Shokunin follows a theme that I’ve noticed in Calgary — modern Asian food, not necessarily cooked by Asians, being done respectfully at a high level, and embraced by the dining public. Specifically: Anju (every iteration), Foreign Concept, Two Penny, and — now that I’ve finally tried it — Shokunin. I was really impressed by the quality and attention to detail with their kushiyaki/yakitori and nigiri sushi. The best nigiri I’ve had in an izakaya. Lots of attention paid to flavour, technique, and sourcing of ingredients. Pricing is fair considering the labour involved. I met up with local blogger Miss Foodie and homeboy Hungryslif for a quick shared meal before flying back to Vancouver. Read on for the blow-by-blow.
Moyenchow told me after our meal at Ramen Gaoh that this is by far the best ramen in the area. I agreed. I’d even go so far as to say that this would be worthy even if it was downtown rather than North Burnaby. Along with Grayelf, we beat the lineup on a Sunday morning during their grand opening weekend and came away impressed. Ramen Gaoh specializes in miso ramen, so if that’s your jam it’s worth a visit — especially if you’re in the area.
Ugly Dumpling isn’t ugly at all. In fact, they bring out the inner beauty of their ingredients in a clean, classically Japanese way. The dishes look and taste beautiful, with no ego nor fancy and unnecessary flourishes.
Steel Toad had a tough time and also an identity crisis. The group behind Tap & Barrel took over the space and have now turned it into BREWHALL and T&B’s experience shows in how well put-together this place is. I haven’t tried any of the food yet, and only had a couple house beers, but this place works.
(Side note: I’m so glad they changed the name from “T&B Brewing Co.” cuz that would’ve been a supreme dick move. R&B Ale & Pizza House is only blocks away.)
Few things have that uneasy mixture of luxury, guilt, and controversy as king crab does. Like spot prawns now, there used to be a mad king crab season rush in the Lower Mainland. But because we can’t have nice things, king crab prices are high and supply has become questionable (and possible illegal). So on that note, we recently celebrated a family reunion of sorts with king crab. I didn’t even see a menu during this dinner. My dad and relatives ordered, my dad paid, and I ate and appreciated like a number one son.
Wicca needed a pick-me-up, and her favourite cuisine is Singaporean/Malaysian food, so I picked this small place called Makan Place (Facebook, Instagram) in Burnaby that’s been on my radar. Hope the bold, punchy flavours will cheer her up!
Fraserhood’s Crowbar opened up in late June 2016 and I had heard good things about their burger over the past year, along with other good things about their food in general — and also some he said/he said employee dispute-type stuff that’s the worst kind of thing to have play out over the media/social media, where it’s so easy to get a twisted hall of mirrors version of the situation that I chose to ignore all of it. Vancouver’s such a small scene…tight-knit in some ways, cliquey in others. Let’s settle your shit and get back to serving great food, yeah?
Fellow food obsessive hungrySLIF had been there a couple times and encouraged me to pry this crate open, so we did.
The folks behind Wildebeest, Bufala, and Lucky Taco have added another thoughtful expansion to their mini-empire in the form of the anti-sports bar sports bar Bells & Whistles located on Fraser just south of Kingsway. The food is typical sports bar/pub grub/comfort food like burgers, wings, nachos, onion rings, etc, but done with atypical care and better ingredients, served in an atypically bright and family-friendly environment, with a very atypical craft beer menu with absolutely NO macro beer in sight.
Admittedly, the pricing for the food and beer is a bit high (especially for the neighbourhood), but in the week and a half they’ve been open, it’s been absolutely packed. I guess that shows that people have been wanting something like this for a long time and are willing to pay for it. For myself, I really appreciate their approach — casual accessibility, eyes on quality, no “Bells & Whistles” despite the name — but if things were maybe a couple bucks cheaper across the board, I’d come back more often, and with less hesitation.
Chi Men on Denman opened up in late July 2017 in the former Chelicious space, and has been quietly ladling out some really good soup noodles to a barely appreciative West End audience. It hasn’t been busy in there, but they deserve to be. With 3 Quarters Full Taiwanese Cafe (located in Denman Place Mall) still around after a full year in business, looks like the West End might just have the right clientelle to keep these kinds of Asian restaurants in business. Maybe. Winter is coming.
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.)