Tag Archives: vancouver restaurants

Japanese Home-Cooking in Vancouver

27 Feb

Don’t have a Japanese parent, but want to try some Japanese-style home-cooking? If you live in Vancouver, you’re in luck. Several restaurants serve the food that the Japanese really eat every day.

Jacket Photo

Black Cod at Hachibei

Done right, a real & traditional Japanese meal is the thoughtful preparation of the freshest (read: seasonal and often local) ingredients using one of several staple cooking methods. Each meal is composed of rice, soup, and several okazu (small side dishes) for a variety of textures, flavours, colours, and aromas. Often served as a set meal, or teishoku, you can find very good quality Japanese meals at the following locations in Vancouver:

Japanese Kitchen is on Commercial between 4th and McSpadden (where Clove used to be). If you want skillfully prepared REAL Japanese food using seasonal ingredients, this is the place to go. The chef applies impeccable cooking techniques to only the freshest ingredients and artfully presents your meal used to be head chef at Tojo’s and Blue Water Cafe before this venture. Attention to detail here is amazing: tempura is served on perfectly folded paper that is served to you with the pointy side away from your body (as per tradition), the “tsuma” (thinly sliced daikon radish) that comes with the sashimi is all hand-cut and not machine-shaved, they have even made the soy sauce themselves (don’t be deceived by the Kikkoman dispensers, they are just used because their design prevents drips on your clothes!) Don’t miss this place. It’s the REAL DEAL. While regular menu items are delicious, it’s the specials menu that is the highlight.

Van-Ya on Kingsway just east of Joyce. I highly recommend going to this little mom and pop establishment. Very small place with very delicious food.

Hachibei on 16th at Willow. (no reservations available) The teishoku here are a little bit more pricey than Van-ya, but probably the best I’ve had in Vancouver (so far…) The black cod is highly recommended, but everything here looks good. They also serve sushi, but if you’re going here, you should go for the unique dishes you can’t get at other restaurants in town.

Tenhachi on 12th at Spruce (no reservations available) is one I haven’t been to, but have heard amazing things about it. It’s the restaurant I’m most looking forward to visiting. However, they don’t take reservations, and I hear that you have to line up. They also serve a Japanese breakfast (similar to what we had tonight – grilled fish, rice, miso soup, etc.) which could be a fun experience if you haven’t had it before.
and http://tenhachi.net/index.html

Aki on Thurlow just off of Robson is where we’ll be visiting next week, and functions more like an izakaya in the evening. However, it does serve teishoku  (set meals) at lunchtime. I haven’t had their lunchtime teishoku, but am sure it will be delicious and authentic, like their evening fare.

Hi Genki on Southoaks Crescent just next to Nikkei Heritage Society serves authentic Japanese food on a rotating menu. (Their menu is supplemented daily with specials, which is a sign of fresh ingredients and skill in the kitchen.) They also have a good selection of washoku (Japanese style food) and yoshoku (Japanese style western food).  Affiliated with the Japanese grocery chain Fujiya, it also serves as a restaurant to the seniors home at Nikkei Place.

Happy Forking!


Sushi Spots in Vancouver

17 Feb

Inari (fried tofu) sushi and Tamago (egg) nigiri sushi

I have the best job ever. I just got home from teaching the second class of the Japanese Culinary Arts class for UBC Continuing Studies, where my job is to essentially host an educational dinner party at a Japanese restaurant each week! Eat and talk about the food I love? I know, I have it so tough…

This week’s class was all about sushi, and so I followed up our delicious meal at Temaki Sushi (on West Broadway near Arbutus – don’t get mixed up with the all-you-can-eat BC Sushi nearby!), where the owner was kind enough to give us a really great deal on a fantastic meal. If you go there, ask for the aji tataki, which is served with the whole fish presented with shaved daikon radish and the slices of tataki. Then, once you’ve eaten the raw fish, the bones are taken back to the kitchen to be deep-fried for aji karaage. So tasty! Very well-priced for the quality you receive, do give it a shot if you live in the west side of town.

If you’re looking for other places, though, here are a few more:


I must confess that my knowledge of downtown sushi joints is pretty poor. I tend to avoid evenings out in downtown, unless I’m riding there on my bike. So here are the two top places I’ve been to, but I know there are many more!

  • Kaide: http://vancouverkaidesushi.com/ On Richards near Pacific, this one is hard to spot, but is a shame to miss. Fresh fish, and a chef who knows what he’s doing. It’s in a part of downtown that is a little out of the way, so it’s a great place to get away for a downtown lunch.
  • Honjin: Tucked in the corner of a complex in Yaletown, Honjin has Sushi Shooters that are creative and delicious. http://www.honjinsushi.com/ They tend more to fusion sushi, but the ingredients are fresh and well prepared.

Central/East Vancouver

  • Zipang: Another reasonably priced location on Main street, I recommend their non-sushi dishes, such as their grilled eggplant, which is one of the best I’ve ever had. http://www.zipangsushi.com/ They also serve takoyaki (octopus balls) and Okonomiyaki (although you’ll be able to make a better Okonomiyaki with your experience!)

Kitsilano/West Side

  • Octopus’ Garden: A pricier option on Cornwall, this might be one of my new favourites. For this year’s Dine-Out Vancouver, this restaurant provided me with one of the most creative and delicious meals I’ve had in this city. http://www.octopusgarden.ca/ Definitely a place to bow to the chef’s choice and go for something special.
  • Kibune: On Yew near Cornwall (just beside the Happa Izakaya) is a small and really great little sushi spot. Also not super cheap, but a more financially accessible than Octopus’ Garden, the sushi is very authentic and they also have tofu dengaku (grilled tofu with a miso paste). Delicious! http://www.kibune.com/
  • Ajisai: Upstairs from London Drugs in Kerrisdale (on 42nd) Ajisai is the top pick of many a Vancouverite (and many Japanese Vancouverites) for high quality sushi. No tempura served here, they are about fresh fish and healthy choices. If you are going to go choose only one restaurant on this list, I know a lot of people who would say this should be the one. Read a review here: http://vancouverisawesome.com/2009/04/28/weekly-slop-ajisai-sushi/

South Vancouver


  • Gyo-ou: An interesting approach to sushi – some deconstructed offerings at this new place just east of Aberdeen Centre on Sexsmith. They also have dishes like takoyaki. Check out their exciting menu: http://www.gyo-o.com/. Brought to you by the Gyoza King owners. They also own a ramen shop in the same complex that is VERY authentic – http://www.gmenramen.com/

I’ll be heading to three more restaurants for this course, so please stand by for more recommendations – and please do share your favourites, too!

Happy Forking!

South Vancouver

· Shimaya: If you want authentic at good prices, without the crazy line-ups, try this place on Victoria drive at 39th. I think it’s equal to Shiro and Toshi in terms of quality, just a little further out of the way.




· Gyo-ou: An interesting approach to sushi – some deconstructed offerings at this new place just east of Aberdeen Centre on Sexsmith. They also have dishes like takoyaki. Check out their exciting menu: http://www.gyo-o.com/ Brought to you by the Gyoza King owners. They also own a ramen shop in the same complex that is VERY authentic – http://www.gmenramen.com/


13 Aug

Fits into hand with ease, pleasant shape of balls

Have you enjoyed balls, lately?


What do you like to forking put in your mouth? How about some balls? Although they’re not something that comes to mind right away when I think of what to eat (most things I put in my mouth are longer than they are wide) I encourage you not to leave your balls out in the cold.

Let me introduce you to two of my favourite balls.

1. Octopus Balls – Takoyaki

A relative newbie to the Vancouver/Richmond night market scene (stalls have popped up over the past couple of years) takoyaki are balls of savoury dough, grilled on a special teppan of half-spheres. Batter, green onions and/or cabbage, and sometimes tenkasu (bits of fried tempura batter) and/or beni-shouga (red ginger) are poured onto the teppan, and a piece of octopus is plonked in the middle. Once mostly cooked, the half-moon is deftly turned in its place with a long skewer and fried into a spherical shape. Topped with a Worcestershire-based sauce (creatively named takoyaki sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, aonori (seaweed powder), and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes), this Osaka treat is a big hit, as indicated by the huge line-ups at the night market stalls.



Not had the chance to put these balls in your mouth yet? Try eating octopus balls in the Vancouver area at:

  • Zipang (3710 Main Street, between 21st and 22nd Avenues)
  • Richmond Night Market (12631 Vulcan Way)
  • Bakudanyaki: Named for their incredible size (Bakudan = explosion, or bomb) these baseball sized “explosion balls” are so potent, you need only one. (7100 Elmbridge Way, just off of the Gilbert Road bridge on the south side of the river)

Be careful not to burn your mouth – these balls are hot!

2. Rice Balls – Onigiri

The ideal way to use up the last of your rice, and the easiest meal to take for tomorrow’s lunch, onigiri are the perfect way to satisfy your hunger at mealtime or as a snack. Available in abundance in convenience stores in Japan, I can’t imagine why this treat hasn’t caught on in 7-11s across the globe. Tasty, healthy, and available with a variety of fillings, I would argue that onigiri, Japan’s sandwich, outshines the bologna tossed between two slices of white bread that most North American children call “lunch”.


Onigiri - a versatile ball

How to Make Onigiri (Rice Balls)

  1. Cook Japanese rice, using only white rice or a mixture of white and brown rice. (Onigiri requires the rice to stick to itself, so be sure to mix in at least 40% white rice to get this to work! Also, make sure you use Japanese rice – other types aren’t sticky enough.)
  2. Allow the rice to cool at least a little bit. As delicious as they are, onigiri are not worth losing the skin from the palms of your hands. Once lukewarm or cool, you can sprinkle in your favourite furikake (literally “shake and sprinkle”) seasoning (available at most asian supermarkets) leftover bits of flaked salmon or other fish, leftover edamame beans (minus the pods), or gomashio (a mixture of sesame seeds and coarse salt). Plain rice is fine, too.
  3. Shape the balls. Wet your hands and sprinkle them with some salt before scooping about one rice-bowls worth of rice into one hand. In the centre, spoon in a small dollop of the filling of your choice, such as a piece of leftover salmon, a chunk of tuna, a piece of daikon radish pickle, soft nori (seaweed) paste or an umeboshi (pickled sour plum). Shape the rice as you wish (triangles are most popular, followed by flattened circles, but try your hand at hearts and stars if you dare!) and wrap with a piece of crispy ajitsuke nori (seasoned, roasted seaweed) as enjoyed in western Japan’s Kansai region or yaki nori (dried plain seaweed sheets – used when making sushi) as they prefer is in the eastern Kanto region.
Konbini Onigiri

So convenient, onigiri is a Japanese convenience store staple

Onigiri holder

Hate squashed balls? Try an onigiri-holder!

Onigiri mascot

Already an expert onigiri-maker? Don't let it go to your head

Wanna try an onigiri before making it on your own? T&T Supermarket (179 Keefer Place in Vancouver, 21500 Gordon Way in Richmond, and 15277 100 Avenue in Surrey) and Konbiniya  (1238 Robson Street in Vancouver) sell pre-made onigiri. Check out their ingenious packaging, which keeps the nori fresh and crispy until the moment you eat it.

Let’s enjoying the balls together for two times of fun when next forking time!