Japanese Cuisine Series

Top Japanese Restaurants in Vancouver: RawBar at Fairmont PacRim by Jenn Chan

 PacRim RawBar

PacRim RawBar

 

Have you ever woken up the day after a birthday party, with its accompanying revery and libations, only to realize you forgot you had a cocktail brunch to attend early the next day? I have and the beautiful Raw Bar at the Lobby Lounge in Fairmont's Pacific Rim did not disappoint! The old saying 'hair of the dog that bit you' or just 'hair of the dog' stems from the belief that if you drank a gallon, or ten, of a particular alcoholic beverage the night before a glass of it will help cure your hangover the next day. The Germans call it a 'counter-beer', Austrians a 'relief beer' while the Spanish and Italians believe 'a nail pulls out another nail.' There can be no other reason for a cocktail brunch and there need not be! This was the best, the absolute best, brunch I have ever had!

 

PacRim RawBar
RawBar Brunch Menu

 

The first of our five courses, yes five, was the Red Tuna Tataki. It was served with a yuzu kosho vinaigrette, soy gelée, daikon and micro greens. The mouth watering tuna has a distinct soy taste and was melt in your mouth fresh. It was paired marvellously with their LIght-Zaiten cocktail. A mixture of gin, organic green tea, dry vermouth, rosemary, cucumber, lime. The subtle cucumber taste accented well by the rosemary and it washed the tuna down as though they'd been preordained from birth to do so!  We also ordered the Torched Wagyu Beef Salad because not only do we need to be thorough in our culinary reviews, but also because we are gluttonous hedonists. No excuses.  The wagyu beef was served with red onion, sake-beet purée, scallion-ginger emulsion, nori chips and miso crème fraîche. Wagyu beef is the best beef on earth, move over Kobe, so tender and flavourful! Miso crème fraîche is also one of my new favourite thing! If they made a flavoured toothpaste I'd buy it. Heck if they made a miso crème fraîche shampoo I'd use it. They paired the beef salad with an amazing Bloody Mary: vodka, lemon, tomato juice, sriracha, horseradish, salt and pepper. Americans don't believe clams and tomatoes belong together, they just don't. Call it forbidden love, but they don't see the correlation and I can't blame them. I can't even fathom who first thought they ought to be combined, but I ain't mad at cha, got nothing, but fo ya! Hence the Bloody Mary instead of the Canadian treasure, the Caesar. Add Sriracha to anything and I'm in, it was simply delicious. So much so I had to order another just to make sure their mixologists were being consistent. Ya, that's what it was.

 

 Red Tuna Tataki & Torched Wagyu Beef Salad

Red Tuna Tataki & Torched Wagyu Beef Salad

 Red Tuna Tataki + Light-Zaiten - Yuzu Kosho vinaigrette, soy gelée, daikon, micro greens

Red Tuna Tataki + Light-Zaiten - Yuzu Kosho vinaigrette, soy gelée, daikon, micro greens

 Torched Wagyu Beef Salad + Bloody Mary - wagyu beef, red onion, sake-beet purée, scallion-ginger emulsion, nori chips, miso crème fraîche

Torched Wagyu Beef Salad + Bloody Mary - wagyu beef, red onion, sake-beet purée, scallion-ginger emulsion, nori chips, miso crème fraîche

 

 

Starting to feel human again I salivated as the next course, a steaming bowl of their Signature Bacon and Sable Miso soup, was laid in front of me. Hands down the best miso soup I have ever had!! Two exclamation points. Bacon dashi, house-cured sable, ginger and scallion in a magnificent miso broth. Bacon, bacon, bacon! As an aside, In 2013 65% of Americans polled would gladly have named bacon as their national food. I started with the broth and, wow, it is amazing. Miso with a touch of sweetness. The bacon dashi may have been the best bacon I've ever tasted! Even the tofu, renowned as the world's blandest food, was delicious as it took in the flavour of the divine broth. They served it with their Beer Makes Miso Happy: Grand Marnier, wheat beer, ginger, lemon. I chortled when I first read the name. Apparently I'm not the only one who tries to let their personality shine through their writing, hats off! It was tangy, well balanced and refreshing! Again, for consistency's sake, I had to order another and the second was even better than the first. 

 

 

 Signature Bacon and Sable Miso + Beer Makes Miso Happy - bacon dashi, house-cured sablefish, ginger, scallion

Signature Bacon and Sable Miso + Beer Makes Miso Happy - bacon dashi, house-cured sablefish, ginger, scallion

 

 

The next course came and I was excited; this was what I'd been waiting for! The Wild Salmon Motoyaki “Benny”. I love eggs Benedict and I always have. I still think back, at least once a month, fondly to one time when I ordered a king crab Benny and my date had a lobster Benny and we each traded one... And it's been 3-4 years... Raw Bar's offering featured a poached egg, sweet milk bread, ikura, miso hollandaise and avocado. I frequently judge a Benny by its muffin. Fresh and airy English muffin and you've got yourself a good Benny. Deliciously fluffy sweet milk bread as the base is my new gold standard, excellent! Farmed versus wild salmon really makes a difference. Google all the health benefits, and they are myriad, but the taste benefit cannot be overlooked. Adding a touch of miso into the hollandaise is a stroke of genius and the ikura was fresh and flavourful. It paired well with the Pepe Le Pew, a meeting of Lillet rosé, sherry and sparkling brut. The sherry really mutes the sweetness of the brut and balances the cocktail perfectly, but the name of the cocktail had me in stitches. Chris Rock brilliantly satirizes Pepe in one of his standup acts. Give it a Google!

 

 

 Wild Salmon Motoyaki "Benny" + Pepe Le Pew - poached egg, sweet milk bread, ikura, miso hollandaise, avocado

Wild Salmon Motoyaki "Benny" + Pepe Le Pew - poached egg, sweet milk bread, ikura, miso hollandaise, avocado

Wild Salmon Motoyaki "Benny"

 

 

Jenn ordered the Kurobuta Pork Kakuni, a braised pork belly, 62°c egg, sweet soy broth, daikon, carrot, potato with tamanishiki rice. The pork belly was very tender and breaks apart easily, no knife necessary! They perfectly made the 62 degree egg, very gooey. Bite size potato, carrot and daikon. Dip the rice in the sweet soy broth and include a mouthful of pork and it's worth the trip on its own. It came with the Pork ‘N’ Cider which consists of Lonetree cider, sweet vermouth and sherry. It was sweet and tasty and Jenn liked it the most of all the selections to that point.

 

 

 

 Kurobuta Pork Kakuni + Pork 'n' Cider - Braised Pork belly, 62*c egg, sweet soy broth, daikon, carrot, potato, tamanishiki rice

Kurobuta Pork Kakuni + Pork 'n' Cider - Braised Pork belly, 62*c egg, sweet soy broth, daikon, carrot, potato, tamanishiki rice

 

 

Now for what Raw Bar is famous for, sushi! The Sushi Omakase featured maki, nigiri, hako and temari and was paired with a delicious Sparkling Junmai Sake. That's right champagne sake and it is good as it sounds! The rolls were as close to perfection as one can get: incredibly fresh sashimi, you'd expect nothing less in the lobby of Vancouver's premiere hotel, inventive flavours and even the sardine sushi was really good. These aren't those pickled, smelly sardines from a can, you could tell immediately this guy (or girl) was swimming only days or weeks earlier! 

 

 

 Sushi Omakase + Sparkling Junmai Sake - maki, nigiri, hako, temari

Sushi Omakase + Sparkling Junmai Sake - maki, nigiri, hako, temari

Sushi Omakase

 

 

The dessert was equally as inventive. The Yakult Shooter came out on an actual oyster shell, cleaned of course, and featured plum gelée, pear, matcha green tea, black sesame powder and yuzu pearl. It disappeared in an instant and was sweet and delicious. Just the right size for a fifth course. You wouldn't want to try and dig through a 1,000 calorie piece of cake after all that! It came with the Wakayama Beach: gin, yuzu, basil, coconut water and ginger. The yuzu flavours really shined through from each and they went together like peas in a pod, very, very good! Leaning back in our chairs and enjoying the soulful pianist tickle the ivories we couldn't help, but wonder what else the menu might have in store for us. We requested one from our lovely server and oooo'ed and awed over Raw Bar's regular selection and vowed to be back with a fortnight. And we will!

 

 

 Yakult Shooter + Wakayama Beach - plum gelée, pear, matcha green tea, black sesame powder, yuzu pearl

Yakult Shooter + Wakayama Beach - plum gelée, pear, matcha green tea, black sesame powder, yuzu pearl

 
 

Top Japanese Restaurants in Vancouver Series: Gyoza Bar by Jenn Chan

 Gyoza Bar

Gyoza Bar

 

Chef Wooj tried to kill me! The Head Chef at the Gyoza Bar, one affable Japanese import named Woo Jin Kim, attempted to snuff my light by gorging me with plate after plate of Gyoza Bar's best! 

 

 

Gyoza Bar
Gyoza Bar
 Dinner Menu

Dinner Menu

 Bar

Bar

 

The meal started, as all great meals do, with a couple beverages. I started with the Postmark dark IPA, an IPA and porter-like hybrid, which was very good. Jenn tried their signature Mango Mule and loved it, it seemed to disappear pretty quickly. Chef Wooj came out and was gracious enough to introduce himself and chat for a bit. "Leave it to me" he said, "you don't need a menu": exhibit A in my murder trial had he been successful! As we waited Jenn got into a Pender Collins, a cocktail of elderflower centric deliciousness, and I tried the Blood and Beauty. "Scotch, scotch, scotch. I love scotch" well Ron Burgundy I don't mind it either - 8/10. We also had an Aburi ginjo sake which I found tart and refreshing with a hint of vanilla. All engines go!

 

 

 Mango Mule & Dark IPA

Mango Mule & Dark IPA

 Pender Collins & Blood and Beauty

Pender Collins & Blood and Beauty

 Aburi Ginjo Sake

Aburi Ginjo Sake

 Head Chef Woo Jin Kim

Head Chef Woo Jin Kim

 

The first salvo in the food war was a very nice Roasted Beet Salad. It had an amazing dressing, made in-house, and the beet gyoza was very soft and flavourful. I wholeheartedly, 100% endorse the use of fruits and nuts in salads and the orange and roasted almonds make this salad an adventure. He also brought their Prawn Ceviche and Pork Gyoza. See I told you and this is just the iceberg's tip! The Pork gyoza is, bold statement coming, the best gyoza I've ever had! Pork shank and minced pork belly mixed together with few other ingredients distracting from the main oinky feature, served in a heated skillet, and served with an umami and spicy miso sauce. Absolutely incredible! Chef told us how important it was to him that gyoza be served hot and consumer hot and it makes all the difference! The ceviche was excellent, fresh and tasty! Make yourself a sandwich with the gyoza skin cracker, guacamole and prawn and thank me after.

 

 

 Roasted Beet Gyoza + Market Salad - feta cheese, pickled beets, fresh orange, toasted almonds

Roasted Beet Gyoza + Market Salad - feta cheese, pickled beets, fresh orange, toasted almonds

 Roasted Beet Gyoza + Market Salad

Roasted Beet Gyoza + Market Salad

 Prawn Ceviche

Prawn Ceviche

 Pork Teppan Gyoza - served with spicy miso _ umami soy

Pork Teppan Gyoza - served with spicy miso _ umami soy

 

And then it came. The Bao Board... The pork ribs, cooked for 36 hours, were smoky and sweet and the meat was high quality. I put some in a bao bun with sriracha aioli and a couple apple slices and had a foodgasm! Also on the massive Bao Board was a succulent tenderloin, so tender and supple. I combined it in a bao bun with spicy miso and Asian slaw and it was excellent! The Chicken skewer was soft and fresh, maple garlic goodness. Toss some into a bao with butter lettuce, Asian slaw and spicy miso sauce, you'll thank me! But the plate is not finished! The Shrimp Gyoza consisted of fresh-out-of-the-water shrimp with a tangy cilantro-garlic vinegar. The restaurant should be called Gyoza King!

 

 

 Head Chef Woo Jin  Kim working on our Family Style Bao Board

Head Chef Woo Jin  Kim working on our Family Style Bao Board

 Family Style Bao Board - Maple Garlic Soy Chicken Skewers, Soy Garlic Tenderloin Skewers, Korean Spiced Pork Rib, Asian Slaw, Kimchee & Pickled Cucumber

Family Style Bao Board - Maple Garlic Soy Chicken Skewers, Soy Garlic Tenderloin Skewers, Korean Spiced Pork Rib, Asian Slaw, Kimchee & Pickled Cucumber

 Family Style Bao Board with Bao Buns & Butter Lettuce

Family Style Bao Board with Bao Buns & Butter Lettuce

 Family Style Bao Board

Family Style Bao Board

 Chili Shrimp Teppan Gyoza - with Cilantro-Garlic Vinegar + Umami Soy

Chili Shrimp Teppan Gyoza - with Cilantro-Garlic Vinegar + Umami Soy

 

So there you have it. If you'd like to sign my petition to have Mr. Woo Jin Kim charged with attempted murder please contact me at Scott@JennChanPhotography.com. BUT WAIT... Out comes a big bowl of Chicken Miso Ramen. "Don't worry about trying to finish it all" Chef Wooj exclaims "I just wanted you guys to try!" The free range chicken makes all the difference and the al dente ramen noodles, made in-house daily, with a heavenly miso broth.

 

 

 Awase Miso Free Range Chicken Ramen

Awase Miso Free Range Chicken Ramen

Awase Miso Free Range Chicken Ramen

 

Panting heavily after having made a valiant attempt on the ramen a smiling Chef Wooj saunters out with a Japanese Green Tea Cheesecake. A subtle matcha flavour in a decadently soft, whipped cheesecake. All 3 bites I was able to muster were light, fluffy and flavourful and I don't generally care for matcha and yet thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

 

 Japanese Green Tea Cheesecake - Strawberry compote, Vanille Icecream, Azuki Beans

Japanese Green Tea Cheesecake - Strawberry compote, Vanille Icecream, Azuki Beans

 

If you like gyoza or ramen or Bao or delicious cocktails or desserts I would highly recommend you head to the Gyoza Bar! Say hi to Chef Wooj for me!

 

 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan