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Posts tagged ‘Japanese’

Restaurant Review: Kabuku

Location: 414 3 St SW (Downtown location)
Website: http://www.kabuku.ca/tabid/10640/Default.aspx

The first time I heard of this restaurant was through work. I had booked several reservations at this location for my lawyer and it appeared to be one of his favourite places to go. Eventually, I did end up eating here, but the first time doing so was with a client. Today, I had the opportunity to return with my sister.

As this place is situated in downtown, the prices reflect as such. However, I strongly believe that the preparation and presentation of the dishes warrants such steep pricing.

We ordered the orange bay scallops, an assorted tempura, tempura avocado, goma-ae, gyu sashimi, tamago sashimi, inari nigiri, a volcano roll, and the sushi/sashimi lunch special. The sushi/sashimi lunch special came with rice, miso soup, and a house salad which was dressed with a ginger vinaigrette and consisted of one piece each of ebi, salmon, and tuna nigiri, one piece of unagi sashimi, two salmon, two Atlantic salmon, two blue fin tuna, and a spicy temaki.

The two salads and soup arrived first. On the surface, they didn’t look like much, but once we dug in, we were pleasantly surprised. The first time I came here I had ordered the goma-ae before and it had not disappointed. This time, it lived up to those standards. As Val mentioned, it was almost as if the spinach had been marinated in the sesame, as the flavour permeated throughout every leaf. It was a little bit on the salty side, but it was bearable. The highlight of the dish was the nuttiness of the sesame; it really came through. The house salad, though ordinary in appearance was quite hearty. The lettuce leaves were sturdy and held the dressing quite well. As it turns out, this ginger vinaigrette dressing was a little saltier than the sesame dressing and made the goma-ae seem significantly less salty. But again, it wasn’t so salty it was unbearable. In fact, I hardly noticed it with the house salad. Perhaps that could be attributed to the acidic element within the dressing. Both salads were served cold, which was a welcome change to the room temperature salads I was accustomed to. Unfortunately, I’ve been having some issues with sensitivity and the cold caused some issues with my teeth which affected my ability to completely enjoy my meal. The first thing I noticed about the soup was the slice of white mushroom floating on the surface. I voiced my observation just as Valerie broke the surface of the soup, dredging up the expected tofu and seaweed from below. However, what we didn’t expect to find were more white mushrooms and enoki mushrooms. I love mushrooms and really appreciated this small touch to make their miso soup unique in comparison to the other sushi restaurants I’ve been to. According to their menu, the miso base is further enhanced by the use of a fish broth to better develop the flavour of the soup.

The soup and salads were followed by the tempuras. I ordered the avocado tempura because I was curious and Val had mentioned trying some at Globefish in Kensington, which she had thoroughly enjoyed. Avocado develops a very different taste and texture after been coated in batter and deep fried. While it didn’t taste bad, I don’t think I’ll be ordering that one again. According to Val, it’s paired with a different sauce at Globefish Kensington, which works better than the warm sweet soy sauce that is often paired with tempura. The assorted tempura was a good size containing two piece of yam tempura, two spears of asparagus (cut in half), two whole white mushrooms, two pieces of broccoli, and three pieces of shrimp. I would have preferred the yam to be a little softer, but other than that, I have no complaints about the dish as a whole. Overall, the batter on the tempura was very well done. The ratio of vegetable/shrimp to batter was well balanced and didn’t leave an excess of oil on my palate.

The next to arrive were the orange bay scallops and volcano roll, inari nigiri, and tamago and gyu sashimi on one plate. The volcano roll was another item I had on my first visit. The spicy sauce is among one of the best I’ve had. It provides just the right amount of heat. Since I don’t typically use soy sauce, I often rely on the sauce(s) that comes with the roll and too often I’m left wanting. This was not the case with this roll. Like the miso soup, Kabuku put a twist on their tamago with the addition of shiitake mushrooms. To be honest, I didn’t know that to expect from a tamago sashimi. I ordered it primarily to avoid eating more rice than was necessary. I think in recent years, I’ve been able to develop both my palate and tolerance when it comes to raw fish and meat and today I was “brave” enough to order the practically raw beef sashimi. Unlike tataki, it is unseasoned, save for some pepper, green onion, and ginger, but to be honest, it didn’t need more than that. The pepper, green onion, and ginger helped to enhance the taste of the beef, which was very clean. I didn’t really realize that, like sashimi and sushi, the gyu sashimi is meant to be enjoyed with a splash of soy sauce. According to Val, the sweet soy is more complementary. I would very much like to try this the next time I order gyu sashimi. The inari was fairly standard of sushi restaurants. However, they didn’t put in too much rice, which I was very happy about and they neatly folded and tucked in the excess inari making a very pretty and clean presentation. My only quip about this is that there weren’t sesame seeds mixed in with the rice in the inari, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The orange bay scallops were ordered more out of curiosity. This dish was described as bay scallop tempura and diced fresh orange tossed in an aioli sauce with tobiko. While the dish was delicious with the crunch and pop of the tobiko, the creaminess of the aioli, and the sweet, freshness of the diced orange, I agree with Val’s sentiment that it could have done with a touch less of aioli. It honestly felt like the scallops and orange were swimming in it.

The last dish to come was the sushi/sashimi entree. Like the inari, they had kept the rice to a minimum. Even Val’s original concern about the temaki containing too much rice was unfounded; they had found the perfect ratio of rice to spicy tuna to greens. While the sashimi was thinly sliced, it was of the highest quality. The only complaint about this was that the unagi was cooked a touch over; therefore, it was a little stiff going down rather than the smoothness I’m used to from eel. As this was an entree, it also came with rice. However, with everything we ordered, there was enough rice between the rolls and nigiri that the bowl of rice remained untouched.

Service was excellent. Empty dishes never sat on the table long, teacups never remained empty long. The servers, whether we were their table or not, checked in periodically to make sure everything was still okay (not to the point where it got annoying).

I know I haven’t really be consistent in the past regarding accessibility and I apologize and am trying to be better and notice these kinds of issues. In terms of accessibility, it’s a little bit difficult. There is a step up in order to access the front door of the restaurant and the back way through the connecting building is a little narrow.

My overall assessment is that I would definitely come back, but because of how expensive this place is, I’d have to come here in moderation. Based on this experience, I’d give this restaurant a 4.25/5.

Restaurant Lights/Interior
Left to right: Goma-ae, house salad, miso soup
Assorted and avocado tempuras
Top: Orange Bay Scallops Bottom (starting at the 12 o’clock position, going clockwise): tamago sashimi, volcano roll, inari nigiri, gyu sashimi
Sushi/Sashimi Entree
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Restaurant Review: Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Location: 100-638 6 Ave SW
Website: http://www.gyu-kaku.com/

I confess, I am not familiar with Japanese BBQ. When greeted with the phrase “Japanese cuisine,” the first item that jumps into my mind is sushi, not BBQ. For me, BBQ conjures up images of either Korean BBQ or a Southern style one (or the kind using the BBQ lol). I mean, when my sister and I were in Vancouver with friends we went to a Korean and Japanese BBQ and had some similar dishes. To be honest, after today’s experience I’m still confused as to the difference between the two. Sure the seasonings are different, but they largely use the same cuts of meat and they are prepared in much the same way.

To go out with my sister after classes again was a refreshing change from the mundane routine of school and work. It was a bit of a walk from the station and we were told that there would be a half hour wait since we didn’t have a reservation. I was starved, but we had come all this way and Valerie had spoken so highly of it, I decided to just push through the hunger pangs to try this place. As it turns out, the wait was only 4 minutes.

We were promptly seated, presented menus, and asked for our drink order. After a quick perusal of the menu on the advice of Val and the waitress we decided on two appetizers and two lunch specials. The appetizers we ordered were the fried calamari and takoyaki. We both decided on the three BBQ item lunch special and ordered Harami Miso Skirt Steak, Beef Tongue, Kalbi Short Rib Sweet Soy, Bistro Hanger Steak Miso, Filet Mignon, and Spicy Pork. The lunch special came with rice, soup and salad. Val opted to have the seaweed soup and I, the Miso. The seaweed soup was a nice surprise since I had expected the flowy, hair like seaweed that I’m used to for Chinese seaweed soup. They used the same seaweed as in the Miso and the broth was slightly saltier. The salad was dressed with a tangier, more acidic salad dressing that I’m used to having at Japanese restaurants. It reminded me more of the salads that we got at Korean restaurants. I would’ve have liked to have more salad and I probably should’ve saved some to eat with the meal since the acid would’ve helped cut through the richness of the meat.

The appetizers arrived shortly after the soup and salad. The first piece of takoyaki I dug into had a good octopus to batter ratio. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of the subsequent pieces I had. Flavour wise, the interior was standard, but I felt as though there could have been a little more sauce to give the outside a little more of that characteristic takoyaki flavour. Of course there is a difference between a slight drizzle (or more than that) and dousing it in sauce; a good balance must be found. The calamari I found to be ordinary. Nothing sets it apart from other calamari I’ve had. It certain isn’t one of the best, but it isn’t the worst either.

Besides some of the meat having already been seasoned, each table is set with three sauces: ponzu, spicy, and sweet soy. Although the ponzu sauce isn’t bad, it just isn’t my favourite of the three due to its unique tanginess. My favourite of the three is the spicy one, which wasn’t even spicy, but it was very flavourful. I found that I often didn’t need to dip my meat into the sauces, but when I did it made the meat saltier and had me reaching for my white rice.

Overall, I had no complaints. The food was really good and I would definitely go back. One thing I will say is that while it doesn’t look like all that much, the meal was very filling.

Based on my experience today, I’d give this place a 4.0/5. Our server as well as another one who appeared to be in training were great in helping us out today.

sign

light

Light hanging at entrance

appies

Appetizers: Fried Calamari (back), Takoyaki (front)

miso-and-salad

Miso Soup and Salad

seaweed-soup-and-salad

Seaweed Soup and Salad

better-meat

Meat (in no particular order): Harami Miso Skirt Steak, Beef Tongue, Kalbi Short Rib Sweet Soy, Bistro Hanger Steak Miso, Filet Mignon, and Spicy Pork

 

cooking-meat

Cooking the Meat

Restaurant Review: Carino Bistro

Location: 709 Edmonton Tr NE
Website: http://carinobistro.ca/

From the first time I saw a review of this place in a food magazine, it was on my list of place to go. Last night I had the chance to try it out. I’d like to call this “date night” officially, as this felt more like the traditional, stereotypical categorization of what a date looks like.

Since getting my opentable account, I’ve been wanting to go to more restaurants to earn points that could in turn be redeemed at select restaurants as a credit, so to speak. I had made my reservations at Carino about a week earlier. I had made the reservation for about 5:30 giving us plenty of time to get lost and/or account for any unforeseen delays. After a rather uneventful day at work, we arrived early to the restaurant to find the door still locked. The building is very easy to miss, we drove by twice and nearly walked past it. You have to really be looking for it to find it. Not only were we early for our 5:30 reservation, we were so early the place hadn’t even opened yet! We returned to the car to wait and as usual conversations and time spent with Braeden often flies by far too fast. Before we knew it, it was time to head on in.

When we arrived, only one family was seated near the window, all the other tables displayed a “reserved” sign. We were promptly seated and handed menus. Though I had looked at the menu before hand, I still had no idea what I wanted. In the review I had read, it had suggested the Duck! Duck!! Duck!!!, but that also happened to be the most expensive menu item and I wasn’t sure how much foie gras I could handle. I’ll save this dish for next time I visit with my sister because I know if I can’t finish it, she will. The waitress came by three or four times, but I still couldn’t decide on what it was I wanted. I finally decided to go with an appetizer to share (which really turned into me eating most of it) and “combine” two appetizer for my main entree. Braeden decided on the Teriyaki Wagyu Beef Burger with some modifications: regular mayo instead of wasabi mayo, no mushrooms, opting to go with a brioche instead of rice bun and adding bacon. Unfortunately, they missed adding the bacon with all the other requests they had to account for (and luckily it was not added to the bill).

The appetizer I had chosen was the Ahi Tuna Poke served with tortilla chips. In my opinon, they weren’t exactly tortilla chips, more like wonton crisps, but that increased it’s deliciousness (following more of an Asian theme, tortilla would have thrown the entire dish off in a completely different direction and as this is an Italian-Japanese-French fusion restaurant, Mexican doesn’t really fit into the picture very well). It was well seasoned, although a bit salty, it worked for the poke. The addition of arugula, the Italian twist, really worked for me; it provided a different flavour profile to the dish, giving it a much needed fresh lift. With the meal beginning on such a high note, I had high expectations for the subsequent dishes. There wasn’t too long of a wait time between the appetizer and the mains, which I was to be expected as we were currently the only other table in the restaurant. As I said earlier, Brae made so many modifications that when his burger came out it kinda looked boring (I would have really like to have tried it with the mushrooms on there because I love pretty much all kinds of mushrooms with the exception of canned mushrooms and straw mushrooms). The wagyu beef blew me away. The seasoning was spot on, the burger was succulent and chockful of onions, giving it a sweet, aromatic, depth (but as Brae doesn’t like onions, that wasn’t great for him lol). The first thing I noticed was that the ketchup tasted different from most other places, in a good way; it was sweeter and was enhanced by the hint of herbs. I ordered the goma (sometimes spelled gomae) caesar salad adding in the calamari. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know I’m in love with calamari and intend to try them at all the restaurants I go to. Although the portion size looks small, it was very filling. I enjoyed the inclusion of slices of Fuji apple. The calamari provided the oil component to the dish, the apple the sweet, the kale the bitter, the dressing and bacon the salty, the jalapeno the acid, and the aioli for the calamari the spicy. My biggest problem with it though was that the salad was way too overdressed. At first I could manage by scrapping the vast majority of the dressing off, but eventually that became unbearable and I was unable to finish the salad.

Despite those minor hiccups, I’d say it was a pretty good meal. The waitress was ever attentive to us, making sure that our glasses were almost always full. Yes, it was a bit pricy, but that’s the cost of getting good quality food and service. I will most certainly return and next time I will try one of the mains I had been eyeing. Based on my experience this time round, I’d give it a rating of 3.75/5

carino interior.jpg

Carino Interior

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Carino Interior

ahi tuna poke.jpg

Ahi Tuna Poke

wagyu beef burger.jpg

Teriyaki Wagyu Beef Burger

goma salad with calamari.jpg

Goma Caesar Salad with Calamari

Restaurant Review: Goro+Gun

Location: 225 7 Ave SW (Scotia Centre in the Core)
Website: http://goroandgun.ca/

These last few weeks have been hell for me. Though I’ve taken some time off of work, it’s far from relaxing. These two months off are meant for me to study for the LSAT. I promised myself this would be the last time I take this damn test. It’s becoming incredibly stressful to continually have to endure the four hour exam and besides all that, it’s costing me a fortune just to try and get in. Today I took a much need break and went shopping downtown at The Core with my sister. I’ve passed Goro+Gun several times on my visits there and was initially informed of it’s existence by my cousin, Yulin.

Today we finally had a chance to stop in and give this place a try. The entrance was not exactly as I expected. There wasn’t really a podium/counter where the host or hostess could stand and the doors opened up into what looked like the middle of the restaurant. My sister and I approached cautiously and were immediately greeted. As it was nearly three in the afternoon, the place was pretty empty and we were promptly seated and served. My sister, Valerie remarked that the place had the feel of a tapas bar. With the open kitchen and a lot of bar seating, it certainly seemed that way.

We started with drinks: the elderflower power and yuzu soda. Both brought me back to Mexico when we had the alcohol free margaritas. In short, way too sweet. The other thing was that I expected the yuzu soda to be less…washed out in colour. It looked almost exactly the same as the Elderflower Power and tasted almost the same. I expected that the blood orange would have brought a vibrant redish orange to the drink, but that wasn’t what happened. We quickly worked through the menu, deciding to go with a calamari, a tuna poke, the Paitan Ramen, the chef’s selection of sashimi, a rainbow roll, and the special yuzu scallop.

The calamari were so perfectly fried that at first I was shocked. Most of the restaurants I’ve been to in the past have vastly over-fried the calamari so that it’s hard and rubbery. This was not the case for these calamaris. They were soft and succulent, leaving me wanting more. It served with a yuzu and spicy mayo sauce, which tasted a little different than most spicy mayo sauces I’ve had. One obvious reason was that there was yuzu in the sauce giving it a unique taste, but the other was that the mayo was actually spicy. The only complain was that it was a bit on the salty side, but other than that, best calamari I’ve had to date. The second appetizer we ordered, the tuna poke, is equally fantastic. Though, also on the salty side, they had large chunks of tender tuna and smooth, creamy avocado on a bed of fresh greens, dressed with a sweet sesame dressing and served with fried wonton crisps. I feel that my ability to handle raw fish has grown substantially. I remember a time when the idea of putting a raw piece of fish into my mouth made my stomach turn. But now, I can appreciate it as well as the skillful seasoning of the chef.

We had just finished with our appetizers when the rainbow roll arrived. It certainly was rainbow. The roll consisted avocado and cucumber topped with tuna, salmon, prawn, scallop, and ikura served atop two sauces: a spicy mayo and a garlic aioli. I didn’t have a chance to have much of the spicy mayo, but it was essentially the same as the one served with the calamari except no yuzu. The garlic aioli was surprisingly good with the roll, the slight saltiness was perfect so that I didn’t have to use any soy sauce. As we worked on that, the sashimi came. Now, I can handle raw in small quantities. I still can’t handle eating a slab of sashimi so this one was all for Val. When we were ordering, the waitress informed us that the Chef’s Selection would have two more pieces of sashimi than if we ordered any of the other types of sashimi on the menu. Unfortunately, it was short one piece. Though this is not a huge deal, considering the price, I’d really have wanted that piece, although it wasn’t like we could say, hey, we’re missing a piece because by the time we realized it, it was at the point where she could have just said, you ate it and no one could prove anything. We let it go, but it’s something I’m going to soon forget. After that was the Paitan Ramen. Apparently, Goro+Gun is known for its ramen, so this was a must for us. I don’t particularly like miso based soups simply because they have a tendency to be very salty. And while tonkotsu broths have a richer pork flavour that is creamier in consistency, sometimes the porkiness can be a bit overwhelming for me. So today we decided to go with a chicken broth based ramen. The Ramen had pork belly, bamboo shoots, boiled bean sprouts, and heaps of green onions and seaweed. The broth was phenomenal especially since they don’t use any MSG in any of their food. The noodles, when I first had them were slightly chewy, just the way I like them. The only sad thing was that there was very little of much else. The heap of bean sprouts was so small I could have eaten them in one bite and there were only about four slices of bamboo shoots, but the worst was that they only gave two small slices of pork belly. I get that pork belly can be expensive, but come on. For a dish of comparable size and price, Anju gave us four large slices of pork belly. I was unimpressed to say the least. The last dish was the special yuzu scallops. The menu doesn’t ever indicate how many pieces are in a roll or how many pieces of sashimi per order, which I wish it had. At first, we thought that the price was for one piece and we were completely appalled. It turns out that it was for two pieces. I mean, that’s not much better, but I’d have to admit, it was pretty good. It’s similar to the creamy scallop dish that most sushi restaurants have, but it’s funny how a touch of citrus can elevate the dish.

In the end, we decided to round out the meal with a dessert, something we hadn’t tried before: a green tea white chocolate brownie. It was unlike any dessert I had ever had. The “brownie” looked more like slices of cake topped with chilled and sweetened red beans, a berry compote and spun sugar. I’ve never had spun sugar in my life; it something I’ve only ever seen on TV. It’s even more beautiful up close. Eating it was like eating needles, but in a good way. The green tea was very light and the chocolate undetectable. I preferred the compote to the red bean, but the red bean was still pretty good.

Though expensive, the meal was pretty good. It seems as though there is a touch of yuzu in everything and at this time I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. In most of the dishes we ordered, it was undetectable. Even in the drink I could barely taste anything but the overbearing sweetness of the other ingredients in the drink. All things considered, I would definitely recommend this restaurant for their ramen and appetizers. Next time I’d like to try out their bentos and teppenyaki. That’s another thing for another day though. Based on today’s experience, I’d rate them 4.25/5.

Panorama of Restaurant Interior

Panorama of Restaurant Interior

Calamari

Calamari

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke

Rainbow Roll

Rainbow Roll

Chef's Selection of Sashimi

Chef’s Selection of Sashimi

Special Yuzu Scallop Sushi

Special Yuzu Scallop Sushi

Paitan Ramen

Paitan Ramen

Green Tea White Chocolate Brownie

Green Tea White Chocolate Brownie

Restaurant Review: Shabusen Yakiniku

Location: 202-755 Burrard St
Website: http://www.shabusenyakiniku.com/

Tonight we went for all you can eat Japanese and Korean BBQ. This place was the recommendation of the parents of my traveling companion, Vivienne (a friend of my sister’s). We made a reservation just in case and from the looks of it, it was totally necessary. We arrived to a busy restaurant and were promptly seated. A pitcher of water was delivered and a sheet to mark of the food we wanted. In round one we ordered beef short rib, BBQ beef, spicy gyoza, 2 toro nigiri, 4 unagi nigiri, 8 pieces of salmon sashimi, 2 pieces of tuna sashimi, 1 chopped scallop temaki (hand roll), 4 oyster motoyaki, and 3 agedashi tofu. The beef was the first to come and slowly the other things started to come out. The beef was so good we ordered another two servings of it, but by the time we had finished of all the beef, the temaki, tofu, and oysters still hadn’t come out. We asked one of the staff and she curtly said “it’s coming” even though she didn’t even check. Regardless, we were still hungry and ordered another round of food: 2 more toro nigiri, deep fried spicy gyoza, 8 more pieces of salmon sashimi, and 2 more tuna sashimi. Some more of the food came out and we still hadn’t received some of the dishes from round one. I was becoming increasingly impatient. Both times we ordered the gyozas the meat was raw. I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to be but every time we order gyozas, including in Calgary, the meat has always been raw. The pieces of sashimi got thinner and smaller as the night went on and the temaki had way too much rice (so much so that my sister expressed the fact that she was starting to feel sick because eating a roll of just seaweed and rice is kinda gross). To me, the oyster motoyaki was just weird. It is essentially cooked oysters in mayo and oil. That didn’t look or sound appealing in anyway to me. This was my first time trying the agedashi tofu. It’s a pretty ordinary dish: tempura soy sauce and firm tofu cut into cubes, covered in tempura batter and deep fried. Our last round was dessert, a coffee jello. It was kinda weird tasting. Coffee in a jello topped with evaporated milk? I dunno, I feel ambivalent about this one.

The service at this place was atrocious. We had one table who waited for about 15-20 minutest to get a table and all they got was a bowl of edamame that wasn’t meant for us (they mixed up the order and so they just gave it to that table instead). They were so frustrated that everyone just got up and left. That combined with my experience with that waitress has left me feeling disrespected. The only saving grace of this place was one of the waiters, who’s name I can’t currently recall. He was very attentive to our table and made sure we got everything we ordered. Wait times between dishes were ridiculous as well. I will never come back to this place and I give it a 1/5.

 

BBQ Beef and BBQ Beef Short Ribs

 

Spicy Gyoza

 

Unagi and Toro Nigiri

 

Salmon and Tuna Sashimi

 

Chopped Scallop and Toro Nigiri

 

Oyster Motoyaki

 

Agedashi Tofu and Deep Fried Spicy Gyoza

 

Coffee Jello

 

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