[Japan Series] Day 3: Ippudo Ginza 一風堂 銀座店

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

On Day 3, we trained to the Ginza district, which is home to one of Japan’s most expensive real estate. Here, you will find all your luxury retail stores, department stores, and fancy restaurants and cafes. Although I wasn’t expecting to purchase anything here, it is always fun to walk around and see the beautiful stores.

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

There are your luxury stores here, but you can also find a huge Uniqlo store which has 12 floors! Uniqlo offers much more affordable prices and is perfect for every day wear.

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

We didn’t spend too much time in department stores, but instead found Ginza Place, which actually opened in 2016, so was very new to us. Inside, it has a Nissan showroom, Sony showroom, and a few eateries.

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

I am not a car person, but S is. However, I actually thought the Nissan showroom was really cool. They have some very futuristic cars including this one. I mean, how beautiful is this wooden interior? Other than cars, upstairs, we got to try the virtual reality headset, which was pretty cool. The Sony showroom also showcased many of their newest products. Worth stopping by if you’re interested in cars and to cool from the heat!

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

For lunch, there weren’t too many options in the area since many are on the pricier end and we didn’t want to splurge too much. I suggested we try Ippudo Ramen. The restaurant is now a chain and has stores internationally (although none in Vancouver). Both of us haven’t tried it, so this was a great opportunity! The Ippudo Ginza location is located in an alleyway off the main street and can be a bit hidden. When we arrived, there was a short line up, but luckily there are a few chairs for us to wait outside.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

We waited around 15 minutes and got our seat at the bar right in front of the chefs. The interior is quite modern actually and the seating is rather comfortable. The table has some side dishes that go well with your ramen. My favourite was the spicy bean sprouts. So addicting!

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

Gyoza

We ordered Gyozas to share and they came with a small dollop of spicy chili paste. The gyozas were small but packed with flavour and pan fried to a beautiful golden brown. Crispy on the outside and juicy inside.

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

Shiromaru Classic – Special

I believe there are only 4 ramens to choose from. S and I ended up both having the Shiromaru Classic. This is their original tonkotsu ramen since their inception, so I had to see what it’s all about. The broth is cooked for over 18 hours and left to mature for 24 hours to extract the savoury taste of pork. It is served with homemade Hakata-style thin and straight noodles, cha-shu, black fungus and green onion. For 790 yen, you can get this basic bowl of ramen. However, we chose the Special which costs 1,020 yea and includes a soft boiled egg and a few sheets of seaweed. The ramen was good, but S and I both agreed we enjoyed Ichiran more. The broth is much lighter but still packed with a savoury pork flavour. My favourite was the egg though as it was cooked perfectly with the yolk spilling out. Not so sure if I would come back again in Japan again though since I thought it was quite comparable to some of the other ramen spots in Vancouver. Or maybe I’m just biased towards Ichiran!

After lunch, we walked around Ginza a bit more and began our long walk towards the Tsukiji Fish Market. To be continued…

Address: 4-10-3 Ginza | 1F Central Bldg., Chuo 104-0061, Tokyo Prefecture

Advertisements

[Japan Series] Day 2 Cont’d: Conveyor Belt Sushi at Numazuko Shinjuku

DSCF by SophiaHo on 500px.com

Conveyor sushi belt restaurants are usually not that good, but are always fun to try out. I did some searching on Google and found Numazuko in the Shinjuku area was highly rated. However, when we went for an early dinner, there were no line ups and the inside was not busy. Guess that should’ve been a sign already…

 

DSCF by ukijojo on 500px.com

Anyways, we sat down, and were given a menu of which I think you can order directly from or you can choose the plates from the conveyor belt. Honestly, looking at the dishes that went by round after round, nothing really spoke to me. The other problem was that there weren’t that many other diners, so I felt that the sushi might have been sitting around for a while.

 

DSCF by SophiaHo on 500px.com

The plates are colour coded, which essentially tells you the price. I believe they start at 90 yen, but many of the sushi with fish cost up to 520 yen, which isn’t super cheap for a convey belt restaurant. Each plate comes with two pieces.

 

DSCF by SophiaHo on 500px.com

After some slim pickings, I settled for the scallops and some salmon and tuna. Honestly, I didn’t think the seafood was very fresh and that we have much higher quality in Vancouver. It was quite disappointing, and I’m not sure why this spot is so highly rated. Perhaps if seafood is not readily available in your city, then this may be quite good, but compared to Vancouver sushi, this was below average. Wouldn’t recommend for Vancouver locals.

 

DSCF by SophiaHo on 500px.com

After a disappointing night, we walked around the busy Shinjuku and enjoyed the night lights. I love how the streets of Tokyo are always so busy even late at night.

Address: 3-34-16 Shinjuku | 1F Ikeda Plaza Bldg, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

Wild Rice

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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

Thanks to VancityTastes, I was invited to a media tasting for the launch of Wild Rice‘s new summer patio menu. Wild Rice used to have a location in Vancouver, but now it is located at the River Market in New West. I don’t frequent New West, so I had never actually been to the River Market and was surprised to see that the area is right in front of the waterfront. With the warm weather now, they have opened up their patio, which is right in front of the water. What a beautiful space to enjoy your meal!

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

You can also choose to sit indoors, where there is both a dining area and a lounge if you’re looking for a quick bite and drinks. The interior is dimly lit with modern decor and the best part is their open kitchen concept. You can sit at the lounge and want the chefs do their thing. Wild Rice is known for the fact that they make their dishes as you order. That means nothing sits under a heat lamp and nothing is reheated. They also source their ingredients from local farms and partners with Ocean Wise for seafood. We also learned that the owner learned cooking from his grandma, so all dishes have an Asian flare and are meant to be shared. I’d say that the owner has put his own twist and modernized the traditional dishes, so is more Asian fusion.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com
Gin & Tonic

To start, we had a Gin & Tonic. This was rosemary infused, featuring a Victoria premium cocktail gin and mixed with tonic water.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com
 
Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

As for food, we started with a Vegan Kale Caesar Salad which featured a cashew tofu dressing, roasted garlic, crispy chickpeas, olives, red onion, and balsamic reduction. The kale tasted fresh and crispy, but the star was definitely the crispy chickpeas. I think they might have been fried, because they were super light and addicting! And I don’t even usually like to eat chickpeas since I find it to be too dense. Overall, the salad was light and refreshing, perfect for the warm weather.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com
Gluten Free Polenta Fries

The Gluten Free Polenta Fries were a beautiful golden yellow and was battered with cornmeal, topped with green onion, and served with a side of chili aioli. Personally, I am not a huge fan of polenta because of how dense it often is. For me, I found the fries to be dense and the cornmeal texture to be a little overwhelming. However, that chili aioli was addicting, and complemented the fries well so they weren’t as heavy feeling.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com
Vegetable Potstickers

The Vegetable Potsticks were all perfectly wrapped and pinched and pan fried to a beautiful golden brown. The filling includes smoked tofu, napa cabbage, shiitake mushroom, and carrot. To dip, there was a ponzu dressing on the side which gave some acidity.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Gluten Free Salt & Pepper Squid

My favourite of the night was the Gluten Free Salt & Pepper Squid. The squid is lightly battered and fried, then topped with jalapenos, grilled lime, house tartar. The squid was not tough at all, but just the right chewy bouncy texture.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Berry Mojito

Switching up my drink, I tried the Berry Mojito which featured crushed bramble berries, mint, lime, and rum. For me, the drink was very fruity so I could barely taste the alcohol. You could easily drink many of these without noticing the alcohol! Dangerous!

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Chicken Adobo Steamed Buns

A new menu item they just added are the Chicken Adobo Steamed Buns. These Chinatown baos come with a soy braised soft boiled egg, house pickles, and roasted garlic. The flavours were great, but I think many of us were confused as to why the buns were only filled with the chicken adobo near the bottom. The bun was soft and fluffy, but we just thought the construction of the bun was a bit odd.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Mini Poke Bowl

The last savoury dish was the Mini Poke Bowl. This features ocean-wise salmon on scallion verde rice, onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, spicy pineapple, cucumber and seaweed. Definitely not the authentic poke, but the flavours worked together with a nice kick from the spiced pineapples. I also liked how there was a soy marinade throughout the rice and not just at the top. I always find it difficult to mix all the ingredients together, so it’s nice that the soy is throughout the rice so you don’t end up with just plain rice at the bottom.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Twisted Fashion

To finish, we had the Twisted Fashion which featured bourbon, ginger reduction, and orange bitters. A much stronger drink, this is not for everyone. I actually quite enjoyed this as it had a hint of ginger which brought bit of sweetness to it.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

For dessert, we had the Gluten Free Chocolate Cake which was served with raspberry sauce and mint ice cream from Tre Galli Gelato Cafe from next door. I think the cake is normally served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream, but not sure why it got switched up. The mint ice cream was great, but I think the vanilla ice cream would have been a better pairing. The cake was a delicious molten-like cake and many of the bloggers had more than one serving!

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

Overall, the new summer menu at Wild Rice features a colourful array of light, refreshing dishes. Many of their dishes are also perfect for vegetarians or those who require gluten-free dishes. With such a nice patio and waterfront view, this makes a great summer patio spot for drinks and dishes.

Wild Rice Market Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacific Poké

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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!

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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!

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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!

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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.

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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!

 

IMG by ukijojo on 500px.com

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

Taishoken

1.jpg by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

2.jpg by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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

 

3.jpg by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

4.jpg by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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.

 

5.jpg by SophiaHo on 500px.com

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