Hapa Izakaya – Dine Out Vancouver 2018

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The last Dine Out Vancouver restaurant we tried was Hapa Izakaya at the Coal Harbour location. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Hapa because I thought the dishes were just average for the price. However, a recent visit for happy hour changed my mind and N wanted to try the restaurant anyways, so I thought I would give it another try. Plus, the selling point for me was the 3 course savory dishes which was a nice change from the typical appie, main, and dessert. This menu was great for sharing and actually filled me up!

 

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Beef Tartare

To start, we had two of the Beef Tartare. The AAA beef was mixed with maple soy, yuzu ginger and crispy capers. Nori sheets were provided to wrap the beef in. This was one of my favourite dishes. The beef tasted fresh and I like the light soy sauce which accompanied it. Portions were also pretty big and perfect for sharing.

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Albacore Tomato Gelee

The second appetizer was the Albacore Tomato Gelee which was essentially sliced albacore tuna sashimi topped with a house made shiso pesto and tomato jelly. Tuna was fresh and the sauces were pretty unique.

 

 

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Confit Duck Leg

Moving onto the second course, the Confit Dug Leg was marinated with apple ginger and sake. This was paired with grilled zucchini and green beans. The duck was pretty tender but didn’t think this was anything too special.

 

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Panko Sockeye Salmon

Another dish was the Panko Sockeye Salmon which was butter sauteed and served with a karashi mustard hollaindaise sauce. I liked the panko crust, but found the salmon to be slightly on the dry side.

 

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Ankake Agedashi Tofu

I always love a good agedashi tofu and the Ankake Agedashi Tofu was served with bok choy, carrots and green onion. The skin was crispy but I think the sauce should have sat on the side as the bottom of the tofu became quite soggy.

 

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Beef Stew

The third course was the Beef Stew which we thought was pretty random at a Japanese restaurant. However, the flavours were actually rpetty good. This was tomato and onion based beef stew topped with mozzarella, cheddar and monterey cheese. The dish was served with garlic toast so you could spread the stew on top. Tasted sort of like spaghetti sauce but I actually really liked it.

 

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Salmon Sushi Cake

One of the items I was excited about was the Salmon Sushi Cake. But I think we all agreed it wasn’t what we expected. Chopped sockeye salmon was mixed with cream cheese, shiso, miso and karashi mustard and served on top of a bed of sushi rice. I think we didn’t like it was because it was so heavy with cream cheese. A Japanese mayo would have been enough. It was too heavy and covered the flavours of the salmon.

 

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Shiitake Jya-Jyamen Ramen

Last but not least was the Shiitake Jya-Jyamen Ramen. The ramen noodles were served in a soy milk, spicy miso broth and topped with mushroom rice ball. The broth was very thick and heavy. Definitely more of a sauce than broth but it was good to coat the noodles. Personally, I thought this was just average.

Overall, there were some hits and misses but the portions are great for sharing and for only $30. I enjoyed the appetizer dishes more and felt we could skip the entrees next time.

Pros:
– Fun ambiance for drinks and sharing dishes

Cons:
– Dishes were a hit or miss

Price Range: $30 per person (Dine Out Menu)

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

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Street parking or paid parkade Overall: 3

 

Hapa Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Trump Champagne Lounge – Dine Out Vancouver 2018

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Posting quite a few months later for this year’s Dine Out Vancouver 2018, but I might as well in case it comes handy for next year’s festival. My first dine out this year was at the Trump Champagne Lounge and I went with S and M for a girls night out. We thought the dishes on the menu sounded decent and the price tag of $30 per person wasn’t too bad for a 3 course meal. We all didn’t know that the lounge served actual food as we always thought it was just afternoon tea, snacks, and drinks. The interior of the lounge was pretty as expected, but it was also a bit odd as the lounge is not really enclosed in another area. Once you open the door to the hotel, you’ve basically stepped foot into the lounge. Can be a bit odd as you see many hotel guests with luggage trying to find the check in area. Also, because it is a lounge, the tables and couches are extremely low. My back was hurting by the end of the night. Definitely a place more for drinks and light snacks, rather than a 3 course meal which requires full use of utensils.

 

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Grilled Octopus

Anyways, onto the food. We tried both appetizers and the Grilled Octopus was my favourite. The tentacles were served with crushed fingerling potatoes, black olives, toasted pistachio, and a balsamic dressing. The octopus was not chewy at all. It was cooked perfectly to tender and had a nice char.

 

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Albacore Aburi Style

The second appetizer was the Albacore Aburi Style. The lightly seared albacore tuna was served with homemade pickled vegetables and a burrata cheese sauce. This was quite average. If you like pickled veggies, then you might enjoy this as they were definitely very sour and acidic.

 

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Slow Cooked Lamb Shank

For entrees, we got both of the non-vegetarian options. The first was the Slow Cooked Lamb Shank. The lamb shank was served with the bone in and paired with a butternut squash puree and seasonal vegetables. The lamb was moist and the meat fell off the bone. However, this was quite a heavy dish. We found it hard to finish alone as both the sauce and puree were very thick.

 

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Roasted Lingcod

The second entree was the Roasted Lingcod which sat on top of a white bean fricassee, topped with green onion and smoked pancetta. The lingcod was moist and the top was seared to a nice crisp. However, I found the dish to be quite boring and bland. I really needed to eat the fish with the white beans to get some flavour out of it. It was definitely missing something to bring out the flavours.

 

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Chocolate Banana and Passion Fruit Pudding

By now, we were actually quite full as the portions were actually very reasonable given this being a more fancy restaurant. For dessert, S got the Chocolate Banana and Passion Fruit Pudding topped with some chocolate shavings. This tasted sort of like banana pudding. Not bad but nothing too special.

 

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Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

M and I chose the Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. For some reason, only one came out and the second came out almost 30 minutes later. I ended up just digging into M’s dessert and was too full to really eat my own in the end. Not sure what happened with the timing there. Anyways, the Apple Crumble was not too sweet, and I always like a good pairing of cold and warm for dessert, so this was great.

Overall, would I come back here for dinner? Probably not as nothing really stood out to me. Plus, the seating is way too uncomfortable for a full on meal. However, I wouldn’t mind coming back for some drinks or light snacks as the ambiance is quite nice. I think their regular menu is not cheap though so dine out is a good option if you’d like to give their food a try. Because this was probably not the most attractive spot given it’s in the Trump tower for obvious reasons, the restaurant was also not fully booked during dine out. Our friend was almost an hour late from work, and the servers didn’t mind us just sitting around and we probably ended up sitting there for almost 3 hours with no issues. Definitely would’ve been kicked out at another restaurant during dine out season!

Pros:
– Ambiance is nice for drinks and snacks

Cons:
– Seating is really uncomfortable with low tables
– Nothing stood out for food

Price Range: $30 per person (Dine Out Menu)

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

Food: 3 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 4 Parking: Street/Parkade Overall: 3

 

Trump Champagne Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

T-Go Tea

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

Last month, I visited T-Go Tea which opened up in Central at Garden City a while ago. It’s located under the Walmart and a great addition to this complex.

 

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Right now, the shop mainly has beverages only, but they are working on a small food menu, including teaming up with a pastry chef.

 

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There is a large list of drinks and they are known for their Teapresso beverages, which uses a special equipment to extract the flavours of tea. They also have the sea salt foam drinks which are super popular now.

 

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They focus on quality of ingredients here. For instance, their teas are purchased from Taiwan and are premium and made in smaller batches. They do not add syrups in their beverages, but rather the teas are infused with natural fruits or flavours when they are manufactured. The pearls also have a shorter life span compared to the ones other bubble tea shops use, to decrease the amount of preservatives.

 

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We got to smell some of their teas and they were absolutely fragrant!

 

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Rose Oolong Latte

The first drink we tried was the Rose Oolong Latte. This is made with fresh milk and has a hint of floral. Pearls had a nice chew and weren’t too sweet.

 

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Honey Aloe Green Tea

If you’re looking for some non-dairy beverages, then one of my favourites is the Honey Aloe Green Tea with coconut jelly. This was naturally sweetened with the honey and very refreshing.

 

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Diamond Purple Rice Black Tea

The next drink, the Diamond Purple Rice Black Tea, was very interesting with a cube of milk which is supposed to represent the diamond. As the cube melts, the milk disperses out into the drink. Really cool concept!

 

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Sweet Peaches Smoothie

Other than tea based drinks, they also feature smoothies, perfect for the kids, or if you’re craving something a little thicker. The Sweet Peaches Smoothie was one of my favourite as it was sort of like a peach icy. It was refreshing and great with the pearls. I’m not sure if the drinks are usually presented with all the fruits on top though. They even have an avocado smoothie drink and a kale smoothie! Perfect for those coming out from the yoga class in this complex.

 

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Oreo Cookie Blizzard Smoothie

Last but not least, we tried the Oreo Cookie Blizzard Smoothie which surprisingly wasn’t too sweet. This would be perfect for the kids but definitely probably not the most healthy option available.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the beverage options available and how they have differentiated themselves by focusing on healthier alternatives and premium teas. Good to see another addition in Richmond!

 

ZenQ (Marine Drive)

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Note: All food and beverages were complimentary as part of a ChineseBites event, but all opinions are my own.

Across the complex at Marine Drive Gateway, right next to Coco Fresh Tea, is now ZenQ, a drink and dessert store which is also Chatime’s sister restaurant. This chain’s first location was in Coquitlam, and has now expanded to Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby.

 

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The location has a decent amount of seating, but you can of course get your drinks to go as well.

 

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You order up front first, and if you choose to eat in, the server will bring your food to you. They have a large variety of beverages and plenty of toppings to choose from. For desserts, they have both cold and hot desserts, including shaved ice, grass jelly, tofu pudding, and even waffles. ZenQ is known for their mochi balls in their desserts whcih are made from taro or sweet potato.

 

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Hand Made Taro Milk Tea, Winter Melon Tea with Small Pearls, ZenQ Milk Tea with Small Pearls

To start, we had a variety of beverages. Since I was sick, I had to get all hot drinks. Well, it turned out to be perfect because the Hand Made Taro Milk Tea was our favourite of the three we tried. The drink features fresh milk with taro which I think is real because you get this gritty texture. This drink is only served warm and is perfect in this cold weather! As for the ZenQ Milk Tea and Winter Melon Tea, we personally enjoyed the ones at Chatime and Presotea more. However, I really enjoyed the tiny pearls available at ZenQ and the drinks were not bad after all. If I lived in the area, I definitely wouldn’t mind coming here for the drinks. The drinks are also fully customizable for sugar and ice level, just like Chatime.

 

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Tofu Pudding with Green Beans, Peanuts, Pearls, and Q Balls

The highlights at ZenQ for us were the desserts. K tried the Tofu Pudding and you can choose from a variety of toppings. Here, she has green beans, peanuts, pearls, and Q balls. Their Q balls are essentially mochi balls and are made from taro, sweet potato, and matcha. My favourite was the sweet potato Q ball as I found that the taro Q ball was slightly on the harder side, especially when served with a cold dessert. The tofu pudding is refreshing and not overly sweet. You also get plenty of each topping so every spoonful is filled with texture.

 

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Hot Grass Jelly with Q Balls, Large and Small Pearls

As I was sick, I got the Hot Grass Jelly and had it with Q balls, and large and small pearls. I liked how the grass jelly wasn’t too sweet and every bite was chewy because of the toppings. Here, the taro Q ball is softer possibly because the dessert is served hot.

 

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Grass Jelly with Taro, Grass Jelly Ice, Q balls, and Large Pearls

Lastly, E had the Grass Jelly cold and got it with a few chunks of taro, grass jelly ice, Q balls, and large pearls. This again is not too sweet, but you can get it with cream which you pour on top. It tastes a bit more like condensed milk when you add it.  Refreshing and perfect in the summer months!

Overall, ZenQ has a large range of Taiwanese desserts and is a great addition to the Marine Gateway area. It’s perfect if you not only want a bubble tea, but also a dessert! Prices are also quite reasonable as these mochi desserts can get quite pricey.

 

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

Pike Place Chowder

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A must try in Seattle is Pike Place Chowder. I’ve been here in the past, but S had never been. I decided to take him to the one near Pike Street Market which is in Post Alley, which is also a tourist spot worth visiting. The tiny shop is within an indoor market and opens at 11am. We arrived right at 11am, and there was already a huge line up. The good thing is they give you the menu while you’re lining up, so the line goes by quickly. We were able to order within 15 minutes and our food was served pretty much right away since they just keep pumping the food out.

 

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Captain’s Roll and New England Clam Chowder
We got a whole Captain’s Roll which features Bay shrimp and Dungeness crab meat, mixed with secret seasonings, lemon juice, mayo and celery. S and I both loved this! They didn’t cheap out on the crab meat either. It does come at a high cost though at around $16 USD. Quite pricey for a small roll. We also got the New England Clam Chowder, which had meaty clams flavoured with bacon, cream, and a secret blend of herbs and spices. Pike Place Chowder has won many awards for many years, so you must get a chowder here! I really enjoyed the flavours in this one and they give you a piece of sourdough bread to dip in.

 

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Seafood Bisque

We stayed near Pacific Place, a mall on Pine Street. The night before, we had dined at Din Tai Fung, which is a new branch in downtown Seattle inside Pacific Place. There, we found that they actually had another Pike Place Chowder inside the mall! Since we were in a bit of a rush the next morning, I suggested we just grab some food at Pike Place Chowder again since it was nearby. This location has a lot more selection including beers, seafood and chips, and more. But of course, I had to get another one of their soups, so I decided to try the Seafood Bisque this time. This had a medley of Pacific Cod, Northwest Salmon,
Oregon Bay Shrimp, flavored with fresh basil, and simmered
in a creamy tomato-based broth. The bisque was packed with flavour and you got bits of fish in it. So good!

 

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Wild Northwest Salmon Fish n’ Chips
Since this location has fish and chips, S decided to try their Wild Northwest Salmon Fish n’ Chips. You can choose 3 pieces or 2 pieces. This was decent, but we found the salmon to be on the drier side. Definitely not as moist as Pajos!

 

Overall, Pike Place Chowder is a must try when in Seattle! With the two locations, I would suggest going to the Post Alley location as I feel like the turnover for the food is more frequent. However, if you have a large group or are looking for a larger menu selection, then the one inside Pacific Place might be a better choice since there is more seating.

Pros:
– Delicious chowders and seafood rolls!

Cons:
– Fish and chips could be a bit more moist

Price Range: $10-20 per person

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

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3 Overall: 4

Pike Place Chowder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Steelhead Diner

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For our first night in Seattle, we decided to go to Steelhead Diner which is located on downhill near Pike Street Market. The restaurant has a large selection of beer and cocktails so great for those looking for a drink.

 

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We started off with complimentary bread and butter. The bread was sourdough while the butter sat in a plate of pesto oil. The butter was so good with the pesto!

 

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Pike “Kilt Lifter” Fish & Chips

S of course got the Pike “Kilt Lifter” Fish & Chips which featured two pieces of Scotch ale battered Alaskan ling cod served with tartar sauce and lemon. S can usually eat quite salty food, but even he found the fish to be extremely salty. It was to the point that he didn’t finish his fish and I don’t think I’ve seen that before! Even the fries were on the saltier side.

 

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Flash Fried Pacific Oyster Po ‘Boy

For myself, I had the Flash Fried Pacific Oyster Po ‘Boy which was a huge portion! The fried oysters along with a aioli type sauce was great, but I did also find it slightly on the saltier side. Not sure if we are just used to less sodium in our foods, or if they just went nuts with the salt here.

Overall, we were slightly disappointed with our food. It had really good ratings, but our food was just too salty for our liking. Something I disliked was that an automatic tip of 20% is added to our bill. I don’t mind tipping more if I get really good service, but 20% is a bit steep given the venue and I don’t think our service was anything beyond expectations. Location-wise, good spot for tourists, but other than that, nothing memorable.

Pros:
– Good location for tourists

Cons:
– Our food was way too salty for our liking
– Automatic 20% tip

Price Range: $25-30 per person

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

Food: 2 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 2.5 Overall: 2.5

 

Steelhead Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blu Burgers & Brew

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During the holidays, S and I made a short trip to Seattle for fun. Our first stop was to check out the Boeing Factory in Mukilteo near Everett. Since we arrived in the area during lunch time, we decided to go for lunch first. I did some Googling and there aren’t too many restaurants nearby. However, Blue Burgers & Brew had good ratings, so off we went.

 

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The restaurant is quite casual and you order and pay up front. You can then choose a seat and they will bring you your food. Of course, their menu consists mainly of burgers but there are some select sides you can choose from as well. They also have a selection of beers. Surprisingly, there were quite a lot of families with children here during lunch. I guess they are quite family friendly as well.

 

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Chicken Tenders

Given S does not fancy burgers, of course he went for the Chicken Tenders served with fries. For $6.50, this was decent with 3 strips and a decent amount of fries. S said the tenders could have been warmer in the center and that they were rather average. But then again, they are known for their burgers.

 

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Shroom ‘N Onion

For myself, I had the Shroom ‘N Onion which featured crimini mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese, romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and a house sauce. The burger stacked tall and they didn’t skimp on the ingredients. My mushrooms were overflowing and that house sauce was bomb. The patty was also very moist and juicy. My only complaint is that for around $9USD, I’d expect it to come with fries which was an added cost. Definitely not cheap given the self-serve type of set up, but the quality of the burger is great.

Overall, a good stop if you are heading to the Boeing Factory or if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t make a trip out here just for this.

Pros:
– Great execution of burgers

Cons:
– Slightly pricey given self-serve

Price Range: $10-20 per person

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

Food: 3 Service: N/A Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: 3.5 Overall: 3

 

Black Rice Izakaya

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

Back in December, Black Rice Izakaya launched some new items on their winter menu and we were invited for a tasting.

 

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The interior is full of wooden details giving it a warm izakaya feel.

 

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Gin No Kurenai “Pink Lady”

We started off with some sake called Pink Lady which has a rose colour and is light, sweet and fruity. My first time trying sake with a rose colour and it didn’t disappoint!

 

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Goma Tuna

To start, we had the Goma Tuna which was served with a side of sea urchin. The tuna was lightly seasoned with sesame and seaweed.

 

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Hamaguri Dobin Mushi

One of my favourite appetizers was the Hamaguri Dobin Mushi. This clam soup had a clean but flavourful taste and was perfect as a palette cleanser. Highly recommend giving this a try especially in this cold weather!

 

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Kimchi Scallop Motoyaki

The Kimchi Scallop Motoyaki was visually attractive! The scallop shells were filled with of course scallop, kimchi, chopped bell pepper, butter and cheese. The kimchi was not overly spicy but was packed with flavour.

 

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Teriyaki Wagyu Steak

Another delicious dish was the Teriyaki Wagyu Steak. The Wagyu beef is glazed with a teriyaki sauce and sits on top of Monterrey jack and mozzarella cheese which has been mixed with mashed potatoes. The beef was cooked to a medium rare with a beautiful pink center. Super tender! My only wish was that the cheesy mixture was more stringy.

 

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Kimchi Nabe

Perfect for the cold weather is the Kimchi Nabe, a kimchi stew with vegetables, sliced pork and tofu balls. This Korean Japanese fusion works and would be great with a side of rice!

 

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Napolitan Spaghetti

One of the more interesting dishes was the Napolitan Spaghetti. The dish features soba noodles, tomato sauce, ketchup, bacon, sausage, onions and egg underneath. The spaghetti reminds me of the HK style cafe pastas with the sauce being on the sweeter side. But for some reason, it works and tastes really homey!

 

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To finish, we had some sushi which is part of their regular menu and is not usually presented like this. This is just a quick version of the Aburi Scallop Hako and the Black Mentaiko Roll. Still, they tasted great and the Black Mentaiko Roll caught me by surprise with the chewy black rice.

Overall, some great new winter additions to the menu this season. The food is definitely fusion and strongly Korean influenced, but it works! A great spot to share a few dishes with friends and have some drinks!

 

Black Rice Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato