Hi Genki – Burnaby, BC


Hi Genki
6680 Southoaks Crescent
Burnaby, BC
(604) 777-0533

December 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

定食

Teishoku.  Often referred to as ‘set meals’, although not always strictly following that definition in Japanese eateries.  Originally, the collection of several dishes in a combination, priced to be lower than if one was to order them individually, is often thought of as the reason this particular genre developed in dining out lingo.  The basic tray generally includes a bowl of steamed white rice, miso shiru (miso soup), a tsukemono (pickled vegetable) of some kind, and a main dish (be it grilled, raw, fried, stewed, noodles, etc.) of some kind.  To me, it reminds me of student cafeterias or lunch time hangouts for the white collar crowd where I had these many a time in Japan.

So it was no surprise that at Hi Genki which was essentially the dining area, very much cafeteria-like except there was table service, of a senior citizens home next to the Nikkei Place (home of the the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre) the menu was lined with several teishoku offerings.  I’d been forewarned that the clientele there could be more of the gray hair crowd but to our surprise it was mostly filled with young people, lots of couples in fact.  None of whom appeared to be there visiting any aging relatives.  A virtual full house, couldn’t be bad, could it?

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Margarita’s Dishes (CFM) – Calgary, AB


Margarita’s Dishes @ Calgary Farmers Market
Quesnay Wood Drive Southwest
Calgary, AB
(403) 244-4548

Home cooking. Something about those two simple words evokes a lot of thoughts and feelings. It’s a funny term in the world of food. Simple, unadorned fare made with care and attention. Served in the trappings of a fine dining restaurant, it would be boring, uninspired, and disappointing. But serve it in a rustic kitchen, with a smiling mother in an apron, and you have comfort, soothing, and tasty fare.

Margarita’s Dishes is one of several “food court” options at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, serving what I would classify as home cooking. In their location, you definitely have a rustic kitchen. Instead of a smiling mother in an apron, you have the smiling proprietor, Danny, in an apron. His friendly demeanor, razor sharp memory, and enthusiasm make you feel instantly comfortable. And don’t underestimate it, it’s an important part of the charm.

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Margarita’s Dishes serves Ukrainian and German fare – but really, in Alberta, the food it serves mostly just qualifies as home cooking. Good gut sticking fare like blintzes, pyrohy, cabbage rolls, bratwurst, and stuffed peppers. As the sign clearly states, they sell fresh and frozen products. I’ve only ever had their fresh – preferring to eat whatever they’ve made that day.

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The lineups at Margarita’s are always long, yet, they efficiently deliver food to hundreds of customers each day. A steam table under heat lamps keeps the food warm – i’d obviously prefer these cooked to order, but the turnover is high enough, and the food that is being made doesn’t seem to suffer, it’s a reasonable way to handle the volume. After the steam table is a tray of their popular freshly squeezed juices. These are a nice, cost effective way to get your vitamins. Your mother would approve!

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My go-to order here is a blintz.  These come in sweet and savory versions, but at Margarita’s, it’s generally just the savory. A crepe made with a yeasted/risen batter, stuffed with some precooked filling, and pan fried.

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The best i’ve had there is the spinach and feta. For the price (either $2.50 or $3.00), it is a great deal. A great, soft blin that has been sauteed to crispy, with a warm, gooey, heart-warming filling of cheese and spinach. It is rich, yet not heavy all at the same time. The ladle of sour cream is a nice Ukrainian touch, lending a touch of calm – cool and sour – to a warm and rich bite.

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The bratwurst and sauerkraut is another popular item. Served on a baguette. a warm, juicy bratwurst is generously covered in sauerkraut. Try one of their fridge pickles if they have them – the crunchy sourness goes great with the hot grease of the bratwurst.

Margarita’s Dishes is neither fancy, nor inspired. It is good solid home cooking, and im just fine with that. Their soul-satisfying food really warms a place in the stomach, reminding you of some of the simple foods from days gone by. Before things like molecular gastronomy, locavore, GMO, and other modern day labels and trappings existed, meals like Margarita’s were just food, or Sunday lunch. For me, it’s important to remember these times – because back then, all that mattered when it came right down to it was that you were happy and satisfied. The essence of what home cooking is all about.

Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant
1125 West 12th Ave. (1st floor of the Shaughnessy Village Hotel)
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 742-0234
Hours: Tue-Sun (closed Sun); Morning, 7am to 11:45am; Dinner, 5pm to 9:30pm

Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

True Japanese cuisine of the home-style variety in its purest form.  That is what Tenhachi places its focus on throughout the Japanese side of their menu (being located in the lobby of a hotel, some Western dishes are made available too), in clear contrast to the numerous restaurants serving up popular North American-Japanese staples such as chicken teriyaki and the like.  In addition to further differentiate themselves from the crowd of Japanese restaurants in town, Tenhachi emphasizes natural and organic ingredients, made clear through their operating motto of “Karada ni ii tabemono” (Food that’s good for the body).

Since opening their doors back on June 1st, 2007, Tenhachi has slowly built a loyal following, especially among the ex-pat Japanese community living in the city.  By offering an authentic taste of home, it is a welcomed reprieve for those living abroad by allowing them to get genuine meals to cure those cases of homesickness that arise.  And for local Vancouverites, Tenhachi offers a glimpse into another realm of home cooking, Japanese style.

The list of “higawari” (daily changing) and regular menu items presents a refreshing set of options for the knowing and/or adventurous crowd, of Japanese dishes not commonly seen in North American-based Japanese restaurants.  This is especially true for the fish dishes.  Tenhachi proudly proclaims that they get direct-from-Japan fresh fish delivered by air freight to their kitchen twice a week.  You can even ask them to order specific fish should they not have it on the menu, they will do their best to see if their suppliers in Japan can provide it.  For local fish, wild sockeye salmon tops the available choices.

The importance of quality ingredients doesn’t stop there.  The rice they use at Tenhachi is also specifically chosen.  The brand, Tamaki Gold, is a variety of the Koshihikari grain, and is considered the best available quality among those grown in North America.  They use this in all of their teishoku (set meals) and okwarai (refills) are free!  The miso used in their cooking, notably the miso shiru (soup), is fully organic.  For their salads, this trend continues with the use of only organically-grown local vegetables.  Lastly, the cha (green tea) is also purely natural, a top grade variety from Shizuoka prefecture in Japan (this region is well known for their high quality tea growers).

The teishoku options include popular choices such as braised fish with options for this including the popular Miso Saba (miso flavored Mackerel), and the more exotic such as Hirame (Flat Fish/Sole), Karei (Turbot), Itoyori (Golden Threadfin Bream), Tachiuo (Scabbard Fish), and Kawahagi (Thread-sail Filefish) were the special ones flown in from Japan and available on the menu this day.  Yaki Sakana (grilled fish) with choices such as Mackerel Pike, Mackerel, Salmon, Katsuo (Skipjack Tuna), Kanpachi (Amberjack/Yellowtail), etc were available, and some of these could also be prepared as braised.  Other dishes such as the Hire Katsu (deep fried pork cutlet), Buta Shogayaki (grilled ginger-flavored pork), Aji Fry (Fried Horse Mackerel), etc. were also noted.

Including a bowl of steamed rice, miso soup, and two kobachi (side dishes) and one tsukemono (pickled dish) and with prices hovering around $13-$15 for most of these teishoku choices, it makes for a very reasonable, healthy and nutritionally well-balanced meal.

I wanted to introduce Tenhachi to my dining companion on this evening (a recent new transplant to Vancouver, and someone who can appreciate solid Japanese food) to give him a chance to see a relatively unknown but distinctive restaurant as he gets to know the city’s dining scene.  We opened our meal with a sampling from the appetizer section, a Matsutake (Pine Mushroom) Tempura.  A good six, seven pieces arrived in the basket, with me noticing how tender and meaty the matsutake were, and my dinner partner noting the strong pine scents coming from each bite.  A superb tempura, not at all overly battery, and cooked at just the right temperature of oil to make it neither too soggy or too crispy on the outside.  I would recommend this dish to anyone who enjoys tempura, and is seeking a change from the usual fare of shrimp, carrots, broccoli, etc, that you often find in tempura combinations.

The teishoku dishes beckoned us, and seeking some rarer fish options from the special menu, I went with the Karei braised in a sweet soy-based sauce, with my friend choosing the salt grilled Kawahagi.  I only had a small taste of the latter, but came away surprised at how flavorful the simple looking whitefish was.  My dining companion remarked that he was quite satisfied with his meal, going to show you that taking a chance on an ingredient you’ve never heard of does work out from time to time.

If you’ve ever seen either of these species of fish, you know they are not physically attractive.  With their flat structures and buggy eyes, they don’t look at overly appetizing.  Thankfully, once fileted and prepared in the kitchen, the piece of fish becomes a delicious central part of a teishoku.  My braised Karei was cooked in just the right balance of the traditional Japanese trio of soy sauce, sake and mirin.  Often, the latter sweet ingredient is used in too high a portion and it becomes almost dessert-like in sweetness when done poorly, and thankfully Tenhachi was not victim to making this sugary-sweet.  The meat was flaky but not dried out since it had been braised, and fell off easily from the bone contained within.  Karei has relatively larger and fewer bones in its structure, so it certainly makes for easier pickings.  I know many a fish lover dislike eating cooked fish for the painstaking need to remove all the delicate and difficult to see bones in some fish, so the Karei makes for a welcome option for those people.

West 12th Avenue is normally a busy commuter road in Vancouver, but after 6pm parking right out front of the building is free.  The restaurant is not easy to spot while passing in front.  Don’t expect much from the decor, as I am assuming its the remnants of the previous hotel restaurant, but don’t let that disappoint you, as the food will more than make up for it.  And if you are up to checking out a Japanese-style breakfast, you can enjoy those from as early as 7am.  Lastly, an interesting bit of information.  Tenhachi offers a unique 10% discount.  This can be had only if you mention upon paying your bill, the secret phrase and designated number, that changes every two weeks, and is available via a certain source.  I’ll leave the rest to your investigative skills…

Tenhachi Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon