We can count ourselves to be lucky if we wanted some phenomenal Japanese food in Vancouver. The Vancouver Japanese food scene is pretty much an umbrella term that covers everything from entry level sushi places to high end establishments like Tojo’s, from ramen shops to izakaya bars. We even have specialists like Gyoza King for gyozas and Zakkushi for yakitori. I love yakitori and the pictures on the menu on Zakkushi’s website constantly makes my mouth water. Read on so you can do the same.
Zakkushi has three locations, one on Denman in the West End, one on West 4th in Kitsilano, and one on Main. I’ve been to their West 4th location, but it was too small (about the size of a an Ikea elevator). Like its West 4th location, it was beautifully furnished with Japanese accents both on the outside and inside. The room itself is quite small (bigger than an elevator at least), and it tends to get busy, so reservations is recommended.
After agreeing with my friend to not order anything boring like sushi or sashimi (things you can pretty much get anywhere else), we started off the evening with the Dashimaki Tamago. I always get this whenever possible because I love how the Japanese do the eggs. This rendition was up to par. The presentation looked great, and the taste was noticeably sweet. It was not soggy or spongy, and each pieces were firmly intact.
The Zakkushi set was a combination of Momo (sauce), Umeshiso Yaki, Me Maki, P-toro, and Oropon beef. Let’s go from the left to the right!
First the Oropon Beef. AAA striploin with grated Daikon (served separately) and Ponzu sauce. I thought the meat could be seasoned a little bit more for more taste and the some pieces of the meat were somewhat chewy, probably because it was cooked medium.
Second from the left was the P-toro. “Crunchy and juicy pork” was the description on the menu. However, I found it more to crunchy and oily. Basically, it was dry and was drenched in oil.
The middle was the Me Maki, garlic stubs wrapped with sliced pork. I liked this. This was well seasoned and the garlic stubs added a bit of contrast to the salty pork.
Second from the right was the Momo, chicken thigh. This was probably the best thing on the plate. The meat was succulent, juicy, and the teriyaki sauce significantly bought the taste out.
The far right was the Umeshiso Yaki, chicken thigh with sour plum and Japanese basil. Like the chicken, it was juicy and cooked well. The plum sauce was interesting because it was sweet and actually worked well with the chicken.
Next up was the Tsukune, the Japanese version of chicken meat ball. I couldn’t even taste the chicken, but I liked whatever the resulting mixture was. In this particular version, it was glazed with teriyaki sauce, which provided some sweetness. I loved the beautifully seared exterior and the meatball itself was extremely tender and juicy.
The next version of Tsukune is Cheese Tsukune. It’s basically your standard tsukune topped with a layer of melted cheese. It tasted like processed mozzarella. Nonetheless, it added a bit of creamy texture and went well with the meat.
The Tsukune Norimayo, as its name implies, is your standard Tsukune recipe drizzled with Japanese mayo and seaweed on top. This is a must have at Zakkushi. The mayo and the seaweed combination really worked with the meatball and made it quite creamy.
If you wanted Japadog but didn’t want to make the trip downtown (or didn’t want the buns), this is the closest thing you can get: the Norimayo Sausage. Ironically, I also had Japadog that very same day because I was feeling a little dizzy at work.
Ah, Kobe beef. It’s like a bug zapper to me and I just keep getting suckered into ordering it. Like all Kobe beef should, it was juicy and tender. It was also cooked and seasoned very well with a strong flavor. I couldn’t taste the buttery flavor that I should be tasting for in Kobe beef, but the seasoning more than made up for it. Good stuff.
Another interesting item that caught my eye was the Uzura Maki, quail eggs wrapped with sliced pork topped with Japanese mayo and seaweed. This was interesting indeed. One bite in and I could taste the yolk of the bard boiled egg, the saltiness of the pork (bacon, really), and the sweetness of the Japanese mayo. Another winner.
My friend insisted on ordering the Yaki Onigiri because she saw it in some manga. Maybe it was because I didn’t know how to appreciate it, but I found it dry, crunchy, and tasteless. It was pretty much a dog’s dinner to me.
Since I thought the chicken was the best tasting meat in this restaurant, I decided to give the Cheese Yaki, or Chicken thigh with melted cheese, a go. Again, the cheese was processed cheese but at least the chicken maintained the tenderness and juiciness of its no frills version.
My friend pointed out the Bonito Tataki in the menu because I love tataki. I was tempted to order it, so we did. Presentation was quite neat: there was a section for the grated radish, the tataki itself, and the soy sauce. Comparing it with the run of the mill tuna tataki, it was relatively leaner with a more intense taste of tuna. The edges were seared perfectly.
We ended the night with Green Tea Tiramisu. Again, I liked the presentation on this one. It was served in a traditional Japanese style bowl on a wooden tray and spoon. Beneath the top layer lie the cream and the matcha flavored sponge cake. This was refreshingly good and possibly one of the best tiramisu variationI’ve had.
One of the things I like about the Japanese is the amazing attention to detail that they put into their products, like the Nissan GT-R. While the skewers that was served on my table couldn’t quite compare to a supercar, you can certainly find the same traits in this unique restaurant. From the decor to the ingredients on and it each skewers, a dinner here is worth experiencing at least once. While not all items I tried tonight were on the dot, most of them were great, particularly the chicken and of course, the Kobe beef.