Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba

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Niku Mazesoba

Last year, a new ramen restaurant opened up and it definitely found itself having long lines as expected. Kokoro Toyko Mazesoba is located just next to the Downtown BCIT campus which makes it a popular spot for all the students. If you come during peak lunch and dinner hours, expect to wait, although it is quite spacious and food comes out fast, so the turnover is quite quick. Mazesoba is essentially a mixed noodle or soupless ramen. I first tried something similar to this when I was in Tokyo.

I decided to try the Niku Mazesoba which seemed to be their most popular mazesoba. It features slow braised pork chashu, spicy minced pork, raw egg yolk, green onion, seaweed flakes, chives, minced garlic, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. Noodles sit below all the ingredients and you mix all the ingredients and noodles together while breaking the yolk. It reminds me of a dan dan noodle with each noodle strand being coated with some sauce. The noodles were toothsome with a nice al dente texture. They are right when they say not udon but also not ramen as it is really something in between.

 

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Shio Mazesoba

S didn’t really want that raw egg yolk so he got the Shio Mazesoba which featured slow braised pork chashu, bamboo shoot, green onion, spinach, seaweed flakes, minced garlic, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. Instead, he added a soft boiled egg on the side. His mazesoba was definitely less saucy without the egg so he actually did not have much sauce leftover. If you find the noodles a bit too heavy, you can also try adding vinegar to break the grease and saltiness. They also have chilli flakes on the table if you want to add some kick to your noodles.

 

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Although S’s bowl didn’t have much sauce left, my Niku bowl had plenty of sauce and ingredients left. The waiter will come by and ask if you’d like a free small bowl of rice which you can then drop into your leftover sauce and mix. It surprisingly tasted really good! But I could really only eat half the portion of rice after a whole bowl of noodles. If you’re hungry, then definitely go for the free rice!

 

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Mentaiko Cream Mazesoba

On another occasion, I came back during lunch hours to try their Mentaiko Cream Mazesoba. This featured mentaiko, slow braised pork chashu, raw egg yolk, seaweed flakes, spinach, green onion, minced garlic, japanese cream sauce, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. I actually preferred this over the Niku Mazesoba as I found that the Niku was a bit heavy and salty for my liking. I found the mentaiko cream helped cut the grease a bit even before I added vinegar.

 

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Overall, I quite enjoyed the mazesobas but like ramen, it’s not something I can eat often as they are more on the heavy side. Plus, the prices are quite steep with most bowls going for $15-16 each. Definitely not a spot I could come for work lunch all the time. They do offer classic ramens with soup and a variety of appetizers and desserts, but I have yet to try those.

Pros:
– Mazesoba noodles are nice and chewy
– Extensive menu so there is something for everyone

Cons:
– Prices are steep for ramen
– Some of the bar seating isn’t very comfortable with the low backs

Price Range: $15-20 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Paid street parking/ paid BCIT parking lot Overall: 3.5

 

 

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Superbaba

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Superbaba is one of the newest food trucks in the downtown core. It opened up earlier this year and parks in front of the Bentall Towers on the weekdays. The food truck has a restaurant in Victoria so not a stranger to BC. It caught my attention after seeing so many people lining up.

 

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The food truck features Middle Eastern food and focusses on pita wraps and bowls. The dishes range from $10-$12 so fairly priced for the downtown lunch crowd. They have two vegetarian options including falafels and eggplants, but also two meat options including chicken and steak.

 

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Falafel Bowl

I decided to go for the Falafel Bowl which featured chickpea fritters, fried cauliflower, tomato & cucumber salad, hummus, pickled cabbage, tahini, and shug. All bowls have a base of dressed kale and arugula and chilled rice and lentils. Being a meat lover, this vegetarian dish was absolutely delicious. These are probably the best falafels I’ve had. The falafels were so crispy on the outside and moist and flavourful inside. The hummus was smooth and not too garlicky and the fried cauliflowers were again crispy and crunchy with a nice acidity. Even the pickled cabbage and salads tasted great. I thought I would be hungry given most of the dish were vegetables, but I was surprisingly full. Highly recommend this dish!

Based on the falafel bowl, I am already loving Superbaba. I can’t wait to come back to try their wraps and other dishes. There’s a bit of a wait during lunch hours, but they’re pretty quick after you place your order. Plus, the people are super nice. Will be back to try more soon!

Pros:
– One of the best falafels I’ve had
– Reasonably priced

Cons:
– Line up can get pretty long during peak hours

Price Range: $10-15 per person

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

Food: 4.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: N/A Parking: N/A Overall: 4.5

 

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

Saku

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Saku opened earlier this summer and is a great addition to the Denman/Robson area. The tiny shop can only fit less than 20 people, so be sure to arrive early to secure a seat. The decor inside is very minimal but modern and clean. They specialize katsu also known as pork cutlet.

 

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Rosu Katsu Set

When we visited, it was only shortly after they opened, so their menu was still quite limited. However, I heard that they have since expanded their menu, so you can probably expect much more now. When we visited, S tried the Rosu Katsu Set which features 170 grams of deep fried breaded pork loin for $17. All sets come with unlimited tonjiru which is a pork miso soup they make in house with freshly diced vegetables and pork. The set also comes with unlimited salad and rice. The salad dressings were so addicting that I had quite a few servings of salad. They have both a ponzu and sesame base dressing to choose from. The pork cutlet is coated with panko (Japanese-styled bred crumbs) and is produced from fresh local bread baked every morning and was crispy without being greasy. The pork is sourced from local Fraser Valley farms, raised hormone-free, and is aged 18 hours and tenderized. I thought the pork was quite tender but it definitely did not meet the same standards as the ones I had at Maison in Japan. But again, those cuts were pricier, so you get what you pay. They have a pork filet set which is $1 more but less in quantity, but I heard it is more tender than the loin.

 

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Jumbo Prawn

S also added a Jumbo Prawn for $3.50. It is pretty big and is battered with the same panko. The prawn was sweet and you could dip it in the sweet mayo for more flavour.

 

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Curry Rosu Set

For myself, I ordered the Curry Rosu Set which features 130 grams of deep fried breaded pork loin with their signature curry over rice for $15.50. Again, this came with the unlimited salad and miso soup. The curry was very flavourful and not spicy at all. There was more than enough curry sauce to cover both the rice and pork.

 

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Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Saku and would return given there aren’t too many other katsu spots in the area. Of course, the ones in Japan are still hard to beat. I also thought the service was very friendly and attentive. I know sometimes with unlimited refills for sides, the servers won’t bring it to you unless you ask, but at Saku, the servers will do their rounds every so often and come by to check if you need refills. So unless you’re in a hurry, they will come by without you having to ask for it. I loved how they also asked us for feedback after our meal so they could continue to improve!

Pros:
– Non-greasy quality pork cutlets
– Unlimited refills for side dishes

Cons:
– Wish there were more cuts of pork to choose from

Price Range: $15-25 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 4 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Paid meter parking Overall: 4

 

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

Giardino

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I’ve been craving Italian food so for my birthday this year, SF took me to Giardino. Located in downtown, the restaurant is quite tucked away and I’ve actually driven by many times without noticing it. The restaurant has been around for many years now and is known for their Tuscan cuisine. We were taken to their patio which is in the back of the restaurant and this was the best decision because the backyard patio is amazing! It felt like we were in Europe with the textured walls and garden. They even had this arch of greenery in the middle of the courtyard which was aesthetically pleasing. Super cute, rustic spot for date night!

 

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Complimentary Flat Bread

To start, we were given complimentary flat bread which was flavoured with olive oil and sea salt. They also gave us focaccia bread with butter which was spongy and I enjoyed it much more.

 

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Creamy Burrata

To start, we shared the Creamy Burrata which was served with a carpaccio of zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and baby arugula with pomegranate dressing. This was not bad, but I wished the burrata was creamier. Also as pomegranates have seeds, it was difficult to enjoy the flavour without being cautious of mistakenly swallowing the seeds. It made enjoying the dish a bit difficult.

 

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Diced Pacific Ahi Tuna

Another appetizer we shared was the Diced Pacific Ahi Tuna which was served on top of avocados and a grape tomato medley with microgreens on top. We told them we were sharing this dish, so I loved how they split the dish in half for us. Pictured above is therefore only half of the dish. I loved this small gesture as it makes it easy to share plates without having to awkwardly portion the food ourselves. As for the dish itself, the tuna was seasoned well and tasted great with the ripe avocados. A great starter!

 

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Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia and Oven Roasted Pacific Sablefish

As for our mains, we shared two dishes and again, they were able to portion our meals so we didn’t need to do the work. Therefore, pictured above is half of the spaghetti and half of the sablefish. The Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia is spaghetti made with squid ink and therefore features a black colour. This was served with Atlantic lobster medallions, and a cherry tomato sauce. The pasta was served al dente and the tangy sauce paired well with the sweet lobster. Our server shaved fresh Parmesan on top to make the dish more creamy. As for the second main, we had the Oven Roasted Pacific Sablefish which featured a horseradish crust and a variety of vegetables on the side. The sablefish was moist with a nice crispy crust. You can never go wrong with sablefish!

 

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Almond Cannoli

To finish, we had the Almond Cannoli which was filled with a zesty ricotta lemon cream and served with a side of blood orange sorbet and fruits. It was a nice gesture that they also added a candle and birthday message. As we were beyond full, this dessert was light and small enough to enjoy.

Overall, I really enjoyed my food at Giardino. The food felt rustic and although I didn’t think the dishes were presented in a very fancy manner, the food tasted great. As for service, I found it to be a bit slow between courses, but I think it’s a great spot if you don’t want to be rushed and just want to have long conversations. It felt relaxed and our waitress was extremely friendly and warm. I think we were even served by Umberto himself at one point if we’re not mistaken! Prices are definitely on the steeper side, but the ambiance and service is why you’re paying that premium.

Pros:
– Well executed dishes
– Friendly service and beautiful patio

Cons:
– Steep prices

Price Range: $50-60 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 4.5 Ambiance: 5 Parking: Meter parking Overall: 4.5

 

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

Ancora

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For my birthday this year, S took me to Ancora since it’s been on my go-to list for sometime now. The restaurant is located just off the bridge and has a beautiful view of the city by the water.

 

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The interior is beautiful with blue and brown chairs against a white backdrop. I love how the light shines in through the floor to ceiling windows. There is a patio as well but we chose to sit indoors.

 

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Complimentary Bread

To start, we were given complimentary bread.

 

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Nova Scotia Lobster Risotto

Ancora is known for combining Peruvian and Japanese cultures while incorporating a Pacific North West flare so it’s interesting that you’ll find sushi and sashimi here. However, I wasn’t really craving for sushi, so we went for all hot dishes. S and I shared the appetizer size Nova Scotia Lobster Risotto which was served with  preserved lemon, peas, cauliflower, thyme, and hazelnuts. The portion was so small for $24, but S and I both agreed the risotto was delicious! It wasn’t very heavy like the traditional Italian risottos, but rather very light because of the lemon. There was a decent amount of lobster and I especially liked the incorporation of the hazelnuts which gave a nutty chocolate flavour. A really interesting twist to a traditional dish.

 

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Aji Panca Glazed Sablefish

For the main, S got the Aji Panca Glazed Sablefish which came with smoked potato puree, dashi braised daikon, kale gomae, and quinoa crackling. Again, this was nice twist to the typical miso glazed sablefish. Instead, they glazed the fish with aji panca which is a Peruvian spice. The sablefish was moist and the accompanying sides were a delicious pairing.

 

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Seared Scallops and Pork Belly

For myself, I got the Seared Scallops and Pork Belly which was paired with green peas, chanterelles, cipollini, and goat’s cheese agnolotti. At first, I thought the dish wouldn’t be too filling, but it turned out to be quite filling especially because the goat’s cheese agnolotti was rather heavy. The seared scallops were cooked perfectly with a nice golden brown sear. The pork belly could have been more moist, but the pea puree worked well to moisten the pork a bit. Really enjoyed this dish!

 

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To finish, we were given complimentary macarons and cookies. This is usually part of the dinner service regardless if it’s a special occasion, but it was nice that they added a candle. S had put on the reservation online that it was my birthday, so we were actually pretty surprised that our waitress and hostess had not said a single word when we arrived. Further, when our waitress brought the dessert over, she still did not say happy birthday which I found quite odd. It wasn’t until we were paying that she finally ended with happy birthday. Our waitress was actually extremely cold the whole dinner and she even placed the dessert menu down without saying a single word. It was pretty shocking to see such cold service given the ambiance is such nice. However, I think it was just our waitress as I saw other staff being quite warm to their diners.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the dishes and loved the combination of Peruvian and Japanese. For the portion sizes and quality of food, the price is well justified. The ambiance and view is also spectacular and is a great spot to walk around after dinner. However, we definitely did not have good service here, so that was a bit upsetting.

Pros:
– Well executed dishes combining Peruvian and Japanese twists to West Coast dishes
– Ambiance and view of the city is beautiful

Cons:
– We personally had very cold service

Price Range: $50-70 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 2 Ambiance: 5 Parking: Paid meter parking Overall: 4

 

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

Nightingale

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Nightingale is Hawksworth’s sister restaurant and located in a beautiful building next to the MNP Tower. You could easily walk by the building without realizing its a restaurant. I wish I got some outside and interior pictures because the decor is seriously beautiful. The interior is extremely posh and we were seated in their upper level during lunch. The menu is Canadian but you’ll find pizzas, pastas, and a variety of seafood, meat, and vegetables showcasing what the Westcoast has to offer. The restaurant is family style so the dishes are meant to be shared. Of course, you can choose to enjoy an entree all to yourself.

To start, we had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken which was drizzled with a spiced maple syrup, sumac and pickles. The fried chicken was extremely crispy with the meat still moist. It didn’t feel greasy at all and the sour pickles were a nice compliment to the fried chicken.

 

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Roasted Mushroom Pizza

Of course we had to try the pizzas, so we chose the Roasted Mushroom which is vegetarian. This consisted of mushrooms, fontina cheese, confit garlic, and arugula pesto. The pizzas are thin crust crust with the edges charred with pockets. The dough is very light which was great since the cheese was quite heavy. Loved the flavours of the dish and the ingredients were abundant and well distributed.

 

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Spaghetti with Manila Clams

Finally, we tried one of their pastas and chose the Spaghetti with Manila Clams, jalapeño, scallion, and white wine. The spaghetti was cooked to al dente and the sauce was light but enough to keep the pasta moist. There were also many clams in the dish and none of them had sand in it. This is the entree portion, but you can choose to get an appetizer size as well.

Overall, I was very pleased with the food at Nightingale. I thought each dish was well executed and the pricing is quite reasonable for the portions and quality of food given the beautiful ambiance. The prices were a pleasant surprise given Hawksworth can be very pricey. I thought service was a bit intimidating though as our waitress seemed slightly cold although professional. A great place for date night or a casual lunch with a nicer ambiance.

Pros:
– Well executed dishes
– Beautiful ambiance and interior design

Cons:
– Wish our waitress was a bit more warm and friendly

Price Range: $20-40 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 5 Parking: Paid parking in the area Overall: 4

 

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

 

Ramen Takanotsume

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Ramen Takanotsume took over the spot of Ramenman earlier this year. Ramenman relocated to the Davie Street area. Hearing that the new ramen spot originates from Hokkaido, I was excited to come check it out.

The interior still looks pretty much the same as the previous ramen shop, but the first thing we noticed was the Jay Chou and other mandarin songs playing in the background… It was definitely quite odd at a Japanese ramen shop.

 

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White Dragon Shio

What’s unique about Ramen Taka is that the soup is supposed to be super hot as it is topped with a sizzling spoonful of seasoned Hokkaido lard. And it was definitely as advertised. S got the White Dragon Shio which is flavoured with sea salt. It came with wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion, a large slice of pork and marinated egg. The broth was very flavourful and I also enjoyed the squiggly noodles. However, the toppings were quite disappointing.

 

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Supreme Dragon Miso

For myself, I got the Supreme Dragon Miso which features a blend of several misos to create a super smooth and deep miso flavour. The broth is also slightly spicy. Again, the broth was extremely hot and remained hot throughout my meal. It was a bit too hot for me at the beginning and I really had to blow on my noodles to cool it down. With the same toppings as the White Dragon Shio, they were equally a bit disappointing. The pork was a thin slice but extremely lean and had no fat content at all. I usually like my pork a bit lean, but this was a bit too lean for me. I really needed to submerge the pork in the soup to soften the pork a bit. As for the egg, it was definitely overcooked and was closer to a hard boiled egg. However, the broth was also very flavourful and not too salty.

Overall, I really enjoyed the broths and noodles ane especially appreciated the fact that the broth stayed hot throughout my meal. However, I was personally not a fan of the pork and egg which I think are a major component of the dish. Also, the location, although on Robson is just a bit out of the way and a bit hidden. Will probably come back if I’m around the area though.

Pros:
– Soup remains hot throughout the meal
– Soup base is flavourful

Cons:
– I personally didn’t enjoy the pork and egg

Price Range: $15-20 per person

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

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Meter parking on streets Overall: 3.5

 

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

 

The Holy Crab

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Seafood boils have been popping up everywhere in Metro Vancouver, and The Holy Crab is one of them. The restaurant is located on Robson and Cardero, so definitely a bit of a walk if you’re coming from the downtown core. The restaurant is Louisiana inspired and focuses on fresh seafood. To start, you’ll be given a fun bib and gloves to ensure you keep clean. You’ll also get scissors, seafood crackers, and paper towel for this seafood mess.

 

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Shrimp Roll

What I love about The Holy Crab is that there is much more other than seafood boils, and they seem to do these sides right. We got the Shrimp Roll which was seasoned with mayo and cajun powder. The shrimp was filled generously in a delicious butter toasted roll. Loved it!

 

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Crispy Fish and Chips

Another snack we got were the Crispy Fish and Chips, but really, this could be a full meal for one. And this is at the great price of only $9! I wish this was closer to work, so I could come here for lunch. I believe the fish is catfish but it’s super long! The batter was flaky and didn’t feel oily at all. Be sure to get the Cajun fries for your chips as the seasoning is so addictive!

 

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1 lb of Shrimp (half Cajun sauce and half garlic pepper)

Lastly, we had to try their seafood boil, so we chose 1 lb of Shrimp which is a decent amount to share for two if you are getting other items. There are two sauces to choose from – the original Cajun sauce or garlic pepper. With the Cajun sauce, you can also choose how spicy you’d like it. I chose mild and it really wasn’t much spice at all. The garlic pepper is not spicy at all. We were also allowed to get half half for the sauce and next time I would ask for the sauce on the side. I prefer dipping my seafood in the sauce so the sauce isn’t too overwhelming. The shrimp were pretty big and were juicy and we had no complaints. Apparently, some of their other seafood such as crab and lobsters are live so you know the seafood will be fresh.

 

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Overall, I was really pleased with the food at The Holy Crab. I find that the seafood is priced slightly higher than other restaurants, but it seems like the quality is there so it’s worth paying a little more. Also, they don’t boil the seafood in plastic bags which can be a little concerning. Lastly, service was very friendly and prompt and seating is quite comfortable.

Pros:
– Seafood tastes fresh and isn’t overly seasoned
– Side snacks are also well executed

Cons:
– Prices for seafood can be slightly higher than other seafood boils

Price Range: $20-30 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Meter parking on nearby streets Overall: 4

 

The Holy Crab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato