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Tsukiji Fish Market is the central hub for the buying and selling of fish and seafood in Tokyo. Anything that lives in the sea can be found here – from above average quality to the most premium sashimi grade kind of stuff that is not only hard to find but costs an arm and a leg too. There are also fish auctions that are held here. If you’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the scene where Jiro’s son attends the tuna auction at the market is pretty spot on.
Yuukai has been one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal since I moved here 6 or 7 years ago. What brought me there initially was the elusive search for a bring your own wine sushi restaurant with good sushi and affordable prices. Restaurants with all of these properties are quite a rare breed in Montreal and Yuukai quickly became one of my go to restaurants.
Guu Sakabar is exactly what it should be. It’s loud, it’s busy, it’s crazy and it’s delicious. We showed up on a Saturday evening and waited about an hour and 15 mins for a table. This seems par for the course at any of the trendier restaurants in Toronto. The Sakabar is located on Bloor street close to Bathurst while the original Izakaya is located on Church street.
GT Fish and Oyster, named after chef Giuseppe Tentori, is a seafood specialty spot in the river north area of Chicago. The decor and design of the restaurant’s interior is both upscale and laid back at then same time. This is indicative of what I hear from Chicago based chefs and staff time and time again particularly when faced with the New York – Chicago question. They maintain (and I would tend to agree) that Chicago has all the culinary muscle of NYC with a generally more laid back attitude.
Mikasa has locations across the city, including Laval, the Rive-Sud, Marche Centrale and downtown Montreal. The latter spot is probably the most well known among Montrealers as it was the scene of a fatal freak accident back in 2009. The restaurant is relatively low key and offers decent sushi for a little above average sushi prices. We headed to the spot by Marche Centrale on Acadie which is a little trickier to find as the entrance is tucked around the back of a compound mini strip mall. We’ve been here a few times before but mostly for the lunch special.
I passed by ShuRaku quite a few times during my last few trips to Vancouver and it didn’t stand out to me from the outside. When I travel for work I always have to stay downtown and so my options for restaurants are somewhat limited. ShuRaku came up on a Friday night when I was looking for a really great sushi dinner and a few Japanese beers.
As soon as I walked in I was immediately impressed with the interior and ambiance. I have to go out of my way to say that the service at ShuRaku was probably the best and most friendly I’ve had in years. Even more charming was that it appeared that the entire staff spoke Japanese quite well – even those who looked born and bred Canadian. Orders were authentically shouted to the kitchen and I had a chat with one of the sushi chefs who made excellent suggestions.
I started with the Chef’s Choice Sashimi along with a Mackerel Roll and the Volcano Roll. I was really hungry so I followed that with a Salmon Tartar with Crispy Seaweed Tempura and the coveted Toro Sashimi, a specialty cut of Tuna Belly (the fattiest part). Vancouver magazine described the sashimi at ShuRaku as “achingly fresh” and I can say this is no hyperbole, it really is. Great choice for lunch or dinner.
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Di Bao is immediately striking what with two great big Chinese drums flanking its outer entrance (diners are free to pick up the drum sticks and hit the drums as hard as they can) , elaborately dressed waitresses (headdresses and formal Chinese gowns), and the glimmering gold emperor’s chair at the front of the restaurant. The plating at this restaurant is most impressive: catching a glimpse of other tables with food already served, I couldn’t wait to see what the set menu we had pre-ordered had in store.
Hidden between Montgomery and Embarcadero, Hillstone is part of the Houston’s restaurant family and serves New American Fare that is true to fresh ingredients and big flavors. Reservations are essential – even with one there was a slight delay before we were seated. We started with a Iceberg Wedge & Blue Cheese Salad with Campari tomatoes and warm beets along with Oak Grilled Artichokes and Spinach Artichoke dip. The grilled artichokes were charred and served with a few simple dipping sauces – simple and tasty. The Spinach artichoke dip was a perfect dish to share, cheesy and thick. I usually don’t order blue cheese because I find the cheese overpowering but the blue cheese salad was actually quite creamy and well balanced (not too strong).
For entrees we began with Hardwood Grilled Trout which is cajun seasoned trout, served with seasonal vegetables, followed by Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with pommery mustard sauce, served with hand-cut French fries and coleslaw and finally the Flying Tuna Platter with mixed greens, avocado, mango and miso vinaigrette.
The highlight was definitely the Flying Tuna Platter (Above) which was seared perfectly. The mango and avocado complemented the tuna so perfectly that I found myself trying to get a piece of each component in every bite.
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Located in the basement level of the prestigious Regent Hotel (incidentally where Lady Gaga chose to stay when she came to Taipei for a show several weeks ago), the Brasserie is an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant with a selection of foods wide enough to make your jaw drop. The sushi/sashimi bar features freshly caught lobsters, crabs and oysters, king mackerel, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, sea urchin among other premium raw seafood. The Japanese section also had cold soba and oolong noodles prepared on demand, just fried tempura (fish, potato, taro, shrimp), miso soup among many other choice selections.The “American” section featured some typical foods you would expect which for some foreigners may be a welcome relief from the rather different Asian foods you find most places in Taipei.
Alibi Room is a Gastown staple known for it’s unbelievably large selection of craft beers on tap. Having around 26 taps going at a time, the pub rotates new beers in all the time and posts beer related updates via Twitter. Although the beers are the main draw here, the food menu is formidable and diverse – featuring everything from Smoked Sablefish to Lamb Sirloin to Red Coconut Vegetable Curry.
To accompany our beers, we ordered Smoked Albacore Tuna salad with crutons, carrot, daikon, pumpkin seeds & creamy miso dressing along with BC Bison cheese steak with spiced bison flank, peppers, onions & cheddar. Pumpkin seed ‘slaw and fries and BBQ Pork Belly sandwich with beer braised onions, jalapeno ‘slaw & fries.
The smoked albacore dish was a large portion and had a great summer taste with the miso dressing, pumpkin seeds and daikon. The Bison Burger (one of the more popular dishes) and the Pork Belly sandwich paired perfectly with our beers and tasted great. The Pumpkin seed slaw and Jalapeno slaw were welcome additions as well.
For lunch, we went to the Yamato restaurant for some Japanese cuisine. Whetting our appetites with a plate of crunchy marinated burdock roots, we eagerly waited for the the deluxe sashimi assortment. It was a nice mix of different elements that are harder to find as fresh in places like Montreal. The squid was very tender and chewy, the tuna and salmon melted in your mouth. As for the tempura shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and asparagus, each item was deep fried to perfection. The tea kettle soup was one of my favorites of the entire meal – it was tasty and full of nutrients, being composed of the juices of clams and mushrooms and a hint of lemon. Served piping hot, the tea kettle is served with a miniature cup that rests on top – you flip it down and use it to drink the broth out of. I thought it was a compact way to serve the dish and an aesthetically pleasing one too.
In North America, the term ‘buffet’ usually brings to mind a low brow, sort of pedestrian dining experience. Here, in Asia, it is quite the opposite. Some of the best restaurants in Taipei are buffet style – Shin Yeh is a good example. Offering all-you-can-eat Japanese cuisine, there is a wealth of foods and drink to choose from. At the drink bar, there is Calpis (sweet white colored drink), white and red wine, plum vinegar wine, sake, Taiwanese beer, fruit juices, hot and cold tea and coffee. There is a sashimi bar that includes the largest oysters I have ever seen, trays of fried rice, tempura shrimp and vegetables, soba noodles, stir fried oolong noodles, tea kettle soup, steamed eggs, sushi… the list goes on. The pictures speak for themselves.
Mitsui is elegant, sophisticated and chic. With slick black granite floors and tables, stylish wood/glass partitions and an understated, minimalistic decor, the restaurant is known to cater to celebrities, mobsters and famous politicians as well as the local elite. The service is impeccable here. The ratio of the wait staff to the clientele is almost one to one – that is how well taken care of each individual at the restaurant is. Or at least that’s how it feels, and that’s what counts. The minute we sat down, we got bowls of tea, wet towels to clean our hands with and additional cutlery to match what we ordered. Our bags and jackets, leaning on the backs of our seats, had black bags put over them so as to ensure nothing would get dirty.
Conveniently located in the Montreal core, Kazu montreal is a small Japanese eatery with a flair for the authentic. Wait lines are not uncommon – eager foodies show up a half an hour early to secure a spot. After reading so many good reviews about the place, I decided to check it out last week for the first time with a friend. We arrived at 5:15 and managed to get in on the first seating, but just barely. I would suggest lining up between 5:00 – 5:10 if you want to get in for the early dinner set. After the first seating, you can expect to wait around 45 minutes to get in. Also, the prices are very reasonable – the most expensive item on the menu is $15!