Tag Archives: Japanese

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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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

HAPA IZAKAYA – 1479 Robson Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (604) 689-4272

10 Mar

PRICE: $5-$10 per entree

“Umm…why are we entering a morgue?”  I’m looking at the establishment from the outside in.  Well there’s really nothing much to see.  It’s black.  The words ‘Hapa Izakaya’ are tattooed onto the entrance, but that’s just about it.  Black.  Nothing but black.  The perfect place to house vampires, corpses, or ghouls.  I am somewhat hesitant to enter what is supposedly one of the finest Japanese pubs (that’s pretty much what Izakaya means) in the Lower Mainland.

Upon entering the establishment, as opposed to seeing the vampires and ghouls I was expecting, my foodie crew and I enter what turns out to be a pretty classy place.  Aside from the periodic “Irasshaimase!” ­­(“welcome”, in Japanese), an assortment of down-tempo lounge and house music floats in the air.  The lights are very dim, the table arrangements simple yet elegant, and the atmosphere perfect for intimate conversation.  Dark wooden floors and furniture line the place and give it a rustic edge, but preserve a modern, minimalist feel.

Sitting down at our table, the first thing I notice upon opening the menu is that despite the fact that we are in a Japanese establishment, there is absolutely no Sushi available to order.  Instead, a swath of tapas-style entrees greet my eyes.  Intriguing.

After the orders are placed, the food begins to trickle in.  Slow, but worth the wait.  Our first victim is the Avocado Salad.  Dried Yams standing upright on a glass, with an elegant looking dip to its side.  Avocado, Seaweed, Sesame, all mixing with pretty good chemistry, the individual ingredients are all tangible, yet come together as a whole to create a distinctively great vegetable dip.  It mixes great with the Dried Yams.

“…despite the fact that we are in a Japanese establishment, there is absolutely no Sushi available to order.  Instead, a swath of tapas-style entrees greet my eyes.”

The Beef Tataki makes the next appearance, arranged beautifully in a circular formation, crowned with Fried Onions, Spring Onions, Sesame Seeds, and a Lemon.  The Sesame-Chili Sauce integrates rather well, accentuating the tender slices of AAA Carpaccio Beef.  Sweet, savoury, and light, it’s another great appetizer.

Agedashi Tofu, is a pretty run-of-the-mill dish, and quite frankly I didn’t really expect too much from it.  I didn’t really get much from it either.  Not terribly distinguishable from the Agedashi that you can find in most other high-end restaurants.  Good, but nothing memorable.

The last dish we ordered arrives.  Ebi Mayo is another great entree that I was looking forward to since I saw it on the menu.  Tempura Prawns dipped in a Spicy Mayonnaise Sauce, they provide an exciting new spin on a classic dish.  Who would’ve thought Tempura Prawns and Spicy Mayo would go together so well?  A savoury taste with the well-rounded, buttery consistency of Mayonnaise, it’s definitely a dish to remember.

All in all, a great tapas-style establishment that provides intriguing new spins on timeless Japanese classics.

Hapa Izakaya (Robson) on Urbanspoon