Uosuke – Shimoda, JP


Uosuke
Shimoda 1-6-8, Shimoda City
Shizuoka, Japan
+81 (0)558 27 3330

As we enter our tenth month of existence here at Foodosophy, I’m reminded of one of the reasons why I accepted Foodosopher’s offer to contribute to the site (besides that fact that I was already experimenting with food photography) –  I’m always on the lookout for new and good places to eat.

Taking a look through the various search terms that bring our viewers to our humble pages, I’m struck by the fact that I must not alone in having this interest.  People are constantly seeking information and checking out commentary and reviews of places they intend to dine at, or perhaps at restaurants they recently have done so and are looking to compare experiences.

As good as online sources, published books, magazines, newspaper articles, etc. are at providing this kind of information, for me word of mouth plays a very strong role in deciding where I go to eat.  Not just anyone’s opinion mind you, it has to be from a trusted source or from people that I feel that I have a similar set of food preferences and tastes with.  Granted we won’t agree on everything, but for the most part we will, and its that comfort level that leads me to continue to rely on these sources.

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Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae) – Richmond, BC


Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae)
120-9020 Capstan Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 821 9834

Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae) on Urbanspoon

What’s in a Name?   An oft repeated phrase, but one that always comes to mind when I recognize something familiar (or unfamiliar) in the facade of an establishment.  And with ethnic restaurants, the deployment of some investigative action or fact checking research usually comes into play as a result…

When I first laid eyes on the “Manzo” lettering on a random drive past this building, and then saw the “Japanese Restaurant” noted below it, I thought how odd.  Isn’t Manzo (and perhaps the occasional Foodosophy commenter of the same name can confirm) an Italian surname?  I know I’ve come across it being attached to pizzerias in other cities.

Then I remembered that its also an old (eg. in that no mother would use it anymore to name their child) male given name used in Japan.  In fact, history recalls that the first Japanese to be documented to have arrived in Canada was a man with that first name.

Another part of me wondered if they were using part of the word, “manzoku“, which would mean “satisfied”, and can be used to describe how one feels after having a wonderful meal.

Not knowing the ownership group involved, this is all speculation.

And whoever it is, its clear they were not adverse to spending a good chunk of change on the interior aesthetics.  I’d even suggest that they have taken some cues from the likes of the Japanese izakaya chains such as Tsuki No Shizuka or Wan, with their use of wood paneling, dim lighting, and overt displaying of large sake bottles.  Although it did not incorporate the high value and historically significant authentic elements of Kakurenbou, overall it was still visually appealing and contributed to the relaxing and quiet mood we had that evening.

As I lament the great izakaya that I’ve left behind in Tokyo, I must say that the best for kushiyaki (or more specifically yakitori) in Vancouver still remains, at least for me, Zakkushi on 4th.  But despite this, I was interested in trying the offerings here, and with a willing and able dinner partner, I selected some of my old standbys.

And that means, none of the usual Canadian-friendly yakitori suspects like negima (breast meat and green onions), tsukune (minced meat), or tebasaki (chicken wings).  Nope for me, a good yakitori-ya must have the likes of  gyutan (beef tongue), sunagimo (chicken gizzard), hatsu (chicken heart), and even nankotsu (chicken cartilage)!

A recap of some of these pictured selections would be that the beef tongue ($6.95) was nicely grilled, not overly so that it would entirely lose its chewy texture.  It could have used some more salt, though the dash of acid from the lemon did give it the required punch.

The hearts ($3.95) were a big disappointment.  To the unknowing eye, they might have slipped it by, but they should not have been sliced in half thus revealing the two chambers, and trying to spread things thinner than they should be.  The key part of these kinds of parts is the texture and without the plump morsel intact, it lost its luster.

Lastly, the sunagimo ($4.95) was simply okay, not a complete bastardization like the gizzards were, but again under seasoned.  Texture-wise it is a bit stringier than the hatsu, so its often a case of which you prefer – the more velvety smoothness of the hatsu, or the jaw-ache inducing “toughness” of the gizzards.

Shifting to the seafood portion of the menu, the Ayu Shioyaki ($6.95) was again properly grilled and the quality was reasonable.  Being a fish with less fat than other popular salt grilled fish, the meat texture held up through the cooking process, and the flavor suggested it was fresh.  I think we could have easily stomached a pair of these, I should have remembered that the Ayu is generally on the smaller size compared to Sanma (pike mackerel).

The highlight of our dinner (and the most expensive at $24.95) was easily the above pictured Aji Sashimi.  When we spotted it in the menu booklet, it just stood out.  I just don’t see it on many other menus around town, perhaps I am just looking in the wrong places?  Being a year-round fish that remains in season, I do hope Manzo continues to keep it on their menu, as I’ll definitely be back for this refreshing, light fish with its distinctive flavor.  Coupled with the freshly grated ginger and green onions, it really is fantastic.  For those who are unfamiliar with this, I suggest you try it out.

To our surprise, our server inquired if we wanted to have the bones of our Aji, deep fried.  With an elated smile on my face, I replied why not.  I think I was taken back by his suggestion, but really pleased that he offered to do this.  A few minutes later they came back, with a crispy coating and salted.   I know many of you might cringe at this, but the brittle bones that result are a great tasty treat.  No better way to get your calcium intake either. (SMILE)

To close our our meal, the traditional zousui (a chicken one, they had others) is basically a rice porridge that is made from a dashi broth, although in this case, there was something “off” about the flavor combination.  I felt it had a thicker consistency than it should have and the dashi didn’t taste right.  I’m not sure what their base broth is (perhaps they use it in their udon dishes, etc.) but I was not entirely happy with it.  Thus regrettably, the closer was a let down, but we were both quite full by this point.

With an extensive menu of typical small plates found in an izakaya, I think there are some others that I am interested in trying, and given the comfortable mood of this place, I think I will make an effort to come back.  If not just for the Aji.  Perhaps its my advancing age that is making me stray away from the boisterous izakaya scene that the likes of Guu provides, but I did find I welcomed the relative peace and quiet of Manzo.  But I do realize that the noise and confusion of an izakaya is also a key ingredient to making them so fun with friends.

Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae) 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

Angel Seafoods – Vancouver, BC


Angel Seafoods
1345 Grant Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 2X7
(604) 254-2824

outside_angel

Whenever I have the hankering for homemade sushi and sashimi, I head on over to Angel Seafoods. Angel is located in an industrial zone between Clark Drive and Commercial Drive in East Vancouver. Sushi restaurants from all around Vancouver source much of their sashimi grade fish from Angel. I happen to live nearby so it is a regular stop for me.

freezer_3_angel

Angel is in an odd setting. It doesn’t look like a typical fish store. It is located in what looks more like a warehouse. Upon walking inside, you will encounter their working clerical office. It feels a little strange at first….it is as if someone grafted a grocery store onto an insurance company office.

freezer4_angel

Look to your left and you will find a long room of chest freezers containing a boggling assortment of Japanese seafood – sashimi grade fish, kasu (sake lees) marinated fish, roe, dried seafoods of all sorts. They also stock rice, and other sundries. At the front desk is a list of fresh items – often including oysters and fresh uni (sea urchin roe)…make sure to ask for what’s fresh in the back. It changes nearly daily.

freezer1_angel

The prices are quite reasonable – definitely lower than at other sources of frozen sashimi like T&T, the Chinese supermarket and Fujiya, the Japanese grocery just down the road.  Today I picked up an assortment of fish for tomorrow night’s family sushi night. We are having Yellow Tail, Albacore, Salmon, and  Toro. This little haul set me back about $25CAD….not bad. I just need to make sure my knife is sharp.

the_haul_angel

Bakurou – Tokyo, JPN


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

Bakurou Ebisu
1-7-12 West Ebisu, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, Japan 〒150-0021
Monday~Friday: 6:00pm to 4:00am
Saturday: 6:00pm to 11:30pm
Closed Sundays and Holidays

Yes indeed, relatives of Mr. Ed and Black Beauty are on the menu!

Visiting some old friends in Tokyo late last month, we’ve continued our little game of going out to some obscure restaurant serving some very rare cuisine – partly just to see if they can shock me, and also just to change things up from our usual pattern of getting full and drunk at one of the many amazing izakaya that exist in this capital city. Horsemeat is still eaten in some households in places such as Akita prefecture, Aomori prefecture where historically and culturally horsemeat consumption was strong, but in the Kanto region where Tokyo is, it is not a common dish at all. Bakurou aims to change this and make it better known in this part of the country.

Bakurou, which opened for business in December 2007 and is located in the trendy neighborhood of Ebisu, in the southwest section of Tokyo. This is actually the second outlet, with the first located in Kanda, Tokyo. The west side of the main train station has many narrow streets filled with all sorts of restaurants and drinking spots, and Bakurou was slightly off the beaten path and was in a retro-looking wooden building with plenty of character. Inside, it was designed to represent a family home in the countryside, with the first floor having table seating and a steep narrow staircase leading to the second floor set aside for floor seating, with the exception of one table. In total, the whole place could handle 40 customers at once. As expected, a very homey setup, and with a packed house on this night, it was somewhat noisy but not overly so, in fact I think our table was the loudest of the bunch! I am sure the multiple glasses of shochu didn’t help – again, an excellent selection of 28 choices from around the country.

Now when it comes to horsemeat, only the freshest will do and they only serve what was brought in that day. This place has this down pat, and has their own supply chain from all over Japan, and a portion of their stock even comes from Canada too! (I know, many Canadian are probably unaware of the unpublicized ranches where horses are raised for meat consumption – in direct contrast to the image of cowboys and their farm working partners). They use only the highest grade (A5 in Japan) for the sashimi dishes, and the entire menu consisted of seventy items. As an aside, they also had an unannouced menu of even more exotic portions of horsemeat’s less popular cuts – such as the horse heart that we had! The place took pride in being able to serve this cuisine at a much lower price than other places in the city, with average take per person coming in the 7,000~8,000 yen range; whereas here, you could get the same meal for 4,000~4,500 yen.

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