Location: 510 17 Avenue SW
I would first like to apologize that it took so long to get around to posting this review. What that means is that some details about the meal may be lost due to the length of time since I went (we went on October 10). Though I consult the online menu, sometimes they change between the day I dine there and the day I finally get around to the review (this is the case for this review).
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner, cat-sat and discovered how allergic I really was to cats, and have been so stressed out by work that I feel like I’ve aged a couple decades in the last few weeks. I’m trying my best to take care of myself. Thank you for following my reviews. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed eating and writing about my experience.
The original plan for the day was to go to Gyu-Kaku due to the fact that my points were expiring soon. However, the day before, I got a call stating that they had not completed renovations, so at the recommendation of one of my lawyers, we decided on Lulu Bar.
Lulu Bar has been on my radar and list of places to try, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to come here.
We ordered in two rounds. For the first we ordered the Fried Coconut Squid, Poke, Watermelon Salad (which is no longer on their menu), King Oyster Mushroom Skewer, Loco Moco, and Beretta Farms Grilled Beef Bavette.
As you all probably already know, I have a weak spot for squid. In particular, I enjoy the slight chewiness of the protein, so I was most excited for the Fried Coconut Squid. Along with the fact that it came highly recommended by our server, I had high expectations for it. The squid was served with grilled pineapple, pickled jalapenos, topped with cilantro, and served with a lime dipping sauce. The breading on the squid was light and not at all greasy. It carried a hint of coconut that didn’t overpower the dish and the lime, pineapple, and jalapenos provided a perfect counterbalance. As I mentioned, I prefer a bit more chew to my squid and I didn’t find that with this dish. That is not to say that it detracted much from the dish, but a soft piece of squid always gives me the impression of it being undercooked (even though I know it’s not). This dish was so good that we ended up ordering a second one in round two.
The second dish that arrived was the Poke, which consisted of red tuna, tamari, avocado, edamame, lime aioli, and a sesame cracker. To be honest, I could’ve had another one of these too. Flavour-wise, it was well balanced, but in terms of the size of the bite, I would’ve liked the pieces cut a little smaller as that would’ve made it easier to fit on the cracker. While I like being given a generous portion, I would’ve preferred a little less of the “topping” or a few more sesame crackers as the ratio wasn’t quite right. We ended up with more “topping” than crackers and ask delicious as it was, it lost something eating it on its own without the cracker (the crunchy element of the dish).
This was followed by the Watermelon Salad. In recent years, I’ve gained a serious appreciation for what a good salad can provide to a meal. I know I’m not always the best when it comes to eating vegetables or fruits, but the freshness of a watermelon salad is incomparable. As with most watermelon salads, it consists of basil, as that is a natural pairing. However, this salad was not paired with feta, as it often is, which I preferred. Given that this restaurant highlighted the Asian in the fusion, feta would not have fit into this dish well. I find that the use of feta would’ve given it a bit of heaviness and made the dish stand well on it’s own, but in this instance we had ordered this dish as a pairing for the beef, so the lack of a cheese worked out better. In this dish, as a substitute to the creaminess of the feta, the salad was dressed in canola oil. While it gave a smooth mouth-feel, the idea and sensation of the inside of my mouth being coated in oil is somewhat repulsive. The salad was also topped with pickled onions and almond slivers for texture, rounding the dish out and highlighting the natural sweetness of the watermelon. There’s nothing i hate more than a flavourless watermelon.
The most dish I was most curious about were the skewers. Originally, we had wanted to go for the beef tongue. However, upon arriving and review of the menu, we were informed that it was unavailable. i was also curious about the House Spam skewer, but we agreed, as a group, that it may not be worth it. We, ultimately settled on the King Oyster Mushroom skewer. I’m not sure if I’ve ever tried a king oyster mushroom or if this is my first time, but I knew that it was one of the meatier mushrooms and was excited to try it. When it came out, I wasn’t sure how to react. On the one hand, the portion size was somewhat disappointing, but on the other, it was a skewer and it was exactly what it purported itself to be. A part of me felt like this was a waste of money and after tasting it, I kind of agree. The skewer was drizzled in a semi-sweet, semi-salty, dark sauce, not unlike unagi sauce and served with a mushroom “relish”. The relish wasn’t quite what I had expected and wasn’t all that pleasant on my palate. I just thought it a strange choice to pair grilled mushrooms with, essentially, a pickled mushroom dip. I do hope to return here and try out the beef tongue skewer in the future.
The skewers were followed by the Loco Moco which is ginger fried rice with fermented chili, a beef patty, smothered in mushroom gravy, and topped with a fried egg and crispy fried onions. On paper and in theory, this sounds quite good, but unfortunately, there were some issues with it. I’m not sure if the rice used was too “fresh” or if it had just been super saturated in gravy as it was very mushy. If the latter, then Val’s suggestion to either reduce the amount of gravy or increase the amount of rice would’ve helped. I didn’t get very much ginger from the rice and the overall mushy texture of the rice was very off-putting. I wouldn’t order this dish again, if I were to come back. The disappointment of this dish was probably comparable to my disappointment with the mushroom skewers, if not more so.
The last dish was the Beretta Farms Grilled Beef Bavette in a Thai peppercorn sauce, topped with basil, jalapenos and served with shishito peppers. We had asked for this to be cooked medium as most of us take it at that temperature and our server said that is generally the temperature it was served at so that worked out well. However, when the dish arrived, it was more on the medium rare/rare side. It was well seasoned, but there was nothing special about it. It is also worthwhile to note that some of the peppers were ridiculously spicy, while others had no spice, so if you decide to order this dish and eat the peppers, tread carefully.
After our first round, we were still feeling a little peckish so we order a second round consisting only of two dishes and then ordered dessert. We ordered another squid and decided to try the salt and pepper pork belly, as it was one of the items under snacks that had stood out to me.
Generally speaking, pork belly is so good because of its meat to fat ratio. However, the preparation does account for something. When the dish first arrived, two things happened. First, the smell of fish sauce hit us like a truck and second, the size of the dish definitely screamed snack. Given the price, I can’t really complain. Whenever I order pork belly, I expect it to have crispy skin, like at Chinese restaurants or BBQ meat shops, but I’m constantly disappointed because no one else prepares it in this way. Flavour wise, it wasn’t bad, but there was little too much fish sauce and lime, putting it out of balance. I’m not sure if that was the point, as the purpose of a snack could very well have been to whet the appetite and encourage more drinking and eating, but as it was at the end of the meal, it was just salty and very sour, which wasn’t all that pleasant.
We rounded out the meal with a single dessert, shared between the four of us since we still had some big food plans for the rest of the day. Two of the desserts on the menu caught our eye: The Baked Hula and the Cotton Cake. We ultimately chose the Cotton Cake (which is no longer on their menu). It was described as being somewhat like a Japanese cheesecake, but it had none of the jiggle and the consistency wasn’t typical of a Japanese cheesecake. it was served with a white chocolate chantilly and black sesame ganache. The dessert was arranged in an oddly phallic sort of way and could’ve done with better plating, but I suppose it does come down to taste. Since it was a while ago, I can’t remember the precise nuances of the dish, but I do remember the cake being slightly drier than I would’ve liked, even with the compote, chantilly, and ganache. When I think about it, there isn’t anything spectacular or memorable about it. After finishing this dessert, we asked our server which of the desserts was her favourite and she answered that it was The Baked Hula. I know that the next time I come back, I am definitely trying this dessert.
I love dishes served family style and I love little dishes because it allows me to sample so many different things in one meal. I’ve often joked about having food A.D.D., but honestly, it’s true. I like variety and restaurants like this indulge that side of me, which makes me very happy. Despite a few dishes that didn’t go down all that well, I really like this restaurant and would definitely come back again. Based on this experience and the dishes we sampled, I would give this place a 3.7/4.