Wednesday, 20 September 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, 31 August 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, 28 July 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

Monday, 17 July 2017

Episode #226: Kimu Japanese Cuisine (2nd Visit)

Vancouver (Southeast), $ (Budget)

Every semester, I try to organize a sushi meet-up so the TAs in my office can meet and get to know each other. This time, however, my attempts to organize were more or less a fail. Despite drawing a huge availability schedule that spanned our chalkboard and personally bugging each TA to fill out the schedule, more than half of the TAs ended up cancelling hours before the dinner for various reasons. Somehow, 15 confirmed guests became 7, and plus-ones almost outnumbered TAs that actually share the office with me. Nonetheless, the dinner went on with Andrea, Angus, Anya, Ashton, Patrick, and Sean in attendance.

Even though the restaurant still displays a "Grand Opening" sign, it has actually been open for many months. It has been gaining popularity, and now, it is one of my go-to places for casual group dinners.  Their menu features a great assortment of fusion dishes, most of which are Instagram-worthy.

As is usual for dinners with me, no ordering took place until around 45 minutes after we had sat down at our table, by which point the restaurant began to get busy and the service became sparse. We placed all our orders at the same time, but for some reason, my food came way later than anyone else's.

Belly King Roll - B+

After awkwardly staring at my friends enjoying their food for a very long time (some of them were already finished), my Belly King Roll finally arrived. This roll came with avocado, negitoro, seared sake toro (salmon belly), jalapeño, capers, garlic chips, balsamic reduction, and pesto olive sauce. Despite its small size, the roll was very successful texture-wise, especially with the smooth and soft seared salmon. I thought the salmon could've used a bit more smokiness though.

Spicy Crunch Roll - B+

Since Sean was with us, we got the obligatory Spicy Crunch Roll. A deep-fried California roll topped with spicy tuna, tobiko, tempura flakes, spicy house sauce, and BBQ sauce, the Spicy Crunch Roll packed a lot of flavour, and it was nice that the batter was not too hard. The spicy tuna had a delectable, soft texture, but it was slightly overwhelmed by the aggressive use of chili sauce.

Beef Gomae - B

Next, I had the Beef Gomae simply because I'd never seen the dish at any other restaurant before. It was essentially beef sashimi accompanied by gomae. The beef was tender and went well with the sweet gomae sauce, but the tangy ponzu sauce on the bottom complemented neither the beef nor the gomae. I had to let the ponzu sauce drip down before each bite.

Rainbow Sushi Pizza - B+

In honour of one of our guests, who really likes colourful things, I ordered the Rainbow Sushi Pizza, which came with crab meat, salmon, tuna, ebi, hamachi, tai, unagi, tobiko, BBQ eel, and wasabi mayonnaise. The crispy layer of rice at the bottom was slightly overdone, but the mixture of creamy sauces and smooth cuts of fish worked well. The tai and unagi were the highlights among the seafood.

Hamachi Toro Nigiri - A-
Madai Nigiri - A-
Shima-Aji Nigiri - A-
Uni Nigiri - B+

Ordering my nigiri turned out to be quite laughable for my entire table because they had run out of most of the more expensive types of nigiri. After having my order rejected again and again (feels bad), I finally ended up with the nigiri above. The nigiri was fresh and came in generous cuts. The delicate sweetness of the shima-aji and the smooth texture of the madai were highlights. There wasn't a lot of uni in the Uni Nigiri, but it still had a nice, creamy texture.

While the service was a little sparse as we came at prime dinner time on a Saturday, it was at least friendly. Once again, I enjoyed the innovation and the consistency in execution. I can foresee more adventures to Kimu, as there are still many creative dishes that I haven't tried yet, such as the Dontoro Bites, the Volcano Eggplant Seafood Yaki, and the Honeymoon Roll. Okay, maybe that last one will have to wait...

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

Friday, 14 July 2017

Episode #225: Sushi Den

Vancouver (Downtown), $ (Budget)

While waiting for our movie to start, Puzzlefighter and I were in Chinatown looking for Japanese eats. Puzzlefighter likes fancy nigiri even more than I do, but when we eat together, we always end up ordering insane amounts of food. One time, the two of us went to MYST and ended up paying more than $90 for dinner. I literally have no idea how we ended up in that predicament. It's not like we're particularly big guys. This time, since both of us were quite hungry, we went to Sushi Den to keep the bill within reason.

Sushi Den is a moderately large Japanese restaurant located near International Village. It is quite popular due to its cheap pricing and decent assortment of menu items. Unfortunately, this meant that there was no way that Puzzlefighter and I were getting out of there while still able to walk properly.

Toro Sashimi - A-

The Toro Sashimi was just $9 for 6 pieces, and we were pleased with the freshness. The toro was smooth and buttery, and it came in generous slices. Some of the pieces were noticeably softer than others.

Negihama Roll - B+

Next up, the Negihama Roll (chopped yellowtail with green onion) was neatly wrapped. The green onion gave off a nice zing and a slight crunch, while the seaweed was not too chewy. However, the flavour of the hamachi was not particularly rich.

Out of Controll - B

Since we went out of control on the ordering, we thought it would be fitting to get the Out of Controll, a special roll with "lots of stuff." We found salmon, tuna, tamago, and sockeye inside the roll, which was dressed with spicy mayonnaise and coleslaw dressing. Although it did seem like the chef went a little out of control, the fish was fresh, and the roll was very large and filling. We found the roll a little rice-heavy, which weakened the flavours of the fish.

Flower Tuna Nigiri - A-
Flower Salmon Nigiri - A-
Ikura Nigiri - B
Uni Nigiri - B+

Of course, we had to try both types of flower nigiri, which was essentially sashimi wrapped around masago and cucumber (no rice). The Flower Tuna Nigiri came with really soft and fresh tuna, while the Flower Salmon Nigiri contained fresh, buttery salmon. We felt that the cucumber was just there for visual appeal, as it didn't really match the flavour or texture of the fish. 

The Ikura Nigiri came in huge portions, and the creamy flavours of the uni and avocado worked well together in the Uni Nigiri. The seaweed wrapping was a little tough though, which made it hard to eat the nigiri neatly.

Tai Nigiri - B-
Unagi Nigiri - A-

The Tai Nigiri (snapper) was not tough, but came with a little too much sushi rice, which overwhelmed the flavour of the tai. The Unagi Nigiri, on the other hand, was really juicy and meaty. The unagi had an excellent smoked flavour.

Beef Short Rib Yakiniku - A-

The Beef Short Rib Yakiniku is a fun dish where you can grill your own short ribs on a small tabletop grill. Since I didn't want to set the restaurant on fire, I let Puzzlefighter do most of the grilling. When done correctly, the short ribs have a nice charred flavour. The mild marinade did not overpower the ribs, and the meat was not tough due to the thin cuts.

Ten Zaru Soba - B

After all the food above, we decided to get a filler to really hit it home. The Ten Zaru Soba came with 5 pieces of tempura (two prawns and one piece each of yam, sweet potato, and kabocha). We found the tempura quite greasy, but sufficiently juicy and crispy. The cold soba was refreshing, and the green onion and sesame seeds livened up the dipping sauce. We quite enjoyed the soba until Puzzlefighter found a slight error.

Yes, there was a stray udon noodle in the soba! While the udon noodle didn't really bother us, we thought they ought to be just a little more careful, in case other things slipped into their food...

Overall, the food was decent given the prices, and the service was friendly and adequate. Although the atmosphere isn't particularly fancy, it is a place where you can get a good variety of food for budget prices. Despite the amount of food we ordered, our bill was only slightly over $60 altogether.

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

Friday, 7 July 2017

Episode #224: Kisoya

Port Coquitlam, $$ (Moderately Priced)

I've always been confident that I knew about all the sushi restaurants within a 15-minute drive from my place, until Linda managed to come up with one that had completely slipped from my radar. After I got through a few moments of utter shock and horror, we agreed to have lunch at Kisoya.

Kisoya is a rather large (yes, I don't know how I missed it) Korean-operated Japanese restaurant located in the north part of Port Coquitlam. It is one of the oldest Japanese restaurants in Port Coquitlam and features an extensive menu with a wide array of special rolls. However, there is no modern Japanese fusion on the menu, so you won't find any Aburi-type sushi here.

Crabmeat Mushroom Salad - B+

One thing on the menu that caught my eye was the Crabmeat Mushroom Salad. On the menu, it looked like an imitation crab sundae topped with colourful berries for decoration. Most of all, it was served in a wine glass, and I don't pass up things served in wine glasses. The berries didn't make it into the final product, but there was an abundance of sweet crab meat. It erred on the drier side, and a little more mayonnaise might have helped.

Power of Love Roll - A-

Since sushi is always a good way to experience things, I decided to get the Power of Love Roll. This roll came with unagi, deep-fried salmon, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, and unagi sauce. With crispy deep-fried salmon on top and crispy unagi inside, this roll was a good mix of flavours. 

Spicy Chicken Box

When choosing lunch boxes, I always like to choose the box with the least vegetables, the most meat, and the most special items possible. This led us to the Spicy Chicken Box.

Miso Soup - B+

The Spicy Chicken Box came with a Miso Soup. The consistency was on the thinner side, but there was sufficient miso paste to give the soup a rich flavour.

Ebi Mayo - C+

The Ebi Mayo was made with panko batter and dressed with a mix of mustard and mayonnaise. The batter was slightly hard, and the prawns were noticeably overdone.

Washington Roll - B+

Next up, the Washington Roll consisted of crab meat, cucumber, avocado, fresh salmon, wasabi and peanut sauce. Like the Power of Love Roll, the ingredients in the Washington Roll worked well together. The salmon and avocado topping created a nice creamy texture, and the wasabi provided a subtle hit of spiciness to the roll. 

Salad - B+

Dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, the lettuce-based salad was fresh and sufficiently flavoured.

Spicy Chicken Teriyaki - B+

The Spicy Chicken Teriyaki came with tender chicken and savoury bean sprouts underneath. The chicken had a pleasant grilled flavour, though parts of it were a bit oily. The spicy sauce was quite spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.

Prawn Tempura - A
Yam Tempura - B+
Sweet Potato Tempura - B

Without a doubt, the best part of the lunch box was the Prawn Tempura, which came with crispy, juicy prawns that had a nice snap to them. Interestingly, the batter on the yam and sweet potato was considerably thicker.

Overall, considering that this was a restaurant that I had never even heard of, the quality of the food surpassed my expectations. However, the service was a little sparse even though we were pretty much the only ones in the restaurant. The atmosphere ended up rather quiet as a result, but then again, once you wander east of Coquitlam, bustling sushi restaurants are like sunny November days in Vancouver.

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