Tag Archives: Japan

ICHIRO JAPANESE RESTAURANT – 12011 2nd Ave, Steveston, Richmond, BC, Canada, (604) 277-1150

5 Apr

PRICE: $10-15 per entree

It’s that time of year again.  The changing of seasons.  Another asthma season for me.  Stuck on the couch, at home in an exhaustion-induced coma, I really don’t want to move at all right now.  Each breath feels like a push-up, and I’ve been doing these push-ups non-stop for almost two weeks now.  Exhaustion is my middle name.  At this point in time, I hate social events, but there is one type of social event that I will drag myself to regardless of how I’m feeling.  Birthdays.

It’s somewhere around 6:30-7:00pm and it’s getting pretty close to the dinner date, which is starting at 8:00.  I’m staring at myself in the mirror, bleary eyed, tired, and hating everything that moves or breathes.  Especially anything that breathes without an asthmatic condition.  I’m resentful of that.  Just a little, though.  I’m using positive reinforcement, Jedi mind-tricks, and relative thinking to try and pump myself up to go.  I eye myself in the mirror.

“At least you don’t have to go to the ER anymore.”

This pep-talk sucks.  I think of something else to motivate myself to go.

“JUST FRICKIN’ GO!  IT’S A BIRTHDAY!!!”

Alright.

I try to put on something that looks nice.  T-shirt and jeans?  My fashion sense was never my strong suit, especially when I’m feeling like this.  Ehhh, whatever, T-shirt and jeans it is.

I drag myself to the bus-stop.  Get in.  Ride. Get out.  I walk around aimlessly in Steveston, trying to find this place.

Steveston is the little fishing village at the end of Richmond, a Municipality close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  It’s widely known for its charming little small shops, a wharf, and an abundance of Japanese-Canadian culture.  An incredible Japanese restaurant, Ichiro, has opened up here, and my birthday host has chosen this place as the gathering point.

I finally find the place and meet up with the birthday crew.  We exchange greetings, and my mood starts to lighten.  We stand outside the restaurant for a little while and survey the place.  Simple arrangements decorate a pseudo-rock garden.  Christmas lights.  Little gold-fish dance in a stone bowl just outside the door.  A pleasing arrangement.

We enter and find ourselves standing atop a lacquered hardwood floor and wooden tables.  The kitchen is open, and leans to our left.  The lights are bright.  Windows surround us.  A nice place.

As we sit, the birthday banter starts to pick up.  We explore the menus and place our orders.  The wait time goes by quickly, and the entrees start to make their appearances on the runway.

The Sashimi plate leads the parade.  With an assortment of Tuna, Salmon, and Yellow Tail, the presentation looks pleasing and begs to be gobbled up.  A good appetizer.  Each bite from each of the respective ingredients is firm and fresh.  Also, just as important, is the fact that none of the cuts give off that disgusting aged fishy smell.  Good.

An innovative take on the traditional Agedashi Tofu dish arrives.  Branded the ‘Steveston Agedashi Tofu’, it pairs the familiar Golden Tempura-Cooked Tofu with Salmon, Shrimp, and Tempura Sauce.  A refreshing and interesting way of serving what is generally an excessively common and bland dish.

The Beef Udon provides a subtle but satisfying mix of Beef Soup Broth, Veggies and Udon Noodles.  Completely devoid of MSG, I don’t have to drink any water to get the dreaded starchy Monosodium Glutamate off my tongue.

A plate of Tuna wrapped in Cucumber and Rice, and drenched in crimson makes the next appearance.  Spicy Tuna Rolls provide a hot, mouth-puckering bite.  A little zing to our otherwise less intense dishes.

Crispy Rolls arrive.  Tuna and Avocado are wrapped together and are topped off with what appears to be Dried Noodle Bits.  A very unique dish that I have never seen before.  The Tuna and Avocado have a refreshing bite, and the Dried Noodles provide a crunchy finish.

“The dragon’s head is no match for my mouth.  I be-head the sucker, pop it in, and start chewing.”

Our server brings the next plate.  Slices of Barbecued Eel rest atop of Rolls made of Imitation Crab, Asparagus, and Avocado.  The pieces are all lined up in a rather peculiar way.  A head…a body…a tail…a dragon!  I guess the menu wasn’t lying when they called it the Dragon Roll!

I’m a little wary of this monster at first, jabbing it here and there with my chop-sticks.  Don’t wanna over-extend myself.  I’m trying to slay a dragon.  Finally I find its point of weakness.  The dragon’s head is no match for my mouth.  I be-head the sucker, pop it in, and start chewing.

The Eel has a sweet but slightly savoury flavour.  Chewy and slightly singed, it provides an excellent complement to what tastes like a modified California Roll.

After concentrating on giving the food the attention it deserves, I catch up with friends, and enjoy the birthday atmosphere.

I take a breath.

It still feels like I’m working the bench-press each time I inhale, but now I have a spotter.

Ichiro Japanese on Urbanspoon

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JAPADOG – Downtown 530 Robson St, Vancouver, BC, Canada (604) 569-1158

23 Mar

PRICE: $6-$13

The corner of Robson and Richards is bustling with life.  Vehicle and pedestrian traffic is continuous, and a steady stream of people wander through the sidewalks.  Me and my foodie companion are among those people.  Amidst the bustle of street vendors, schizophrenic people talking to themselves, and the yuppies, students, and hipsters, something stands out.  JAPADOG.  Having seen their carts scattered around Vancouver and Richmond, I was excited to finally visit their store.

“I do my best to act dignified despite having said ‘Love Meat Dog’ a few moments ago.”

Walking inside, it’s probably the fanciest hot-dog store you could probably ever ask for.  Mind you, it doesn’t have the interior of a five-star restaurant, but it’s far from the hole-in-the-wall that I was expecting.  A sizeable menu touting a variety of Japan-themed Hot Dogs gleams overhead the cash registers at the front of the store.  Hmm.  So much variety.  So much exotic flavours.  So little time.  My partner has made up his mind though.

“Okonomi Dog Please!  With Shaken Teriyaki Fries!”

The cashier repeats the order to the rest of the staff busy cooking at the back with an amicable and super authentic Japanese accent.  This place is the real deal.  I make up my mind and place my order.

“Love Meat Dog Please!”

I pause.  God that sounded awkward.  But it’s an item listed on the menu above.  I’m not making this up.  Seriously.   Hesitant and awkward from embarrassment, I continue my order.

“…Uh…with…Butter and Shoyu Shaken Fries!”

I do my best to act dignified despite having said ‘Love Meat Dog’ a few moments ago.

We take our numbers and try to find a table.  This task is harder than you could imagine; the place is literally almost filled to the brim with people.  It’s practically a struggle to breathe around here, let alone walk around.  After what feels like a soul-searching journey, we finally take a seat.

The awesome, super-authentic Japanese accent rings through the air.  Pick up time.

We grab our entrees and quickly begin to disembowel them at our table. These Hot Dogs are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  They’re exotic to the point of being gimmicky, but they still deliver amazingly when it comes to taste.

The Okonomi Dog Meat is made from Kurobata, which I gather is a sort of Japanese Specialty Pork. Tender, juicy, and quite savoury.  Bonito Flakes and Fried Cabbage line the sides of the Bun, and provide a fantastic but light crunch, and a subtle but very noticeable Oriental touch to the dish.

The Love Meat Dog (haha, still awkward to say) sports an Arabiki Pork Sausage covered in Cheese Sauce.  It’s kind of like a Japanese Pizza sitting on top of a Hot Dog.  A fine quality Hot Dog.  Savoury, cheesy, and soft, resting atop a slightly charred Bun, it’s filling and satisfying.

We depart amongst the sea of people.  I try and pull a Moses, by clasping my hands and striking the ground with my foot.  All that’s missing is my staff.  Nothing.

Whatever.  Push and shove works just as well.  Get those elbows out at face-level and keep walking.

We emerge from the sea of people, satisfied and full.  I open the door, smiling.  Haha, ‘Love Meat Dog’.  That phrase is still making me grin like an idiot.

Japadog on Urbanspoon

TOKYO JOE’S RAMEN OKAWARI – 8100 Ackroyd Rd, Richmond, BC, Canada (604) 233-1315

21 Mar

PRICE: $6-$10

“ARASHAIMASSE!!!!!!!!”

You know that super-hero (or is it a villain?) that has the special ability to project her voice at super-sonic levels to the point where it can destroy virtually anything that stands in its path?  Well that’s the greeter for Tokyo Joe’s Ramen Okawari.  Her voice echoes in my ears after I’ve passed through the door.  After the initial shock, it’s actually quite endearing.

Under the guidance of sonic-boom lady, the staff is incredibly enthusiastic, and I’m quickly ushered to a seat.  As I pass the open kitchen and make my way to my seat, my feet scuffle on the laminate hardwood floor.  The lights are a bright white and the tables and chairs are simple and economic.  A TV is touting the latest exploits of the past government meeting in the House of Commons (Canadian Congress, for you foreign readers).

“Hey look, another loner diner.  Hah.  Awkwardness loves company.”

This is the first time I’ve ever gone to a non-Mcdonald’s type restaurant alone for dinner.  But I’m willing to suffer it out because I know you guys are CLAMBERING to read the next DashToDine adventure.  I’m willing to make sacrifices.

So here I am, alone.  It feels pretty awkward to be honest.  I look to my left.  Hey look, another loner diner.  Hah.  Awkwardness loves company.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a familiar face pops into my field of vision.  Then another.  Then another.  Friends of a friend, and a friend of mine burst into the restaurant with a large group.   Guess I’m not a total loner.  A dumb ‘what are you doing here?’ grin erupts on my face.  We exchange greetings, then continue on our separate ways.

Thankfully that whole exchange killed most of the waiting time for my food, so I didn’t have to sit alone in awkwardness, twiddling my thumbs for very long; the food arrives soon after, and I’m able to immerse myself in my foodie zone.

I ordered the Okawari Ramen.  Figured I’d order the dish that had the title of their establishment.  With the help of the server, it floats over the table and comes to rest in front of me.  It’s beautifully prepared, the portion is large, and I’m more than ready to go.

Pork slices crown the top of the bowl.  Corn Bits to the left, Seaweed and Veggies to the right.  Cha Shu Ginseng Soup submerges the Noodles.  I take a bite.  Subtle, yet filled with intermingling flavours.  Savoury, almost Miso-Soup like qualities can be found regardless of whether I sample the Pork, the Noodles, or the wide variety of Veggies in the bowl.  It avoids that disgustingly over-the-top flavour that many second rate Ramen houses use to overcompensate for inferior ingredients.  It’s great.  I once again go to my spider senses.  No MSG.  Probably one of the cleanest servings of Ramen when it comes to that category.  I barely have to touch my Water.  I can actually drink the Soup without feeling the crippling effects of the MSG Kryptonite.  Beautiful.

I lose myself in the dish for a little while, grinning like an idiot.  Then it’s over.  I’m looking at an empty bowl, and for some reason the place feels so…quiet…

The super exuberant sonic-woman seems to have gone.  No wonder it feels like a church in here.  I wave for the bill, pay, wave good-bye to the staff, and leave.  There is a noticeable lack in energy now that Sonic-Woman is gone.  Everyone is still friendly though.

Passing through the door, I realize something.  Being a loner isn’t so bad when the food’s good.

Tokyo Joe's Ramen Okawari on Urbanspoon

KYO KOREAN BBQ & SUSHI HOUSE – #2 – 2993 Granville St, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 604-739-8868

13 Mar

PRICE: $25-$30

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?

Kyo Korean BBQ & Sushi House on Urbanspoon