tuna, which was slightly overpowered by the wasabi.

Uni Nigiri - A
Hotategai Nigiri - A-
Hokkigai Nigiri - B+
Amaebi Nigiri - A
Tamago - A

With the uni (sea urchin), we were in for a treat as we learned from the sushi chef that the uni had just arrived earlier that morning. There was a generous amount of uni in the nigiri, and it was very rich and creamy. The sushi rice was well-packed and had ample flavour. The Hotategai Nigiri (scallop) had a sweet flavour and a very slight tinge of the stringiness typically found in cooked scallops. The Hokkigai (surf clam) had a nice rebound, though it was rather thin and accompanied by too much wasabi. The Amaebi Nigiri (sweet shrimp) had a pleasant, sweet flavour, while the Tamago was soft, fluffy, and cake-like. 

Hamachi Nigiri - A-
Salmon Nigiri - A-
Tuna Nigiri - A
Saba Nigiri - A-
Tako Nigiri - B+
Unagi Nigiri - A

Moving onto the second row, the Hamachi Nigiri had a soft, smooth texture, though it tasted slightly salty. Both the Salmon Nigiri and the Tuna Nigiri were fresh and featured pleasant, soft textures. The use of a shiso leaf in the Saba Nigiri helped balance out the characteristic fishy flavour of saba, and I liked how the saba was not too salty. The Tako Nigiri featured too much wasabi, but the tako had a good amount of chewiness, and the Unagi was soft with an excellent torched flavour.

Unagi Battera - A

One of my favourite things to get at Sushi Bar Kilala is the Unagi Battera (eel pressed with sushi rice). The heavenly smoky flavour of the unagi was accented by sesame seeds and small bits of tamago. I was already full by this point, but I wouldn't have minded eating another order of this if it was placed in front of me.

Cream Caramel - A-

Who says you can't have dessert when you're already full? I went full sugar vacuum mode and opted for the Cream Caramel pudding. The consistency of the pudding was slightly on the thicker side, and it came in a rather generous portion. It was topped with an appropriate amount of caramel and did not end up being too sweet.

Overall, we were more than satisfied with the quality of the food and service at Sushi Bar Kilala. Here, you can experience well-crafted authentic sushi for reasonable prices, as long as you don't mind the very basic decor. The unagi is a must-try and is consistently among the best in Greater Vancouver.

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

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Episode #201: Ikura Japanese Restaurant

Vancouver (Southwest), $$ (Moderately Priced)

I haven't been inside a haunted house for nearly 10 years, so I felt a slight tinge of apprehension when Tamsen suggested that I go through the Hallow Nights haunted house at EXIT with him. I tend to not be a screamer, but scaring me is a very trivial task. All you have to do is sneak a cucumber beside me, and I'll end up jumping five feet into the air. (Okay, maybe it's not quite that easy, but you get the point.) Of course, going into the haunted house meant having some sushi beforehand, because even if things were to go very wrong, my sushi would be there to help guide me through.

Our sushi restaurant of choice was Ikura Japanese Restaurant, a Chinese-operated Japanese restaurant in the busy part of Marpole. The restaurant looks bigger from the outside than the inside, but that's not to say that the dining area was small. However, what was indeed large was the number of choices on the menu. Not only were there four pages of special rolls to choose from, but there was also a 3-items-for-$10.99 special that spanned multiple pages. It's always nice to have a variety of options, but for me, it's like asking me to choose one wife out of 200 potential candidates. I would end up being a 199-timer. Surely enough, the waitress had to make at least three trips to our table before we were ready to order.

Miso Soup - B-

Our $10.99 special came with a Miso Soup. The Miso Soup contained very small amounts of green onion, seaweed, and tofu. It was thin in consistency and lacking in miso paste, but the broth still had adequate flavour.

Deep-Fried Oyster Roll - B-
Salmon Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - B

Curious to see what "sushified" deep-fried oysters would taste like, we chose the Deep Fried Oyster Roll as part of our three-item special. The Deep-Fried Oyster Roll ended up tasting quite heavy, and some pieces lacked crunch. That being said, the creamy avocado and the oyster indeed worked together. 

Our two other items were the Salmon Sashimi and the Tuna Sashimi. The Salmon Sashimi was fresh and had a pleasant, buttery flavour. The Tuna Sashimi received some unclean cutting, but was not fishy. Both types of sashimi came in generous portions. 

Black Angel Roll - B

While combing through the vast assortment of special rolls, I noticed that several of them used strawberry sauce, something that I have never seen used in a roll before. At first glance, this roll looks horrendously rice-heavy, but half of what's on top of the roll is imitation crab meat lightly dressed with strawberry sauce. This gave the crab meat a slightly sweeter flavour. Inside the roll was a harmonious mix of creamy avocado and prawn tempura. However, attention to detail was slightly lacking here, as one of the pieces contained a nice dose of prawn shell.

Chopped Scallop Nigiri - B-
Toro Nigiri - B

With the Chopped Scallop Nigiri, the scallop-to-rice ratio was a little off, making it hard to taste the sweetness of the scallops. However, I liked how the rice was not packed too tightly with the Toro Nigiri. The toro was soft, though not that easily distinguishable from regular tuna.

Champagne Roll - A-

Since neither Tamsen nor I are drinkers, we decided to satisfy our cravings the sushi way with the Champagne Roll, a deep-fried non-alcoholic roll with tuna, salmon, avocado, tamago, tobiko, unagi sauce, and spicy mayonnaise. This roll was a success. It featured very soft fried tuna and salmon, in addition to a well-executed, crispy outer layer. I really enjoyed the mix of creamy and sweet flavours from the avocado and the tamago, as well as the slight kick from the spicy mayonnaise.

Overall, we found both the service and the food to be decent for a restaurant in this price range. I wouldn't mind coming again to try out more of their endless selection of special rolls. And with that, we were headed off for a round of bubble tea before our haunted house adventure, after which I had to stuff myself with dessert. My day ended up with a nice, relaxing sugar crash.

Ikura Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato