Genji Japanese Restaurant – Burnaby, BC


Genji Japanese Restaurant
7533 Market Crossing
Burnaby, BC
(604) 433-9710

My first experience dining at this restaurant that is situated in the relatively new commercial shopping area on the southern edge of Burnaby along Marine Way was mixed to say the least.  My brief recap that I’d posted as a regular post on Urbanspoon was as follows:

A newish-looking and spacious interior, perhaps a bit too large as near the entrance its quite barren and when there are few customers, it just feels really cool and library-sih quiet. Had an assortment of roll sushi with a friend who enjoys that kind of thing. Wasn’t horribly bad until our off-the-wall pick of one that had some white sauce. Had a bit of an annoying mix up, mainly due to language barrier with our server, that dragged on much longer than we thought it should as it was an communication mistake (on their part) and though we thought they might ding us on the bill, they didn’t. Not enough shines thru with the sushi to get me to come back.

Now I’m at times a forgiving fellow.  Even when it comes to places to eat that I was less than 100% satisfied.  Part of returning is to be fair, and also to see if things had improved at all.  This time I went solo, as I did not want to burden a dining partner as I had the first time.  For sushi in this part of town, choices are somewhat limited, so Genji Japanese Restaurant has that going for it, for now…

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Kimura – Vancouver, BC


Kimura Sushi & Japanese Cuisine
3883 Rupert Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 569-2198

[Re-visit (Feb 2011) post here]

There seemed to be some buzz in the local community surrounding this newly opened sushi-ya on the city’s east side, not traditionally an area that one associates with the best Vancouver has to offer in this genre of cuisine, so I added it to my list of places to visit upon returning from my latest summer Asia adventures.  This meal at Kimura took place on a quiet weekend afternoon in the hopes of taking in the reputed laid back, jazz-infused environment that I’d heard about through the grapevine and local blogging community.  With a few tables and seats at the bar counter occupied, it was just right in terms of ambient people noise and atmosphere as I gingerly slid my jet-lagged body into a chair for a meal with one of my most hardest-to-please sushi eating associates.

I won’t repeat what others have gone into in terms of the proprietor’s background and restaurant experience as its been laid out more than enough times for those that want to learn about it.  In any event, its a welcome arrival from my perspective, and hope others in the city make their way here to take in a careful (e.g. not rushed) service and meal with some quality ingredients and preparation.  Just make sure if you do, to keep your eye out for this place as its not the easiest to spot if you’re coming from the other side of the street as its nestled subtly into a building that houses some other businesses, with plenty of natural foliage (for as long as the leaves survive anyways) of mature trees further blocking the view.

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Matsuzushi – Coquitlam, BC


Matsuzushi
403 North Road #203
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 931-3713

Things have changed since I last visited Matsuzushi.  For one, the combined space with the small grocery item store has been downsized.  Though there is a definite partition that divides the two, it still retains its very casual and almost cafeteria-like ambiance with minimal decor and fuss.  For those unfamiliar, the system is a pay-first one.  After placing your order at the cashier and paying for your meal ahead of time, find a seat and your food will be brought out to you – no need to rush back to the counter for pickup.

Outside on their handmade signboard on this day, I noticed a listing of specials.  As I’m apt to do, I decided to try something on it and given the hot weather, the summer hiyashichuka (cold Japanese noodles) seemed perfect.  There seems to be a growing number of places in town that feature this dish when the warmer weather arrives, which is just fine with me.  For something so simple, its nice to see the variety of combinations and therefore flavor profile in each one of them.  Search around the site to find some previous commentary on this Japanese dish.

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Guu in Aberdeen – Richmond, BC


Guu in Aberdeen
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 295-6612

I’ve come out and said it before but my personal desire to explore the full realm of the Vancouver izakaya scene is not exactly the strongest.  Again, its not that they are bad or a terrible bastardization of this unique genre of dining out found in Japan, but that the context is lost on me and my memories of many izakaya outings overseas has ruined me and thus nothing will ever compare.  I’m sure I’d say the same for other specific segments of popular national food from around the globe if I had the similar depth and breadth of experience such as say in the diverse Liguria regional cuisine of Italy or the so called ‘rainbow cuisine’ that is reputed to be available in Southern Africa.  Any transplanted replica outside of those regions would just seem, well, how can I put it… “off”?

I suppose I should relax this hesitation I feel whenever I hear the names of well known joints such as Hapa, Kingyo, and so on.  Believe me I’ve tried.  And a pair of visits to the Guu chain should be proof that I’m not all that stubborn in my beliefs.  This particular post is about the Aberdeen location, found in that shopping mall in Richmond best known for drivers in the parking lot who feel that there is nothing wrong with holding up a long line of cars just to secure a precious parking spot near one of the mall entrances.

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Sushi Bar Zipang – Calgary, AB


Sushi Bar Zipang
1010 1 Ave NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-1888

Its unfortunate, but even those places that were once held in good regard – and for sushi in a place like Calgary – for me, it was Zipang out in Bridgeland – times can change.  It used to be the best of a mediocre lot.  ‘Big fish in a small pond’ for sushi kind of thing.  On a recent return to the southern Alberta city, I made my way down to their sushi bar again for a quick early dinner, hoping that I could get an acceptable showing from them as in previous years…

Inside it was pretty packed, busier than I usually remembered it being.  I guess word has gotten out that it (was) decent.   I did notice that the guys behind the counter were different from the fellows who served me in the past – younger and seemingly less experienced.  Families and groups of friends seemed to be the general clientele on this weekday dinner session and there was a good buzz in the room of conversation.  However, once some folks departed the lack of any kind of soft toned music playing in the background reduced the place to an almost eerie environment, which could probably use some improvement.

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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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Torarenbo – Richmond, BC


Torarenbo Japanese Restaurant
Richmond Centre, 8191 Park Rd
Richmond, BC
(604) 214-1402

Escaping the madness of people flowing out of the Richmond Oval after an afternoon Olympics competition, and navigating along some very unfamiliar territory looking for someplace quick to eat, we found our way to a place known as Richmond Centre.  Essentially its a strip mall with some limited parking and thus I drove right into one of the reserved (likely for staff?) stalls right in front of Torarenbo.  Rules be damned, I was hungry.

With these random, shotgun approach dining adventures, I never know what I’m going to get.  The partly covered window coverings further created a shroud of  mystery about this place as I could not really see inside and know if in fact there was anyone eating inside.  Alas, once I got through the front door on the side, I did see some people having meals and a few empty tables.  After being asked if I had reservations (“for a place like this and on a weekday?”, I thought) and replying “no”, we were given one of the empty spots along the glass wall.  In hindsight, I’d suggest you ask for a table deeper into the restaurant as whenever the front door opened, a brisk gust of cold wind would hit us, as well people who wandered in waiting to be greeted would linger not far from our table.

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Dai Sushi – Burnaby, BC


Dai Sushi
7090 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 517-0885

Its not exactly a love fest when you scan the online reviews of Dai Sushi. In fact, it reads like a pretty mediocre and poorly serviced establishment. Of course, I learned this too late and experienced it firsthand after my own impromptu visit for a quick, random dinner with an out of town pal in Burnaby.  With a roundly popular Japanese restaurant (Nao Sushi) just a few doors down in the same complex, it makes me wonder how this restaurant continues to survive.  Let me explain…

Knowing full well that it wouldn’t be an elite dining experience, I decided to opt for the chirashidon.  The reason I tend to do this is so I can avoid some really horrible nigiri sushi (that can be reasonably expected from such a place), but at the same time get a chance to sample how their sushi-use rice measures up.  The verdict here is that the toppings were on the light end, and whoever designed this dish was relying too much on the useless garnishes and veg.  The saba was fine, though the salmon was pretty weak in flavour much like the bland type I had before in Singapore.  Some slices of tako and pieces of amaebi hidden underneath. All in all, a big disappointment, rice included.

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Everyday Sushi Bar – Vancouver, BC


Everyday Sushi Bar (formerly Samurai Sushi Bar, formerly Wonder Sushi Land)
4572 W 10th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 228-9266

What’s in a name?

This place became known as Samurai Sushi Bar back in the late-fall, complete with a new exterior signage and menu.   My visit to it was based on when it was known as this.

But a few weeks later the same restaurant was re-branded as Everyday Sushi Bar.

Three names within a month, not a good omen I’d say.

The sudden swap made me wonder, was it a copyright issue?  After all, this place is trading on that name already in the GVA.  I guess you can’t get anymore generic than dumping “everyday” into your title.  So perhaps they can avoid any more lawsuits…

Regardless, when I asked the new owners of the then-Samurai Sushi Bar, how they came to get the keys to the palace, she mentioned they bought out the previous proprietors.  I’d noticed not much had changed inside the place, though the menu had been revamped, and heavy on the maki (rolls).  As she asked if I’d been here before (the previous place), I replied yes and she emphatically told me I’d like the new version better.  We’ll see…

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Lime Japanese Cuisine – Vancouver, BC


[HAS CLOSED SINCE THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED]

Lime Japanese Cuisine
1130 Commercial Dr
Vancouver, BC
(604) 215-1130

Omakase dining.  A topic well covered here several times by our writers already.  Please see Nobu (Las Vegas), Blowfish (Calgary), and Urasawa (Los Angeles).

The experience for me in leaving an often highly anticipated and quality meal in the hands of the chef, is one that I truly enjoy.  Of course, this all depends on the establishment, the existing relationship with the person behind the counter and/or kitchen, and more often than not, my budget.

For this particular meal at Lime, I was going in quite unfamiliar on the first two counts, and on the third issue, I was hesitant to go too high out of fear that my dining experience would turn out less than I had hoped for.  For me to completely release the wallet, it would have to come with some mighty strong recommendations and proven reputation.  On this night, I did not have this “security’ when I stepped through the entrance door…

With a completely empty back-of-the-room bar counter, a seat up front and personal with the cooking crew was thus easy to request and receive.  In the front half of the space, tables of pairs and groups were busy eating away, and already the noise level in the place was quite high.  It definitely had a unique vibe, one that I’d been warned of by others who remarked to me they once had live music and other acts to entertain diners.

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Sushi Oyama – Burnaby, BC


Sushi Oyama
5152 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-1012

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Apologies for another cellphone pictures collection… but I wanted to share a dining experience at this uniquely situated restaurant in Burnaby.

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Nao Sushi – Burnaby, BC


Nao Sushi
7060 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 521-3131

December 2009 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Yours truly has been stretching his food adventure limits of late, by actually driving east of Main Street for a change, and finding some satisfying spots along the way.  Nao Sushi in nearby Burnaby was one of them – actually a foodosophy reader had actually mentioned it to me privately, but I had totally forgotten his recommendation, and only realized it was the same place when I mentioned it after the fact…

Located in a mixed residential/commercial strip along Kingway in the burgeoning Middlegate neighbourhood, Nao Sushi competes with another Japanese restaurant in the very same building a few slots down the street.  From the outside, this other place looked less appealing.   And another reason that drew me into Nao was the Japanese script in the exterior signage denoting kamameshi (which I guess you could translate in English to ‘pot or kettle rice’).  I do not think I’ve ever seen another place in Vancouver offering this dish nor had it in town before, so my interest was truly peaked…

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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

Toyo Sushi – Vancouver, BC


Toyo Sushi
2211 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 879 0990

Toyo Sushi on Urbanspoon

With less than a year to go until the 2010 Winter Olympics, the impact of the preparation for the event continues to receive heavy coverage in the media.  For Vancouverites, among the most contentious issues out there is the ongoing construction of the Canada Line; which is a rapid transit line which will eventually connect three major areas including the downtown core, the Vancouver International Airport and the nearby city of Richmond.

This intersection (pictured below and taken from the window of my car) at West Broadway and Cambie Street has seen its fair share of trouble and bothersome construction work.  And sadly, many businesses along this stretch have suffered tremendously due to the building of the line and virtual cutting off of most pedestrian traffic so crucial to their daily cash flow.

Knowing this, I was surprised to see a restaurant that I’ve dined in since before the construction really got going on this street almost two years ago, was still flashing its “Open” sign.  A business next door I noticed had moved out, probably due to a decline in sales or just general frustration at the interference to their operations.

So it was with a sense of part pity and curiosity that got me to check out the Toyo Sushi again.  I wanted to help support them as a paying customer and applaud them for sticking through the tough times, as well as to see if this blatant disruption to the area directly in front of their restaurant was having a detrimental effect on attracting customers.

Stepping inside, I could see not much had visibly changed since my last visit.  Widely spaced at the main entrance way, brightly lit near the front where the cashier station was set up, along with the sushi bar counter.  There were a few groups of customers already seated and eating, lined up towards the far end of the floor near the windows looking out towards False Creek.

Every time I’ve eaten here, it seemed there were some regulars at the sushi bar conversing casually with the main man behind the counter, and it was the same on this night as well.  That’s always a good sign for me to see at a sushi bar.  Often I’ll be one of them and try to learn more about their restaurant and what’s fresh, but on this evening dining alone, I was seated in one of the partitioned booths. A small serving of edamae (baby soybeans) was brought to me right after receiving the menu, along with some hot barley tea.

The menu at Toyo Sushi is all-encompassing and fits the mold of what many people in North America would expect from a restaurant serving Japanese cuisine.  Being a Korean-run operation, there was also a single page at the back of the menu listing some staple Korean dishes.

As I was in the mood for sushi (and its the only thing I’ve ever had on my past visits too), I opted for one of their assorted nigiri sets (11 pcs plus 1 roll).  Technically, the formations were good with a narrower shari (rice), with no strange raggedy cuts.  Freshness was solid all around, and I particularly enjoyed the aka maguro (red tuna) and the amaebi (sweet shrimp) and uni (sea urchin).

If there were some system on which I would sort and thus rate all of the numerous sushi serving places in the GVA, I would probably slot Toyo Sushi in the mid-range.  Clean, decent nigiri that is done with a touch that would suggest its more than a dine-and-dash-takeout-joint level and best to give it the respect of a dine-in, but obviously not quite up there with the best on offer in the region.

I do hope they can continue to pick up customers and survive during this brutal business-altering period they’re experiencing, as I will be back when I am in the area when I have a craving for good nigiri.

Toyo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Sai-z Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


[Update: July 2009.  After a brief concept change to a lower priced izakaya-style menu, has now closed its doors, changed ownership and renamed]

Dare to be different. Amid the hundreds of restaurants offering sushi in the greater Vancouver area, in all forms from the horrifically bad but cheap all-you-can-eat, to very good but preferably-on-expense-account options, it is clear that some have taken a step to differentiate. When it comes to their creations, some have been quite bold and have included ingredients that would make die hard traditionalists cringe and scream bloody murder. Sai-z is clearly one of them, incorporating a creative blend of traditional and non-traditional ingredients in many of their dishes. Case in point, their use of fruits such as mango and papaya in some of their sushi rolls!

Located on popular West Broadway, which is lined with numerous restaurants thus competition is fierce, Sai-z is located across the street from a boutique cinema theater. When the weather is warm, the sliding doors are opened, and there is a narrow patio that has a few tables right on the sidewalk. Stepping inside, the waiting area leads to the main floor area with table seating that has a mini grand piano off to the right. On this night, there wasn’t a live performer, but I am told that it does take place on certain nights. The crowd was quite young, mainly twenty-something groups of friends or couples on dates. I think the relaxed mood of the place probably is conducive to intimate outings and conversations, compared to say the boisterous izakaya scene downtown.

Scanning the special summer set price offering and not finding it to our interest, my dining companion and I chose from the regular menu. After placing our order for drinks, a one-spoon otoushi of a marinated mixture of tuna and green onions. Unfortunately, this was bad, quite literally – it had a terrible fishy smell to it. Not the best of starts.

Seeing the uni chawanmushi peaked my curiosity, so I had to give this a try. A large piece of uni was floating on top of this steamed Japanese egg custard, and deep below were some other seafood ingredients such as scallops, fishcake, prawns, as well as some mushrooms and thin slivers of yuzu peel. The base stock that was used was quite rich, perhaps too much for my personal liking. The addition of the uni certainly didn’t aid in lightening things up. It tasted okay, but I guess I like my chawanmushi simpler.

Another hot appetizer we had was this noodle wrapped and deep-fried shrimp served with a spicy mayo dip. The contrast between the crispy exterior and the plump, juicy shrimp inside was superb! The overall flakiness of it made it a bit messy to eat at times, as bits would fly off while biting through the crust. The dip was a mixture of shichimi and Japanese mayonnaise, adding both a creamy and spicy element to the total dish (and a mix that I’m finding appear more and more around Vancouver’s izakaya scene). This was a great pick up from the hot appetizer section.

Next up was the sushi selection. By-passing some of the unique choices, we settled on a single roll, called the Double Smoke Roll. This was comprised of a combo of unagi (smoked eel) and smoked salmon. Pieces of fake crabmeat, tempura bits and sprouts also added some more texture and flavor, with the outside of the roll dressed with a sweet teriyaki-like sauce. I thought the dual smoked flavored would be overpowering, but was pleasantly surprised that it was not. Each piece was densely packed, making it feel more filling than it already ways. A solid offering.

A platter of assorted nigiri rounded out our meal, sixteen pieces of maguro, shake, ebi, hamachi, hotate, tobiko, uni, unagi, a California roll and a dynamite roll. The size of the rice ball was “very Japanese”, by that I mean it was smallish and loosely compacted. Personally, this is what I am used to and prefer. So I was glad that it wasn’t that usually tightly bound, poorly flavored, monster-sized ball of sushi rice that you find at too many places in this town. The fish was good, each fresh and succulent, and not too big that it would take more then one mouthful.

Sai-z definitely feels and looks unlike your regular run of the mill restaurant specializing in Japanese food in Vancouver. I think it may be remnants of a previous tenant (Italian, Greek?) but the inner chamber looked very inviting with it high ceiling. There seemed to be a second deck above as I could hear some people upstairs dining as well. The open sushi bar that lines the back wall was quite long, and I could picture people wanting to sit up there and take in the show. Service was a bit lacking at times, with servers spending more time standing by the sushi bar than paying attention to diners. Our server in particular was quite anxious in clearing away our plates each time, which bothered me as it seems she was more interested in doing that than any other service task. Finally, pricing was perhaps above average, and thus might turn off some folks who are used to more quick dine-and-dash sushi joints.

I’ll certainly go back, though probably not often just given the price point. There are still a slew of menu items that I’d like to try out, so that gives me another reason to return.

Sai-z Japanese Restaurant
3116 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-732-7249
Hours: [Lunch] Fri-Sun, 12pm to 2:30pm; [Dinner] Sun to Thu, 5:30pm to 10:30pm; Fri & Sat, 5:30pm to 11:30pm

Sai Z on Urbanspoon