Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Aoki Sushi = Oishi Sushi!

Aoki sushi, what can I say? It's one of my favourite sushi restaurants. My only complaint is they're not open 24 hours a day for my personal convenience. The owner of this little shop on Broadway is an eccentric oji-san who greets everyone that comes it and thanks then as they leave. It's hard to miss the owner he's usually wearing a Pikachu mask or a faux chonmage (samurai hairstyle). I think he's great, and he must have a lot of regulars because I always hear him engage in some kind of a personal greeting with customers. Aoki isn't a fancy place or anything, but it does have a homely feel to it, and I always feel welcome.
A mini-appetizer and hot tea is served the minute you sit down, and it's on the house. Usually it's salmon chunks with some negi (green onion) and a bit of ponzu sauce (I think it's ponzu).
Whenever I go to a new sushi restaurant, I always order the chirashi-don. It's my silly way of guaging if I will go back and try anything else. For me, if the chirashi-don is good, the rest of the menu will likely be ok. I know, it's strange, but it tells me a lot. It tells me if they're using good rice or low-grade stuff, if they know how to cook it, if it's been sitting there too long. Also, the cuts of sashimi will tell me about the freshness of the seafood, if the restaurant is generous or stingy about the portions, it will tell me if the chef has any imagination about what is put into it. If it comes with tamago, does the restaurant make their own, or do they buy it premade? If my chirashi-don comes with only salmon, tuna, generic tamago, tako, and a few sprinkles of masago, it tells me that the chef has no imagination, and is likely a bit stingy, or is on orders from the owner to be stingy. I look to see if the wasabe is ground from the root or mixed from the powder - freshly ground wasabe, or at least packaged ground wasabe is a huge bonus for me, but most places don't do this because it's pretty expensive.

Aoki Sushi's chirashi-don is phenominal. It's massive, and comes with a wonderful selection of seafood. Most often, I will find at least two different types of salmon (sockeye and atlantic), two different types of tuna (plus toro), avacado (which some say tastes like toro when mixed with shoyu, rice, and wasabi)tai, hamachi, tako, ebi, tamago, tako, some pickles....the list goes on.

Pictured here is me with the regular chirashi-don. They've got a deluxe version which I haven't tried yet......why is that? I really don't have a clue why I haven't tried it yet.....next time I go, I'll have to give it a shot.

I've tried some other menu items, and they're all really good, but my favourite at Aoki is the chirashi-don. The price is more than reasonable for what you get, the service is quick, but friendly, and the quality of the food is fantastic.
I've read some other reviews complaining about the udon, or the tempura, or the atmosphere. I don't understand why anyone would go to a sushi restaurant and order udon or tempura. For me, udon is something you make at home (and if you can't, you're a complete moron). Unfortunately, there are no dedicated tempura shops here in Vancouver, but when I go to Aoki SUSHI, I go there for the sushi. And as far as atmosphere is concerned, if I wanted something fancy/trendy, I'd go to an izakaya. Some of the nicest sushi restaurants in Japan are very plain in appearance. The sushi itself should really be the only visual thing you should be concentrating on. If a place relies too much on atmosphere and presentation, it tells me that their sushi is probably pretty run of the mill.
I go to Aoki at least once a month, but if they were open longer hours, I'd probably go there more often than that.
Aoki Sushi can be found at:
1888 W BroadwayVancouver, BC
(604) 731-5577

Aoki Sushi on Urbanspoon

Applause Japanese Restaurant

Applause Japanese restaurant is located on Oak Street in the Marpole area. The owner/chef is from Taiwan, and apparently trained as a sushi chef in Japan for a while. His wife is Japanese and so is the majority of the staff. Atmosphere is pretty good, and so is the presentation of most of the food. Prices are pretty average, and the quality is good.

Real crab meat is a plus for me, and though I don't eat California rolls often, I like it when they use real crab meat. Real kani nigiri sushi is a rarity in Vancouver, most places use that awful soy/tofu artificial crab meat as a poor substitute.

The layout is nice, and the capacity is decent but fills up easily because there really isn't any other Japanese restaraunt within the immediate area.
Miso soup was on the house that day, not sure if this was standard practice.
My friends ordered tuna sashimi - they already picked at it before I got a chance to take a pic.

Spinach in ponzu instead of sesame sauce (or sometimes peanut butter for the crappy places).

My chirashi don was a reasonable size, pretty run-of-the-mill and nothing exciting or out of this world. It came with the standard tuna, salmon, ebi, tamago, a few pickles and saba.

Grilled nasu (eggplant) was really good, probably my favourite dish that night.

I'm not really sure what this was.....a dragon roll maybe? Seems to be a popular thing here on the west coast.
Yam tempura roll....I didn't try this, but I was told it was good.
I'm kind of on the fence for this place.....it's in the Marpole area and it's only immediate competition for Japanese food would probably be Sushi King over on Granville, but it's not a fair comparision. Sushi King has large portions for cheap, no liquor license, and the layout is nowhere near as fancy, so it's a place you go to get full. Applause tries to be a trendy kind of place, and you can drink. But if I wanted to go somewhere fancy for a drink, I'd probably go to an izakaya. I guess I give Applause a thumbs up, but when it comes down to it, there are other places I'd rather go for sushi, like Aoki Sushi.

Applause on Urbanspoon

Austin Fish and Chips

I never would have thought there was decent fish and chips in Maple Ridge, but I was wrong. Some of my coworkers and I stopped in this strip mall on the side of the highway and found this place called Austin Fish & Chips.
We became pretty skeptical when we saw an all-you-can-eat menu.

Pricing is average, I went with the 2 pc cod and chips for $10.95

For some reason, my meal came with a dinner bun. Nothing spectacular, but I never say no to free food.
My friend ordered the popcorn shrimp and said it was a bit bland.
The poutine was ordered by one of my co-workers from Montreal.....it doesn't compare, but apparently it wasn't a total disaster.
I was pleasantly surprised with my order. Big golden fries, which were nice and crispy, probably made from real potatoes.
The cole slaw was a little on the sweet side, which was okay for me. I've never had it that sweet, and it tasted pretty good.
The portions of fish were good, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. I was pretty full by the end of the meal. I have no idea how people go for all you can eat for $1 more. And, an added bonus, tartar sauce in a squeeze bottle - no need for extra tartar sauce when it's right there on the table! I'd probably go again, if I ever find myself out in Maple Ridge.

Austin Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

Little Japan, Big Mistake

I was downtown Vancouver a few weeks ago for some training and found this place, against my better judgement. It was either Curry Express (awesome butter chicken), Quizno's (expensive version of Subway), or this place. I guess I must have been craving Yoshinoya or something because for some strange reason, I decided to go to a place like Little Japan in the food court of Harbour Centre.
Time was running out on my lunch break, and the sign caught my eye. Since it was "Today's Special", they probably had these things ready to go.

Today's Special turned out to be $0.01 cheaper than on any other day, I was really impressed.

Yes, as you can guess, this review is not going well. It was nasty.  The rice must have been the lowest grade rice known on earth and tasted like.......well, not rice.  The beef was bland and watery, along with the soggy moyashi (bean sprouts), and whatever other vegetation there was in the meal.  I think mushy would be a good word to describe the veggies.  The meal was filling, but I might as well have eaten a bowl of sand. 

It was my mistake to have any expectations at all, my first clue should have been that it was in the food court of Harbour Centre, downtown Vancouver.   I've seen some people say that the place is better than reviews and ratings indicate, and they've been there on numerous occasions, but clearly they have no clue what food should taste like, let alone good food.  I don't recommend this place to anyone.

Little Japan on Urbanspoon

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