Monday, 6 January 2014

Vancouver Eats: Suika

Glowing sake bottles create the chandelier at Suika
I just came back from my last dinner in Vancouver and it was memorable for the atmosphere as well as the food. A family friend suggested we eat at Suika, an izakaya he's tried before near his office so we made an early booking for 5.30pm.

The appetizer sample described as a "treasure box"
We arrived early and saw that the chefs were busy in the open kitchen prepping for the evening, but the wait staff would not let us sit at the table. Instead they asked us to sit or stand by the door which was awkward as more people piled in, though handing out cups of hot green tea was a nice touch.

When 5.30pm did come a few minutes later the wait staff shouted greetings to us and sat four groups of diners quickly. One of the first things we noticed in the dim restaurant was the chandelier made of sake bottles which was cool -- the bottoms were cut off and light bulbs strung in the neck.

Delicious sweet and sour beef short ribs
There are also two bar areas -- one wrapped around the open kitchen, the other by the bar, which has a screen behind it projecting wacky Japanese movies. We think the one showing tonight was Godzilla...

In any event the menu is very creative -- with a bit of fusion thrown in -- and it tastes yum.

A nice appetizer for say two to three people is the deluxe "Suika box" ($12.80) featuring nine small cups of different starters to nibble on. One had tofu in it, another tomato kimchee, mushrooms, lotus root kimpira, mackerel and cold chawanmushi.

We were impressed to see the dishes come out fast and furious, as the beef short rib ($16.80) arrived soon afterwards. It's described as "fried and tossed with sweet balsamic like sweet and sour pork without the pork!" The braised beef easily fell off the bone and did have a subtle sweet and sour taste fully infused in the tender meat.

Chinese poutine using ground pork sauce
The corn kakiage ($5.50) were organic corn niblets deepfried with cilantro batter, soy sauce and butter. It wasn't as good as Hong Kong's Yardbird's popcorn balls, but had a similar taste.

Fusion was definitely the only way to describe Chinese poutine ($6.80). Poutine is a Canadian dish mostly found in Quebec, though McDonald's Canada has finally embraced it... but basically it's French fries topped with cheese curds and dressed in gravy.

The Chinese poutine here had the fries with a mildly spicy minced pork sauce with mozzarella cheese melted on top with a bit of sansho, or Japanese pepper and cilantro. The dish worked well actually and we compared it to having minced pork sauce with eggplant. So the next time you order the Chinese dish, bring McDonald's fries with you!

We enjoyed the delicacy of the Aburi Yellowtail carpaccio ($9.20) that had a bit of mayonnaise squirted on top in a sesame soy sauce, as well as the grilled miso marinated sable fish ($9.80).

Perhaps the only fault was the my ebi-mayo ($8.80) where the prawns were deep fried in a thick batter but we liked the chilli-mayonnaise sauce.

Delicate flavours in the yellowtail carpaccio
More fusion ensued with the kakuni bibimbap ($9.80), featuring stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp and scallions on rice in a hot stone bowl that our server mixed for us. The flavours here were complex and was a nice hearty dish for winter. The Tokyo oxtail ramen ($9.80) was also delicious, but for the most part pedestrian.

Our last dish was a variation on sushi, where tuna was pressed into the rice dressed with soy dressing and seaweed sauce. Each piece was filling and glad I had one piece (though I was busying finishing up the other dishes!). I forgot to mention the asparagus chawanmushi ($5.00) was gorgeously silky smooth egg custard.

For dessert the server recommended the matcha tiramisu that I thought everyone would share in eating it, but I ended up eating the lion's share of it. It wasn't exactly like tiramisu, but more like a cake base with matcha mousse on top. Another dessert option was Earl Grey tea creme brulee... perhaps the restaurant could create some interesting ice creams and sorbets instead...

Tuna-pressed sushi with seaweed sauce on top
In any event we enjoyed the food immensely though the wait and kitchen staff had a habit of shouting loudly all the time which made the place quite noisy!

1626 West Broadway
604 730 1678

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