Japanese Homestyle Food at Aotoya (Blue Door) on Victoria Drive

Aotoya (aka Blue Door) is a slightly dingy, Japanese homestyle hole-in-the-wall on Victoria Drive, located beside longtime institution Supreme Pizza (get a pepperoni, mushroom, and Italian sausage pizza and one of their crack-laden pastas). If you can deal with Aotoya’s sometimes slow service and slow kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with good-to-great Yōshoku-style food that’s got uniqueness and charm. For fans of places like Hi Genki.

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Eating the Entire Menu at The Mackenzie Room (aka I Want It All)

I’ve had the (inaccurate) impression that The Mackenzie Room in DTES/Japantown was like our version of The Black Hoof in Toronto. Aside from the chalkboard menu, there’s not that much that’s similar. Black Hoof does more offcuts while Mackenzie Room has more veggie-forward dishes. But both places do have a fun, loud, lively atmosphere. I went there with three other food-obsessed people and ordered the entire menu. Here’s how it went down.

(Not a huge amount of detail in this post cuz I’m writing this a week after it happened and didn’t take notes during dinner.)

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First Look: Japanese Food Returns to Japantown at Dosanko

Perhaps timed with the annual Powell Street Festival, Akiyo Tani (Campagnolo, Tojo’s) and Nathan Lowey (Refuel, Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma) opened up Dosanko, a yōshoku-style restaurant in the (hardly Japanese nowadays) Japantown area. This space used to be Growndswell Cafe, which I had only been to for pop-up events (a “multi-sensory” film screening of Spirited Away produced by HERE THERE with food by Annabelle Choi timed to coincide with different scenes in the movie, and a Nashville “Hot Chicken Throwdown” featuring Merchants Workshop, Handtaste Ferments, and Local Omnivore. For the record, Merchants got my vote.) Dosanko have kept the existing bar, and refrained from jamming in as many tables as they could. The room feels airy and spacious. The scene outside on the street though is still typical Japantown/DTES, which adds a bit of frisson (or guilt) to your dining experience.

I tried a mere two dishes from the menu but was pleased with the solid cooking and thoughtful sourcing of ingredients. Whether you’re gonna be ok with paying the 10–25% premium over other yoshoku-type restaurants is all on you.

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Kris Barnholden X Bows X Arrows = Dinner with an Accomplished, Casual Feel

I like this trend of coffee shops stocking craft beer (e.g. Matchstick in Chinatown) and doing dinner service (e.g. pop-ups at The Birds & The Beets). Bows X Arrows on Fraser & 26th is now doing both. It wasn’t until they brought on ex-Latab chef Kris Barnholden (Latab review here) that their dinner service piqued my interest. Add in collabs with Juno Kim and Doug Stephen (Merchant’s Workshop), and I got very excited indeed. So did dinner end in a happy ending?

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First Look: Fresh, Handmade Tortillas at Maizal on Main St.

There’s a new Mexican taco place on Main St. called Maizal (Facebook, Instagram). It’s surprising that within the span of a couple months, TWO places have opened up in Vancouver that make their own tortillas in-house: Chancho (where Nuba used to be on Seymour) and Maizal. I did a quick little visit to Maizal with Moyenchow and here’s my early thoughts.

(As far as I know, there’s no relation between this Maizal and the Maizal in Toronto.)

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