Thursday, December 29, 2016

Episode #207: Sushi UOmo (2nd Visit)

Burnaby North, $ (Budget)

As the Fall 2016 semester came to an end, it was time to celebrate by having an epic sushi dinner with the TAs who shared the office with me. By virtue of SFU not really having enough TA offices, I had quite a few companions for this adventure: Ashton, Gaby, Jeff, Raymon, Sean, and Vy. Ashton, Jeff, and I were at an escape room that afternoon, and Ashton thought it would be a splendid idea for the three of us to have bubble tea right before dinner. How could I say "no" to bubble tea? Needless to say, I ended up marching into Sushi UOmo splendidly half full.

My first encounter with Sushi UOmo was in Episode #4 when it was the new kid on the block (nearly two and a half years ago), and lots of things have changed since then. The restaurant has become extremely popular, the quality has gone up, and the menu had been expanded. It has become the one restaurant I would recommend for budget sushi in North Burnaby.

Miso Soup - B+

The servers were quick to provide us with complimentary bowls of miso soup. In fact, they were so quick that my miso soup arrived at my table before I even got to the restaurant. You can't really beat that! It was slightly on the saltier side, but that was mostly balanced out by a good amount of miso paste, some tofu, and some green onion.

Drunken Tiger Roll - A-

Next, Gaby and I shared the Drunken Tiger Roll, which consisted of crab meat, avocado, cucumber, boiled prawn (ebi), unagi, BBQ sauce, and wasabi mayo. Overall, this roll had an enjoyable soft texture, and the flavours went together well. Soft, sweet unagi topped the roll, and the wasabi mayo was mild and unobtrusive. Unfortunately, I did not end up drunk, much to the disappointment of those at my table.

Sockeye Salmon Nigiri - B
Red Tuna Nigiri (Bluefin) - B+
Aburi Salmon Nigiri - B
Aburi Toro Nigiri - A-

The Sockeye Salmon Nigiri came with a generous piece of fresh salmon, though the rice was slightly bland and too tightly packed. The server eagerly suggested the Red Tuna Nigiri (i.e. bluefin), so I gave it a try, and it had a rather rich flavour compared to the red tuna nigiri I've had at other places. The Aburi Salmon Nigiri was slightly too creamy and chewy, but the Aburi Toro Nigiri was delightfully juicy and much softer.

Red Dragon Roll - A-

After the nigiri came the Red Dragon Roll that Jeff and I decided to split, and this roll came with wild salmon, unagi tempura, cream cheese, avocado, and BBQ sauce. This roll was another success. The cream cheese was melty and well-integrated into the roll. You could still feel the heat from the freshly made unagi tempura, whose light crispiness was an excellent complement to the soft, buttery wild salmon on top.

Tempura Udon - B+

By this point, I was already near capacity and ended up having to stuff some of my Tempura Udon at Sean. The udon was accompanied by mushrooms, carrots, and various veggies and was nothing extraordinary. The batter on the tempura was on the thicker side, but it was crispy with sufficient moisture inside.

Although they left out one of my items by mistake, the service was otherwise on point. I was actually somewhat glad about this since I was already very full. However, being very full was apparently not enough to stop me from spontaneously suggesting that we should have dessert afterward. That's one bubble tea and two large scoops of sorbet all in one evening, which I'm sure is totally healthy.

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Episode #206: Kimu Japanese Cuisine

Vancouver (Southeast), $ (Budget)

About two months ago, when Kimu Japanese Cuisine first opened its doors, my Instagram feed exploded with pictures of sushi in virtually all the various forms I could imagine. At Kimu, there's the Sushi Cake, sushi with kimchi on it, and enough species of Sushi Pizza to give the pizza place next door a hard time. They might as well add sushi pasta and sushi fries to round off the selection. There were more things that I wanted to try than I could stomach, so I had Kyle and Emperor Enoch (thanks for the nickname suggestion, Luke) join me on this adventure.

Emperor Enoch doesn't exactly have the best of luck when it comes to traffic, so I had a good 20 minutes to comb over the menu and sip some hot green tea to relieve myself from the cold weather outside before his arrival. I was quite surprised by how quickly the restaurant began to fill up, despite its rather inconvenient location. By 5:30 p.m., the place was bustling, and by 6 p.m., it was full. All that Instagram coverage combined with very reasonable prices seemed to have worked wonders for the restaurant.

Okonomiyaki - A-

Oddly enough, first to arrive was the Okonomiyaki, which was a success. The pancake was soft with a slight crispiness around the edges. There were plenty of bonito flakes on top, as well as a good balance of Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. 

Bomb Roll - B+

Arriving quickly afterward was the Bomb Roll, which consisted of mayonnaise, lettuce, avocado, cucumber, masago, prawn tepura, spicy tuna, and chopped scallop. Of course, we ordered this because the name suggested that it would be bomb. Indeed, it was neatly constructed, and the flavour of the prawn tempura was projected well. However, the other ingredients were a little hard to discern. A light spiciness added some depth of flavour to the roll.

Sushi Cake - B+

The Sushi Cake, which is effectively Kimu's poster child, consisted of sushi rice dough, crab meat, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, torched salmon, spicy tuna, tobiko, BBQ sauce, spicy mayonnaise, balsamic reduction, garlic chips... actually, scratch that. Simply put, the Sushi Cake consisted of sushi rice dough and the entire T&T Supermarket. If you want a single item with as many sauces as possible, then this is it. I liked how the dough was crispy and not too chewy. A seared flavour was evident in the creamy seared salmon, and the garlic chips provided a nice zing. To top it all off, the Sushi Cake was only $9.50!

Aburi Salmon Nigiri - B+
Aburi Tuna Nigiri - B+
Aburi Hamachi Toro Nigiri - A-
Aburi Amaebi Nigiri - A
Aburi Hotate Nigiri - B+
Aburi Beef Nigiri - B+

Next, I had the Aburi Sushi Combo, which came with six pieces of Aburi (seared) sushi. The highlights were the hamachi toro, which was topped with a light helping of spicy mayonnaise, and the soft and creamy amaebi, which had the best seared flavour out of all the pieces. The other pieces were decent, and the sushi rice was packed correctly.

Salmon Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - A
Hokkigai Sashimi - B
Hamachi Sashimi - B
Ika Sashimi - A
Tai Sashimi - B+

Finally, because we all needed something Snapchat-worthy, we ordered the Deluxe Sashimi, which came with three pieces each of salmon, tuna, hokkigai (Arctic surf clam), hamachi (yellowtail), ika (squid), and tai (snapper). Most of the sashimi was very fresh, including the creamy and buttery salmon, the very melty tuna, and the soft ika. The parts of the tai near the scales were chewier, but it was otherwise quite soft. The hokkigai could be sweeter, and the hamachi was slightly fishy, though smooth.

The service was sparse at times due to the high number of customers, but overall, we were more than satisfied with the food given the prices. There wasn't a single item we found below average. With wallet-friendly prices, ample creativity, and well-prepared food, this restaurant deserves the customers it is getting, and I have Instagram to thank for this great find.

KIMU Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Episode #205: Takifugu Japanese Dining

Richmond, Luxury ($$$$)

This year has been a truly special year with a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time I ever dined on a patio, the first time I ate with other food bloggers, the first time I had an alcoholic shot (which went rather awry), and the first time I was so sleep deprived that I experienced microsleeps. I could not have asked for a more amazing year. It was also the first time that I managed to get someone to pay for one of my sushi adventures. You see, this was not an easy accomplishment because I don't exactly eat like a normal person when it comes to sushi. As a bonus, Puzzlefighter was treating me to a luxury restaurant, Takifugu, whose menu featured an assortment of fancy nigiri.

Takifugu is one of the higher-end Chinese-operated Japanese restaurants in Richmond. It is remarkably well hidden. As blind as I may be with everything else, I have an eagle eye for sushi restaurants, but I managed to walk right in front of Takifugu twice without noticing it at all. It is a very quiet place, and the whole time we dined, it felt like we were the only ones there.

Takifugu is Japanese for pufferfish, and lo and behold, there was one in the fish tank right by the entrance...

I'm not sure if I can ever bring myself to eat a pufferfish after seeing how adorable they actually are. I was slightly relieved to see that pufferfish did not make an appearance on the menu.

Puzzlefighter enjoys and understands fancy nigiri just as much as I do, so off we started with a plateful of nigiri, which gave us plenty of conversation material for the next half hour or so.

Kajiki Nigiri - A
Toro Nigiri - B
Kanpachi Nigiri - A-
Uni Nigiri - B+

The first piece of nigiri we had, the Kajiki Nigiri (swordfish), had the most amazing soft and creamy texture we could imagine. It would have been an A+ in my books if the sushi rice had a little more flavour. The Toro Nigiri (tuna belly) was slightly fishy, but the Kanpachi Nigiri (amberjack) was fresh and buttery. I was told the Uni Nigiri just came in earlier in the day, and it was indeed fresh, creamy, and melty. However, there wasn't enough uni, so the balance of flavours was a little off.

Pork Intestine Skewer - B+
Beef Tongue Skewer - B

I'm not exactly into the idea of consuming innards, but after being vehemently peer pressured by Puzzlefighter, I gave in and tried the Pork Intestine Skewer. Much to my surprise, it turned out quite crispy with a nice, chewy rebound. It actually tasted good to me. Uh oh... Next, the Beef Tongue Skewer was on the chewier side with a tad too much salt, but it was savoury and projected a pleasant, smoky flavour.

Assorted Veggie Tempura - B

Our platter of Assorted Veggie Tempura came with two pieces each of zucchini, eggplant, and yam, one piece of carrot, and some tempura enoki mushroom. The tempura enoki mushroom had a very... erm... interesting appearance. As much as I enjoy novelty, there were many parts where I could only taste the batter. The other vegetables turned out to be juicy and flavourful. The only catch was that the batter was quite greasy.

Nabeyaki Udon - B+

For our filler, we got the Nabeyaki Udon, which came with two tempura prawns on the side. The udon noodles had a nice chewiness, and the dish as a whole was generally well-prepared. The mushrooms went well with the udon, and the broth was light and well-balanced. The prawns also had a decent, meaty snap, though they shared the same greasy fate as the Assorted Veggie Tempura.

The service was friendly and respectful during our visit. Like many other Japanese restaurants in the area, the food at Takifugu is pricey given the quality. Puzzlefighter paid almost $80 to get us out of there. However, they sometimes have seasonal specials that offer a significant discount from their regular prices. One such special was the Lobster Sashimi Dinner for 4 for $138. We actually spent a significant amount of time debating whether the two of us could finish a dinner for four, and now, I slightly regret not attempting the challenge. After all, one of my favourite sayings is "there's no such thing as too much sushi."

Takifugu Japanese Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Episode #204: Sushi Heaven

New Westminster, $ (Budget)

Sometimes, university will force you to push your limits and reach new highs. That's what I experienced this past month. I always thought I needed at least 4 hours of sleep to survive a day of lectures, but it turns out that I could push this limit down to 2 hours. All I needed was a ridiculous amount of bubble teas and frappuccinos to help me reach enough sugar highs to get through the day. I didn't really have a choice due to the never-ending slew of difficult assignments, quizzes, and projects I had to complete. To give myself a break from my hellish schedule, I dragged xSupaD with me to visit Sushi Heaven in New Westminster.

Sushi Heaven is a moderately small, Korean-operated Japanese restaurant located near Ikoi Sushi in the north part of New Westminster. The variety of items on the menu was largely in line with other Korean-operated Japanese restaurants in the vicinity. There were special rolls, seared sushi, bento boxes... you name it. The restaurant had a nice bleach scent when I walked in, which meant that we got to enjoy the clean bathroom scent for the first half of our lunch.

Tuna & Salmon Don - B

First to make it to our table was the Tuna & Salmon Don. The salmon was fresh, creamy, buttery, and really soft. The tuna was not fishy, but not particularly soft either. Both of us found the sushi rice overly sticky, and it was slightly too warm as well.

Seared Toro Nigiri - B+
Seared Salmon Nigiri - A-

Of course, there is no seeing seared sushi on the menu and not ordering it. The Seared Toro Nigiri was soft, juicy, and quite full of fish oil. It was seared the right amount, and I also liked how it was seasoned for more flavour. The Seared Salmon Nigiri had a good amount of spicy mayonnaise to highlight the seared flavour of the salmon, but we found the teriyaki sauce quite heavy.

Unagi Nigiri - B

Arriving on a separate plate (darn the fact I had to take one more picture because of this), the Unagi Nigiri came with some crunchy seaweed. I would have liked a more smoky flavour on the unagi itself.

Appetizer Tempura - B

Next, the Appetizer Tempura came with four sizable pieces of tempura: carrot, sweet potato, prawn, and zucchini. Funny enough, even though I am totally a meat person, I ended up enjoying all the vegetables more than the prawn. The vegetables were all sliced to appropriate thicknesses and were pleasantly juicy, while the flavour of the prawn was obscured by the very thick layer of batter surrounding it. The batter itself was quite greasy and rather mediocre.

Chicken Teriyaki Roll - C+

Moving onto the sushi, the Chicken Teriyaki Roll was quite rice-heavy, and the sushi rice turned out rather mushy. There wasn't enough chicken to balance out the rice.

Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll - B-

Since xSupaD really enjoys crunchy tempura bits, we had the Spicy Tuna Crunch Roll, which consisted of spicy tuna, crunchy tempura bits, spicy mayonnaise, and teriyaki sauce. Well, the best part of this roll turned out to be the crunchy tempura bits. Unfortunately, I couldn't get over the mushy sushi rice, and the tempura bits felt randomly sprinkled on rather than integrated into the roll due to the contrast in texture between the rice and the tempura bits.

Spicy Salmon Roll - C+

Our final dish was the Spicy Salmon Roll. I felt apprehensive about this roll as soon as I saw the amount of rice in each of the pieces. I think we already know what I'm going to say...

We received decent service during our visit. Overall, the restaurant's most attractive features were the good prices and the wide selection of items on the menu. The food itself was a little hit-and-miss, and the sushi rice needed some work. In either case, the food did the work, and I enjoyed a nice four-hour-long food coma afterward. I guess food comas last longer when you only sleep 2 hours a day. 

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