Makoto Japanese Restaurant
5213 Rumble Street
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Homey, perhaps a touch dated, honest, and old school is pretty much how I would characterize this unpretentious, Japanese-run little restaurant situated in a tiny commercial building on the corner of Rumble Street and Royal Oak Avenue in south Burnaby. Despite its laid back nature and location, on my first random decision to eat here a few months back, I was met by a packed room upon reaching the door on a rainy weekday evening and I soon turned around back to my car wondering what the secret was and vowing to come back another day. And so that’s exactly what I did on a recent weekend outing to this part of town, and fortunately this time I was able to get a seat.
Makoto Japanese Restaurant probably has about eight to ten tables for four, as well as a handful of stools at the sushi bar – making it clearly smaller in scale than say the relatively nearby other decent sushi restaurant (Nao Sushi) in this neck of the woods. I’m not sure how long its been around, but if the chairs are any indication, it could be its been in operation for a very long time. It had the atmosphere of a classic youshoku-ya in Japan, straddling that decor line between East and West. On a weekend afternoon, only one server was visible, as well as a man stationed at the sushi counter and I could spot another person through the pass window to the kitchen. I have a guess its a family run operation by this slim roster of staff.
As I got a seat to myself, I paid no attention to the rather boisterous group of eight Cantonese-speaking, multi-generational family indulging in a weekend meal together off on the other side of the restaurant. I quickly zeroed in on the appetizers and scanned the main entrees and of course the raw bar items. Pretty straight up, nothing too wildly creative (in a bad sense of the word), and thus my mind was at east that I wouldn’t be bombarded with heavy rice mounds covered in all sorts of mayonnaise and other fiery sauces if I were to partake in the maki.
Alas, what I was craving for to start my solo meal was something hearty and deep fried. After bypassing the tofu and squid, I chose the chicken karaage. What came out was a very Japanese-style of karaage, light in color and thinly crispy coated in katakuriko and fried up gingerly. Seasoning was on the light side as well, and so the main flavor was coming from the tender chunks of chicken thigh meat. Nicely done and put together I felt, as I’ve come too used to seeing that overly deep brown, too crispy take on karaage coming out of too many kitchens these days. Its good to be reminded of the subtleties of a classic preparation.
For my main dish, I ordered the standard chirashi-don. Coming out in a shallow plastic bowl, it reminded me of the old school sushi-ya that are more about function than fashion, and are generally good value. The included toppings ran the usual lineup of salmon, tuna, shrimp, egg, mackerel, etc. Each was solid, though not outstanding. I guess in this case, its better to blend in than to stand out as bad, and there was none of that here. I had no problems with this combination and the underlying rice, which too often gets overlooked, was excellent in terms of texture, seasoning and temperature.
To sum, Makoto makes my list for safe, reliable, classic offerings of common Japanese cuisine, and I will more than likely return for more when I am in the mood for something comforting in a relaxed setting.