I found myself with this unfamiliar feeling recently – that of passion and urgency to get out some writing.
Besides finding the musical I reviewed very enjoyable and well executed, I felt this usually dormant duty to spread the word and inform (to my little circle) because if I don’t, no one else will (who is not bigger and media-type). I haven’t felt quite the rush for what seems like years or back when I reviewed every bite I ate [warning: every link from that page will be dead].
This self-imposed and admittedly very fun task of food reviewing was useful when I was one of few foodie bloggers in Halifax but Vancouver is a far cry from home because, here, everything’s been reviewed to death by foodies more eager than I ever was.
What to do with pictures that I still insist on taking of new dishes that crosses my plate? Some days, like today, I’ll write up about it. Other days, they tend to wilt in my Flickr photostream but I’m working on a strategy to overcome that….
On an odd Friday night on my own (a couple Fridays ago), I arranged to meet up with and have dinner with Frank who is reliably nice and willing to go where my fancy takes us. Throughout the day, I wanted to go to Long’s Noodle house because I felt inundated lately with great reviews. Okay, it was only three reviews. But a picture of a creepy eel dish turned us off and we went to the other place where I’ve been inundated with reviews about: Irashai Grill in Coal Harbour. With some of the most recent and prominent reviews for the restaurant sounding and looking quite uniform – coming from a tasting dinner prepared for bloggers – I felt compeled to try out the other dishes the restaurant has to offer.
Before dinner, I conducted a mini photowalk around Coal Harbour*, capturing some Eagles in the City pictures and guiding myself of on a tour of the grounds of the spectacularly imposing new convention center in my favourite area of downtown. I was pleased that we didn’t have to fight for or line up for a table and shout over loud music for the restaurant was alarmingly not busy. So, we felt unabashed to linger over our food and enjoyed really attentive service.
We pored over the menu of small plates – that is always fun – and did a little math in our head while assembling the list of dishes we would share: Frank selected the ominous-sounding Poison Spider Volcano (above), ebi mayo (shrimp), and sablefish; I selected the saba shioyaki (mackerel) and pearl chicken karaage.
We got the fish dishes first and fortunately they were quite different from each other to avoid a feeling of redundant ordering of food. Unfortunately, Frank’s choice was better than mine. :P I’m a fan of meaty mackerel but I found the saba shioyaki dish dry and uninteresting. We were recommended to mix the minced daikon into soya sauce for dipping sauce but I was put off by how salty the soya sauce was (Chinese and not Japanese used?). I cannot complain about how much saba we got. The sablefish was wonderfully smooth and just slides down your throat – that is the nature of sablefish, I guess, and the marinate that was applied for 30 hours (so another blog tells me) was deliciously balanced. Even the charred black skin was yummy.
Frank claims to order ebi mayo most all of the time and I can hardly be found to complain when it comes to the opportunity to have battered shrimp: tempura shrimp, breaded shrimp, etc. The batter was very fluffy and light and the sauce was a nice concoction that I don’t remember too well. It’s always nice when the shrimp is good and fresh.
I ordered the pearl chicken karaage based on the bloggers’ pictures and without thinking much about how our dinner was somewhat beige/yellow and devoid of colours from vegetables. Oops. The rice cracker coating made the chicken pieces delightfully crunchy and the thin dipping sauce had a touch of spice.
The last dish to arrive was the Poison Spide Volcano roll for it had to be prepared as a roll and then baked so that the cheese would melt. Cheese and sushi? Yes! In fact, the roll had both cheddar-like cheese on the top that melted and a cube of cream cheese in the middle in addition to asparagus and riche soft shell crab. The super spicy miso sauce was not that spicy and I had my usual reaction to lukewarm cube of cream cheese — I wish it were something else. However, it was novel and I love risk-takers in sushi rolls.
I wonder if you’ve heard of the California roll index? That is using the average price of a decent-tasting and ubiquitous California Roll here ($3) and comparing the price of a California Roll in other cities or even within the same city. Is that roll worth it? It can say something about the markup in the city or restaurant. At Irashai, a California Roll was $5. The dinehere.ca reviews are currently few in number and in Irashai’s defense, I would like to contradict the 50% (1 review) that remarked that the serving size was too small for the price — I found the portions adequate for what we were paying.
Finally, due to awareness of this restaurant, I know now know what the servers at Japanese food establishments are singing out when you enter the restaurant: they are chiming, “Irashaimase!” which means “Welcome!” I learn things by seeing how they are spelled and now cannot forget they are saying the name of the restaurant + “mase”!
* Incidentally, and I know it’s not funny, I grew up in a house in Cole Harbour, now proudly displaying a “Welcome to Cole Harbour. Home of Sidney Crosby” wooden sign.