Suika – Vancouver, BC


Suika
1626 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 730-1678

Generally in life, I abhor queues and lineups.  Chalk it up to immaturity or impatience.  But mainly I hate wasting time doing nothing. That and I have a very short attention span.

So when I spot new places in and around town, I’m often torn about when to go and check them out.  When I first saw Suika open its doors during its first week, I had noted that I should go early and beat the crowds that would no doubt be keen on exploring the menu of an izakaya setup that was not located in the downtown core.  Quite refreshing for that aspect alone and with the pedigree of its Kingyo backing, the word of mouth was sure to spread like wildfire.  Looking back at the year that has passed, its clear that’s exactly what has happened.  Good on them I say.

So recently I finally made my virgin pilgrimage to their busy West Broadway location, even managing to squeeze into a table just at opening and avoiding the need to have had a reservation.  I should clarify.  I have been here a few times before attempting the “let’s get a table on a busy night and hope for the best” approach, only to get turned away at the door by one of the friendly staffers.  The chillier weather, a light rain, I think contributed to my favorable venture this time, although by thirty minutes after opening, the place was pretty much filled to capacity.

What follows here is a photographic record of the many dishes that were ordered and tried out, to varying degrees of personal satisfaction at our table.  In no particular order, they arrived in a generally timely manner (more so at the early part of our meal before the place was inundated with hungry customers) between a few rounds of drinks.  Grilled duck breast with a distinctly Japanese-Western influenced sauce (soy, butter, balsamic reduction) with slices of watery tomato, tart apple slices, completing the picture.  The slices of duck were tender and not over cooked.  The sauce while not overly exciting, did add to improving the profile of the meat, but all in all, I wasn’t overly excited by the combination of flavors on the plate.

As diligent readers of foodosophy will note, chawanmushi is up there on my list of all time comfort foods.  Again like the duck breast, the execution was acceptable, with a nice delicate consistency that might be on the softer side than I may personally prefer.  The flavors were muted but not completely bland, it was a nice transition to the bolder tasting dishes that came our way.  But again, nowhere near the best I’ve ever had when it comes to this egg custard appetizer.

Sashimi “Shake” Salad.  With a name like that it had me intrigued as just how would they do the so called shaking.  To my delight, it was transported out to our table in this huge glass jar, as if it was some preserved science experiment.  With a solid mixing of the ingredients inside before being plated in a large bowl for us right at the table, this was probably the best thing I had all night.  Pictured above is just a brief snap off my own plate, so its nowhere near what it actually looked like upon initial serving.  There was no skimping on the fresh seafood, and the snap of the greens combined with the addictive bright and savory sesame soy dressing made my meal.  Later on as others began eating, I noticed many of these jars being called out by the waitresses.  And seeing their Twitter feed tonight, I can see the popularity continues to resonate for this salad item.  Seriously, go check it out.

Octopus carpaccio, another fresh item with more impactful flavors than say we saw in the earlier duck breast.  The slices were not too thin nor too thick to make it either a disappointment or difficulty in chewing threw this texturally interesting ingredient.  It was treated and prepped well too, no oozing water signifying an improper defrost.  Again though, not a huge delight nor something I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Kakuni Bibimbap.  A Korean-themed dish that made its way to my selection sheet.  I wanted something a bit more substantial and filling, and the other contender in the rice category – a beef filet fried rice – just didn’t speak to me as being potentially exciting.  The fattier cut of pork belly, melding together with the sweetness of the sauce, and the dried shrimp and green scallions worked well I thought.  It certainly served its objective of filling stomach space, and in terms of grade, made it to the top third of my likes on this evening.

Kushiage, the deep fried skewers of beef were a very deep golden color.  Perhaps a touch more “burnt” than I would normally associate or prefer with this.  I can understand there can be some discrepancies especially in a busy kitchen, so will cut them some slack here.  As just one of two main protein based dishes over the course of our outing, this was deemed to be better than the duck by all at our table.

By the time we were wrapping our our dinner and slowly finishing off our drinks, the room was filled with an interesting mishmash of customers.  Some in fact seemed “out of place” to me, especially some of the single diners, who were dressed like they’d be more accustomed to eating in some fast food joint.  But alas, the atmosphere was pleasant, a warm buzz permeated the open area, and the unhindered seating arrangements certainly contribute to creating this vibe.  I enjoyed just taking it all in.  Not over-the-top boisterous as other izakaya in this city, nor not having that pretentious, trying to be something they are not feeling that I get in others, Suika seems to strike a nice balance to me.  And like most things in life, balance is key.  I would sum up their food offerings (at least the ones I tried) along those lines too, most falling into the good category, a spike or two into the great, and thankfully nothing into the poor.

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