Pacific Poké

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Pacific Poké opened up at the end of last year on Main Street in Chinatown. Thanks to VancityTastes, I was able to give their menu a try. The interior is clean and minimal with cute cacti plants on the tables. The location seats around 20 people inside but many opt to take out their poké bowls.

 

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The menu is similar to many other poké shops. You can either build your own or choose the chef prepared creations. To build your own, a regular bowl costs $12 (two proteins and three toppings) whereas a large goes for $14 (three proteins and four toppings). The options for your base include organic brown rice, traditional sushi rice, quinoa salad base or a kale salad base. Proteins include salmon, ahi tuna, negitoro, albacore tuna, crab and shrimp, and also seasonal selections such as hamachi.

 

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You’ll notice that the number of toppings to choose from is more limited than many of the other poké shops. However, at Pacific Poké, they pride themselves in using high quality ingredients and setting high standards in execution. This includes how the fish is cut perfectly into the same size and the details that go into putting the bowls together. The head chef and sous chef both have many years of experience in fine dining and it definitely shows in the food they present.

 

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The Main

We got to try the chef pre-arranged bowls which I always go for on my first try at poké shops. Getting these bowls, I know I won’t mess up with overloading on random toppings. There are four pre-arranged options, with one being vegetarian. We tried the other three bowls, including The Main, which features salmon, spicy tuna, crab and shrimp jicama, cucumber, avocado, nori, sesame miso sauce, lime and yuzu juice, green onion, and fresh herbs. This bowl was fresh with the lime and yuzu juice really pulling through and hints of spicy flavour from the tuna. I’d say this is a safe bowl for first-timers.

 

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The Keefer

My favourite however was The Keefer which featured ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado, nori, fresh wasabi peas, mixed herbs, classic sesame shoyu, and lime juice. Although this bowl tasted very healthy with the greens, it was extremely flavourful and light. I especially liked the wasabi peas which I don’t normally find at other poké shops. I actually took a bowl of this home and my dad ended up eating it and absolutely loved it. He commented that the fish was very fresh and the sushi rice was cooked perfectly.

 

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The Cali

If you like spicy, then The Cali would probably be your choice. This bowl features spicy salmon, crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado nori, green onion, sprouts, and spicy mayo. I really liked the pickled red onions in this bowl which balanced well with the spicy sashimi.

 

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Poké Panini

Other than the typical bowls, they also have Poké Paninis. Pictured above is the Tuna Panini which is filled with crab and tobioko mix, pickled red onion, avocado, nori, wasabi and miso mayo, green onion and sprouts. On the right is the Salmon Panini which is filled with crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado, nori, spicy sauce, and tomato kimchi.

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To wash it all down, they also have three homemade drinks, including the Strawberry Green Tea, Yuzu Lemon Tea, and Coco Panda (which is a coconut pandan drink). Overall, I highly recommend Pacific Poké due to the chef’s care in ingredients and detail. You can really taste how fresh the food is here and the toppings are meant to go well in all variations. The chefs also curated a menu that is more health conscious, and I definitely felt that way after my bowl. Although more pricey than Pokeritto, the pricing is similar to many of the other poké shops, and I would pay a little more for the quality.

 

Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ajishou

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Ajishou opened up earlier this year at the new Garden City mall. The interior is surprisingly very nice inside with a very modern look and a long sushi bar on one side. I heard that their lunch menu is quite affordable, so decided to give it a try. You can order a la carte, but they also have a lot of combos that range from $10 – $15. The dinner menu is much more expensive.

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Many of their lunch combos, like the one I got comes with miso soup. This was quite average and wasn’t anything special.

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Rainbow Chirashi Combo

I chose the Rainbow Chirashi Combo which comes with a Japanese salad, tempura, a chirashi-don, and some orange slices. The set was $12.50 and I thought it looked like a lot of food, but I was actually still hungry after. The chirashi-don is super small. And when I say small, I mean the amount of rice given was so little, that it left me hungry. You would think that they would give you more rice since it’s cheap, but I thought the ratio of sashimi to rice was really odd. There was salmon, tuna, hamachi, hokigai, ebi, avocado and tamago. The fact that they gave cooked shrimp instead of shrimp sashimi was slightly disappointing. The quality of the sashimi itself was average. It was fresh and not bad, but nothing to get excited about. Salad was typical with the usual Japanese dressing. As for the tempura, they actually give you two prawns, a squash, and yam. Batter was too thick, so reminded me of all you can eat tempura.

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Ajishou Special Sushi Combo A

S got the Ajishou Special Sushi Combo A for $10.75. The set comes with dynamite roll, California roll, and cucumber roll. As you can see, the sushi is not very well constructed. The dynamite roll was cut too thinly so all the filling fell out. Even the California started to fall apart. Everything was just a mess and these are super simple rolls!

Overall, S and I were quite disappointed with Ajishou. The prices would be reasonable if they could execute with their quality and construction of the sushi. However, given there are so many other sushi restaurants in Vancouver to choose from, I don’t think I would be returning.

Pros:
– Ambiance is nice

Cons:
– Rolls fall apart easily
– Expensive for average quality, especially a la carte

Price Range: $10-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 2.5 Service: 2.5 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 2.5

Ajishou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Assembli

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are based on my own personal experience.

Last week, we were invited to check out the newly opened Assembli on Cambie between West 7th and 8th near Broadway station. The focus on two main items: pizzas and salads. What differentiates them is the fact that their pizzas and salads are one set price and you can add as many ingredients as you want. This means the customer doesn’t end up with an expensive meal at checkout, and also makes it easier for the staff as they don’t need to constantly keep track of what “additional” items you got. 11 inch pizzas are $12.99 and salads come in regular size for $10.99 and large for $12.99.

 

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The interior has high ceilings and a beautiful painting of Vancouver. There are enough seats for you to dine in, but because of how quick the assembly line is, you can also grab and go. They offer online ordering for pick up, but have also teamed up with some other delivery companies, like Foodora to deliver straight yo your place. While we were there, I couldn’t help but notice the constant in and out of the Foodora deliveries.

 

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If you choose to come in to make your pizza or salad, then you can see all the ingredients you can add through the glass shield.

 

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Although you can customize your pizzas and salads, for those of you who cannot make decisions when there are an overwhelming amount of options, you can choose preset options. We were able to try some of these preset options at the tasting.

 

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O-Mega Brainiac

We started off trying some of their salads which were beautiful in colour. The O-Mega Brainiac came with mixed greens, quinoa, cucumber, cabbage, blueberries, beets, avocado salsa, walnuts, seed mix, and the goddess dressing. Normally, this salad comes with the glory dressing which is more of a tahini dressing. This was bright and great for the summer with the blueberries and avocado salsa.

 

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Sexy Hippie

One of my favourites was the Sexy Hippie which has brown rice, quinoa, roasted root veggies, celery, beets, parsley, walnuts, apple, and a honey dijon dressing. I think the honey dijon dressing was what got me as it was slightly acidic but sweet at the same time, making it very appetizing.

 

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Wild Cowboy

The Wild Cowboy reminded me of a deconstructed taco or burrito with all the fillings you would normally find in Mexican food. This had mixed greens, romaine, black beans, mixed bell peppers, roasted corn salsa, brown rice, cheddar, pico de gallo, and a southwest dressing. Ours also came with shredded chicken. Another favourite for me and I don’t even normally order salads!

 

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All Greek to Me

Onto the pizzas, these are just the right thickness. The crust is not as thin as flatbread, but not thick like the ones you get at Pizza Hut. Just the perfect thickness! The All Greek to Me pizza normally comes with genoa salami, goat feta, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, olives, olive oil tossed kale, artichoke, tomato sauce, and balsamic drizzle. Ours came without the salami but was already flavourful enough. This was my least favourite pizza as I’m not a fan of feta or olives. That’s exactly why the customization ability is perfect here!

 

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Smoke & Fire

Smoke and Fire features pepperoni, smoked cheddar, mozzarella, banana peppers, red onion, and a spicy tomato sauce. This is for those who love a bit of a kick. I actually really enjoyed this but would probably need a beer with it!

 

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Backyard BBQ

A colourful pizza was the Backyard BBQ which features herb-roasted chicken, mozzarella, cheddar cheese, red onion, bell peppers, cilantro, bbq sauce, yogurt drizzle, and an adobo sauce drizzle. The pizza is sweet from the onions and bbq sauce and would be great with the kids.

 

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Smooth Crimini Kale

Lastly, the Smooth Crimini Kale was my favourite. I love meat, but sometimes I actually crave vegetarian pizzas. This pizza has sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella, olive oil tossed kale, artichoke, red onion, and white sauce. All my favourite ingredients and you also feel super healthy eating it.

 

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Fiasco Gelato

Other than pizzas and salads, they also have a select few desserts, smoothies and gelato! Assembli carries the Fiasco brand gelato in their single serve cups. With so many flavours to choose from like Salted Caramel, Bourbon Vanilla, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and even dairy free sorbettos like Mango Pineapple, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Raspberry Lime, there is a flavour for everyone!

 

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Overall, Assembli offers fresh ingredients and the ability to customize at a flat price. Definitely a great spot to grab and go or sit down for a quick eat. I love how you can also make your meal really healthy or not so healthy depending on what you add to your pizza or salad. Plus, they have happy hour with drinks for $5 and salads and pizzas for $10!

Assembli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Christmas in November at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

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Disclosure: I was invited to a media preview and all food and beverages were complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Christmas in November? You must be thinking I’m crazy. Well Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has been celebrating Christmas in November for many years and it is now the 29th year! This food and wine festival runs from November 3 to November 12th, 2017 this year and I was invited to a media preview a few weeks ago to learn all about it.

 

Chesnuts on an open fire by ukijojo on 500px.comPhoto Credit: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

The event is not just about food and wine. Instead, it gets you ready for the holidays with cooking, cocktail, and decorating classes where you get to interact with the chefs and experts at a personal level. Attendees will be wined and dined throughout the 3 days from breakfast to dinner, so fear not of being hungry.

 

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One of the most exciting highlights are the celebrity chefs that you will be able to meet including, Chefs Chuck Hughes, Vikram Vij, Ned Bell, and Anna & Michael Olson. They will be showing you many recipes and you can mix and mingle with the chefs at a whole new level. Not your typical demo and dine experience.

 

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At the media preview, we were luckily invited to Chef Vikram Vij’s restaurant to indulge in some of his dishes (which will be available at the event as well)! He shared his stories from last year and said that the experience is like no other and is perfect for both guests who want to just relax and rewind but also guests who are ready to mingle and have a party. Jasper National Park is the perfect place to get closer to nature, but you will also make some lifelong friends along the way.

 

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Of course we got to try some of Vikram Vij’s curries including this Chicken Curry which was packed full of flavour and paired perfectly with naan and rice.

 

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A Chickpea Curry was also served and the aroma of spices filled the room.

 

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So how do you attend this amazing event? There are 3 packages to choose from: 3-Night Weekend Package (November 3-6) from $1,049 per person, 3-Night Mid-Week Package (November 6-9) from $999 per person, and a 3-Night Weekend Package (November 9-12) from $1,110 per person. All these packages include accommodation, a reception on the first day, breakfast, lunch and dinner on the next two days, continental breakfast and brunch on the day of departure, instructional seminars and gratuities. There is also a VIP package which features private classes, meet and greet with the celebrity chefs, and a private kitchen party! For more details, check out https://www.christmasinnovember.com/

Cooking with Ben

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Oyster, Scallop, Quail Egg Yolk, Togarashi Rimmed Caesar Shooter

I’m sure many of you have come across the delicious Instagram account cookingwithben_ of Chef Benedict Lim. Ben has over 16 years of culinary experience and even owns Ohana Poké Bar at the night market. In the evenings and weekends, he also offers catering at his home. You can let him know what ingredients you want or dislike and his menu will change depending on what is fresh.

Our first item was the Caesar Shooter which featured oysters, scallops from Japan, a quail egg yolk, some horseradish on top of a shooter of clamato juice, soy vinaigrette and rimmed with togarashi, a Japanese six spice. Usually, this shooter comes with sea urchin, but unfortunately, he could not find any fresh sea urchin that day. The togarashi gave it that spicy kick, and the scallop and oyster was so fresh. Perfect combo!

 

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Oysters with Lime and Cucumber

Next up was another refreshing dish featuring the fresh sweet oysters. Underneath the thinly sliced cucumbers were the oysters and these were flavoured with lime and a soy vinaigrette. Definitely opens up your palette.

 

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Salmon Poké

Ben is famous for his Poké (I mean he did open a stall selling poké at the night market!). Our next dish was the Salmon Poké which was topped with Alaska shrimp sashimi and a quail egg in the centre. The salmon sashimi is flavoured with gochujang and soy vinaigrette and sits on top of sushi rice. It is similar to a sushi or chirashi tower which many restaurants have now. Probably one of my favourite pokés even though it may not be very traditional. The shrimp was so sweet and the quail egg yolk added to the creaminess. He also makes other versions, such as scallop and sometimes they are topped with sea urchin.

 

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Scallop and Prawn Uni Rissotto

One of our mains were the Scallop and Prawn Uni Rissotto. This was an amazing twist to the classic rissotto. The rissotto is made with a sake dashi broth and uni butter cream cheese with black truffle. So fragrant and flavourful! The scallops and Argentinian red prawns were also huge and cooked perfectly. Break open the 63 degree egg and let the yolk pour out, you cannot ask for a more creamy and smooth texture.

 

 

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Sous Vide NY Striploin

As if we were not already filled up, our last main was the Sous Vide New York Striploin. Sous vide was a smart move since he was able to set up the machine at the beginning of the dinner and let the meat slowly cook while he made the other dishes. He then needed to just sear the outside before serving to us. Very tender and pink all throughout. The meat came with sides of edamame puree, smoked pork jowl, king oyster mushrooms, and roasted parsnip. I especially loved the pork jowl as it had an amazing bouncy texture. Everything just worked so well together.

 

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Amaretto Vanilla Cake

Lastly, for dessert, we had the Amaretto Vanilla Cake which came with a coconut and pandan gelato, topped with a strawberry salsa and a piece of mint. The pandan and coconut gelato was spot on!

Overall, we really enjoyed our dinner at Ben’s. There are around 5-6 course sharing plates but you will be beyond full at the end. A minimum of 6 guests are required and his space can fit up to around 8 guests. Each dish seen above other than the starters and the dessert is shared between two people, so plenty to go around. Our dinner was $50 as we did it on a weekend, but you can get a premium menu for $75 which may offer more premium ingredients and possibly a couple more courses. Highly recommend checking this out. Just contact him on his Instagram or on his website!

Taishoken

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Taishoken has been around for many years now, but for some reason or another, I never visited the restaurant. Possibly because its in Chinatown and I don’t go to that area that often. We arrived after work and were surprised to see a line up but luckily the wait was only around 15 minutes.

 

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They have around 6 options for ramen, but they are well known for their tsukemen, or dipping ramen.

 

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Pork Gyoza

You can add $3.50 to get a side with your ramen, so we got the Pork Gyoza. With a very nice char and crispy edges, these reminded me of the ones we had in Japan.

 

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Tonkotsu

S got the Tonkotsu which comes with 2 slices of pork chashu, bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion and a soft boiled egg. The broth is a mix of pork and chicken. The broth is much thicker than what we are normally used to, so I thought it was bit oily although it was very flavourful.

 

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Tsukemen

For myself, I had to get what they are famous for, which is the Tsukemen. You can choose between, original, spicy or garlic miso. You also have the option to choose cold or warm noodles. I went for the original broth with cold noodles. The noodles come separately from the broth, so that you can dip the noodles into the broth each time you eat. The rich shoyu pork and chicken broth is topped with 2 slices of chashu, green onion, seaweed, bamboo shoots and a soft boiled egg.  The noodles are much firmer and thicker, but they are meant to be this way so that the thick broth sticks to the noodles. I really enjoyed the broth, but the problem I had was that the broth got cold very quickly. However, I saw some other guests ask for a hot stone to put under the bowl, so perhaps that could solve the problem. You can choose between lean or fatty pork as well, and of course I got the latter. I liked how the pork is a bit charred so it gives a smoky flavour. The fatty pork melts in your mouth, so I would definitely get that again. The egg was a bit of a disappointment though as it was not runny.

Overall, I can see why people line up for Taishoken. I would recommend getting the Tsukemen, but I think the Tonkotsu was nothing too special compared to the other ramen shops in Vancouver. Prices are pretty reasonable and service was typical to other ramen shops.

Pros:
– Good for tsukemen
– Cha-shu is nicely charred and melts in your mouth

Cons:
– Seating is a bit cramped and not very comfortable
– Broths can be a bit greasy

Price Range: $10-15

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2 Parking: 2 Overall: 3

Taishoken Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Tea

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Le Tea opened up last year at Continental Plaza in Richmond and was probably one of the first to bring over the new “cheese lattea” hype that’s been popping up everywhere now. They have an extensive menu of beverages to choose from, but their tea based drinks are what they are noted for as they use fresh tea leaves in their drinks.

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Peach Oolong Cheese Lattea

I got the Peach Oolong Cheese Lattea which you can choose hot or cold and I chose the latter. You can also choose between salty or sweet for the cheese. Yes, it may sound weird to have cheese on your drink, but it was actually really good! The waitress told me salty is more popular, so I went with it. Essentially, the top white foam is the cheese flavour and you should drink it at a 45 degree angle to get both the foam and tea. It sort of tastes like cream cheese at the top and the sweet tea surprisingly goes well with it. I did wish that the tea was more strong and after Happy Lemon opened up, I have to say they do a better job at this drink.

 

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Oreo Smoothie

Of course S chose something off the “popular” charts. Instead of the teas, S chose the Oreo Smoothie which was topped with an Oreo cookie. The smoothie was not too sweet but I thought it was a bit too icy.

 

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Overall Le Tea has some decent drinks but with so many new Taiwanese bubble tea chains opening, it’s hard to compete. Their prices are comparable to the others at around $4 – $5 a drink, but I would probably go back to Happy Lemon or Chatime instead. Service was also not very friendly, but I do like the brick wall decor inside.

Pros:
– Large selection of tea-based drinks
– Decor is nice and nice spot to enjoy your drink

Cons:
– Tea flavour is not strong enough

Price Range: $5-6

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 2 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 3

Le Tea 樂茶 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maruyama

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Maruyama opened last year in East Vancouver by Chef Yoshiyo Maruyama who previously worked at Blue Water Cafe as the raw bar chef.

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The restaurant was is small but the simple black and wooden decor makes the space look very elegant. There are only 4 seats at the sushi bar if you want to watch the chef in action. It would be best to make reservations ahead of time to secure a spot.

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Maruyama is famous for their omakase tasting menu which features one of the more affordable prices in Vancouver. You can also order a-la-carte and their fish is supposed to be shipped from Japan daily.

 

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They also have homemade udon, tempura and various appetizers. The restaurant is fully licensed for liquor so they have some good options of sake, beer, and wine.

 

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Goma-ae

We decided to go with the $40 tasting menu as you get to try a bit of everything. This five course menu is pretty good value, as it includes 5 pieces of nigiri. This starts off with a Spinach Goma-ae Salad, with peanut sauce and freshly roasted black sesame. One of my favourite appetizers at Japanese restaurants.

 

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5-Piece Nigiri

Next up was the 5-Piece Nigiri set which was what we really came for. The omakase set will change daily depending on what type of fish is fresh. That night, our omakase included: Bin Toro (albacore tuna belly), Warasa (wild yellowtail), Houbou (red gurnard), Hirame (flounder), and Isaki (threeline grunt). I had not heard of many of these fish, but they all tasted fresh and there were none that I disliked. My favourite was the toro as it was very fatty and the flounder which had a buttery texture and melted in my mouth. Interesting that the chef features mostly white fish in his omakase though as it would have been nice to have a mix. When you place your order, you will be asked whether you want wasabi or not in your sushi.

 

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Cold Udon

Next up were their homemade udons. You can choose between hot or cold. Half of our table got the cold and the other half hot. The Cold Udon comes with a separate sesame base sauce with you can then pour onto the noodles. The noodles come with green onion, cucumber, seaweed, egg, and assorted mushrooms. I really liked their handmade noodles as they had a nice chew. They sort of remind me of the ones at Kinome.

 

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Hot Udon

The Hot Udon comes with assorted mushrooms, wakame, tempura bits and a dashi broth. Both the cold and hot udon are special in their own way and I would highly suggest to try both.

 

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Jumbo Prawn Tempura

A perfect pair with your udon is the Jumbo Prawn Tempura which comes with a small zucchini tempura as well. The prawn was large and bouncy but I did think that the batter could be a little thinner.

 

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Matcha Ice Cream

To end your meal, the tasting menu finishes with a Matcha Ice Cream with a side of sweet red bean paste.

 

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Overall, we thought that the Maruyama $40 omakase menu was a pretty good deal given we were all full and got the chance to try a variety of their dishes. However, if you are looking to only eat nigiri sushi, then you can try their nigiri-only omakase which goes for $35, $60, or $75 depending on the number of pieces you get and how premium the fish is. They also have some pretty good lunch deals, so I will definitely be back again.

Pros:
– $40 omakase tasting menu is pretty good value
– Handmade noodles were solid

Cons:
– If you order a-la-carte, the prices can be pretty steep

Price Range: $40 (omakase tasting menu)

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 4 Ambiance: 4 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 4

Maruyama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato