Hayashi Sushi – New Westminster, BC

Hayashi Sushi
1065 Columbia St
New Westminster, BC
(604) 527-1194

Hayashi Sushi is located in a newish commercial shopping area off Columbia Street that cuts through this riverside town.  Nearby are New West stalwarts such as Burger Heaven and Cockney Kings Fish & Chips (the subject of a future post in the foodosophy backlog).  It is a mid-sized, Korean-operated, Japanese cuisine restaurant, with takeaway options.  For this visit, that’s exactly what I did.

After placing my order, I waited in a nearby booth and was offered a cup of hot tea to pass the time.  The restaurant started filling up with other dine-in customers while I waited, so seemingly is a frequented place by locals.  With only one man behind the sushi counter, my large order of various pieces of nigiri sushi took some time to prepare.  Some of them are pictured below, but it was not the entire lot, as by the time I got it to our group for eating, some were more anxious than others and couldn’t wait for me to finish taking pictures. 🙂

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Kishu River – Vancouver, BC

Kishu River Japanese Restaurant
3339 Kingsway Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 433-8857

After a long day that culminated in an early evening flight out of Calgary back to Vancouver, I’d completely forgotten that I had promised the week before to meet up with some friends for some last night drinks. In a rush to meet up with the crew, who’s whereabouts were uncertain other than I knew they’d be on the east side, I made a mad dash from the airport into the general vicinity.  Dying for something to eat as I’d had nothing since the noon hour, I headed southeastward on Kingsway until I saw Kishu River on the other side of the street.  Yes, after an uneventful eating experience in southern Alberta, I had a sushi craving that had to be satisfied, no matter what the risk…

Yes folks, another edition of “round and round we go, where we stop, nobody knows”.  Call it the shotgun approach or solo game of Russian roulette, I once again stepped bravely into an unknown establishment with no fear…. well perhaps a touch of hesitation.  The view from the entrance area sparked nothing in me to be pleasantly surprised nor want to head back out the direction I came from.  A couple of booths lined up on both sides of the room, with the sushi bar way at the back, and the access to the hidden kitchen to the back right.  Once spotted by the lone waitress, I was lead to my table and handed a menu booklet.  I quickly asked for some green tea and that was brought to me minutes later.

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Daikatsu Sushi – Vancouver, BC

Daikatsu Sushi
2090 Alma Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 733 7331

Daikatsu Sushi on Urbanspoon

I’m not sure about my Foodosophy colleagues, but ever since I’ve become a contributor on this site, I’ve found myself becoming a bit more dangerous on the roads.  Nope, its not from having stuffed myself and with a full stomach getting that sleepy coma feeling, or being intoxicated with alcohol from some festivities, but rather due to the fact that I’m always scanning both sides of the road for any new or previously unseen eateries to add to my list for future visits.  All in the name of Foodosophy I tell you.

Well, while driving up Alma from 4th Ave recently, I caught a glimpse of some signage across the street from a running goods store, and seeing the words ‘sushi’, I thought to myself, oh no yet another place offering up this cuisine.  Now I should have kept on going, but instead I pulled over.  Rather than go home and have a proper home cooked meal, I zipped up my bullet proof vest and ventured into Daikatsu Sushi to take another bullet for the Foodosophy gang.

As simple as deep fried items seem to be, they really are tricky and give a good insight into the kitchen.  As such, I try to sample at least one dish to see where their oil is at, is it overused and dirty, are things fried at too high a temperature, etc. Tempura or Agedashi Tofu is usually what I use as my guinea pig, but on this occasion I felt like having some Ika Karaage.  As poor as my camera phone images are, they really did turn out that bad.  A classic case of cooked real fast in very hot oil, so much so that a lot of the exterior had almost reached the burnt stage.  I had to rip off a lot of the coating and just tried to eat the squid as is, but that in itself was not the greatest quality so this dish was a wash in my books.

Don’t know why I went with this, the Dynamite Roll.  I’m not a big maki fan to begin with, so not sure why I pointed to this on the menu to the server (who appeared to be the wife of the man behind the counter, as they spoke to each other in Chinese when not attending to any of the other customers – yes, there were some).  I suppose I knew my main dish to be ordered would not be that voluminous and I was looking for some filler here.  The rice was quite mushy, which turned me off immediately.  And the tempura lacked flavour and all I could taste was the mayonnaise inside.

Lastly, I present to you our fine readers, Daikatsu’s version of a Chirashi-don.  Small, yes.  Skimpy, yes.  Bang for the buck, no.  Heck, I sound like I am talking about a pint sized prostitute.  The tako (octopus) and ebi (prawn) were particularly nasty, as they just oozed out water when I bit into them, obviously not properly prepared/thawed out.  Throw in the obvious fact that there was no real decorative, eye-catching presentation of the toppings, and it just felt like it was thrown together with no thought for trying to capture any points for the visual.  I really must post a report from a seaside sushi bar in Japan, to try to help you picture what a really good chirashi can look like.

So there you have it, an entirely disappointing, but totally expected let down from another establishment with a pawn in the sushi game in Vancouver.  I hope the next time I do a random stopover, my discovery is much more positive.

Daikatsu Sushi on Urbanspoon

Tsukiji Japanese Restaurant – Richmond, BC

Tsukiji Japanese Restaurant
130-135, 4751 Garden City Road
Richmond, BC
(604) 276 2628

Tsukiji on Urbanspoon

In some foreigner’s minds, the words TSUKIJI SHIJO – for those who are aware and/or can first of all even pronounce it correctly – conjures up the image of the immense market in the unglamorous, working class Tsukiji district of Tokyo that is considered the largest wholesale seafood market in the world.  I had the pleasure many years ago of spending two weeks here, working with some seafood buyers, specifically learning the ins-and-outs of the domestic and import (mainly from Taiwan) UNAGI market, and exploring the hidden back tunnels and hallways that make up the inner workings of the market.  Oh, and not to mention having the chance to eat some of the freshest sushi on a daily basis!

Thus I found it interesting that a restaurant had chosen to use this well known ‘brand’ as the formal name of their business.  Would most Canadians just think of it as some hard to read/pronounce Japanese word, perhaps believing it was a surname or a city name in Japan (given all those places that use such generic geographic references in their naming)?

To combat this or to maybe spread the knowledge/rationale, the proprietors of Tsukiji Japanese Restaurant have included an image of the tuna auction area of the market on their business card, and as well have provided a direct link on their website to the Wikipedia entry for TSUKIJI SHIJO.  What’s that worth, I’ll leave it up to you, the reader…

Half order 4 pcs. ($12.00) of KANPACHI.  With the general confusion that arises with this fish in Japan, with its strong physical resemblance to its close cousins such as BURI and HIRAMASA, I turned to a friend of mine who works as a buyer for a major player in the Japanese seafood business called Nippon Suisan (better known as Nissui) to get a layman’s explanation.

The return message was longer than I was expecting and too detailed in a marine biologist kind of way, but to sum, he told me that for KANPACHI, the best season is summer through late autumn, whereas BURI is more summer to autumn, and HIRAMASA is just summer.  He tells me that for most people, its really difficult to differentiate between this trio of fish, but that clues do lie in the body colour, the roundness of their bellies, the shape (sharpness) of their noses, and a structural variation in a small area around their eyes.

Not being an expert, but I did notice in the slice that I ate here, that there was an absence of a good layer of fat, that would suggest it was caught more in the warmer months.  I tend to find that this distinction of “seasonality of catch”, is more easier to pick up when the fish is eaten in a cooked form.  In Japanese, they often say “ABURA GA NOTTERU”, which literally translated could mean “the fat is on”, and is used to describe when the fish meat is at its seasonal best.

I did not get a chance to really review their seasonal seafood selections, but they do claim to make fresh choices available – perhaps a return visit will yield more.  Unfortunately, on this visit, we were very pressed for time, and thus no further sampling was conducted.

CHAWAN MUSHI ($4.50) – steamed egg custard with chicken & seafood.  As a child, this was a dish that I enjoyed immensely, easily eating three or four of them in a single setting.  So whenever I see it on a menu, I am more than happy to try it out, and I was pleasantly surprised with the Tsukiji version, as it had a tame mild flavoring throughout, without an overpowering salty base as often happens, and it was clear they had incorporated an authentic dashi element in its creation. The custard itself held together nicely with neither too soft or too dense a consistency and the other ingredients (eg. shiitake, chicken, etc.) was distributed generously inside.

CHIRASHI SUSHI ($18.50) – we later realized that almost the exact same components in this dish were in the one below (sushi): maguro, shake, amaebi, uni, tobiko, hokkigai, ika & tamago – aside from the California roll of course.

As I was the one dining on this – the DELUXE ASSORTED SUSHI ($19.50) – I’ll make my comments on the individual components.  But overall, as you can see from the image, some of the nigiri were very small.  The amaebi almost looked like it was a mini-version and the accompanying rice was just as narrow and tiny.  The ika followed the same downsized cut and was almost paper thin.  Of the rest, nothing was really special nor anything that I would say you couldn’t get at any run-of-the-mill place in Vancouver.  So for sushi, I’m thinking that its probably not their strong suit.

In closing, I would say that I did like the interior layout and total asthetic, as it had a nice earthy feel with all of the light colored wood used, and it was better quality that the same type of look that I found at Suga Sushi.

Tsukiji on Urbanspoon

Wa’s Japanese Restaurant – Calgary, AB

Wa’s Japanese Restaurant
1721 Centre St N
Calgary, AB
(403) 277-2077

[Editor’s Note: Our first double posting! We figured it might be interesting to write a posting with two points of view on the different flavours we experienced. Hope you enjoy!]

Foodosopher: Japanese people like eating at places run by Japanese Chefs. I cannot explain why, but In many ways, this is true of most cultures. They prefer to eat from their own. From an authenticity standpoint, this makes sense, but in an era of globalization, I am not sure if this is true any longer. Does a native chef offer better cuisine than an import? Does growing up in a culture make one more aware of a specific food culture than someone with a great palate, a passion for the food, and the energy to learn?

Shokutsu: If I may answer what seems to be a rhetorical question from Foodosopher above, I must admit that I do tend to sneak a peak at the kitchen whenever possible, and try to learn who is actually doing the food preparation and cooking, whenever I am in an ethnic restaurant.  Mostly this is due to such places being more understated, simple family run operations where more often than not, the food that is being created does come from the native land of its operators.  In the case of some cuisine that I am less familiar with, this “authenticity” does help alleviate some apprehension I may hold about how good it could be and ease any fears that I am getting an untrue representation of that country’s food culture, especially when I may not know a whole lot about it myself.  My version of a culinary Linus Van Pelt “security blanket”.

It also helps when a server is also knowledgeable and is open to kindly sharing information on what one should look for in an accurately constructed dish from a country – Foodosopher: recall that North African restaurant with the “preachy” server,  he was a bit overbearing, but at the end of the day I found it useful in my learning.

In the end though from the kitchen/chef standpoint, I feel that it should not matter where the cook is coming from, provided he has been well trained in the particular cuisine he is serving up by someone who him/herself has been trained well.  Unfortunately, this is where we see a lot of faults in North America, especially from the sushi point of view – with the mass development of “Japanese” restaurants on as many corners as Starbucks, out to capitalize on the craze, but having no formal training in the cuisine they are serving.

Foodosopher: Wa’s is a Japanese-run restaurant on the North side of downtown Calgary. Not just sushi, they carry a variety of Japanese dishes – offering a large cross section of dishes from tempura, ramen, and a variety of dishes cooked and raw. A typical North American Japanese restaurant.

As an aside, when discussing the typical “North American Japanese restaurant” with one Japanese chef in Calgary, I found it interesting that he complained about parts of his business – specifically, sushi. He didn’t train as a sushi chef, and found it stressful to prepare fish, being much more comfortable in his domain of serving up teishoku meals. It leads me to wonder how many Japanese restaurants have chefs who are trained in one specific discipline, and yet working in a multi-discipline restaurant because that is what the local market demands?

Foodosopher: Back to Wa’s, located in a small, recessed strip mall backed away from Centre Street, it is easy to pass it by without noticing it. In fact, the first time I was looking for it, after a Japanese co-worker had continuously expounded on the qualities of Wa’s, I drove by it 3 times until i finally noticed it. For some reason, this reminds me (quite pleasantly in fact) of Tokyo, where trying to find the location of a specific restaurant is often like trying to find Waldo. You know it’s there, but it takes a while.

Shokutsu: My first visit to Wa’s was the result of me one day lamenting the fact that I was missing the Shochu-based “sours” from izakaya establishments in Japan and wished I could get some in Calgary.  My Japanese friend told me flat out that I could get them at Wa’s and we made a quick stop and sat at the counter to partake in some drinks and some appetizers.  It’s been a while since that first visit, but as you note, had I not been introduced, I could have easily drove back and forth in front of the building and not know what that place housed inside.  For those who are not aware, the Japanese character you see on the exterior signage is read as “WA” (meaning Japanese); and is often used with the character of “SHOKU” (which means cuisine or food).  I am thinking that many people assumed the owner’s name was “Wa” or something, but this is not the case. 🙂

Foodosopher: The interior is quite small, and has a dark, simple, wooden feel. A simple room, circled by some booths and tables, and a simple sushi bar. In many ways, it reminds me of a classic Japanese Izakaya, albeit smaller.

Shokutsu: The layout and design of the space does lend itself well to the laid back atmosphere that I’ve experienced every time I’ve been here.  I’ve never experienced one of those loud, bustling scenes here that you may find in some of the izakaya in Vancouver – that is both a good and bad thing I suppose, depending on your point of view.

Shokutsu: With the cold brisk Alberta night air cutting through my Vancouver weather-appropriate jacket like a knife, I wanted to get something both warm and comforting in an appetizer, thankfully the Agedashi Tofu met these needs and then some.  The broth (shoyu, dashi, mirin) was very flavorful and the chunks of fried tofu were a good size requiring a few bites each to finish off each cube.  The bounty of toppings including green onions, daikon oroshi, ginger, etc. made for an authentic mix of flavors that complemented this dish very well.

Foodosopher:I didn’t find the weather too bad, it would be a bit wimpy to complain about such a pleasant evening, so i decided some fresh fish was in order. The aforementioned Japanese coworker comes here for sushi, which as i mentioned previously, is also one of my three places I am willing to eat sushi in Calgary. Generally, it is quite reasonable, very fresh, and very well selected, cut, and prepared. This evening was no exception.

The saba was honestly some of the best i’ve had in North America. Fresh firm, with a slight hint of the sea, without being overwhelmingly sour, salty, or fishy. A fantastic piece of fish. If we weren’t on notice for “last call”, which occurs 30 minutes before they close, I would’ve ordered more.

The tamago was standard North American fare. Nothing worth writing home about.

Foodosopher: The maki was fairly impressive as well – more often than not made from trim loss, I know it sounds a bit ironic but it was high quality trim! Good fish, good nori, decent rice, not the best “roll” i’ve seen, but good flavour.

Foodosopher: The salmon nigiri was impeccable – a nice rich fattiness, cleanly trimmed of any undesirable pieces. Good rice. From a raw standpoint, salmon is one of those fish that is hard to go wrong with in Canada. I’ve had a lot of the best salmon that Japan has to offer, and I can tell you Canada’s average salmon stands up to it without fail.

Shokutsu: As much as I wanted to reach out and snatch a piece after seeing how beautiful they were, I was afraid of what the Sushi Monster in front of me might do to my hand if I dared encroach on his meal.  Just based on visuals alone, I knew the salmon nigiri must have tasted incredible!

Shokutsu: Sometimes I am not in the mood for nigiri.  It might be due to being a bit shell-shocked through having some really bad stuff all too often in Vancouver.  And then other times, I desire the simplicity of sashimi, to allow me to get a true taste of the quality of the restaurant’s offering.  Furthermore, sometimes I still crave the sushi rice.  Best solution, get the Chirashi Sushi.  They do it very well here at Wa’s, albeit a bit pricy.  The balance of ingredients ran the gamut of their sushi menu, and what surprised me most of all was the volume of sushi rice – the bowl was deceptively deep.  The quality of the sushi rice was very good, which made finishing off the entire bowl a challenge, but a welcome one at that.  As very often with chirashi, I end up not eating the provided sushi rice as it is a gooey mess (Uptown Sushi in Calgary was a repeat offender on this) , but not here at Wa’s.

Foodosopher: Finally, though they run out of it fairly frequently, I had a bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.95). While on the small side, It is well topped: chasu, menma, spring onions, konbu, and beni shoga, in the hakata ramen style. The chasu is nice and well-flavoured,  a good balance of fat and pork. The noodles were a little less appropriate. Cooked to the soft side, they failed to shine in this bowl. They tasted like they were purchased from some local, pre-packaged noodle provider. The broth I enjoyed, had a decent flavour, though it lacked any real oiliness expected from a tonkotsu broth, was a bit thin, and was definitely a bit salty. I found out later than they buy their tonkotsu broth in a can, which would explain the saltiness, though I still stand by the fact that the broth is surprisingly decent. Overall, definitely much better than Muku, and for me, on par with Shikiji for a ramen offering in town.

Shokutsu: Surprisingly, I’ve never had the Tonkotsu Ramen here at Wa’s, despite hearing of it being the only place offering it, pre-Muku.  It is on my list for my next visit to this southern Alberta city, after Foodospher kindly offered me a spoon tasting of the broth.  It did seem a bit dense/thick to me, but I tend to like it that way as it clings to the noodles (especially if they are of the crinkly variety).  A more thorough tasting is required by me, but based on my single tasting, I was in agreement that it was a good offering.

Foodosopher: There’s actually a lot to like about Wa’s. Though it is fairly small and often full, they serve up some good, fresh Japanese food at decent prices. As a “general” Japanese restaurant, I feel they would fail to standout in a city with more specialized choices, with restaurants that did a better job at specific dishes and styles. However, in Calgary, there are a lot of redeeming qualities. Wa’s is worth visiting, not just because they are Japanese run, but for me, start and end with the freshness and quality of the fish.

Shokutsu: I will say that I concur with Foodosopher’s stance that the quality of the fish and the preparation of it is indeed top notch here at Wa’s.  They also do a good job with items from the kitchen as well, which warrants some more exploration on my part, as there are still some standard items I like to use as benchmarks when eating at all-encompassing Japanese restaurants in Canada.  Please feel free to leave us your feedback, comments, questions as usual in the box below…

Wa's Japanese on Urbanspoon