29th Avenue Cafe
4441 Boundary Road
Situated in a completely unexpected location is the reincarnation of the former Yoshoku-ya that lived along Denman Street downtown and was home to many fans of the homey Japanese-Western cuisine of the same name. I was surprised to spot the bold signage trumpeting its opening on a drive along busy Boundary Road and popped in for a dinner earlier this summer. With ample parking in a lot nearby (or on the street in front or behind in a residential area), visiting this place with a vehicle is much more easier on one’s sanity than it was back in its previous spot in Vancouver.
If you happen to walk by, the big glass windows can give you a clear sense of what to expect – a no nonsense, rather simple decor with ample spacing between tables so as not to feel overly close to strangers. I guess when you leave the downtown core, the cost per square foot for rent drops dramatically, thus allowing a proprietor to be more generous with the elbow room, which is certainly appreciated by some. Added to the welcoming tone is a big poster of the dishes you can find on the menu, including an array of photos of the actual plating as well. I imagine this can come in handy for those who have no idea what is meant by the advertised yoshoku cuisine.
An intriguing menu indeed, with a few classics from this genre. But alas, I went straight to the top of my favorites list – in the tonkatsu. A generous serving of two slices, albeit not a big juicy thick cut, but delicious and juicy meat nonetheless and seasoned delicately. The breading and fry in particular was particularly to my liking. Evenly colored, a light coating and biting into it gave that tantalizing crunch. A true sign of great temperature control of the oil in which it was cooked. I was a bit surprised though that it wasn’t cut in strips when it came out to my table. Don’t think I’ve every been served tonkatsu anywhere in this fashion before.
Another deep fried dish was the other choice, the ebi (prawn) fry. I wasn’t as excited about the flavors present in this one however. The prawns were on the skimpy side, was hoping for something more plump and meaty, and the breading just didn’t translate as well as it did with the pork. Accompanying both dishes was a heavy dressed mound of fresh green lettuce leaves, a potato salad with some slices of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a wedge of lemon to help cut through the richness.
It was refreshing to know that with the dwindling number of choices for this type of Japanese food in metro Vancouver, that an old stalwart has been revived and word it getting out that its risen from the ashes to serve loyal customers once again. With a nondescript name, I’m sure it might take a little while, but surely old and new fans alike with be drawn to the comforting dishes and tastes on offer here. Prices are right and quite reasonable. Give it a shot if you’re new to it all, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.