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Vancouver's tastiest food blog. Defunct since 2010 :(

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Toratatsu – Intimate Izakaya

ToratatsuIt’s been a while since either Dan or I have blogged. What can we say? Summer is wrapping up and we’ve been busy trying to make the most of the nice weather.

But let’s get back on track.

Izakayas are all the rage in Vancouver. What’s not to love about delicious, fushion-y, shareable Japanese food? Add an emphasis on alcohol, pretty waitresses, trendy restaurant design, and loud chefs and you have a winning formula for the 20somethings.

As much as I love izakayas, I think Vancouver is reaching a saturation point. Alpha, Guu, Hapa, Ebisu, Shiru-Bay: these are some of the bigger izakaya names in Vancouver. I’ve had pretty great experiences with all of them. One izakaya that a lot of people don’t seem to know about is Toratatsu, on 735 Denman Street.

ToratatsuI first heard about Toratatsu from Chilco’s Good things in Vancouver blog. Toratatsu is owned by the Uno family, who also happen to own Shiru-Bay and about 20 other restaurants in Tokyo. Kodai Uno, the son, assumes the executive chef role at Toratatsu.

Unlike Shiru-Bay and most other izakayas here, Toratatsu is a lot smaller. The other ones tend to pack all their customers into a large common area, creating a party like environment. Toratatsu, true to authentic Izakaya roots, is a lot cozier; the focus is on the bar. As Chilco said on her blog, There are many Izakaya bars in Vancouver where you can go with lots of people but this place will be suitable when you want to have a relaxing time with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

I couldn’t agree more.
The food rocks too.

Toratatsu

First up, sukiyaki ($12.80). Fresh beef, veggies, organic eggs, and other goodies boiled in sukiyaki broth right in front of you. Really, really good. It might not be all-u-can-eat, but this miles ahead of Posh’s sukiyaki (which I enjoyed).

Toratatsu

Second, ebi chili mayo ($8.00). 3 large prawns delicately deep fried and served with spicy chili mayonnaise sauce. Shiru-Bay is famous for this same dish. Guu and others have this dish too, but this is the best in town.

Toratatsu

Third up, Gindara Saikyo Yaki ($9.80), or broiled miso-marinated black cod in laymen’s terms. This is one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. The buttery miso-flavored fish is complemented perfectly by the sweet creamy mash potatoes – and then the whole dish is turned upside down by the sharp and sour cherry tomatoes. Wicked.

I washed everything down with a large bottle of my favorite beer ($8.00).

Highly recommended.

Toratatsu on Urbanspoon

Kintaro – The Best Ramen in Town

Kintaro has the best ramen in Vancouver. It’s also my favorite restaurant. I’ve eaten here countless times, but have never blogged about it… until now.

Kintaro Ramen

I blogged Kintaro’s sister restaurant, Motomachi Shokudo, back in February. Loved it. But Kintaro is still king. Kintaro’s located at 788 Denman Street, steps away from Motomachi, and just off the busy Robson-Denman intersection.

This is actually one of my favorite areas in Vancouver. Head northwest and you’ll hit beautiful Stanley Park; northeast brings you to Coal Harbour. Walk southwest along Denman and you’ll be heading towards the beach @ English Bay, passing numerous mouth-watering desserts along the way. Stroll southeast along Robson, pass by some of the best Japanese Izakayas and Korean BBQs the city has to offer, and you’ll be at the heart of downtown Vancouver in minutes.

Kintaro Ramen

In contrast to its great location and beautiful neighborhood, Kintaro’s decor is downright bland. The restaurant is small. There are 4 tables that seat two people, 1 big communal table that seats strangers next to each other, and a few bar seats around the kitchen. The restaurant seats no more than 25 people. The limited seating, combined with its great reputation, usually results in long lines at the door. Expect to wait 0-15 minutes for a seat. Parties of 1 or 2 won’t wait long; trying to get 3 or 4 seats next to each other (either at the bar or at the big table) might take longer.

Kintaro Ramen

I like to sit at the bar and watch the 2 chefs do their thing. They work in perfect harmony. As one chef portions out the fresh homemade ramen on a table, the other checks on the large pots of soup. When the ramen reaches perfect al dente state, chef 1 will take it out of the boiling water whilst chef 2 fills a bowl with the flavorful soup. Chef 1 drops the ramen into the bowl,  chef 2 adds veggies and meat, and then chef 1 sifts delicious grease over the bowl. They do all this and still have time to greet entering/leaving customers with loud Japanese shouts.

Kintaro Ramen

Watch them for a few minutes and you’ll realize that the ~25 seating capacity for the restaurant is ideal. Any more seats and these 2 guys wouldn’t be able to pump out your ramen order in a speedy 5-10 minutes.

And that would be a shame because you don’t want to wait for ramen this good. Besides, ramen should be a quick and comforting meal.

Kintaro Ramen

Kintaro offers a few different types of ramen (menu). I ordered a bowl of their Miso Ramen ($7.95), with lean BBQ pork meat and medium soup. If you look closely, you’ll notice clumps of grease on the bowl. That grease is skimmed off the boiling pots of soup and sifted into your bowl before it’s served. Ask for rich soup and you’ll get more grease, more flavour; light soup is less fatty and a bit healthier; medium is self-explanatory.

Sound unhealthy? It probably is. But it’s damn good. No ramen place has better soup than Kintaro. Kintaro, in my opinion, has the best noodles too: they’re the perfect amount of chewiness. Instant noodles these are not.

Kintaro Ramen

Daniel threw down a perfect score recently.
I’m gonna have to do the same tonight.

Kintaro gets a 9 out of 9.

Kintaro Ramen on Urbanspoon

Marble Slab Creamery – ICE CREAM!

The weather has been brilliant lately! Go outside, enjoy the city, and cool down with some ice cream.

Marble Slab

Marble Slab is a franchise with over 500 locations around the world. They have 5 locations in Metro Vancouver: 1 in Burnaby, 1 in New West, 1 in Coquitlam, 1 in Langley, and 1 in Downtown Vancouver on Denman Street (which is the one I visited). The former 4 are in pretty boring locations; ice cream will still taste great at the mall, but it’ll taste even better by the beach (the Denman Marble Slab is steps away from English Bay). On a hot day, the line ups will stretch out the door to the curb… but it moves pretty fast.

Marble SlabWhat’s so special about Marble Slab? Apparently, they are the ones that popularized the mix-in approach to ice cream toppings. Here’s how it works.

1. You choose your ice cream flavour.
2. You choose your Mixin (e.g. Oreo cookies, strawberries, M&Ms, etc.).
3. You choose your cone.
4. You pay for your purchase (this step sucks).

The Marble Slave slave will then mix the mixin you chose (step 2) into the ice cream you chose (step 1) by ways of kneading them together over a cold marble slab (hence the name).

Marble Slab

And that’s the result. For the record, peanut butter ice cream + Skor chunks on the left, chocolate amarretto + walnuts on the right, English Bay + Stanely Park in the background.

Ice cream seems to melt quicker on a hot day than gelato so you’ll have to eat fast… which should be no problem because it tastes so damn good.

Motomachi Shokudo – Kintaro’s Hot Cousin

Although we’ve never blogged it, Kintaro is one of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver (actually, my favorite). There’s nothing like a fresh bowl of homemade, affordable, and authentic Japanese ramen. Judging by the long lines that pile up outside the restaurant every single fricking night, it seems many Vancouverites agree with me. They’re certainly not there for Kintaro’s decor – it’s cramp and totally blah.

On this night, the Kintaro line was just too long and my stomach was just too empty. I couldn’t wait. On the recommendation of a Kintaro waitress, I decided to check out the new ramen joint a few meters adjacent to the legendary Kintaro. Why would she recommend it? Probably because they’re both owned by the same chef Daiji Matsubara..

Motomachi Shokudo

Why hello Motomachi Shokudo. You’re posh, sexy, and speak with a French accent – but can you cook me a big bowl of super satisfying ramen like your cousin Kintaro?

Motomachi ShokudoYou’re certainly prettier than your cousin. Your warm wooden walls are more soothing than Kintaro’s lime green painted walls. Your tree stump tables are more intimate than Kintaro’s bargain bin IKEA crap. And your rectangular communal table, wrapped around a cool wheat garden, is certainly more inviting than Kintaro’s big ugly group table. I even like the classical music playing – it suits you.

Motomachi ShokudoBut how’s your ramen? Your prices are about $1-$2 more than Kintaro (~$10 for a bowl of ramen). You have a pretty face, but can you impress where it really counts?

Yes, Motomachi Shokudo serves up excellent ramen. The noodles are chewy. The broth is full of flavor, albeit not as fatty as Kintaro’s. And the toppings are fantastic: fresh vegetables and meat sporting sharp grill marks – won’t find that next door.

Motomachi Shokudo

Affordable, tasty, and authentic food.
Soothing, warm, and intimate decor.
Fast and friendly service.

No longer will Motomachi Shokudo be thought of as a ramen backup plan. I’d go here even if there wasn’t a line up next door.

Motomachi Shokudo

Don’t worry Kintaro. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of ramen on a rainy night – it’s the perfect Vancouver meal. There will be plenty of nights of ramen. I’ll have time for both you and Motomachi Shokudo, promise.

Motomachi Shokudo on Urbanspoon

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