505-329 North Road
Itshoni (in my eyes, a misspelling of the romaji for the Japanese word ‘together’) emerged from the space previously occupied by the Blue Sea Seafood Restaurant, and is serving up a mix of Korean and Japanese cuisine. It is conveniently located in this high traffic shopping complex that is home to many other places where one can a meal – many of which reported on here at foodosophy.
The interior has received a noticeable makeover with most of the former enclosed spaces and booths removed and replaced with dark wooden tables and chairs. The floor looked re-done as well, in addition to the similarly colored wall treatments and refreshed with new art hanging on the walls. The mural on one of the side walls (not pictured here) really stands out. The place was filled well with both Asian and non-Asian customers (this table of nine got filled up by a big group of women minutes after we were seated nearby).
I’m generally unsure about these Korean-Japanese places that try to serve a mix of both country’s food. In probably all cases, they are Korean in nature as a base and add sushi-type menu items to appeal to a broader crowd – I’ve yet to see it happen the other way around (e.g. a Japanese restaurant adding Korean dishes). From a business standpoint and perhaps from a greater societal point of view where Japanese cuisine is better known by the greater populace than Korean is, it makes sense for this duality, but I guess I’m more traditional and look for those places that have focus and do what they do best.
At the same time, it does bring with it some interesting looks at standard dishes. Take for example the above pictured chirashidon. Ordering it, we thought it would be more along the lines of what you’d get from a “purely Japanese” restaurant, but instead this completely different Korean-take on it arrived at our table. More roughly cut and heavy on the salmon and instead of sushi rice, it was normal steamed rice blanketed by what could be deemed a salad. Different crunchy textures for sure as a result of all the veg. Throw in a squeeze bottle of a spicy gochujang dressing and some mixing around, and you get the following…
So if you were expecting the “expected”, you might be confused or even disappointed. A lesson to be learned when visiting these multiple personality restaurants.
With the summer allegedly approaching here in the Lower Mainland, despite the sub 20C temperatures we are still experiencing, one of my favorite dishes to have to cool down is mul naengmyeon (cold noodles). Though again, we ran into another twist, even though this was a Korean dish. Instead of the orthodox buckwheat/sweet potato-based, darker colored noodles that usually comes in this chilled stainless steel bowl, a mound of what appeared to be (and tasted like) Japanese somen (wheat flour noodles) was present. As a result, that distinctive chewy nature and texture was absent, which for me, is a big component of what makes mul naengmyeon so great. The additional toppings and the ice cold broth itself was okay but could not make up for the noodles.
So all in all, it was a dinner of unmet expectations and complete turnarounds from dishes that are in my tried-and-true list of regulars and favorites. Alas, we had some heads up when we saw this Japanese-influenced restaurant in the heart of Coquitlam’s Koreatown. While not a total loss – we did end up eating the total meal – it was not outstanding enough to warrant a return visit from us unfortunately.