Happy Tree House BBQ 木屋碳烤

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Shredded Potatoes

I always drive by Happy Tree House BBQ and noticed there are always so many diners here. Finally, I gave it a try and I would highly recommend making reservations in advance as the place fills up quick! I even noticed people getting delivery which I wonder if it still tastes as good!

Anyways, to start, J suggested we get the Shredded Potatoes. I was a bit hesitant what was so special about these at first, but they were addicting! the potato is shredded so has this crunchy al dente texture and is covered in a spicy chili oil. Highly recommend getting this dish as a starter if you like spicy.

 

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Squid Tentacles

Moving on, the Squid Tentacles were quite a large plate and were also smothered in a spicy sauce. The tentacles were all cooked to tender and not tough at all.

 

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Lamb Kebab (original)

The Lamb Kebabs are what they are famous for. They have original and spicy, but even the original skewers are topped with lots of Chinese spices. The spices remind me of the ones you can get at the night market but stronger. The lamb were tender and you get quite a lot of meat on each skewer. For $1.50 each, these are a great deal compared to the night market. Similar to other skewer restaurants, the minimum order for most skewers are 5 skewers, so it’s best to have a large group when dining here.

 

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Chicken Gristle, Premium Beef  Skewers

We had a variety of skewers and I lost track of taking pictures, but here are the Chicken Gristle and Premium Beef Skewers. I definitely prefer the lamb over the beef as the lamb is more moist. The Chicken Gristle were very crunchy and enjoyable. Again, these skewers are topped with a Chinese spice. They are not spicy like chili oil, but for those who don’t regularly eat spicy food, then this may be a bit spicy. I found almost all their skewers were spicy even if it did not say “spicy” on the menu so they definitely cater to those who love spice.

 

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Spicy Fish Balls Pot

I suggested we get the Spicy Fish Balls Pot as I love fish balls! Wow, the amount of fish balls you get was a bit shocking for me, especially since we only had 4 girls. The fish balls are quite tiny though, so not too filling. The fish balls are soaked in a spicy chili oil. Delicious!

 

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Hand Made Noodle in Lamb Meat Soup

To counter some of the spice, we ordered the Hand Made Noodle in Lamb Meat Soup which is a must try! The noodles were bouncy and the soup was rich and flavourful.

 

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Spicy Talipa

On another visit, we had a much larger group so in addition to ordering the usual, we also tried the Spicy Talipa. This is a huge pot with a large fish topped with lots of chilies! You can pay extra to get other toppings and we added quail eggs to ours. The dish comes with a whole fish so still has bone in the middle, so it’s actually not that much if you have a large group. Other dishes we tried during my second visit included Yam Chips which were nice to fight the heat and Saury Fish which were slightly salty and a nice snack on the side.

Overall, I enjoyed Happy Tree House BBQ but their dishes are a bit on the pricier side. Further, if you’re not a fan of spice, then this is definitely not for you as few dishes are non-spicy. I wish they had the options for non-spicy but I guess that’s not their target market. They also play really loud live Mandarin Pop concerts on their screens so it’s hard to have a conversation without screaming a bit. Nice music, but hard to have a conversation.

Pros:
– Well executed dishes for those who enjoy spice
– Large variety of choices for skewers

Cons:
– Music is too loud

Price Range: $30-$50 per person

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

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Free parking in complex Overall: 3.5

 

Happy Tree House BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Meat Up 聚点串吧

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Northern Chinese style skewers have become quite popular recently with various restaurants around Metro Vancouver focusing on this cuisine. One that caught my eyes while driving down Granville was The Meat Up.

 

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The interior is pretty basic but has fun comic type of art. The servers here mostly speak Mandarin, but basic English is okay. They will give you a order sheet and you can fill it out yourself then hand it over to the server.

 

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The restaurant specializes in skewers and you can choose from lamb, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetables. Most of the skewers require a minimum order of 5 skewers, so it’s best to come with a larger group to be able to try a variety of dishes.

 

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There are also a variety of appetizers as well as carb dishes to fill up on. They also have an alcohol license, so you can order beer, cocktails, and soju. I think one of the more interesting drinks is the beer tower, which I don’t see too many places having it in Vancouver. Great to share if you have a large group.

 

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Sweet Potato

To start, we ordered a variety of appetizers. This included the Sweet Potato which was warm and indeed very sweet. However, for $4, I thought this was quite pricey.

 

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Seaweed Salad

The Seaweed Salad was not exactly what I imagined it to be. This was definitely more of a Northern China style dish as it was acidic and spicy. Very appetizing!

 

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Salt and Pepper Chicken

The Salt and Pepper Chicken was also quite expensive for the portion size at $6.95. The chicken was quite moist and the batter wasn’t greasy though. Rather, the batter was quite pale in colour and just dusted with a slightly spicy powder.

 

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Eggplant

One of my favourite grilled vegetables was the Eggplant as it reminded me of the Taiwanese eggplants topped with a spicy savoury sauce. Again, the eggplant was not cheap at a price of $4.95, but it tasted great!

 

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Traditional Lamb Skewer

Moving onto the skewers, we had to try their signature Traditional Lamb Skewer. These were $1.50 each which is fairly priced. Especially given how expensive skewers are at the night market, these were much higher quality and tasted better than the ones at the night market. I liked how these weren’t too spicy as well. They have a spicy one if you enjoy spicy and they also have spicy powder on the side if you need to add a kick. I much preferred these compared to the ones at Happy Tree because most of Happy Tree’s skewers were already quite spicy.

 

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Honey Chicken Wings, Grilled Rice Cakes

The Honey Chicken Wings come with two on a skewer. These were moist with crispy edges on the skin. On the very right, we tried the Grilled Rice Cakes which none of us were a fan of. These were essentially like Korean rice cakes but put on the grill. The outside became a bit hard and plastic-like but the inside was chewy like mochi.

 

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Traditional Lamb, BBQ Pork Skewers

We ordered more Traditional Lamb skewers (bottom) and also tried the BBQ Pork Skewers. The BBQ Pork (top) was glazed in a sweet sauce and tender to chew.

 

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Chicken Gristle, Black Pepper Beef, Honey Pork Belly Skewers

The Chicken Gristle (bottom) were soft cartilage and dusted with some light spice. Loved the crunchy texture! The Black Pepper Beef (middle) was also enjoyable as the beef was tender and the black pepper flavour was strong but not overbearing. Lastly, the Honey Pork Belly Skewers (top) were sweet with a good ratio of fat to meat. Highly recommend getting the pork belly!

 

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Honey Pork Belly (left), Mantou Bread

On the right, we ordered the Mantou Bread as we were curious how these would taste grilled. I actually really enjoyed these! The Mantou was a bit sweet and salty, but it worked. Sort of like garlic bread with the grill marks. This was a great snack in between all the meat.

 

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Beef Ball

One more skewer we tried were the Beef Balls which I didn’t find any special. Each skewer had two half sliced beef balls and were topped with spicy powder. Would skip this next time.

 

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Signature Fried Rice

Lastly, we tried the Signature Fried Rice, which again, was quite expensive at $7.95 for this tiny bowl. However, the flavour of the Fried Rice was actually really good and everyone really enjoyed it.

Overall, we all enjoyed the food at Meat Up. The skewers and food in general were not too oily or greasy but still had that nice char. This is a great spot if you don’t like spicy skewers, as most of their skewers are dusted lightly with spice. Most of the skewers were under $2 a skewer so quite reasonable. Great spot to have drinks and skewers without having to pay the hefty price at the night market.

Pros:
– Skewers are not too oily or salty
– Skewers are reasonably priced

Cons:
– Many of the appetizers and non-skewer dishes are pricey for the portion sizes

Price Range: $20-30 per person

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

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Free parking in complex or street Overall: 3.5

 

The Meat Up Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Zakkushi (Main St.)

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Zakkushi is a fun place to go if you love Japanese grilled skewers (yakitori) and drinks. They get very busy after dinner time, because people come here for snacks and drinks. We came for dinner, so it wasn’t as packed, but still quite full. Be sure to make reservations beforehand to guarantee yourself a spot since it’s quite small. There are two locations (previously three). What’s left is the one on Denman and the one we visited, on Main St. Both locations are very small, but the one on Main can fit slightly larger groups.

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Sockeye Salmon and Toro Tuna Sashimi

Zakkushi is known for their grilled items, but they do have a section of their menu dedicated to a few types of sashimi. We decided to give the Sockeye Salmon and Toro Tuna Sashimi a try. The salmon had a vibrant orange-red colour, but I found it slightly mushy even though it was Sockeye. Usually Sockeye has more bite to it. The toro wasn’t the melt-in-your-mouth type either. The pieces were rather small for the price at roughly $10 for each fish. We didn’t find it too be too good overall. Stick with their cooked food!

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Norimayo Tsukune and Teriyaki Tsukune

We then ordered a variety of yakitori. We got some Tsukune, which are chicken meat balls. They come in a variety of flavours at different prices. You order by skewer, and usually meat skewers will start at around $2 or so. The Norimayo Tsukune was my favourite as it had seaweed and mayonnaise on top. Some of us also tried the Teriyaki Tsukune. These are very flavourful, although we found it to be slightly on the salty side.

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Teba (Chicken Wing) and Sea Salt Momo (Chicken Thigh)

More chicken! The Teba or Chicken Wings were stretched out on the skewers and grilled. We were all surprised that these were quite flavourless. Seems like they missed the seasoning on these. The Sea Salt Momo were pretty good. The Momo is the chicken thigh. These were salted with the right amount.

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Uzura Maki (Quail Egg)

Another favourite was the Uzura Maki. These were quail eggs wrapped with bacon! They were then drizzled with mayonnaise and topped with seaweed. These were a favourite at the table!

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P-Toro (Pork)

Another must order is the P-Toro. This is a delicious cut of pork since it’s extremely tender and juicy. However, K was unlucky, and near the end of her pork skewer, she realized it was raw! She told the server and she took the skewer back. She came back with the same skewer that was half eaten but had gotten it grilled for longer. You would’ve thought they would give you a new skewer though… Seemed kind of unsanitary since they placed a half eaten skewer back on the grill…

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G Beef

The G Beef was extremely flavourful since it was marinated in teriyaki sauce and topped with garlic chips. The beef was very tender and cooked to medium.

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Duck Breast

The Duck Breast was marinated in yuzu citrus chili and had the right amount of fat to meat proportion. The meat was very tender.

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Ebi Mayo

We were surprised that the Ebi Mayo came on skewers as well, but these were jumbo and delicious. It came drenched in their house chili mayo sauce.

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Ikayaki (Grilled Squid)

One of my favourite grilled dishes is the Ikayaki, or Grilled Squid. The squid was slightly too charred at parts on the top, but nevertheless, it was tender and flavoured well with the teriyaki sauce. It came with a side of spicy mayo.

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Mentai Kimchi Yakiudon

We then ordered some rice and noodle dishes to fill up. The Mentai Kimchi Yakiudon features pan fried udon with spicy roe and kimchi. Very flavourful with that hint of sourness from the kimchi. It’s not very spicy though. Perfect for those who like kimchi.

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Negi P-Toro Don

The last rice dish was the Negi P-Toro Don. It featured the same P-toro pork, which we loved, along with a half boiled egg, green onion, onion sauce, and nori seaweed on top of steamed rice. You mix it all together, and it is very tasty and flavourful!

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Dorayaki Matcha Ice Cream

Onto some desserts to finish our meal off! The Dorayaki Matcha Ice Cream reminded me of Doraemon’s favourite snack. The Japanese pancake is fluffy and filled with matcha ice cream and red bean paste. They are quite big, so great for sharing!

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Kinako Mochi Ice Cream

An interesting dish was the Kinako Mochi Ice Cream. This had vanilla ice cream and sticky rice with soy powder sprinkled on top and drizzled with maple syrup. The sticky rice is quite flavourless, but along with the condiments, it makes a very tasty dessert.

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Hojicha Pudding

Lastly, we had their featured dessert, which switches up daily. This was the Hojicha Pudding, which is roasted green tea. The flavour isn’t very strong, but you can definitely taste the tea flavour. It was topped with whipped cream and red bean paste. The pudding itself was very smooth.

Overall, Zakkushi was pretty good. Definitely stick to their grilled items, but their desserts are also very good for the price. Great place to have drinks and snacks if you come later at night as they open til late. Ambiance is similar to izakaya style shops, so it is rather loud, but lots of fun.

Pros:
– Yakitori is excellent and large variety to choose
– Desserts are surprisingly very well executed

Cons:
– Can be very busy later at night
– Your bill can add up quickly

Price Range: $25-35

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

Food: 4 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: 2 Overall: 4

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Fukumame ふくまめ (Ueno) – Tokyo

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There’s tons of things to do in Tokyo, but during our visit, we coincidentally were there for the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival. This year, it was on July 26. The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival is a huge event held every year and attracts millions of people. We decided to head to Asakusa to see this event. We knew it would be crowded, but I have never been in such a huge crowd in my life. Asakusa is quite a tourist area, with the famous Senso-ji Temple. It is a Buddhist temple and the oldest in Tokyo. Both women and men were all dressed up in their kimonos as well!

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We didn’t really know where we going, so we just followed the crowds. At one point, we saw the Tokyo Skytree, a very new addition and tall building. It’s used mainly for broadcasting, but also features an observation deck and restaurant.

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We finally figured out that everyone was trying to cross the Sumidagawa or the bridge that is over the Sumida River. You’ll literally be walking one step forward and stopping when you near this area. Here, you can see the Asahi Brewery buildings and that odd gold piece of art that is on top of the Beer Hall. Not too sure what it’s supposed to be… Anyways, there are tons of patrol here and the organizers assign groups of people numbers. The police will announce when each group can start moving forward. It’s super organized even though you are literally shoulder to shoulder to the stranger next to you. Now imagine this in 30 degree weather. Yup, sweaty arms brushing up against you.

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I couldn’t get a lot of nice firework pictures since I only had my iPhone, but it was pretty spectacular. Basically, the festival is very different from any of the ones I’ve been to. The idea is to let groups of people on the bridge so that they can experience the festival for at least 5 to 10 minutes. The displays are exploded from both sides of the river and is supposed to be a competition. The fireworks literally go on for 2 hours straight so that everyone has a chance to get on the bridge. Once you’ve had your time, they announce that you must proceed forward and let the next group view the fireworks. The fireworks are pretty crazy, with complicated shapes and colours that I’ve never seen. Apparently at one point, there was a Pikachu! Leaving the Asakusa area was also a nightmare. You could barely move and by the time you got to the train station, there are people patrolling the area to make sure not too many people crowd in the station.

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I wanted to meet T since she coincidentally was in Tokyo as well so we decided to go to Ueno station for a late snack. Ueno is roughly 2 stations away, but it took us over half an hour to get there because of all the commuters trying to go home! Anyways, we finally arrived at Ueno station, and there are streets filled with bars and izakaya type of food. We decided to go to Fukumame which was on the 4th floor of a building. The restaurant is very posh looking and you get a lot of privacy with lots of barriers between tables. They are famous for their Yakitori, which are chicken skewers. I ordered the set which came with 5 skewers. To be honest, I was sort of confused at what I was eating. It didn’t exactly taste like chicken because it was very moist and soft. I feel like it was mixed with some sort of bean and battered with egg. Some had a teriyaki sauce on it, while other soy glaze, radish, and guacamole. They were good, but not meaty enough for me.

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We also got a desert to share. It was the Vanilla Ice Cream with Mochi and Red Bean. A very typical scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and sweet red beans. I was sad that it only came with three mochi balls, but they were very good! I can’t comment too much about the food since we only ordered two dishes. However, based on what we had, it was decent and the atmosphere was really nice for long chats. And that ended our last night in Tokyo!

Address: 6 Chome−13−9 Ueno, Taitō, Tokyo

Street Food & More – Seoul

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A trip to Seoul isn’t done properly if you don’t have some street food! I was actually surprised that there weren’t as many street food stalls as I had imagined. Anyways, if you’re looking for street food, Myeongdong is a good option since you can shop and eat. However, most of the stalls don’t come out until the evening time. I love grilled sausages, so this stall caught my eyes immediately.

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Grilled Sausages stuffed with Rice Cake

This sausage skewer isn’t your typical American sausage skewer. We had some spicy beef sausages, but there were also pork sausages that were filled with rice cake! I thought that was pretty neat! Yummy too!

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Another stall in Myeongdong offered a large variety of grilled squid, octopus, and fish.

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Some seemed to already be grilled, while others needed to be grilled.

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Grilled Octopus

We had originally wanted to get grilled squid, but we couldn’t really figure out what was written on the signs. I believe that we ended up ordering grilled octopus. They placed these slices on the grill right away for a few minutes to heat it up. Honestly, these were terrible! They were so hard and tough that I’m pretty sure I had a difficult time digesting it. Won’t recommend this!

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Another area with lots of street food is the Dongdaemun area which is filled with shopping malls like Doota and is filled with many wholesale shops. We found a stall with more sausage like skewers. These were dipped in a red sauce!

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On the left is a fish cake wrapped around squid. To the right, I got a skewer with a variety of sausage, rice cake, fish cake, and meatballs. The sauce was not even very spicy. It was more sweet than spicy. Cheap and delicious!

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Green Tea Parfait – O’sulloc

O’sulloc Tea House is a modern looking tea house that offers Korean traditional teas. It specializes in green tea, but also offers many other items like ice cream, desserts, and juices. They have several shops, but we stopped by the one in Myeongdong. I decided to share the Green Tea Parfait with K. The parfaits are quite expensive, at more than 8,000 won! Honestly, I didn’t think it was that good. The bottom was green tea ice topped with lots of whipped cream and red bean. It was then topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream, some green tea cake, and a tea biscuit. We found that the parfait just tasted like cream. I would’ve much preferred the parfaits at Mimibuloveme in Vancouver. I find that O’sulloc is overrated with high prices! I know they specialize in green tea, so I’m guessing their teas are probably more on the right track. Definitely not going back for the desserts though.

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Dumplings in Oxtail Soup

On another day, K and I went out early in the morning and walked over to Insadong to look for some quick breakfast. We ended up heading up to this random cafe on the second floor of a building. I never got the name, but it was filled with office people! It’s more like a fast food/ cafeteria type of setting but still with full service. I chose the Dumplings in Oxtail Soup, which was absolutely delicious! Filled with roughly 6 dumplings, and topped with onions, seaweed, and egg, the broth was the best part! It didn’t taste like MSG, but rather a hearty broth filled with flavour. As for the dumplings, they were pork and chive dumplings, and a great way to start the morning! Must try!

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Tteokbokki with Cheese

We also found Tteokbokki with Cheese on the menu and thought it would be quite interesting. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment. There wasn’t enough cheese on it! They definitely skimped out here. There were only a few strings of melted cheese, but not enough to create a cheesy effect. The rice cakes were soft, and sitting in a spicy hot pepper sauce, and topped with white sesame. It also came with half a hard boiled egg. Overall, these were just decent. I would highly recommend trying their soups instead, since most of the locals were ordering that.

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill – Denman (Revisit 2)

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Zakkushi Set – Umeshiso Yaki, Momo,  Me Maki, P-toro & Oropon Beef

For M’s birthday, he wanted a cool, chill atmosphere with great snacks and lots of drinks. Off we went to one of his favourites – Zakkushi! There are two Zakkushis – one on Main St and one on Denman. We went to the one on Denman just because it’s usually more lively. They also used to have a third location, but it recently closed down. Since we made reservations, we were quickly seated. The restaurant is very small at this location, so we probably took up a quarter of the space. A lot of my friends shared a large variety of different skewers. Zakkushi is known for their yakitori and izakaya type of food. Yakitori are essentiall grilled chicken skewers. For myself, I chose the Zakkushi Set. Starting from the left was the Umeshiso Yaki, which was a chicken thigh with a sour plum sauce and Japanese basil. Next was the Momo, which was a chicken thigh with a nice barbecue sauce. In the middle, was the Me Maki, which were garlic stubs wrapped with pork. I actually didn’t even realize they were garlic stubs. They didn’t give me that garlic breath at all, and I thought it was just asparagus or some type of veggie. Next, was the P-Toro, which was a crunchy and juicy pork. It reminded me of porchetta. My friends and I agreed that it was more fat than meat though. Last but not least, on the very right was the Oropon Beef which came with grated daikon and Ponzu sauce. Oropon beef is essentially their ‘AAA’ beef, so it was very tender and the daikon and Ponzu sauce was very light and refreshing. Overall, a good deal for 5 skewers priced at $9.20.

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Matcha Mochi Ice Cream

Other than food, we also had tons of Sapporo and their plum wine. The plum wine was really good! For dessert, MC and I shared the Matcha Mochi Ice Cream. This was the perfect way to end the night! The mochi balls were still slightly frozen and filled with matcha ice cream. It came with some whip cream, red bean paste and topped with matcha powder on the top. After ordering, everyone at our table ended up getting it too. Unfortunately, some weren’t able to get their orders as they were eventually sold out. Definitely a best seller!

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Matcha Chiffon Parfait

We realized that another table was also celebrating a birthday, and the restaurant would turn off their lights and bring out a dessert for the birthday customer. They also sang the birthday song! We immediately sneaked over to the waitress and asked for a Matcha Chiffon Parfait for M as well. Again, they shut off the lights and sang the birthday song carrying the cake over. Pretty nice place to celebrate your birthday. The dessert came with a chunk of matcha chiffon cake, topped with whipped cream, mochi and red bean. Not bad.

Overall, we had a good night at Zakkushi on Denman. They gave us great service even though we were pretty loud and probably sat their for quite a while. The bill came to be quite expensive due to the drinks, but everyone enjoyed their night. It’s a great place to grab a small snack, but it is definitely expensive if you want to be fully filled up.

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