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.
This place has a blue-framed door AND a blue awning. They’ve been open since early 2013. Before Aotoya, this place used to be Hin Young Vietnamese Restaurant, which had some really good housemade squid cake soup noodles. We didn’t eat there enough to keep it in business. Sigh. But now we’ve got Aotoya!
As of this writing, this special was still on. Great deal but I hope they’re still making money. I get the feeling that this place isn’t making a ton of money, especially with their new reduced hours:
And here’s the details on their happy hour:
So it appears that there’s no food during happy hour, only desserts and drinks. That said, in the menu below, their desserts are all reasonably priced.
Some of these items are on the regular menu, some aren’t. But it makes it feel so much more special when it’s written out like that 😀
Atka Mackerel is a Hokkaido thing and is a special find for Vancouver! I swear I’ve had it but digging through my photos I can’t find confirmation.
Clams and miso! So homestyle.
Getting really hard to decide!
There’s always more taped up to the bar.
Now here’s their REGULAR menu.
Their tempura has many devotees. Right, Addison?
Donburi and Kid’s Meal with the happy face smiley fries. Kawaii!
Teishoku (Set Meals). There’s a cute guide to these kinds of Japanese meals here. The drawing of the obachan kills me!
Last page of meals.
Drinks and desserts. They have mugicha!
I love the Japanese programs they have going on the TV. The owner is often seated in front watching.
Wicca got hot water…
…and a Sea Salt Caramel Mousse ($4.95) to start. A cute little dessert. It won’t blow your mind, and it’s not the “good chocolate”, but it’s good for what it is.
Shiromi Zakana No Shiso Fry ($17.25), breaded deep fried white fish with shiso leaves. You get a choice of fries or salad. I got fries and also upgraded to Short Neck Clam Miso Soup for $2 more. Ketchup in the squeeze bottle.
Second deep fried white fish set meal with Green Peas Rice upgrade for $2.25. Bulldog-style tonkatsu sauce in the squeeze bottle.
The Green Peas Rice upgrade (+$2.25) had mushier rice than the perfectly cooked standard rice, but I didn’t mind it at all. Wicca couldn’t stand it after a couple bites. She has an intense aversion to mushy rice. I think perhaps it’s cooked like that on purpose so that the rice and the peas coalesce more. The peas were very…rustic. Definitely not young peas, but I appreciated it for what it was.
The regular miso soup with tofu, cabbage, green onions, and bits of tempura (tenkasu) in it. Wicca loves how their miso soup isn’t salty.
My Short Neck Clam Miso Soup upgrade (+$2). No tempura bits to distract from the briny clams.
The sides that come with the set meals change with the seasons. This time it was kimchi and that gooey mountain yam (could be yamaimo or nagaimo). Other times we’ve had burdock root, potato salad with peas and corn, kabocha squash, and soy-marinated soybeans.
Cauliflower with bits of what I think is shiso? Not pickled. Slightly cooked then chilled.
Japanese pickles (tsukemono). Cucumbers and daikon.
You get four big pieces of fish, wedge of lemon, and a cherry tomato.
Wicca’s salad with ginger dressing. Dressing tasted housemade.
My fries. Surprisingly ok! I’m sure it’s from frozen but totally fine for a place like this.
The shiso is layered on the fish then battered. Really lovely flavour. Subtle but there. The batter is a bit underseasoned but that’s what the tonkatsu sauce/Bulldog sauce is for. Really moist and flaky fish. So good.
Cuz we’re pigs: Chicken “Tenpura” ($14.25) with seaweed (aonori flakes) and bits of red pickled ginger (beni shōga) in the batter.
It’s listed as tempura, but the batter and the way it tastes wasn’t really like tempura at all. Simply battered and deep fried dark meat chicken pieces. The seaweed flakes and pickled ginger give a subtle but special note to the dish. Could’ve used even more pickled ginger. We felt like it needed a sauce of some sort beyond just lemon, so the Bulldog sauce came in handy.
After eating at this place for the past four years, I’m happy to finally immortalize Aotoya in a review. It’s a quaint, humble, non-pretentious, authentic, family-run kind of neighbourhood Japanese restaurant that we’d sorely miss if it were gone.