What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, in my opinion, what doesn’t kill you, really hurts you. And makes you look somewhat embarrassing. Fortunately, in the case of my visit to Kyo Korean Barbecue and Sushi House, the pain was actually a pleasure to bear. I have a somewhat unique situation when it comes to food, despite being a food enthusiast. For almost all my life I have been allergic to an insane amount of food. Most of those allergies have disappeared in the last two years, save for a few. Seafood is one of them.
The relationship I have with seafood is similar to that of the class nerd going after the prom queen who actually likes him but is simply too embarrassed to be seen with him. Pleasure followed by a whole lot of pain. Each bite is like a mini-orgasm, but cramps, indigestion, and bathroom time follow suit within a few minutes. It’s a fucken WAR. A contest of wills to see who will tap out first. Especially when the seafood joint is all-you-can-eat.
So I’m pretty hesitant to go inside, ‘cause I know what’s waiting in store for me. A fight. A battle. But if I wanna taste the pleasure, I gotta go through the pain. So here I find myself at the doorstep, ready for combat. I step inside.
The interior of the place is brightly lit, and breathes the class of a fancy hotel. Modern looking and sleek, the tables are white or plainly coloured, kinda like an IKEA store catalogue. Stone floors, black leather chairs, and a few little alcoves made of paper walls and lined with pillows for more traditional Japanese dining. A very modern feel with a dash of tradition. Cool.
The first thing to note about this place is that the menu is not typical of most Asian all-you-can-eat places, (or at least the ones that I’ve been to). Most Asian all-you-can eats generally specialize in Japanese food OR Korean food, but I haven’t been to any places that offer BOTH. Something about having Sushi with my Barbecued Korean Meats just tickles me the right way.
Our server brings in the first wave of food. An assortment of Pork, Beef, Lamb, and Chicken swimming in a variety of Korean Barbecue Sweet Sauces, and sprinkled with Sesame Seeds. With a flick of her hand, the barbecue stove at the center of our table is awakened and we’re off to the horse races. We throw in the Meat. The smells of barbecue waft into our noses. Summer is in the air.
While we’re waiting for the Grub to cook, our server is kind enough to bring the second wave. Composed mainly of a variety of Japanese dishes, these entrees keep us very busy while we wait for the barbecue to cook. Sushi and Sashimi attack our table.
The Sushi generally well made as far as any all-you-can-eat joint goes. All the types of Sushi, from Tuna Tataki, to the California and Dynamite Rolls taste exactly the way they are supposed to. That’s the first step. Second thing to look at is the quality of their ingredients. I’m no genius when it comes to Sushi, but living in the Greater Vancouver Area has given me the gift of at least being able to tell when the ingredients suck.
The raw fish is new enough to still be nice and firm and not have that certain displeasing fishy-smell. The quality and presentation of the rolls are also good (they don’t fall apart the second you pick them up), which is super important to me, ‘cause I love to fumble around with food in my chopsticks. Each roll is complete; they don’t cheap out; a tendency for all-you-can eat joints is for the chefs to try to ‘fudge’ the ingredients by skimping on the substance by adding additional rice or seaweed to compensate for a lack of Meat. They avoid doing that. This is another good sign.
“It’s pretty good stuff. Worthy of enduring pain for. I’m a frickin’ foodie gladiator.”
My seafood allergies are starting to kick in. Knots in my stomach form and I begin to emanate the infamous ‘Asian Glow’ despite having not consumed a drop of alcohol. Oh well. I press on. This stuff’s good enough for me to keep going, and I gotta, because…
The Oyster Motoyaki parades in. It’s awesome. The presentation includes the WHOLE clam shell, which is monstrous in size, and inspires nothing short of awe. The Mayonnaise-Miso Sauce mingles with Oyster beautifully. A delight.
The Tempura and Karaage follow suit. After having consumed so many squishy items, it’s a relief to get into the crunchy. The Prawn Tempura Rolls are little bites of heaven that also cause me much hell; the sweet Tempura Sauce and crunchy zest of the Prawns dance in my mouth, but upon being swallowed, cause earthquakes in my stomach. It’s pretty good stuff. Worthy of enduring pain for. I’m a frickin’ foodie gladiator.
The Vegetable Tempura is crunchy. This is super important to me, because nothing sucks more than biting into a Veggie Tempura and having the feeling of wet sock in my mouth. This happens more often than you’d think.
The Chicken Karaage is also solid; it’s savoury, crunchy, tender, and not dreadfully overcooked as is the tendency for many places. Upon biting into it, it’s still juicy inside; chicken juice (eew.) shoots across our table like projectiles. Good stuff.
Upon conquering these dishes, we turn back to our Barbecue Meats, now having been cleansed in the fire of the grill. The Korean Sweet Sauces complement their respective Chow rather well. More savoury for the Beef, more sweet for the Pork and Chicken, and spicy for the Lamb. A win.
We continue ordering more food and I push myself to the limit ‘till I can’t anymore.
“Excuse me…washroom break.”
My compatriots give me concerned stares. I look like a swollen red balloon.
I give the crooked Evel-Knievel grin and a thumbs up.
I emerge from the washroom.
“Let’s do this.”
And so the process repeats itself again and again for rest of the night. And I emerge from this trial not a foodie boy, but a foodie man.
The final word: a good place. The dishes are generic Japanese and Korean fare, but are very well prepared, especially considering the all-you-can-eat nature of the place. Good ingredients and no skimping. This place also shines in the fact that you can have both Japanese and Korean Grub under the same roof. How awesome is that?