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Sam Salmon

"Japanese" Restaurants in Vancouver

45 posts in this topic

Jamie- Another question: Why aren't there Kaiseki type Japanese restaurants in Vancouver like this one for e.g.? Hashimoto (Toronto)

Thank you.


"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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Jamie- Another question: Why aren't there Kaiseki type Japanese restaurants in Vancouver like this one for e.g.? Hashimoto (Toronto)

Thank you.

Explorer,

In matters of culinary sociology I frequently defer to my longtime colleague and friend Dr. Tom Celica, the acclaimed Japanese-Canadian Dean of the University of BC’s Faculty of Culinary Anthropology and Modern Living. What Tom doesn’t know about Asian cuisines in the New World doesn’t amount to a hill of azukis. And yes, to answer your next question, the Toyota Celica was indeed named after his grandfather, the famous automotive engineer who invented the 8-way electric car seat and the hatchback.

I wasn’t surprised to find the disciplined, hardworking Celica at work at his office on a Sunday afternoon. Below is his report, but first it might be useful to explain to other eGulleteers that Kaiseki is a formal, highly-stylized, small plates Japanese dining dialect, based on both Buddhist and Tea ceremony traditions.

“Dear Jamie,

Good to hear from you with this interesting query. I trust the family is well.

Despite the tremendous proliferation of both Japanese and Japanese (and for that matter Japanese) restaurants in Vancouver, Kaiseki dining never really got a foothold here as compared to Toronto for the following reasons:

1. Vancouverites (as opposed to Torontonians) have more a sense of taste than one of occasion: the formality of the kaiseki ceremony is not really something we feel comfortable doing in cut-offs and a wifebeater.

2. Vancouverites have much bigger appetites than Torontonians, borne out by Statistics Canada’s data that states that Vancouverites spend about 35% more per capita in restaurants than their eastern neighbours. Of course this explains a lot of things, but especially that Vancouverites simply don’t find the kaiseki morsels filling enough and generally go home only two-thirds full. But we’re not without manners. Many locals find it awkward, even disrespectful to the highly trained kaiseki master chef to stop for a Whopper on the way home. So many of us go to bed hungry after kaiseki. I mean, have you ever had a Japanese cheese course?

3. If you’ve been through a Japanese tea ceremony or a kaiseki ceremony once, it’s unlikely that you’d rush back the next night as the seating is uncomfortable. So Japanese restaurant proprietors in Vancouver have been investing in brand extension in other areas, such as airport neck massages, sushi vending machines and wasabi ranches.

4. Although the hockey strike has deeded us a lot of extra time, many Vancouverites are dedicating it to other pursuits this winter such as water-skiing and gardening.

5. Vancouver is not an expense account town on the scale of Toronto and few of us can afford kaiseki without government subsidy.

6. The vertical presentation that kaiseki affects has been out of favour here on the coast since the Eisenhower administration. We prefer a more “landscaped” look on our dinner plates and hence the popularity of whole fish such as halibut.

7. Once Air Canada put kaiseki in their “Hospitality” Class service, we thought it was time to move on.

8. And we thought that having Celine Dion as a spokesperson for kaiseki was a bit much. Marcel Dionne maybe.

9. Because we have drinkable wines at this end of the country, it represents another challenge. The profusion of rapid fire kaiseki micro-portions is difficult to marry to quality wines, so many Vancouver kaiseki patrons ended up just drinking Lucky Lager. And, needless to say, that didn’t really seem like going out.

Notwithstanding the above, Jamie, there are Japanese restaurants such as Yoshi’s on Denman Street that will deliver a quality kaiseki experience. But I should share an amusing story with you. It seems that Yoshi, whose premises are immediately above a workout gymnasium called The Running Room, was having difficulty getting the gym sock and stale bra smell out of his restaurant. Apparently he tried everything, from Lysol to scented candles, each to no avail. So, in a fit of pique, he pulled the plug on his fish freezer and went on vacation for two weeks! You’ve got to love the guy.

I trust this will answer Mr. Explorer’s query satisfactorily.

Your comrade in izakaya,

[signed--'Tom']

(Dr.) T. K. Celica

Faculty of Culinary Anthropology and Modern Living

University of British Columbia"

Explorer--May I suggest that the next time you’re in town that you buy Dr. Celica a couple of pints for sharing these valuable insights. Hope this helps you out—Jamie.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Thank you Jamie and Dr. Celica for a very insightful response. I wasn't necessarily looking for a sociological satire on Toronto vs. Vancouver, but

it appears that the art of the Kaiseki isn't well suited to North America in general as these comments would apply elsewhere. I personally have enjoyed the experience, but even Toronto has only 1 remaining Kaiseki restaurant; the other one opened and closed within months with a chef that used to work with Toji's.

Jamie, I will be in Vancouver next week. Did you receive my other pm's? Where can I meet Tom....does he really prefer beer to sake?


"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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Thank you Jamie and Dr. Celica for a very insightful response. . . Where can I meet Tom....does he really prefer beer to sake?

Heavens no, he only drinks that premium ginjo-shu artisanal stuff called Giggling Geisha. About $79 a pint as I recall from the last time he did me a favour. Tojo's?

Kampaii!

Jamie


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Where would I be without that 8-way electric car seat indeed!

Not saying that it's good or anything but check out Zakkushi which opended up a couple of months ago on Denman. It's a yakitori specialty house has hit the scene just across the lane from Dairy Queen. The place is chock full of young Japanese clientele being served by even younger Japanese servers. Although they seem to be using real charcoal in the cooking process, I still miss the almost-like-in-Japan experience that I had at Yakitori-ya in Santa Monica this past summer.

If and when Chef Kobayashi does come back from his "vacation", give Yoshi a call and try out the mini-Kaiseki that they serve at lunchtime and then decide whether to try out the dinner time extravaganza.

Another pint of sake please!

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Where would I be without that 8-way electric car seat indeed!

Not saying that it's good or anything but check out Zakkushi which opended up a couple of months ago on Denman. It's a yakitori specialty house has hit the scene . . . .

Thanks for the tip, Montrachet.

Tom and Jamie


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Yakitori restaurants actually preceded the ubiquity of sushi parlours in Vancouver. They may have even pre-dated the Ding Ho Drive-Ins (remember: where urban myth had it that neighbourhood cats mysteriously disappeared when they ran a special on sweet and sour "boneless pork".)

After a full day of shopping in Seoul with no sustenance (too dubious of the word "bulgoki") we chose to eat nothing.

12 hours or so later, this thought was a distant memory and we were prepared to chow down on anything that was offered to us in a language that we could slightly understand.

Imagine our delight upon seeing a sign in English that read "Kentucky Fried Chicken"!

We hauled our sack of poultry back to the economy hotel room for blonde shoppers and dove into the freshly fried fowl.

Twelve hours.....no food.....yum.....chicken....burp!

Then, in a horrible flash of poultry 101, we realized that none of the bones in front of us were familiar...burp....queezy feeling.

What the hell had we just been eating....whoof, whoof?

Of course, it did taste just like chicken....but had we just eaten a neighbourhood pet?

Ten minutes later, we felt full and happy, albeit a little queasy mentally from eating an unfamiliar animal and decided that what did it really matter?

We eat our meat from a supermarket.....familiar meats...so faced with an unfamiliar one? what's the difference really.........supermarket packaging?

And you know what.... deep fried cock roaches are really quite tasty in Bangkok.

So what the hell.......you have to try everything once......right.....(except for maybe pudding and souse....because a pig's ear really just tastes like you would expect a pig's waxy ear to taste) not that there is anything wrong with the taste of a pigs waxy ear.

cm


Edited by Chef Metcalf (log)

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Yakitori restaurants actually preceded the ubiquity of sushi parlours in Vancouver. They may have even pre-dated the Ding Ho Drive-Ins (remember: where urban myth had it that neighbourhood cats mysteriously disappeared when they ran a special on sweet and sour "boneless pork".)

To correct Jamie - Yakitori means grilled chicken ( or other bird ) - not the steaks at Kobe. Zakkushi is the most authentic yakitori place I think I've been to outside of Japan, maybe the only yakitori place I'd consider yakitori outside of Japan.

Yakitori places serve pieces of chicken, skewered and grilled over charcoal. All of the chicken is involved, from breast fillet (sasami) to (and I haven't seen this outside of Japan) the underdeveloped eggs out of the chickens womb. (Although they don't go for baluts like in SE Asia). Tori means bird actually and can even include the smaller and cuter varieties - like thrushes and sparrows. The eastern equivalent of the ortolan I would say.

Think of Bourdain sitting on an upended beer crate at a street stall under the train tracks in the Yurakucho district in Tokyo.

Andrew


------------------------

to taberu is to ikiru

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Yakitori restaurants actually preceded the ubiquity of sushi parlours in Vancouver. They may have even pre-dated the Ding Ho Drive-Ins (remember: where urban myth had it that neighbourhood cats mysteriously disappeared when they ran a special on sweet and sour "boneless pork".)

To correct Jamie - Yakitori means grilled chicken ( or other bird ) - not the steaks at Kobe. Zakkushi is the most authentic yakitori place I think I've been to outside of Japan, maybe the only yakitori place I'd consider yakitori outside of Japan.

Andrew

I'll be sure to use the irony smilie next time, Andrew! :biggrin: It was exactly my point that Kobe wasn't "authentic". But they did serve "chicken yakitori"; few of us could afford the wagyu beef. What I actually said was:

1. Yakitori restaurants actually preceded the ubiquity of sushi parlours in Vancouver. They may have even pre-dated the Ding Ho Drive-Ins (remember: where urban myth had it that neighbourhood cats mysteriously disappeared when they ran a special on sweet and sour "boneless pork".) For many of us, yakitori was the first reference point for "Japanese" cuisine, much as the exotica of the Ho Inn revealed the mysteries of China.

My name is Dr. Tom Celica and I approve this message.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Precisely - yakitori was served but there has never been an actual real honest-to-goodness yakitori restaurant here.

Harken back to the days when Kobe, Aki, Maiko Gardens and Maneki were the pioneering Japanese restaurants and yes, there was yakitori. Celica-san you are quite right to point this out. But Zakkushi is an indication that Japanese restaurants have gone beyond Japanese (which will be increasingly the domain of "Japanese" restaurants) and into the realm of restaurants in Japan, which tend to specialize in specific foods.

Examples so far:

Modern Club (okonomiyaki)

various Ramen joints

Yoshokuya ("western" food Japanese style)

We are still waiting for the commercially foolish itamae who decides to open an actual sushi place that doesn't serve udon...

With the possible exception of New Yawk, and Rosu Angerusu, we are one of the few places outside of Japan (including Asia) to see this happening. This if anything points to the real acceptance of both Japanese and "Japanese" food in this region.


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Zakkushi is the most authentic yakitori place I think I've been to outside of Japan, maybe the only yakitori place I'd consider yakitori outside of Japan.

Think of Bourdain sitting on an upended beer crate at a street stall under the train tracks in the Yurakucho district in Tokyo.

Sorry Andrew but I've had Yakitori at street stalls near the Yurakucho train station and there is no way that Zakkushi or what they offer resembles the real thing in Japan. For one thing, I'm not used to waiting 30 minutes for a skewer of yakitori to arrive in front of me.

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Think of Bourdain sitting on an upended beer crate at a street stall under the train tracks in the Yurakucho district in Tokyo.

Sorry Andrew but I've had Yakitori at street stalls near the Yurakucho train station and there is no way that Zakkushi or what they offer resembles the real thing in Japan. For one thing, I'm not used to waiting 30 minutes for a skewer of yakitori to arrive in front of me.

I probably didn't finish what I was going to post - which was to say that its not as good as at a street stall - so I agree -

Certainly its not like Yurakucho station - less real atmosphere, more overall comfort - and washrooms - not to mention the Health Board. :biggrin:

The food at Z is comparable to mid range places in Tokyo- and I didn't have to wait 30 minutes for a skewer. I thought that the tsukune at Zakkushi was well executed. I thought the service lacked polish, but that's typical when they hire "wa-holi" kids.


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to taberu is to ikiru

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Where is Zakkushi? Had lunch at Kintaro yesterday. Never been to Japan but this place seems pretty real. I have been half a dozen times and have always been only non Asian. Had the Kim Chi yesterday with my very rich miso and ramen. Very intense flavours.


David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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Where is Zakkushi? Had lunch at Kintaro yesterday. Never been to Japan but this place seems pretty real. I have been half a dozen times and have always been only non Asian. Had the Kim Chi yesterday with my very rich miso and ramen. Very intense flavours.

Coop,

montrachet rports it to be on Denman. Perhaps its within staggering distance of Kintaro. I agree with your synoptic of Kintaro, but I'd also be interested to hear from our Japanese-Canadian friends. Ever had the 'Forest Fire' ramen there? Only available weekends because the chef contends that "I lose money on every bowl."

Perhaps a double-header?

J.

[edited--crossed with montrachet--sounds like its right nearby]


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Where is Zakkushi? Had lunch at Kintaro yesterday. Never been to Japan but this place seems pretty real. I have been half a dozen times and have always been only non Asian. Had the Kim Chi yesterday with my very rich miso and ramen. Very intense flavours.

As you come out of Kintaro, just look across Denman to your left, past the Dairy Queen and it's the first store there. They were featured in the Sun's Queue mag yesterday.

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Perhaps he is a great ramen master and a bad businessman. Charge more then $6.95. No doubleheader will happen for me, was so full after lunch yesterday could barely hit golf balls 2 hours later.


Edited by Coop (log)

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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Perhaps he is a great ramen master and a bad businessman. Charge more then $6.95. No doubleheader will happen for me, was so full after lunch yesterday could barely hit golf balls 2 hours later.

But Coop, you always struck me as a Highly Trained Professional. Full after a bowl of soup? :shock: Even if it is a half-gallon, filled with things that go bump in the night and cheaper than gasoline, I think it's time we got you back in shape. To paraphrase A.J. Liebling's famous statement about Proust, if you ate a proper lunch, you might write longer posts. :biggrin:

FYI, herewith Liebling's legendary quotation about Proust, cast in a larger essay about the true purpose of appetite. For anyone wishing to read more, Barbara-jo has reasonably priced copies of Liebling's work, including the recently published Just Enough Liebling, which also contains many of his war dispatches, New York curiousities and boxing features:

"The Proust madeleine phenomenon is now as firmly established in folklore as Newton's apple or Wart's steam kettle. The man ate a tea biscuit, the taste evoked memories, he wrote a book. This is capable of expression by the formula TMB, for Taste > Memory > Book. Some time ago, when I began to read a book called The Food of France, by Waverley Root, I had an inverse experience: BMT, for Book > Memory > Taste. Happily, the tastes that The Food of France re-created for me-small birds, stewed rabbit, stuffed tripe, Côte Rôtie, and Tavel-were more robust than that of the madeleine, which Larousse defines as "a light cake made with sugar, flour, lemon juice, brandy, and eggs." (The quantity of brandy in a madeleine would not furnish a gnat with an alcohol rub.) In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few cars of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece."

And now back to our regularly scheduled posting . . .


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Has anyone tried the recently opened "Totoya" near Burrard and 4th? I was told the owner is Japanese and is trying to stay away from serving Westernized "maki rolls" and preferring to focus on more authentic offerings. If it's anything like the Totoya in Roppongi, we'll have our own Izakaya in Kits.

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A person travelling around the city can't help but be amazed at the proliferation of 'Japanese' restaurants.

In the past month alone 2 new 'Japanese' places have opened up within in 10 minute walk of my place.

Already there were at least a dozen a 10 minute walk from 4th & Burrad (3 actually run by Japanese Chefs)-it's astounding that this fad hasn't hit bottom.

A quick calculation shows that at the present rate of expansion the year 2020 will see every Vancouverite with a private 'Japanese' restaurant-or each 'Japanese' restaurant with it's own private customer. :wacko:

Your thoughts?

I thought I was the only one rolling my eyes about this :wacko:

I know we have many regional restaurants in the Lower Mainland but I think there are way too many Japanese restaurant. I had a relative who opened a Japanese restaurant in the West side. I assume they did very well as they are able to close and travel after a few years.

Frankly, if cheap raw fish and rice and bastardized hot food is all they have to offer, then forget it. But it seems like newbies like the "westernized" Japanese food, hence, the proliferation.

I'm still looking for real Japanese food that a friend once made for me...now that was authentic and there was no sushi!

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With out a doubt Japanese food is better in Vancouver than Calgary Tojo's  is amazing and regular Japanese restaurants especially sushi bars are cheaper and better in Vancouver.  But we in Calgary have some pretty good contenders when you toss out the top few in Vancouver    We in Calgary have  Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi on Center street and a real old timer going into its second generation of ownership Sushi Hero.  In fact its interesting both of these are moving from first generation into second generation ownership.

 

If you come to Calgary I hope you will enjoy these fine restaurants.


Mike Macdonald Calgary

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