Saturday, October 21, 2017

Episode #231: Ebisu on Broadway

Vancouver (Northwest), $$$ (Higher Priced)

There are two things I love about Ebisu: sushi boats and relatively cheap drinks. Ebisu's ability to accommodate large groups and its extensive menu (with items in different price ranges) makes it perfect for larger gatherings. Since my own home is not exactly fit for partying in, I frequently refer to the two Vancouver Ebisu locations as my party homes.

To celebrate the end of another exciting semester of TAing, I held an end-of-semester sushi adventure with fellow TAs Angus, Anya, Chris, Jeff and Maria. We were only able to make it for lunch, so we kept the relatively cheap drinks to a minimum. Most importantly, I had to ensure that I wasn't giving everything an A+. We focussed on enjoying our appetizers, rolls, and boats.

Miso Soup - A-

My first item to arrive was the Miso Soup from my BBQ Unagi & Roll Boat. The Miso Soup contained tofu, green onion, and seaweed. It was light and well-balanced.

BBQ Unagi & Roll Boat

The BBQ Unagi & Roll Boat came with two half rolls, a small unagi don, chicken karaage, assorted tempura, and two orange slices. For $13.95, the value was certainly there.

Dynamite Roll - B+

A combination of crunchy prawn tempura, crunchy cucumber, and sweet creamy mayonnaise made the Dynamite Roll a delight. The pieces were also a good size.

California Roll - B

The California Roll was standard fare. The avocado slices were on the larger side, and the imitation crab was sufficiently sweet.

Unagi Don - A-

The Unagi Don comes with three pieces of soft unagi, which had an aromatic smokiness. The seaweed on top provided extra flavour to the don and complemented the steamed rice.

Chicken Karaage - B+

The Chicken Karaage came with tender, crispy chicken. However, I thought that some spices would help liven up the flavour.

Assorted Tempura - B+

Next up, the Assorted Tempura came with two prawns and one piece each of kabocha, yam and carrot. The prawns were meaty, juicy, and crispy, though slightly oily. The kabocha was slightly mushy, while the yam and carrot were a good balance of sweet and savoury flavours.

Orange Slices - C

The only real flop of the boat was the Orange Slices. Cut into small, easily manageable pieces, the Orange Slices were juicy, but they were some of the sourest orange slices I have ever had. They may as well have been lemon slices. (Yes, I did write down notes on my orange slices, and yes, everyone was eagerly waiting for this moment.)

Besides the sushi boats, one other great deal on the lunch menu was the 3 for $12.99 lunch special, where you can choose 3 items from a select list of around 50 items (plus a miso soup, steamed rice, or soft drink) for just $12.99. Since my appetite does not wake up until late afternoon, I opted for just one item from the list (for $4.99).

BC Blazer (half order) - A-

Among the most deluxe items featured in the special was the BC Blazer, a roll with seared salmon, bonito flakes, and green onion on top of a California roll. This is a roll I would come to order again on subsequent visits. Overall, the roll had a rich, creamy, sweet flavour and was a pleasant amalgamation of soft textures. The green onion and bonito flakes on top of the roll provided a small amount of crunch for textural contrast.

Salad - B+ 

Somehow, in the midst of my note-taking, I ended up jacking someone's Salad to try myself. With copious amounts of vinaigrette dressing, the lettuce-based Salad was delectably creamy and savoury.

Mentaiko Yaki Udon - A

The Mentaiko Yaki Udon was a hidden gem in the menu that I would probably never have come across had Chris not offered to split it with me. The rich, savoury udon noodles had just the right amount of firmness, while a mildly detectable spiciness brings the dish to life. The creamy roe has a pleasant bubbly texture and works wonderfully against the udon noodles. The best part of this yakiudon is how it doesn't have the charred, greasy flavour of most yakiudon dishes but still packs plenty of flavour.

Overall, the staff was friendly and accommodating. Unlike the Robson location, which can get pricey during prime dinner hours, the Broadway location offers reasonably price food at any hour of the day. There are lunch specials, happy hour specials, and dinner boats that are a good deal if you have at least two people in your group and can eat a fair amount. The drinks are also slightly cheaper at the Broadway location. That being said, the Robson location has its own advantages too (to be discussed in a future episode).

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

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Episode #230: Richmond Sushi

Richmond, $$$ (Higher Priced)

My first experience with Richmond Sushi was when Patrick invited me and 16 of his other friends to a huge all-you-can-eat (AYCE) dinner. The main objective of the dinner was to have a showdown between Patrick and I to see who could eat more. Needless to say, with all the socializing and record-keeping going on, the environment was not very conducive for blogging. However, after dying from the amount of food I ate at the dinner, I decided that dying just once wasn't manly enough, so I went back, the very next day, to try as many items as I could and die a second time.

Richmond Sushi is a very large but busy Japanese restaurant located in Union Square (slightly north of Aberdeen Centre). It is said to be one of the best Japanese AYCE restaurants in Greater Vancouver. Their menu is extensive compared to other Japanese AYCE restaurants. As such, they have a slightly higher price point ($26.95 for the regular dinner menu), though not as high as Shabusen and Kyo, which also serve Korean BBQ. To maximize the number of items I could try, I went for the deluxe AYCE dinner ($37.95).

Gomaae - B-
Ebi Sunomono - B-

To start my meal healthily with some veggies, I went for the Gomaae and the Ebi Sunomono. The Gomaae came with thick peanut sauce, which I thought could've been more evenly spread. A light touch of savouriness was mixed in with the sweetness. The Ebi Sunomono was strong and acidic and came with a single somewhat sweet shrimp. 

Beef Tataki - C+

The Beef Tataki was cut into super thin slices and dressed in ponzu sauce. The beef had little flavour, which was drowned out by the ponzu sauce. 

Sockeye Salmon Sashimi - B-
Hamachi Sashimi - B+
Tuna Sashimi - B-
Hokkigai Sashimi - B-
Salmon Sashimi - B
Tai Sashimi - B
Geoduck Sashimi - B
Amaebi Sashimi - B

There was a consistently moderate level of freshness across the sashimi. The best piece in my little sashimi platter was the hamachi, which was smooth, very soft, and not fishy. However, the tuna itself was slightly fishy and cut a little too thick, while the hokkigai lacked flavour. The Atlantic salmon was soft and marbly, though also a bit weak in flavour.

Tuna Tataki - C+
Sockeye Salmon Tataki - B-

The light ponzu sauce used to accompany the tataki did not overwhelm it. I enjoyed the soft textures of the fish, although there was a lack of seared flavour.

Inari Nigiri - B+
Atlantic Salmon Nigiri - B-
Torched Salmon Nigiri - B-
Unagi Nigiri - B-

The bean curd in the Inari Nigiri was delectably sweet, with sufficient moisture inside the bean curd pocket. For the other pieces of nigiri, the rice was quite sticky and packed a little too tightly. The Atlantic salmon here had the same pleasant marbly texture as the Atlantic Salmon Sashimi above. The Torched Salmon Nigiri lacked a torched flavour, while with the Unagi Nigiri, there was way too much rice given the amount of unagi provided.

Lobster Delight - B+
Tuna Chop Chop - B
XO Tuna - B+
Scallop Pearl - B

Going along with the tradition of turning every imaginable food into sushi, Richmond Sushi serves an assortment of sushi sundaes. If you've ever wondered what a sushi roll would taste like with 10 times the usual amount of filling, this is it. The results were not disappointing. The sweet imitation lobster in the Lobster Delight was delightfully creamy and soft and was a good complement to the kappa roll at the bottom. The Tuna Chop Chop and the Scallop Pearl were slightly weak in flavour, while the XO Tuna was quite spicy.

Salmon Avocado Roll - B
Top Gun Roll - B
Dynamite Roll - C+

The Salmon Avocado Roll came with cream cheese and resembled a Philadelphia roll. The creamy textures of the salmon, the avocado, and the cream cheese worked together. The Top Gun Roll (lettuce, cucumber, tempura bits, imitation crab) was also decent. Enhanced by a light drizzle of teriyaki sauce, the crunchy textures of the lettuce and tempura bits were a good contrast to the softer, sweeter imitation crab. The Dynamite Roll was sloppily constructed and a tad dry.

Salmon Tempura - B-
Prawn Tempura - B+
Yam Tempura - B+

The tempura generally exhibited good moisture preservation. However, some sauce or seasoning would've been nice for the Salmon Tempura, which tasted rather plain. The Prawn Tempura was wonderfully crispy and juicy. Interestingly, the Prawn Tempura was an entire letter grade better than the Prawn Tempura I had with Patrick the previous night (does bringing a notebook help?). The Yam Tempura was slightly greasy, but the thinly sliced yam was deliciously sweet.

Spring Roll - B-
Deep Fried Shrimp Bomb - A-
Fried Scallop - B-
Chicken Karaage - B+

Continuing down the fried region of the menu, the Spring Roll was crunchy, though the filling was nearly identical to that of a Chinese dumpling. The Deep Fried Shrimp Bomb was indeed bomb, and the sweet chili sauce brought it to life. The bombs lose their crispiness quite quickly, so it is wise to consume them quickly. The Fried Scallop contained sufficient moisture, but much of the sweetness of the scallop was lost in the frying process. The Chicken Karaage was juicy and garnished with an appropriate amount of spices.

Black Cod - B
Salmon Belly - B+
Chicken Drumstick - B

The Black Cod was sweet with a gingery touch, though it could've been a little softer with more of a grilled flavour. The random bit of cod on top was an interesting garnish. The Salmon Belly reminded me of BBQ Salmon Kama—creamy and juicy with a delicious smoked flavour. The Chicken Drumstick was quite standard fare. It was sufficiently moist, but slightly plain.

Chicken Brochette - C+
Beef Short Rib - C+

One common mistake seen in many Japanese AYCE restaurants is overcooking the grilled food. Here, both the Chicken Brochette and the Beef Short Rib were overcooked and ended up quite chewy. However, the Beef Short Rib had a decent smoky flavour.

Oyster Motoyaki - C+
Seafood Motoyaki - B-

The oyster in the Oyster Motoyaki was quite juicy, but the mayonnaise was quite heavy. The motoyaki ended up very oily in general. The Seafood Motoyaki consisted of mainly salmon (chopped and soft in texture) and ebi. The herbs sprinkled on top alleviate the heavy feel of the motoyaki somewhat. 

Flaming Lava Chicken - B-
New York Steak on Skewer - B-

The Flaming Lava Chicken was dressed in ketchup and turned out a lot less spicy than expected. The chicken meat could've been smoother in texture. The New York Steak on Skewer was lightly spiced, and despite its thick appearance, it wasn't too tough to chew.

Chicken Udon - C+
Seafood Fried Rice - C
Vegetable Yakisoba - C

After trying the 40 items above, it was time to conclude my feast in style with 3 fillers. Unfortunately, the fillers were not very well-prepared, which made the task of finishing them all the more challenging. In the Chicken Udon, the noodles were too soft, and the chicken was slightly soggy. The Seafood Fried Rice tasted more like Bland Sticky Rice, and the scallops and shrimp were overdone. The Vegetable Yakisoba was dry and also tasted dreadfully plain. The one saving grace here was that all of the fillers came in small, manageable portions.

Coconut Pudding - B
Mango Pudding - B+

Finally, the pudding came in neat, square-shaped cuts. The Coconut Pudding had a pleasantly sweet flavour, though it felt slightly powdery around the edges. The Mango Pudding was the better tasting of the two, with an easily discernible mango flavour. Despite the appearance of bits of jelly inside, the "jelly" had exactly the same texture as the pudding itself.

I enjoyed friendly, timely service during my visit, although during my dinner with Patrick, it was apparent that tables that order large quantities receive less service. This was not preventable given the number of people we had. Overall, I found the food generally above the standard for Japanese AYCE restaurants in Vancouver. Although the food was not exactly first-class, Richmond Sushi is one of the restaurants I would recommend if you must have AYCE sushi in Greater Vancouver.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Episode #229: Hong Sushi

Burnaby North, $ (Budget)

The first restaurant that I ventured to after I had become bored of SFU's campus food was Sushi Town. At that time, I was aware that Hong Sushi was even closer to campus than Sushi Town. However, I ended up going to Sushi Town because it seemed the more popular of the two, and more importantly, I was too lazy to cross the street prior to eating. Hong Sushi ended up in my list of restaurants I wanted to try but forgot to, until Jeff from my office mentioned how he used to regularly order their very cheap and filling combo: 18 pieces of sushi + miso soup for just $6.95 (now $7.95).

Thus, the two of us went to Hong Sushi during one of our lunch breaks to try out their $6.95 combo among other things. Hong Sushi is Chinese-operated, and although it is rather small in physical space, its menu is not small at all. There were enough appetizers and special rolls to give me a hard time deciding how to construct my ultimate tasting experience.

One notable thing about Hong Sushi is that they serve everything on foam dishes, which complements their budget-friendly focus. Another notable thing about the restaurant is that you order using tablets (there's one at each table). Given the low volume of dine-in customers, I'm not sure if the tablets really contribute to improving the restaurant's efficiency. However, they are great if you find human interaction terrifying and are mortally afraid of actually having to talk to a server.

Salmon Roll - B
California Roll - B+
Yam Roll - B

The $6.95 combo comes with a Salmon Roll, a California Roll, a Yam Roll, and a bowl of miso soup (not pictured). The rolls turned out better than I had expected. The California Roll featured sweet imitation crab, while the lightly fried tempura yam in the Yam Roll had a decent amount of crispiness. The Salmon Roll came with fresh, buttery salmon, although we thought the sushi rice could have been a little more flavourful. All three rolls were neatly constructed and came in rather large portions. 

Salmon Sashimi - A-
Toro Sashimi - B-

Next up, the Salmon Sashimi was creamy and buttery and came in neatly cut, generous slices. I also liked how the pieces were not too thickly sliced. The toro did not fare as well, as it was slightly fishy and not especially melty. 

Appetizer Tempura - B

The Appetizer Tempura came with one prawn and one piece each of kabocha, zucchini, sweet potato, and carrot. Some of the vegetable tempura was well-prepared and turned out savoury and juicy. However, the batter tended to be quite thick.

Scorpion Roll - B+

Next, we had the Scorpion Roll, a massive roll with deep-fried prawn, spicy tuna, salmon, cucumber, imitation crab meat, soft shell crab tempura, and masago. Despite their colossal size, the individual pieces actually held together quite well. The soft shell crab was remarkably well-prepared and contributed a nice crispiness to the roll. The spicy zing from the spicy tuna also went well with the other savoury ingredients in the roll.

Chopped Scallop Nigiri - B+
Unagi Nigiri - B
Saba Nigiri - B-
Tai Nigiri - B-
Hotate Nigiri - B-

After our large roll, I was presented with some rather large nigiri. The nigiri were more about size than quality. The sushi rice was dry and too tightly packed. However, some of the toppings were decent. The chopped scallop had a pleasant, creamy sweetness, while the unagi was soft and dressed with ample sweet unagi sauce. The saba was too salty and not smooth in texture, while the tai and hotate lacked flavour. 

The service was very minimal, as the server seemed to expect us to interact with the tablets more than himself. However, the food was decent given the budget prices. Hong Sushi is not a place I would frequent, but it is a place I can fall back on if I ever felt the need for a change of taste from the other budget sushi restaurants on Hastings. 

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Episode #228: Sushi Hub

Vancouver (Southwest), $$ (Moderately Priced)

I probably would have never found out about Sushi Hub had they not followed me on Instagram. Located on one of the less busier parts of Main Street, the restaurant makes it quite obvious that its feature dish is Aburi sushi. As soon as I returned the follow, half of my Instagram feed was filled with delicious-looking photos of fusion sushi from Sushi Hub. I took this as a sign that Instagram was persuading me to try the restaurant and got Tamsen to join me for lunch. 

The restaurant is not very large, but the dining area appeared clean and in order. I suppose word about this restaurant had not really spread, as it was not packed even during peak lunch hours. As such, we had a comfortable amount of room at our table.

Miso Soup - A-

Since we ordered an Aburi Box, we were entitled to one miso soup. However, they were nice enough to give us two. Served hot, the Miso Soup came with green onion and bean curd and was well-balanced.

Edamame - B+

The daily special that came with the Aburi Box was a small serving of edamame. These were salted and tasted fresh with sufficient moisture.

Salmon Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - B+

Next up, the Salmon Sashimi was buttery and creamy with a pleasantly smooth texture. The slices were not particularly large, but the cutting was on point. The Tuna Sashimi was very soft and refreshing.

Aburi Box

There was some peculiar pricing going on, as the Aburi Box ($11.50), which contained 3 pieces of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, cost less than an order of 6 pieces of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi ($12.50). Since it was lunch time, it didn't make much sense to get an order of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, so we opted for the Aburi Box.

Salad - B-

The Salad was comprised of mixed greens and came with rather little vinaigrette. Although this made the Salad slightly too dry, perhaps this was a good thing because the vinaigrette was oddly salty.

Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi - B

The main feature, the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, came with thinly sliced pieces of seared salmon, which were graced with huge, honking slices of jalapeño. Although the seared salmon had a nice smoky flavour, the jalapeño was quite overpowering and brought death and havoc to our poor tongues. I also found the oshi slightly rice-heavy.

Teriyaki Beef - B+

The Teriyaki Beef was sweet and helped bring our tongues back to life. The beef was tender, though sliced thickly in some places. The steamed rice underneath was well-prepared.

Tempura - B+

With a light layer of crispy batter, the Tempura was one of the better items in the box. There were 2 juicy prawns along with 3 small pieces of yam. The prawns were excellent, though the yam could have used a little more moisture.

Volcano Hub - B+

Of course, our visit wouldn't be complete without trying one of the hubs (their code name for special rolls). I wanted to go for the Barbie Hub (for obvious reasons), but I couldn't convince Tamsen that having asparagus in a roll works if done right, so we went for the Volcano Hub instead. With crab meat, avocado, chopped scallop, spicy mayonnaise, and sweet sauce, the Volcano Hub came with some really soft scallops. The roll was quite sweet with a delectable, cheesy layer on top.

Overall, the service was reasonably friendly, and the food was reasonably consistent. However, the food didn't exactly have the wow factor suggested by the restaurant's Instagram photos. With average prices and slightly above average food, Sushi Hub would have to do more to perfect its Aburi sushi before attracting crowds.

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Episode #227: Sushi Mania

Vancouver (Northeast), $ (Budget)

I am usually quite good with numbers, but recently, that hasn't been the case. This time, not only did I miscalculate the amount of time it would take for me to get to Sushi Mania on Main St., but I also bussed down to 32nd Ave. instead of 23rd Ave. Getting stuck in a traffic jam did not exactly help. After doing a few facepalms, I had to frantically speed walk to the restaurant so that I would not miss any sushi photo opportunities. I ended up being 30 minutes late to my own dinner, but thankfully, Gee, Pat, and Jaden were patient enough, and none of the food landed on the table yet.

Sushi Mania has a reputation for being affordable and decent as well as having a good variety of dishes. Indeed, we found many intriguing appetizers and special rolls, and much of the food that whizzed by us looked appealing. However, we agreed to keep the dinner light, as dinners with me are almost always followed by a visit to a dessert shop. The restaurant was quite busy, and we found the seating a little tight, but bearable.

Spicy Salmon Nuggets - A

After having a very good version of this from Ki Isu, I was looking forward to trying the same dish here. These delectable salmon nuggets were no disappointment. The salmon inside was very juicy, and the batter had just the right amount of crispiness. The spicy mayonnaise complemented the nuggets without overwhelming them.

Sushi Pizza - A-

Next, we had the Sushi Pizza, which came with salmon, tuna, crab meat, and avocado. The fish was fresh with smooth, appealing textures, while the crispy rice at the bottom was not hard. We also enjoyed the sweet imitation crab, but thought there could have been a bit more of it.

Crunchy Munchy Roll - B

While we were musing over the menu, one of us spotted something very cool-looking, and we were determined to order it before we even fully knew what it was. This turned out to be the Crunchy Munchy Roll, with spicy tuna, cucumber, and yam tempura bits. There wasn't a lot of spicy tuna, so the tuna provided little flavour to the roll. What produced most of the flavour were the yam tempura bits on top. These were crunchy and went well with the accompanying drizzle of spicy mayonnaise.

Black Dragon Roll - A-

Our next roll of choice was the Black Dragon Roll, which came with crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and seared unagi. The roll came in small pieces, but was neatly constructed. The searing of the unagi created a wonderful smokiness, which was easily the highlight of the roll.

Mania Roll - A-

The Mania Roll consisted of crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and seared chopped scallop. Once again small but neatly constructed, this roll came with excellently seared scallops. The soft textures of the scallop and the sweet crab meat were a delight.

Hokkigai Sashimi - A-
Salmon Sashimi - B+
Saba Sashimi - B-
Tuna Sashimi - B
Tai Sashimi - B+
Tako Sashimi - B

For some odd reason, our Assorted Sashimi arrived towards the end of our meal. The hokkigai tasted the freshest and had a nice sweet flavour. The salmon and tai also tasted fresh. The tuna and tako were slightly less fresh, and the saba was rather chewy and salty.

Even though the restaurant was packed the whole time we were there, we received friendly service. Most of the food exceeded our expectations, especially after considering the price. If this place was a little more convenient to bus to from SFU, I would be a regular. 

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