Japadog (Robson Store)
530 Robson Street
Original post below:
Over the years, I can say I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made it to the front of the line at a Japadog stand and ordered something to eat. If I were to add the occasions when I saw a lineup and avoided it all together despite wanting a ‘dog and the instances when I’ve actually gotten into the queue only to give up part way through due to time (and my thorough disdain for standing in lineups), I would need all the digits on both hands and feet. With this in mind, upon hearing that the minds behind this incredible food business success story began planning and finally were able to open the doors to their first non-cart venture, I was anxious to see what the setup would be, as well as the new menu offerings…
However, my trips to the downtown core and becoming few and far between of late, as I simply detest the traffic (the auto and human kind inclusive). Perhaps its the slowly warming weather that’s making me testy when I have to dodge traffic on both the roads and sidewalks – as well as growing numbers of out-of-town tourists gawking at maps, suddenly stopping and pulling suitcases too if you ask me. But in spite of these obstacles and mental anguish, I decided to bite the bullet and see if the storm of their launch had subsided somewhat, which would enable me to place and order and get my food and spend as little time as possible waiting as I could. Choosing a sunny Saturday afternoon when other people had the same idea apparently, was what destroyed my dream of a quick in-and-out visit.
First off when I reached the location, I had no idea it was so close in proximity to two other places that have been on my to-do list, also of the Japanese food-themed variety: Kushi Box and Gyudon-ya. A line of about five people stood between me and the front til, thus I was just outside the barrier to the front door (the wider panels where the seating is, were also open for access post-order and for those already eating inside at one of the limited seats). I suppose this gave me just enough time and visibility of the menu board that was facing the sidewalk outside. I recognized some Japadog stalwarts in the Terimayo and Oroshi, but spotted the newer developments that I’ve read about online written by other local bloggers. In order to hedge my bets (and fulfill a two-dog late lunch), I decided to get one of the classics and one of the curious unknown.
First up, the Okonomi. Featuring a kurobuta (black pork) sausage, dressed up with some fried cabbage and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and decorated with okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. I must apologize here for the degradation of the presentation – as these shots were taken well after I received them. Shaken around a bit in the take away box they were stored in while I walked and then later in my vehicle, they aren’t as “pretty” as when they first made the baton transfer to me. Regardless of the heat that had dissipated from the hotdog on the journey, the flavour held up unharmed. The juicy sausage retained its “bite” of crispness and was pure pork in flavour, enhanced by the well matching sweetness coming from the okonomiyaki sauce which I just adore in Japadogs. The smokiness of the bonito brings an punch of scent that adds to the marvels that are being explored by the taste buds. Excellent still in my books this Okonomi dog.
As the second tube for my weekend meal, this Tonkatsu hotdog was in my mind, the most conservative of the unique new menu items that I could have selected from. As it kept the consistency of the pork from hotdog #1, and was on its own, something that is readily imaginable in your mind, certainly for someone like me who’s had their share of deep fried pork cutlets. I could see it was cooked in the same deep frier as the fries were (no purchase of this side was made on this visit). As you’d get with a traditional tonkatsu setting, it was adored with fine-cut cabbage (white and purple) to give that crispy crunch and refreshing kick that matches so well with the juicy pork. Again, a sweet tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise was used to further flavor this – the tonkatsu sauce really got incorporated into the cutlet – perhaps from the long time that passed to when I was finally able to dig in.
Operationally, I think Japadog the store could do things to refine their process to make a better customer experience (e.g. speed things up). I realize the lineup out the door has its marketing appeal, visually suggesting this was the place to be and maintaining the buzz of their launch. But contrasting their street stands where you’d expect a queue, this “restaurant’ environment I feel should be scaled up and a lot more cooking done ahead of time – realizing that the counter argument of wishing to maintain the same process/quality of their stands that people have grown to know, love and expect. Something as simple as monitoring the lineup, having one staffer dedicated like a triage nurse to conduct pre-ordering (though the danger of people ordering and then leaving could happen) of the people outside to give more heads up time to the griller, is one suggestion.
All in all, I liked my hotdogs, still delicious and unique, despite my own fault in not eating them until almost a full hour since they were handed to me at the counter. I’ll be back to try out the other new items (perhaps following in the footsteps of the two young Japanese ladies ahead of me in the line who got the Yakiniku Rice).