Irashai Grill - ExteriorIrashaimase!!

Sound familiar? It should if you’re a fan of Japanese restaurants.

It means “welcome” in Japanese and it’s how businesses greet their customers.

Lucky us. Irashai Grill, located in Coal Harbour @ 1368 West Pender Street, was in a welcoming mood and graciously invited Dan and I to a Vancouver Bloggers meet-up dinner last week. We’ve never been to or even heard of Irashai Grill before so we jumped at the opportunity. They assured us that Irashai was armed with super tasty food and a chic decor. Frankly Irashai, you had us at free Japanese food.

Irashai Grill - Bloggers NightIt was a fun night. Dan and I were joined by friendly Vancouver bloggers Sherman, Joyce, Rebbecca, John,and Heather. Finally, a dinner where snapping pics of the dishes before digging in was not only tolerated but encouraged! We were also joined by Danielle, the event organizer and Irashai’s #1 fan.

We were treated with a wide range of meticulously plated items from their regular menu. Below are a few dishes that stood out for us, dishes that we would order again.

Irashai Grill - Yellowtail SashimiHamachi Sashimi (served with daikon salad and Pommery mustard dressing).
ed: Yum! Super thin-sliced hamachi, crunchy daikons, and a tangy sauce. Really great summer dish. I don’t order things like this often so this was a nice change of pace for me. As you can see from the pics, all the dishes were gorgeous. Preferential treatment perhaps, but when I looked over at another table, their food looked just as good.

Irashai Grill - Sushi RollsSummer Roll & (deepfried!) Alaska Crab Leg Roll
I love fusion rolls that taste great. I hate fusion rolls that are funky simply for the sake of being funky *cough*. Thankfully, these rolls fall into the category of the former. They weren’t mindblowing, but the ingredients were fresh and the portions were generous. And you gotta give them courage points for deep-frying a roll.

Irashai Grill - Pearl Chicken KaaragePearl Chicken Karaage
Here’s something we’ve never seen, batter fried chicken rolled in crunchy rice cracker balls. The texture reminds me of the asian rice cracker snacks I like to buy at T&T. It lightens up the dish and makes an old favorite interesting again. These would make great street food come to think of it. I wouldn’t mind sitting down with a plate of these and an Asahi in the summer.

Irashai Grill - Spot prawn sashimiIrashai Grill - Deep fried shellsBC Spot Prawn Sashimi
ed: My favorite dish of the night by far. BC Spot Prawn season is from May 1 – July 1. These giant prawns were sweet! Literally. When I tried prawn sashimi at Happa last year, I hated it. It was bitter and slimy. I tried it again at Guu a few months ago: better, but still bitter. But these guys were great! They weren’t slimy, they were huge, and they were super sweet. After we ate the sashimi, the waitress took the heads back to the kitchen, deep fried them, and gave them back to us. They were like deepfried miniature lobsters – nice.

Irashai Grill - Yam FriesYam Fries
Another classic dish done in a new way. These are basically french fry cut yam tempura with a light batter, served with two tasty dipping sauces. (really wanted to double dip….) It’s dishes like these that show how Irashai can raise normally bland traditional dishes to a higher level.

Irashai Grill - Interior
dan: I like the open feeling of the interior, the high ceilings and half circle booths are spacious and intimate. There are TV’s scattered around the room, with every table in clear view of a few of them at once. I think it’d be fitting if they had Kill Bill playing on repeat, but that’s just me.

ed: Irashai’s decor is very Coal Harbour-ish to me. It’s shiny, modern, and peaceful. Personally, when I’m eating downtown on a weekend night, I’m usually in more of a Robson Street-ish kind of mood. I love the energetic ambiance of places like Guu and Gyoza King; they’re not as clean-cut as Irashai, but they have a bit more attitude.
But that’s okay. I don’t think Irashai is trying to compete head-on with the izakayas. Irashai is doing its own thing, and is worth checking out if you’re into tasty Japanese food that cautiously and successfully straddles the line between fusion and traditional. Obviously, we can’t comment on value based on this meal, but the prices/proportions looked fair. The service was top-notch as well.

Thanks again @Irashai!
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