Japanese Cuisine

FOOD | Omakase Dinner at Bistro Sakana, Yaletown by Jenn Chan

Bistro Sakana

 

I finally got a chance to check out Bistro Sakana, a little Japanese restaurant nozzled in with other restaurants and cafes on the Yaletown strip. I'm happy to be able to finally try this spot, especially their Omakase menu.  I'm also very happy that I came hungry to this meal, because it was absolutely filling!  

The Omakase meal has 13 items on the menu, including:

  • Appetizer
  • Dobin Mushi
  • Omakase Sashimi
  • Tsubugai Tsuboyaki
  • Lobster Tempura
  • Smoked Kurobuta
  • Kegani Kanimiso
  • Omakase Sushi
  • Steam Fish
  • Bafun Uni Cahwanmushi
  • Wagyu Hobayaki
  • Madai Gohan
  • Dessert

I was almost full from just reading the itinerary for the evening to come.

 

Bistro Sakana Omakase

 

We started off with the appetizer, which included 3 different little items on the plate: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette. As some of you may know, I LOVE Uni and Caviar, so when you combined the 2 ingredients along with tuna to make a tartare, it sent my taste buds straight to heaven. The Sea cucumber in vinagrette was so refreshing and unique, this might be one of the first times I've had this good of a sea cucumber. This is a good start! 

Shortly after, our next course came, the Dobin Mushi. We loved the presentation, it came in a little clay tea pot with a lid that plays double duty as a bowl. I wasn't sure about the lime initially, but it really adds an extra complexity and flavour to the soup. The Sashimi platter came and my eyes could not believe its presentation! (Look below for photos) This platter came with such a wide variety of sashimi, including Geoduck, Miragui, Minadai, Blue Fin Tuna, Shimaaji, Akami, and of course, the main attraction - the Lobster Sashimi. All the sashimi were super fresh, and most melts in your mouth! The lobster also goes perfectly with the Ponzu Sauce that came with it. Did I mention the presentation of this platter? 

 

Appetizer: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette

Appetizer: Tuna with Avocado, Uni & Caviar, Radish wrapped Smoked Salmon with Mango & Masago, Sea Cucumber in Vinagrette

Bistro Sakana Omakase Appetizer
Dobin Mushi

Dobin Mushi

Dobin Mushi
Omakase Sashimi

Omakase Sashimi

Bistro Sakana Omakase Sashimi

 

I will just say now that all the courses came looking nothing short of perfect, and I was impressed with the presentation on most of the dishes, it made my job easy as a photographer! Every course was unique and had its own flavour profile and texture to it. The Welk and Clam in liver sauce is no exception, coming on a hot plate, sitting on a bed of sea salt and kelp.

 

Tsubugai Tsuboyaki

Tsubugai Tsuboyaki

Lobster Tempura

Lobster Tempura

Kegani Kanimiso

Kegani Kanimiso

 

I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot here with the presentation, but look at this Smoked Kurobuta! Two smoked out domes arrived on our table and we were initially left with guessing what's inside. When the lids were lifted in a skillful manner, we were able to smell the smoke, which added a great smokey flavour to the fish.

 

The sushi was next, and we were instructed to eat them in this specific order: Ashiaka Ebi Sushi, Hairy Crab sushi, and then the Wagyu Beef Sushi. The Ashiaka Ebi is a very juicy and sweet shrimp, and the wagyu is so tender that it literally melts like butter in your mouth. The garlic chips on top gave it an additional flavourful crunch.

 

Smoked Kurobuta

Smoked Kurobuta

Smoked Kurobuta
Omakase Sushi: Hairy Crab Roll, Ebi Roll & Wagyu Beef Roll

Omakase Sushi: Hairy Crab Roll, Ebi Roll & Wagyu Beef Roll

 

These cute little packages came next, and as we undid the ribbon, we revealed a great rolled up Madai (Sea Bream) with enoki mushrooms rolled up inside in a natural dashi broth. This bite-size piece left me with a mouthful of flavour and wishing there was more of it! 

 

Steamed Fish

Steamed Fish

Steamed Fish
Bafun Uni Chawamushi

Bafun Uni Chawamushi

 

By this course, we were both starting to get pretty full, but out comes the Wagyu Hobayaki. It was my first experience to have beef cooked tableside, on a little grill, on a Houba leaf. We were told that the leaf was so thin that the wagyu is able to cook overtop, as well as add flavours to the meat. The experience itself is a 10/10 for me. Again, their wagyu is like butter, super smooth, and absolutely delicious with the secret sauce that was cooked with it.

 

Wagyu Hobayaki

Wagyu Hobayaki

Madai Gohan

Madai Gohan

 

Do you recognize this lobster? Do you feel like you might have seen it before? Well, you are not wrong if you thought it looks familiar, it was the same lobster that we had back in course 3, the sashimi course. This, in my opinion, was a great way to end and round up the meal. The miso soup was so full of flavour, especially with the little bits of lobster meat that came off the shell! 


 

Lobster Miso

Lobster Miso

 

Confession, I have never had a Panna Cotta before. Yes, I know, SHOCKING! I'm shocked myself, and I can't even think of a reason why this might be the case. So, thank you Bistro Sakana for giving my first ever Panna Cotta, and a matcha one at all! They know my heart! The panna cotta was silky smooth and creamy. I loved the bitter taste of the green tea, which matched well with the sweetness of the red bean. I'm not typically a dessert girl, but I ate this whole dessert up, and slurped up every last drop. Boy, am I full!!!

 

Green Tea Panna Cotta

Green Tea Panna Cotta

 

Overall, everything was delicious and left me feeling very full and content. I felt like I needed to be rolled out. A complex menu, amazing selection, absolutely fresh ingredients - I will definitely recommend going in to try their Omakase Dinner!

 

 

Fusion Restaurants in Vancouver: Kamei Baru by Jenn Chan

Kamei Baru

 

Kamei Royale was the Kamei family's original foray into the Vancouver restaurant scene. For 40 years it was an institution in the neighbourhood that was once commonly called Lil Ginza; the stretch of Alberni Street between Burrard and Bute Streets. As a resident of Alberni Street I still call it Lil Ginza and hope desperately it catches back on! Kamei Baru, Japanese for bar, is a more casual atmosphere, but with the same quality that has helped the Kamei and Ebisu brands expand throughout the Lower Mainland. 

 

Naomi, our very lovely server, assured me my Yuzu Margarita wasn't topped with caramelized onions as she placed it in front of me; "phew" I thought as I took a large sip. Deon explained it as a hybrid between an orange and a lemon and it's newly in my top five fruits! JC ordered the Lychee Ball: Lychee liqueur, peach liqueur, apple juice and garnished with, you guessed it, Lychee balls. "Sweet and fruity, the liqueurs are barely noticeable, a dangerous combo.

 

Yuzu Margarita
Lychee Ball

Lychee Ball

 

Raw fish isn't for everyone. The idea alone scares some people, but, luckily, Jenn and I aren't among those people. It would be a valid estimate to say that I have eaten my weight in salmon sashimi in my lifetime and I'm a big boy. Like 220 LBs of big. That's a lot of poor little fishies, but it's them or me. The sashimi platter at Kamei, Hamachi, Atlantic and Sockeye Salmons and Albacore Tuna, is world class. I've ordered sashimi at small mom and pop spots and 4 diamond eateries and Kamei Baru's offering holds its own in terms of quality of fish and freshness with anyone!

 

Sashimi Platter: Hamachi, Atlantic Salmon, Sockeye Salmon & Albacore Tuna

Sashimi Platter: Hamachi, Atlantic Salmon, Sockeye Salmon & Albacore Tuna

Sashimi Platter: Hamachi, Atlantic Salmon, Sockeye Salmon & Albacore Tuna

 

Up next on our adventure was the Lobster Miso Chowder Pot Pie. It's the first and only time I've ever, ever seen this on a menu or even heard of it, but it should be everywhere! A flaky, heavenly, pastry hiding a steaming bowl of Japanese inspired Miso seafood chowder. Big bites of delicious lobster throughout, corn, celery and tender potatoes round out his incredible dish. Right on the heels of the pot pie, which vanished at top speed in a whirl of duelling spoons, came the Baru wings, Salmon Motoyaki Battera and BBQ Cuttlefish. The chicken wings, bathed in a unique balsamic teriyaki sauce, stack jup against any in the city; very, very good! 

 

Lobster Miso Chowder Pot Pie

Lobster Miso Chowder Pot Pie

Lobster Miso Chowder Pot Pie
Baru Wings

Baru Wings

 

The Salmon Motoyaki Battera is pressed Atlantic Salmon with Motoyaki sauce on sushi rice and blow torched. If you're thinking that sounds good you're right! Cuttlefish could look scary if you're not a big seafood person or if you're an old timey sailor with recurring nightmares of giant squid capsizing your ship, but there's nothing to be scared of! This squid's cousin is tender and delicious and, when dunked into the Japanese mayo, the world's best mayo, it is a flavour explosion!

 

Salmon Motoyaki Battera

Salmon Motoyaki Battera

BBQ Cuttlefish

BBQ Cuttlefish

BBQ Cuttlefish

 

Risking explosion we let Naomi talk us into desserts. You won't be able to tell her no either! Jenn went with the Anmitsu and I ordered the cheesecake. The presentation was lovely and the cheesecake, made in-house, was nice and light with a delicious crust! Served with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, blueberries and rich piece of milk chocolate it was an excellent cap to the meal! Jenn's dessert, of the traditional Japanese variety, consisted of green tea ice cream, mochi balls, fresh strawberries, red Sean and whipped cream. Very good mixture of flavours and she really enjoyed it!

 

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Anmitsu with Matcha Ice Cream

Anmitsu with Matcha Ice Cream

 

This wasn't our first time at Kamei Baru and it won't be our last. Centrally located just off Burrard Street on Smithe and steps to the bustling Scotiabank Movie Theatre it is a very convenient location for downtowners and there wasn't an empty seat in the house on a drizzly Friday night. Awesome energy, great food and well above average service! 

 

Kamei Baru
 
 

Fusion Restaurants in Vancouver: Ebisu by Jenn Chan

Ebisu Exterior

 

When you walk into an Indian restaurant it's a good sign when there are tables upon tables of Indian families hunkering down over plates of simmering tika masala and ripping into fresh naan bread. It's no different in pho joints where Nguyen's and Ngo's slurp happily on big, steamy bowls or taquerias where most customers are obscured by large sombreros. Okay that last one not so much because Mexicans wouldn't be caught dead in gaudy tourist souvenirs, but you get what I mean. At Ebisu on Robson the Japanese have found their spot and staked their claim. It's a good sign, trust me!

 

Ebisu Interior

 

Our night started off, as good nights do, with a couple of cocktails: the DragonBall and Summer Dream. The former being a sake, mango passion Alize, peach Schnapps, Calpis and soda creation that takes the subtle bubble from the soda and melds it with the sweetness of the Schnapps and tartness of the sake perfectly. The latter a mixture of watermelon liqueur, peach Schnapps, Citron Vodka and tropical fruit punch mix... Yes, as good as it sounds! Not out of place in an upscale Japanese fusion hot spot or a Hawaiian beach.

 

Dragonball Cocktail & Summer Dream

Dragonball Cocktail & Summer Dream

 

All of a sudden out pops Yohei, our gracious host and Ebisu's manager, with the Supreme Sashimi Salad. Salmon, tuna, Ebi, hamachi and clam on a small mountain of organic greens with a rich, creamy dressing. Absolutely lovely. It was followed quickly by the Salmon Carpaccio which was a nice Atlantic salmon marinated in sou olive oil and topped with citrus white wine mayo and garlic chips. Top ten mayos of my life!  The salmon was tender, like pudding tender, and it had a nice lemon kick from the mayo. All in all a very, very good Carpaccio!

 

Supreme Sashimi Salad

Supreme Sashimi Salad

Supreme Sashimi Salad
Salmon Carpaccio

Salmon Carpaccio

 

A second course means a second cocktail and I went with the Angel: Blueberry Stoli, Cointreau, lemon lime mix and blueberry juice. The martini kick one would expect with very balanced flavours, very good! Just as I took a second sip out came the Hamachi Inferno and Cherry Blossom. The inferno, named for the at-table torching it receives I'd wager, is a Japanese Amberjack served aburi style on a brick of rice. The torching melts the mayo that covers it into a sticky, flavourful shellac. The Cherry Blossom is Red Ahi Bigeye Tuna layered with Japanese caviar, and has mango, avocado, sesame and poached prawns. The dish of the night! Topped off with wakame salad and ikura it is a a different taste per chew. The sweetness of the mango and avacado are tempered each time an ikura pops and the caviar compliments the elegant fish in a perfect way! Add to the mix Ebisu's famous Beef Short Ribs marinated in a "Korean influenced" BBQ with its cute, mini BBQ grill and the meal was a home run, a touchdown, a gooooaaaallll!

 

The Angel

The Angel

Hamachi Inferno

Hamachi Inferno

Cherry Blossom Roll

Cherry Blossom Roll

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

 

But we're not done! Out comes a Japanese crèpe that could have been a meal itself, football sized. A freshly made, near paper thing, light pastry enveloping a cache of fresh strawberries and delicious strawberry ice cream. Come on! Top it off with home made whipped cream on top and a drizzle of strawberry sauce and I will come back just for this dessert. I promise you that! Not knowing my choice could have fed a table of six Jenn ordered the Monkey Magic. Deep fried bananas, sweet red bean, a scoop of mango ice cream and a scoop of green tea ice cream drizzled with chocolate. Jenn was so enamoured with it that she went full Mary Poppins when describing the dish: "deep friend ban-o-na". She spat out a little bit of it in a fit of laughter, I laughed, other tables gawked. We win! In all the dining experience at Ebisu on Robson is near perfect. Excellent ambience, colourful, calm yet vibrant, and exceptional food. There will be something on the menu for everyone and you'll be glad you listened to us!

 

Japanese Style Crepe - Strawberry

Japanese Style Crepe - Strawberry

Monkey Magic with Matcha & Mango Ice cream

Monkey Magic with Matcha & Mango Ice cream

IMG_7939.jpg
 

Gozen Lunch at Fairmont Pacific Rim RawBar by Jenn Chan

Fairmont PacRim

Fairmont PacRim

 

Each Gozen plate takes 8 hours to prepare. That's a full work day per platter! Only 10 are on offer per day and I was lucky enough to get one! Hiromitsu Nozaki is the head chef of two Michelin star restaurant Waketokuyama and mentored and collaborated with Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Chef Takayuki, Chef 'Taka', on their creation.


 

Gozen Lunch Menu

Gozen Lunch Menu

 

At Raw Bar even the coffee is special. Served with a hard rock sugar stir stick and made with lusciously rich coffee beans it knocked the cobwebs out for my 11:30 reservation. Swaying slowly to the incendiary PacRim guitar player the soup arrives as I'm halfway into my coffee and my eyes get as wide as the 49th parallel. Salmon Kasujiru: sake lees soup with Burdock Root, carrot, Lotus Root, Sockeye salmon and Yuzu. I will, without hesitation, name it into my top five soups of all time. I generally don't like salmon when it's cooked, but I could have eaten a pound if it!

 

Sake Miso Soup

Sake Miso Soup

Sake Miso Soup
Coffee

 

The platter arrived, all 8 hours worth, and I shivered noticeably. The first dish, I was eating as per the order of the menu for the most part, was sashimi, red tuna and Sockeye salmon. It was topped with grated potato and tossed with sardine/ tofu powder and Kazunoko kelp. The salmon was fresh, not farmed salmon. If you've seen a fish farming operation, be it a large, netted area of the ocean or a tank in a dank warehouse, you have been a witness to cruelty. The fish are often riddled with sea lice and splash about haphazardly, aimlessly, miserably in their tight confines. Their meat sadly often needs to be coloured pink, what manner of chemicals are involved in that process is anyone's guess and likely varies by supplier to varying degrees of toxicity, to resemble its wild brothers. Raw Bar's sashimi is wild salmon, caught humanely and so, so incredibly fresh. Like they tossed a rod in the waters of the Burrard Inlet some 100 meters from where I sat.

 

The second plate was the Taro and Sesame Tofu or “Rikyu Yose”. The dish had a smooth texture and subtle taste with a sesame kick, delicious!  It also came with a Sable Saikyou Miso Grill. Sablefish or butterfish, depending on where you're from, is a buttery, hence the name, delicious aquatic beast! Shrimp tempura coated with crispy mochi. Think prawn tempura with a tasty, crispy mochi, almost Rice Crispie like, covering. It was the best tempura I can ever remember tasting! Rounding out the dish, the four platters boast 32 unique flavour combinations, was rice with baby anchovy and soy beans, carrots and string beans. Hands down my favourite dish!

 

The third dish didn't disappoint either; Roasted Wagyu beef. Beautifully rare and so tender you could cut it with a cross look. Roasting really preserves the juices and it was wetter than a, well, any Spring or Fall day in Vancouver. It came with a simmered piece of  sweet pumpkin. My experience with pumpkin has varied widely. I've had objectionable pumpkin pie from a frozen graveyard and sweet, fresh pie from a 5 star chef, but my experience has been limited, sadly, to pie. I will be sad to discard my rotted, drooping jack-o-lantern next November 31st. You could have been someone Jack. Could have been a contender. Pumpkin done the right way is delicious, sweet and pungent. Rounding out the dish, but taking no backseat, was a sampling of celery, Tamago, salmon rice, and asparagus.

 

By the fourth dish, when the first three are as amazing as these were, your expectations are pretty high. The rolled Cuttlefish with nori is a tangy, flavourful item and way less rubbery a Cuttlefish than I've ever had before. Served with

deep fried Lotus Root, shrimp and Sansho pepper it was incredible! The pepper really adds a kick and the crispness of the lotus root provides a crunch and they all blend seamlessly with the shrimp. While the sablefish dish was my favourite dish the minced chicken with Miso “Matsukaze” Style was my favourite flavour combination. To say it was incredibly delicious would be an understatement! It all came alongside block rice with fried kale and snow peas and was the perfect ending to an incredible brunch!

 

Gozen Lunch: 1) Sashimi: red tuna & salmon sockeye sashimi topped with grated mountain potato, tossed with sardine and tofu powder and kazunoko kelp ; 2) Taro and sesame tofu "rikyu yose", sablefish saikyou miso grill, shrimp tempura coated with crispy mochi, rice with baby anchovy and soy beans, carrots and string beans; 3) Roasted wagyu beef, simmered sweet pumpkin, celery "kimpira", tamago, salmon rice, and asparagus; 4) Rolled cuttlefish with nori, deep-fried lotus root with shrimp and sansho pepper, minched chicken with miso "matsukaze" style, rice with fried kale and snow peas

Gozen Lunch: 1) Sashimi: red tuna & salmon sockeye sashimi topped with grated mountain potato, tossed with sardine and tofu powder and kazunoko kelp ; 2) Taro and sesame tofu "rikyu yose", sablefish saikyou miso grill, shrimp tempura coated with crispy mochi, rice with baby anchovy and soy beans, carrots and string beans; 3) Roasted wagyu beef, simmered sweet pumpkin, celery "kimpira", tamago, salmon rice, and asparagus; 4) Rolled cuttlefish with nori, deep-fried lotus root with shrimp and sansho pepper, minched chicken with miso "matsukaze" style, rice with fried kale and snow peas

Gozen Lunch
Assorted Nigiri & Sable Motoyaki Roll

Assorted Nigiri & Sable Motoyaki Roll

Kanmi - Fresh Seasonal Fruits & Red Bean Dessert

Kanmi - Fresh Seasonal Fruits & Red Bean Dessert

Red Bean Dessert

Red Bean Dessert

 

 

Fairmont Pacific Rim is one of the best, if not the best, hotels in Vancouver. It's conveniently located right beside the Vancouver Convention Centre in tony Coal Harbour. Mere steps to the Olympic torches, the world famous Seawall and the Vancouver skytrain. The Lobby Lounge is a perfect place to people watch. Regular Vancouverites and wide-eyed tourists stopping in for a drink mingle with CEOs in them for a conference and trust fund babies who can barely see over the steering wheel of thei Ferraris. The ambience isn't something you can ignore and the grandeur isn't something you'd want to. It is a beautiful place for a meal, a quick drink or to peruse the frequent free art installations in the lobby. A must see!

 

Muji Pop-up Store

Muji Pop-up Store

Muji Pop-up Store
Popular Pens at Muji Pop-up Shop

Popular Pens at Muji Pop-up Shop

 

Words & Photos: Jenn Chan