1626 W Broadway
Generally in life, I abhor queues and lineups. Chalk it up to immaturity or impatience. But mainly I hate wasting time doing nothing. That and I have a very short attention span.
So when I spot new places in and around town, I’m often torn about when to go and check them out. When I first saw Suika open its doors during its first week, I had noted that I should go early and beat the crowds that would no doubt be keen on exploring the menu of an izakaya setup that was not located in the downtown core. Quite refreshing for that aspect alone and with the pedigree of its Kingyo backing, the word of mouth was sure to spread like wildfire. Looking back at the year that has passed, its clear that’s exactly what has happened. Good on them I say.
So recently I finally made my virgin pilgrimage to their busy West Broadway location, even managing to squeeze into a table just at opening and avoiding the need to have had a reservation. I should clarify. I have been here a few times before attempting the “let’s get a table on a busy night and hope for the best” approach, only to get turned away at the door by one of the friendly staffers. The chillier weather, a light rain, I think contributed to my favorable venture this time, although by thirty minutes after opening, the place was pretty much filled to capacity.
Hapa Izakaya (Robson)
1479 Robson St Map
Clearly, with all of the attention this long standing location has received over the years in local publications as well as by online bloggers, it would perhaps seem strange to some that there has not been a post made here on foodosophy, despite our group’s well known love for the izakaya genre.
I cannot attest to the experience of the other contributors here, but personally, I must have passed by the front of this business 20~30 times over the last several years. And among these, I can only recall stepping inside to check out the scene and/or consider dining inside, mainly out of curiosity, a handful of times. Its just never really struck me as a place I need to check off my dining list. For whatever reason.
Further, I can count on one hand the number of occasions when I made my mind up to really taste the food/sample the drinks here, but decided to turn around after some very spotty service – mainly the lack of attention from any of the staff upon stepping inside and vocally/visually making signs that I wanted to be seated. I can clearly recall this happening at least three times now. And on this last visit, it happened again.
But we stuck around trying to get someone to see us waiting, going beyond my usual patience level. Even flagging down one of the wait staff and being told she’d be back, only to be ignored again. After literally grabbing the next girl that came near us and demanding we get a table (there were several open), we were finally seated.
Zakkushi Charcoal Grill
4075 Main Street
As the boom in interest for the izakaya genre exploded in recent years on the Canadian west coast, there were a few that stood out for me in terms of offering something that I strongly felt would appeal to the local market and tastes. Zakkushi was on the top of this list, especially when you consider their base premise is something that North Americans can relate to – that being charcoal barbecue and grilled meat-on-a-stick. For the newbie, it is a lot more understandable and palatable than say someone just getting introduced to say sushi for the very first time as their initial foray into Japanese cuisine.
So it was quite fitting that I visited the Main Street (one of three outlets of this business that is fast becoming a growing chain) with a friend of mine who self-admittedly noted that he didn’t grow up with a lot of “ethnic” food in his parents’ home in rural Saskatchewan, and even today, his folks aren’t that adventurous but he’s learning to branch out his eating repertoire now that he’s based in Vancouver. I thought I’d try and shock his system by introducing to him something that I was positive he would find odd and wonder why anyone would want to eat it.
Guu With Garlic
1698 Robson Street
It would seem I’m slowly making my way to checking out all those izakaya that I’ve heard about the past five years or so that I’ve subconsciously been avoiding deliberately since I perhaps harbor some bias in that I will no doubt mentally compare them to all the great ones I’ve been to in Japan. Alas, Guu seems to have won me over as I’ve now been to several of their stations and will perhaps make my rounds to them all one day. This particular visit was the back end of a night out with an old friend visiting Vancouver for a short business trip. In reality in keeping with true Japanese salaryman tradition, we should have reversed the order, but oh well.
Immediately after our hearty meal, I’m surprised we were able to down a short but steady stream of nama beeru. Asahi was the pick on this evening. A visit to an izakaya just wouldn’t be the same without some cold ones, so once again, glancing over the the folks seated at the counter bar with us who were just drinking water just made me shake my head. Its like dressing up to go to the ball, but not engaging in any dancing, I just don’t understand. 🙂
1508 Robson Street
Again, as noted in yesterday’s update, my full attention was not paid to this dining experience, as I was there mainly re-hashing old times with a friend that I had not seen in over a decade. Hence this post will be brief. My other visits to this perpetual favorite of Robson Street’s eating scene were a while ago now, so my memories of even past meals are faded. Alas, I guess this means I need to make another trip to Gyoza King in the future and really flush out how I feel about this place. Foodospher, you coming for a Vancouver visit anytime soon? 🙂
Some other dishes were ordered by the “third wheel” at our table as she was less inclined to want to listen to old stories of our drunken youth, but I only shot this solo shot (with my cell phone to boot) of a ten-plate of genso gyoza, just so I’d have something on the record. Of course, the cold bottles of Asahi kept flowing. I must say the thing that first and foremost stands out for me of Gyoza King’s gyoza is how tight the skins are and well packed the inside ingredients are but without bursting at the seams.
838 Thurlow Street
In the past, I’ve touched on various reasons why despite the surge of popularity (which is a good thing) and the burgeoning mainstream acceptance of this concept of Japanese drinking-dining in Vancouver that I don’t regularly frequent them, in particular the better known ones that have been exposed in major media outlets. I won’t rehash them all here for the sake of brevity and for not sounding like a broken record. And let me add that it is just my personal feel and thoughts on this topic, not to say they shouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone out there and I’d ask you continue to support the businesses out there that serve this transplanted, albeit North Americanized-style of going out on the town.
So when an old friend and his colleague visiting from the east coast (Washington, DC in fact) that I hadn’t seen in over 12 years let me know he’d be making a short business trip to our fair city on the other side of the continent and would be housed up in a hotel not far from Robson Street, he asked me to give him some ideas of where to eat while in town. Better yet, he wondered if there were any Japanese places that could help us relieve our brief time together spent in Tokyo oh those many years ago. That instantly brought back some flashbacks of too many crazy nights in the local izakaya around our flat, and the mad dashes to catch the last train home when we ventured a bit further out for some binge-focused evenings of drinking and eating. Ah, to be young again.
Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya
1160-8391 Alexandra Road
Its been a while since this visit to Richmond actually took place, but as with many restaurant experiences, something that happened remains strongly ingrained in my memory that I just can’t shake and its what I’ve come to associate with Nan Chuu as a result. Marketing and branding experts would call this a touch point or moment of truth – when a customer comes into contact with any dimension of the restaurant and something is noticed, assessed and interpreted about the enterprise. For me on this particular weekday evening (incidentally not too early or late enough to avoid the horribly inadequate parking situation near this part of town), it was the a flurry of awkward service interactions that disrupted the enjoyment of an otherwise decent array of dishes sampled.
It stemmed from an apparent lack of training or preparedness on the part of both the experienced Japanese-speaking veteran servers and those who clearly had no idea what a waitress is supposed to do. The language barrier between the Japanese and Chinese speaking staff was apparent to me. From what I could overhear from the obvious floor manager/lead wait staff member, there was also a new girl who had recently come to BC after a working-holiday stint in one of Banff’s better known Japanese restaurants. She seemed to know what she was doing from the get-go, but was getting some finer tips from her team lead. There were two other girls who looked identical to eat other with their dark colored hipster glasses and long dark hair, and my guess would have put them at barely being legal to serve alcoholic beverages.