Sushi to me is more than just raw fish and rice. It’s an art form that requires years of practice to master. Mediocre sushi restaurant are a dime a dozen in Vancouver, but truly authentic sushi is very hard to come by. Based on recommendations from others food blogs, CL and I visited Ajisai sushi located in an ally next to London Drugs on West Blvd and 41st Ave. This little Japanese owned sushi restaurant serves up the freshest fish and had been praised by many others to have the best sushi in GVRD.
The place was packed for a Friday afternoon and luckily we got seated at the sushi bar so I got to witness the sushi chefs making our food. I was amazed at their knife skills and how fresh every piece of fish looked. After looking at the regular menu and the specials, we decided to share the dynamite combo and the spicy maki combo.
First to arrive was the miso soup and salad that was part of the dynamite combo. The miso soup was seasoned perfectly for my taste, being rich and full of depth but not salty at all. The sesame dressing for the salad was a refreshing change from the usual sweet dressing offered at other Japanese restaurants. It was tart and aromatic, which complemented the vegetables well. Just based on the side dishes alone I could tell Ajisai was not an ordinary sushi restaurant.
The sushi combos arrived at the same time and were personally delivered by the sushi chef. I dug into the dynamite combo first which also included 5 nigiris (salmon, tuna, ika, tako and masago). Every piece of fish tasted amazingly fresh and was complemented by the perfectly cooked rice with just the right amount of rice vinegar. My favorite of the bunch was the salmon nigiri. The piece I had was from the belly of the fish which meant it was well marbled, buttery and melt in my mouth tender. Next up was the dynamite roll. Unlike the dynamite rolls I’ve had before, this roll was made with fresh prawns and had tempura bits inside. This small alteration made the roll taste more fresh and less oily. The texture and acidity of the rice was again perfect and the rolls was well made.
I dug into the spicy combo next which included spicy salmon, tuna and scallop rolls. The fish and rice were again perfect, and the spicy sauce they used elevated these rolls to a whole new level. Instead of the spicy and sweet concoction used by other restaurant, Ajisai used an acidic and spicy sauce which didn’t overpower the natural flavors of the fish and brought out its natural sweetness. The chilies they used in the sauce were tasted different, having very pronounced chilli flavors and a smokey after taste. The only imperfection these rolls had was the fact that they were not rolled perfectly. The rice was not formed very tightly and a few fell apart when I tried to pick them up.
As you can tell by now, the combination of fresh ingredients and well balanced rice made Ajisai stand out above the rest. This was possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had and I’m already planning my next visit. Despite being slightly pricier than other similar restaurants, Ajisai more than made up for it in terms of taste and I would recommend this place to anyone wanting to experience real Japanese sushi.
For the past little I’ve fallen into the vicious cycle of studying all day in the library and eating at home. One can only stand instant noodles and ham sandwiches for so long. So after finishing up my midterm last Friday, CL and I gathered a couple friends and visited a joint I’ve always wanted to try, Prata Man.
Prata Man is located on Garden City and Capstan Way in Richmond and focuses on Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine. The place doesn’t have the best decor but people go there for the food not the ambiance. They’ve been open for a very long time so they must be doing something right.
The menu was very typical for a Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant so we picked a couple classic dishes that would hopefully show us what Prata Man was all about. The first dish to arrive at the table was the beef rendang which is essentially curry beef brisket. This dish was a winner and it was my favorite of the night. The brisket was fork tender and nicely marbled. The curry flavor was rich but not overpowering. This dish begs for a bowl of rice to soak up all the sauce. We were off to a good start but too bad the rest of the dishes were not as impressive as the first.
Next to arrive was the satay platter which consisted of 12 skewers of chicken, beef and pork (4 each). The skewers were cooked very well, being nicely charred on the outside and still tender on the inside. The problem with this dish was the accompanying peanut sauce. The sauce here is made of crunchy bits of peanuts instead of the usual peanut butter. It was impossible for the sauce to stick to the skewers and the tasted stale and soggy. I applaud them for being different but that sauce didn’t work for me at all.
Another dish that sounded good on paper was the Hainainese chicken. The chicken was deboned and was served with chicken stock rice on the side. The deboned chicken was easy to eat but it was unfortunately overcooked. Hainainese chicken is suppose to be barely cooked to keep the skin chewy but this chicken almost dissolved in my mouth. The chicken rice was also very greasy and lacked chicken flavor.
As you can see, Prata Man didn’t really live up to my expectations. Sure the prices were reasonable and the portions were big, but the dishes lacked proper execution and flavor I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon since there are so many other restaurant I want to try.
As you can see tell from my previous posts, I don’t really spend that much time with my family. So last weekend I headed down to Seattle with my parents for some shopping, sight seeing and eating. Having never been to downtown Seattle, I chose the most touristy thing to do, which is to visit the pike place market and have lunch at the famous crab pot.
Pike place is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Seattle and the bustling crowd really proved that. The line up outside the first ever Starbucks was insane and everything being sold at the market was extremely over priced. Despite all this , I really enjoyed the rustic atmosphere of pike place. It was controlled chaos at its finest and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back.
After walking around the market, we headed to the Crab Pot Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was located right next to the water and was famous for the sea feast. The concept of the sea feast is to steam an assortment of seafood with corn andouille sausage and potatoes, then dump the entire platter onto the table and have the diners disassemble everything with a wooden mallet. Knowing the portions are gonna be big, we ordered two of the Westport feasts ($25.95 each) and a fried clams platter ($8.95).
First to arrive was the fried clam platter and it was not too impressive. Instead of frying the clams whole with a thin layer of batter, the ones here were cut into strips and covered with a thick layer of batter. All I could taste was the salty batter and very little clam flavor. The fries were the generic Costco type but they were pretty crispy and well seasoned, with only a few at the bottom of the platter being soggy.
The Westport sea feast arrived shortly after and as predicted the portion size was enormous. The food filled up half of the table and included dungeness crab, snow crab, mussels, and shrimp, all of which had the shells on. All the seafood tasted fresh except for the shrimp, which had a mushy texture indicating they were previously frozen. Most of the mussels were plump and the clams had no sand in them. The crab legs were full of meat and the natural sweetness of the crab was further accentuated by the clarified butter. I would have liked more seasoning because some of seafood had no flavor other than the natural sweetness from the ingredients themselves. The corn, sausage and potatoes did their job at filling us up.
As you can see, contrary to popular belief, the Crab Pot is acceptable for a tourist restaurant. Other than the fried clams, the food tasted pretty good.The restaurant had a fun family atmosphere and I enjoyed disassembling the food together with my parents. Sure the food isn’t gonna rock your world but the pricing was fair for the location so I recommend you at least give this place a try because the dining experience was definitely unique.
Like most people out there, I get weird cravings from time to time. A few weeks ago I was dying for some HK style cafe food. For those of you who don’t know, HK style cafe serves chinese interpretations of western dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, baked pork chop etc. One of the best in town is alleluia cafe, which is located across the street from Richmond public market on Westminster highway. What sets alleluia apart from other HK cafes is nice ambiance and refillable drinks.
We ordered one appetizer and 2 entrees. Both entrees came with a free drink, so CL got the lemon iced tea and I got iced “mixed” tea, which is essentially half milk tea and half coffee ( don’t judge until you try it!). The lemon iced tea was good but was nothing special. On the other hand, the mixed tea was rich and creamy. Combined with the free refills it was perfect.
The first item to arrive was the Malay Roti with Curry Sauce. This version of famous malaysian dish was very doughy and dense. There were almost no layers within the pastry and the curry dipping sauce was rather watery. Not the best way to start a meal but we were willing to look past it since HK cafes aren’t known for their south east Asian cuisine.
Next to arrive was my Combination Dinner. I got to choose two meats from a big list of options and the meats were accompanies by spaghetti, veggies and black pepper sauce. I chose the chicken thighs and beef steak. The chicken was cooked very well, being golden on the outside and juicy on the inside. The steaks here were tenderized with baking soda before cooking, which meant the meat had almost no beef flavor. This is a common practice at HK cafes and I didn’t mind it because the meat was extremely tender. The accompanying black pepper sauce had a good kick from the abundance of black pepper and the spaghetti were a bit over cooked.
CL’s Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Onions Sauce arrived shortly after my entree. If you look at the picture, you can see the portion size was huge. The two giant pork chops were tender and juicy, and the accompanying onion gravy was rich and flavorful. At $6.95 (late night), this dish was a bargain.
The food at alleluia was nothing to write home about but the value was incredible. The portions were huge and the refillable drinks were a great added bonus. All this combined with friendly service (for a Chinese restaurant) and decent ambiance, we got ourselves one of the best HK style cafes in the GVRD.
After trying the original Guu on Robson and Thurlow, I’ve been craving Japanese izakaya ever since. So when a good friend of mine was leaving for exchange, I suggested we have a farewell dinner at Guu gardens. I’ve heard good things about Guu garden from many friends. From its unique menu to its relatively quiet and spacious dining room, it was a recipe for success. We were also pleasantly surprised when they accepted our reservation for 10 on a Saturday night with no problem at all.
Guu garden is located near the intersection of Nelson and robson, but the restaurant is impossible to spot from the street. It took a while for CL and me to find the restaurant, which was hidden on the second floor balcony of the office building where gyukaku and relish is located.
Since we arrived late, we ordered quickly after skimming through the menu. This Guu is focused on oden but we weren’t really in the mood that. Instead, we ordered a few favorites of ours starting with the ebi mayo. The prawns were perfectly cooked, exhibiting the desired crunchy texture and sweet flavor. I like the ebi mayo here better because the mayo is served as a pile in the middle of the plate instead of being slathered on top of the prawns.
The next dish to arrive was the tuna tataki. I wanted to order beef tataki but unfortunately this Guu didn’t have it. The tuba tataki was served with shaved onions, garlic chips and ponzu sauce on the side for dipping. This dish was solid but didn’t possess any WOW factor. The portion was quite small but the flavors were all there.
The last dish to arrive was the obligatory filler dish, yaki udon. The udon was mildly seasoned and cooked well, being chewy and not mushy at all. The portion was again extremely small and there was next to no beef.
As you can see, portion size is definitely an issue with the food at Guu garden although the flavours were all there. I know izakaya style food isnt suppose to be like that, but the food at Guu original on thurlow was much bigger in portions compared to Guu garden. Another problem I encountered was the availability of menu items. CL and I ordered 2 more items on top of the 3 we had but were told that those items were sold out after we placed our order. How a restaurant can run out of so many regular menu items half way through dinner service is beyond me. So my final verdict is stick with Guu originals on Robson and Thurlow if space is not an issue and, make a reservation at Guu garlic if you have a big group.
It seems like writing have taken over my life as of late. Reports, essays, letters and emails, you name it, I wrote it. I was pumping out thousands of words a day and I was sick and tired of writing for a while. Every time I looked at my keyboard I felt sick. That’s the reason why this post has been delayed for a week. Anyways, I digress. This week’s post is gonna feature, in my honest opinion, the best ramen shop in the GVRD named Hokkaido Ramen Santouka.CL and I visited Santouka a couple weeks ago because CL was not a fan of ramen and I was attempting to convert her. Santouka is a Japanese chain restaurant that specializes in Hokkaido style ramen. It opened it’s doors on Robson not too long ago and has been the talk of the town ever since. I’m a frequent customer of Kintaro Ramen, which is just a block away from Santouka, but I wanted to try something new.
Despite the relatively warm weather, CL and I made the trek out to Robson one day after work. We were pleasantly surprised at the short line because usually this place has a line up half way up the block. We were seated within 10 minutes and one look at the menu I spotted what I came for, the Toroniku Shio (sea salt) Ramen. Toroniku is the meat from the cheeks of the pig. It is extremely marbled, tender and full of that delicious porky flavour. Many of my friends have been recommending this item and I’ve been dying to try it out. CL went for something more traditional and ordered the regular Shoyu (soy sauce) Ramen.
The Toroniku and other ingredients arrived separate from the noodles for reasons I can not understand. One look at the broth and I could already tell that this was no ordinary ramen. The broth exhibited a milky white color, which is only obtainable when simmered for hours (even days). It tasted so rich that it was almost creamy. Combined with the al dente noodles, it was a beautiful combination of flavour and texture. Compared to the wonderful ramen, the pork cheeks were a little less spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, it was very flavourful and melted in my mouth, but the only flaw was the seasoning on the meat. It was so aggressively seasoned that it was almost as salty as beef jerky. For a price of $14.95, I don’t think I would order this particular ramen again.
CL’s shoyu ramen was very good as well. The shoyu broth had a very light soy flavour and was noticeably lighter than my shio broth. The noodles were perfectly al dente once again and the cha shu (slow cooked fatty pork) was tender and seasoned beautifully, unlike the toroniku.
Our meal at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka was pretty good overall. I don’t think I’ve converted CL to a ramen lover, but at least she doesn’t mind it as much now. The shio broth and noodles were the best I’ve ever had and the toroniku is something other ramen shops doesn’t offer. But in my opinion, it is not worth the 15 dollar price tag, even if the pork was seasoned better. At $9.95, the regular ramens with cha shu has great value compared to the toroniku and is a much better choice. I can’t wait to come back on a cold day and have a bowl of shio ramen.
For the B.C. day long weekend CL and I headed down to Portland for 3 days with a couple friends. The drive down to Oregon was long and tedious but I wasn’t the one driving so I didn’t complain too much. The weather was extremely hot and the shopping was disappointing to say the least, but I cheered myself up by doing the one thing I’m good at, eating! We stayed at a hotel near the airport and found a couple restaurants nearby to try. Sort of like a mini food tour. To make it fair, we all chose one restaurant each and we focused mostly on American comfort food since this kind of cuisine isn’t readily available in Vancouver. Despite the one restaurant each rule, I still got to choose three restaurants for this trip because CL and another friend let me choose their restaurants for them!
There were a few dishes we had that were memorable to me, with the first being the double-down at The Original in downtown Portland. The Original is an upscale diner located in the heart of downtown Portland that serves up American comfort food with a modern twist. We made our way to the restaurant late Saturday evening after checking into our hotel and thanks to an earlier reservation, we got a table in no time. One glance at the menu and the double-down immediate captured my attention. CL and I decided to share the dish with a garden salad and a side of mac and cheese.
Arriving piping hot, fresh out of the fryer, this double-down looked nothing like the KFC version. Layers of sliced ham and melted Gruyère cheese was sandwiched between two GIANT breaded chicken breasts. All of us were shocked by the monstrous portions and my friends all eagerly whipped out their phones to take pictures of my food. As with most food, bigger portions usually means mediocre flavour, but this double-down was not short in the flavour department. The ham was salty and sweet and the melted cheese added a creamy richness to the dish. The chicken was fried perfect, being tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The breading of the chicken breasts was not perfectly even but the flavours were good. The seasoning of the chicken was pretty mild which is perfect when eaten together with the ham and cheese because nothing overpowered another. The dish was not heavy at all and the side salad had a nice and tangy vinegrette that acted as a pallet cleanser.
The side order of mac and cheese was very well executed as well, being creamy and cheesy throughout. Coupled with the home made ketchup, this dish was savoury and sweet at the same time. The macaroni were still al dente and the sprinkle of bread crumbs added some good texture. CL and I struggled to finish this at the end because it was really rich. The food at The Original was way past my expectations and we left full and satisfied. Be sure to ask the server about the portion size because some items seem to be A LOT bigger than the others (especially the double-down).
The next morning we woke up tired and hungry again. I chose Pine State Biscuits as our destination for breakfast but we faced an hour long wait when we arrived. Damn you Guy Fieri for making this place a tourist trap…. (just kidding I love Triple D passionately) Hungry and discontent, we made our way to The Waffle Window a couple blocks away. Waffle Window serves up Belgian waffles with a variety of savoury and sweet topping at an affordable price, and this is the place where I discovered my next memorable dish, The Whole Farm breakfast waffle.
The Whole Farm is a clever name for a sweet Belgian waffle topped with spinach, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon and goat cheese. The ingredient were all fresh and came together really well to make an amazing and cohesive dish. The vegetables were fresh and vibrant, the mushrooms were savoury and earthy, the bacon was crispy and salty, and the goat cheese was creamy and tangy. All these things on top of a golden brown waffle made for the best breakfast dish I’ve had in a long time. The “kickers” of the dish (for you Guy Fieri fans out there) are the nuggets of sugar embedded inside the waffle. These little nuggets of sugar added another dimension of texture and provided a few bursts of sweetness. The discovery of The Waffle Window was purely accidental but the food blew me away. They have a few locations throughout Portland and I encourage you to pay them a visit.
After a day of shopping at Woodburns, Saks off 5th and Nordstrom rack, we were all hungry again…. Instead of going to Huber’s restaurant for dinner as planned, we made a detour and ended up at The Screen Door for their famous Southern Fried Chicken! I’ve been drooling over this fried chicken ever since I first read about it on Sherman’s Food Blog but after trying it I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken was good, but it didn’t wow me. Maybe it’s my heightened expectations or maybe they were just having an off day.
I digress, the reason I’m telling you about the Screen Door is because of their delicious shrimp and grits, which more than made up for their ordinary fried chicken. The creamy grits were topped with eight jumbo sized prawns in a crawfish seafood sauce. The seafood sauce was rich and savoury with a hint of tomato and lots of seafood flavour from the crawfish. Eaten together with the grits, the dish reminded me of Chinese seafood congee a little bit, except it was much more creamy and rich in flavour. The prawns were cooked just right, possessing the necessary snap. A generous drizzle of basil oil added another layer of flavour and made the whole dish pop. This dish is my favourite out of everything we had in Portland.
Portland was a lot of fun this time around. Not only did I get to spend some time with CL and friends, I also got to sample American cuisine like never before. The shopping kinda sucked but our little food tour made the trip more interesting and exciting because we are always looking forward to the next meal. There are many more restaurants in Portland that I wanna visit but I would definitely return to these restaurants for the three dishes mentioned above.