[HAS CLOSED SINCE THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED]
Lime Japanese Cuisine
1130 Commercial Dr
The experience for me in leaving an often highly anticipated and quality meal in the hands of the chef, is one that I truly enjoy. Of course, this all depends on the establishment, the existing relationship with the person behind the counter and/or kitchen, and more often than not, my budget.
For this particular meal at Lime, I was going in quite unfamiliar on the first two counts, and on the third issue, I was hesitant to go too high out of fear that my dining experience would turn out less than I had hoped for. For me to completely release the wallet, it would have to come with some mighty strong recommendations and proven reputation. On this night, I did not have this “security’ when I stepped through the entrance door…
With a completely empty back-of-the-room bar counter, a seat up front and personal with the cooking crew was thus easy to request and receive. In the front half of the space, tables of pairs and groups were busy eating away, and already the noise level in the place was quite high. It definitely had a unique vibe, one that I’d been warned of by others who remarked to me they once had live music and other acts to entertain diners.
Once seated, a young man who was our server provided the menus, but we knew already that we were here for the omakase, at the $50 price point. We had also hoped to try the homemade/cut soba, but were told they had run out (a reason for making another trip in the future perhaps?). After being asked if we had any dislikes, to which we commented ‘no’, he then went off to get our order started. It was a little less interaction than I had hoped for, as at a minimum, I would have liked to have heard of any fresh or special items they had on this night, which could have been incorporated in our course.
After an opening round of beer, the first plate arrived. A maguro gomaae (albacore tuna, seasoned with sesame soy) served as a refreshing initial volley, as the tuna was clean on the palate and the dressing (though orthodox) a flavourful match. This was followed by what was perhaps deemed the most bizarre and disappointing from a taste perspective by both myself and dining companion – an avocado rice croquette mixed with mozzarella cheese and a dollop of spicy cocktail sauce. On first glance, I couldn’t help but think of the rice crispy squares of my childhood school bake sales. Biting in, they had that same bland and glue-y consistency, only these weren’t sweet. A thorough letdown and I only finished it off so as not to offend the cook in the kitchen who came up with this mess.
To help cut the deep fried greasiness remaining in our mouths, next arrived a small salad (with what if my memory serves correctly were some delicious deep fried smelt fillets) that came mixed with a light, ponzu dressing. It worked well as an interlude and having had fish marinated in this manner before and really enjoying it, my mind was in better spirits. After, a pair of temaki sushi, one of which was the dreadful spicy-type that I truly detest, were the start of the main raw items (of which in hindsight, I wish they had served more of). Thankfully, the chefs were taking into consideration that these were part of a larger course and thus the quantity of rice inside was small (and the rice was well done I might add).
The third dish in our omakase set, was this kakuni pork (braised pork belly), with a slightly sweet soy flavouring and served with mashed potato with a touch of wasabi, on top of some tender asparagus and earthy mushrooms. While as a whole, it was perhaps the most completely put together creation we had this evening, it was clearly short of remarkable. In fact, we both once again were disturbed by the lack of seasoning as the meat while soft and tender in texture and well braised, was doing nothing on the tongue’s taste receptors. While I usually appreciate the delicateness and simplicity of Japanese cuisine, this was not working for either of us when it came to this dish.
I think it was at this point when we had another strange interaction. A young man came up to us and asked if we wanted to see a magic trick. I thought, where the heck am I, at a public park or amusement fair?!?! I understood it to be part of the total experience at Lime, but couldn’t help but wonder how oddly out of place it was, and a really unnecessary interruption during an omakase dining outing.
After recovering mentally from that encounter, we closed out our meal with one more plate, by which time we were both getting quite full, which was a pair of three-piece maki (one was a cucumber wrapped variety and the other draped with a thin layer of unagi) , and a maguro nigiri. Both maki were beautifully put together, but as many readers probably know by now, I’ve never been a real maki fan. I can say though that with just this one piece of nigiri, it had me curious and interesting in trying more one day, as the single serving I had was fresh and delicious.
To sum, for fifty dollars a head (not including the beers), it was a fantastic deal. Both in terms of quality and quantity. There was no leaving the restaurant feeling we could still eat more. However, having said that, the real key element of the omakase experience was just not felt on my part.
I’m not sure if its just the setup they have at the counter, where there seems to be a large gap between the counter seats and the two men working the counter (albeit in their defense, they were busy all night making maki after maki for other diners) that didn’t seem to serve as a comfortable zone in which to interact and learn about each and every dish that was coming out. Our waiter did his part to explain what he could, but this duality of not knowing who would be our main “host”, left me a little perplexed. Frankly, the only time we had any verbal interaction with the men behind the counter was on the last dish, when one of them explained the sushi creations.
More effort could probably be made, on both our parts, to fully exchange in the omakase experience (if there was any language issue, that could be overcome too, but I didn’t engage), but I’m thinking it might be a while before I venture to Lime again for it, as the full fledged “wow” factor was just not there.