Kanpachi Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Kanpachi Japanese Restaurant
457 Broadway West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 879-8228

[prefectionist1] I had my eye on this newcomer to the Cambie Village Restaurant scene and I was happy to take up Shokutsu’s offer of grabbing a bite to eat.  With the recent opening of the Canada Line, Kanpachi is in an ideal visual location as it is one of the first restaurants you see upon exiting the the new Broadway/City Hall Station. It seemed like the the Russian cuisine restaurant Rasputin, was transplanted overnight with yet another Japanese restaurant.  I had walked past Rasputin on several occasions but with the dark interior, I was never tempted to sit down for a meal.  Kanpachi provides much improved street appeal and I also heard a few things about the new digs before we decided on it for dinner.  BBQ was on my mind but that’ll have to wait for another day…

Sushi Shoot ($3), essentially seared tuna.

[prefectionist1] It seems that whenever I get together with Shokutsu, we tend to have the same approach to menu selections…  Either we go for the most obscure, or the most traditional items.  My thought process is that if you are going to push the culinary boundaries, go to the extreme; if you go traditional, do it right and have respect for the original creation.

The menu at Kanpachi was straightforward with  everything on the menu being relatively inexpensive.  The first choice for dinner this evening was the Sushi Shoot which was just a fancy name for seared maguro (tuna) nigiri sushi.  On the palate, the ponzu infused diakon overpowered the delicate flavor of the maguro.

It may be my opinion, but searing raw tuna serves to add complexity to the generally light flavour profile of the fish.  With the heavy handed addition of the ponzu infused/soaked diakon, I wasn’t overly sold on the dish.  It wasn’t bad, nor exceptional so I would give it a <shrugging shoulders> “meh”…

[shokutsu] I’m all for light searing, especially when it involves quality maguro (tuna).  I think we were more intrigued by the name of the item more than anything else.  The fish itself was pretty good in terms of its texture and flavour.  On the topping, I’m with prefectionist1, it didn’t do much for me either.

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Choon Ha Choo Dong – Vancouver, BC


Choon Ha Choo Dong
36 East Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 874-4131

Prepare for a volley of posts on local Korean restaurants dear readers, it seems yours truly has been on a big kick lately for the spicy, bold flavours that are associated with that peninsula from the Far East…

Choon Ha Choo Dong (the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters results in the English: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) could easily be one of the hardest to notice or even find, Korean restaurants in Vancouver…

First off, its not in the downtown west end which is fast becoming the Korea Town of the city.  Instead its situated on the second floor of a plain looking building on East Broadway just before Main Street and the exterior facade isn’t modern but has a different kind of character about it.  I’ve driven by it countless times but its only recently that I’ve actually gone inside.

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Bikkuri Japanese Restaurant – Toronto, ON


Bikkuri Japanese Restaurant
36 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario  M5C 1E5
Tel: (416) 369-0330

I recently found myself staying downtown Toronto, near the financial district for a few days.  Much like the first time I visited this city – the humidex was up making my Alberta-acclimatized self,  feel as though I was standing in a steam-room.  😉

Stepping out onto Yonge Street – I pull out my trusty iphone and run the iSushi application, to identify the closest sushi restaurants from my current location.  Weeding out any obvious no-no’s, we start walking towards Bikkuri Japanese Restaurant located on King Street and a block east of Yonge.

We are promptly seated in this surprisingly large restaurant, and are given a large selection of choices from their huge menu.  We ordered some chicken karaage as an appetizer, and the mains consisted of the nabeyaki udon, nigiri sushi combo, and the salmon-teriyaki.  The latter two entrees came with a starter salad and bowl of miso soup, which both arrived quickly.  Both tasted very good, which put my initial concerns about our destination decision at ease.

The chicken karaage arrived quickly – served on a soba dish garnished with lemon wedges.  The karaage was cooked well, but the flavour lacked punch.  Figuring that a shot of lemon might perk this up a little – I found that it was difficult to use – as the wedge was subjected to some unnecessary knife-work to partially separate the fruit from the rind.

bikkuri_karaage

Moving to the entrees, the salmon-teriyaki scored average.  The salmon portion was huge – served in three slices, with veg and a bowl of rice.  The fish was cooked well, saved by the pleasant flavour of the teriyaki sauce being just right (not overly sweet).  The sides of carrot and broccoli seemed like an odd pairing though.

bikkuri_salmon_teri

The nabeyaki udon was by far the worst dish on the table.  Soup had no flavour (we even tried to make it palatable by adding lots of togarashi), and the presentation lacked any visible appeal.

The highlight of the night was the nigiri sushi.  Presented well, good balance of fish-to-rice, every piece tasted very fresh.  The shari had a slightly sweeter flavour than I’m used to, but was still good.   I would like to acknowledge the knife-work by the itamae, as he took the time to trim the ebi-tail for that little bit of flair, scored the tai and ika to attain a uniform nigiri form.

bikkuri_sushi

My only complaint would be that the tako was a bit thin, and the six lemon slices garnishing the plate were completely unnecessary.

Overall – I would recommend Bikkuri for their nigiri sushi, but think they should revisit their cooked dishes as they can use some work.

Bikkuri Japanese on Urbanspoon

Modern Club – Vancouver, BC


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Modern Club Japanese Restaurant
3446 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-739-0170

okonomi = “as you like”
yaki = “cooked”

Probably to most, Modern Club is an unusual sounding name for a place that is supposed to be specializing in okonomiyaki, a centuries old Japanese creation that consists basically of a batter mixture of flour and water that is mixed with various ingredients all cooked together on a hot plate/grill and formed into a circular disc/pie-shape (incidentally, I always cringe when I hear okonomiyaki being described as a Japanese pancake, so let’s avoid that terminology here), and topped off with some sweet okonomiyaki sauce, shaved bonito (katsuo) flakes, even finer seaweed flakes (aonori), and Japanese mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki took an interest route to its modern day state, with its origins reputed to have begun way back in the Edo Period (17~19th Century) of Japan, with a Japanese sweet known as funoyaki, which had a similar base batter made of flour and water, that was thinly spread out and cooked, then flavored with miso and sugar.  It has undergone other transformations over time, including variations called dondonyaki, betayaki, choboyaki, and even one that still exists today in the Kanto region of Japan (eg. Tokyo) known as monjayaki (the more liquidy batter version of okonomiyaki), before finally coming to be known in present-day as okonomiyaki.

The various stages of this dish’s development over time have been impacted by the introduction/availability or lack there of, of ingredients – the Great Earthquake that ravaged Tokyo in 1923 that caused food rations, the introduction of western Worcestershire sauce, etc. being interesting contributing historical factors.  Today, you can find okonomiyaki appearing in various ways, most due to the regional differences that have evolved through its long history – an interesting trait of many popular items in Japanese cuisine, which derives or is influenced by the cultural and traditional forced compartmentalization of geographic regions in pre-modern Japan by the rulers of the day, but alas that could be an entirely separate topic, and one that could probably be applied to many other parts of the world as well.

Back to the Modern Club.  From the outside, it appears almost like a cafe of sorts, with its small sidewalk patio and open wooden framing tucked into the side of a continuous row of buildings on Dunbar Street.  The space came across as bistro-like inside, so not sure if there was a previous tenant in this spot that the owners simply took over, or if it was designed this way.  My visit here was a planned trip and luckily on this night, they were offering all of the okonomiyaki dishes for a special price of $9.95.  I could see the prices on the menu were much higher, in the $16-$18 range, so was happy to receive the discount.  I’m not sure why the prices were cut this night, but reading about complaints on other sites about the high prices, perhaps they were influenced somehow by this negative feedback.  Or perhaps I am just deluding myself into assuming us online bloggers exert any power over restaurants’ operations.

In Japan, most single proprietor okonomiyaki places are really down to earth, a complete lack of a pretentious atmosphere, as after all this is very much home-style cuisine.  And most importantly, they let you cook it yourself, which is a big part of the overall experience.  Getting that bowl full of ingredients, mixing it around, layering on a fine coat of oil to the hot teppan (grill), gentling guiding the mixture onto it as it starts to sizzle, and then shaping it into a nice round shape – all takes some practice and talent, especially when it comes to the flipping over part of this DYI task!  Alas, at Modern Club, the choice to cook at your own table it taken completely out of the picture, as all the tables had no such teppan on it to do your own cooking.  There was a large central cordoned off teppan towards the side of the room, where the cook prepared it for you.  I imagine most North Americans have grown to accept those cook-you-own-meal barbecue places, but have yet to be fully taught on the finer points of self-made okonomiyaki, and would probably have no idea what they are doing, so perhaps this setup is just fine.  Though if this place really wants to be known for okonomiyaki, I think they should invest in the necessary tables and bring a fresh element to this dish and this place, I am sure the sizzle alone would be great for word-of-mouth!

For my meal, I chose the mixed okonomiyaki and added the choice of noodles – thereby changing the proper naming of this dish to modanyaki (hence the tie-in to the restaurant’s name) – although the choices were soba or udon noodles when traditionally it would be specific yakisoba noodles or chukamen (kind of crinkly, ramen style noodles).  I went with the mixed edition mainly to see just how balanced the ingredients were inside.  My dining partner did the same, though was right when they expressed some hesitation that perhaps we should have just gotten one and shared, as when it did come out, it was a pretty big pie!  Throw in the fact that I had half downed a bottle of Sapporo beer (the very same one that appears on the header image for this month) and had nibbled away on some simple chicken karaage, and I was putting myself in trouble from the get-go before I had even a single bit of the okonomiyaki!

First impressions, it looked not bad, nice and thick, almost Hiroshima-style like in that it almost passed off as being layered since it was so puffed up, though it could have used some more sauce and was missing both the bonito and seaweed flakes!  This easily filled the plate it came on.  First bit, boy its dense!  Loaded with the udon noodles, made it even more so.  Amply filled with cabbage too, which was a disappointment, as it felt like that was the main ingredient in this supposedly mixed okonomiyaki.  A few more bites and I realized that they were using way too much vegetable oil inside and to cook this on the hotplate, it began to sag badly and collapse as I cut it into quarters on my plate – shouldn’t do that.  It did have a few nice juicy prawns and some cuts of bacon (I would have preferred whole strips of bacon as you get in Japan, and not the small one cm cuts of it), but other than that the added ingredients were lacking in number – “Where’s the Mix” I say!  By the time I managed to finish half of it, mainly to prevent myself from possibly growing hungry later that night, I was done with this dish.  My dining partner was even less enthused and finished just a quarter.  To save face, we got them to wrap them up but soon found their way into the trash once we got home – they were even more soggy a short 20 minute car ride later.

Let’s be frank, if you are looking for a real authentic okonomiyaki, your best bet is to travel to Osaka (Kansai region) and find one of any of the restaurants serving this as their specialty.  You’ll only know the true taste of okonomiyaki by doing so.  Though giving credit where credit is due, you have to applaud Modern Club for making an attempt here, to bring to the table something from home kitchens in Japan, to Vancouver, which is overpopulated by bad grab-and-dash sushi, and even worse bastardized renditions of classic Japanese cuisine that seems to be assumed as the standard.  So they do have a niche, and seeing the smattering of couples who were dining that same night, I guess they have some fans in the Dunbar area.  I won’t be going back though.  That is unless they take my idea of trying to hit a home run by introducing the teppan tables and letting us create our own!

P.S.  Here is an image of an table-made seafood okonomiyaki that I had in Tokyo a short while ago.  It was a very simple teppan place, and a lunch special for about $10.  Interestingly, they even had some fine rice-shaped bits of cereal for some added crunch inside, which I thought was a great secret ingredient.  As you can see, a much thinner package, not loaded up excessively with cabbage inside and filled with an assortment of seafood.

Modern Club on Urbanspoon