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