Friday, October 24, 2014

Taste of Yaletown - Honjin Sushi

Honjin Sushi on Urbanspoon Almost exactly a year ago I tried the Honjin Sushi Taste of Yaletown menu. With Brix closed for a private function and therefore not taking walk-ins, I ended up at Honjin Sushi again for a very late dinner (after 9pm).

Being across a courtyard opposite Urban Fare, Honjin Sushi is much less visible in Yaletown, but definitely worth a visit. Their Taste of Yaletown menu this year is much stronger than last year's, which had rice as part of your main.
Nothing wrong with it, but it stopped the momentum of a great meal after some really nice appetizers and a delightful sushi roll.

This year, their $29 menu (same as last year) did away with rice and yet still so very filling so that you will probably be grateful the dessert is just one scoop of ice cream.
APPETIZER
Honjin Tuna TsunamiChunks of Tuna, Mango, Avocado and cucumber in a fruity spicy sauce surrounded with three pieces of
Salmon Tartar:chopped salmon, avocado and cucumber served on a shisho leaf tempura
OR
Negitoro on toast:Chopped Tuna Belly and green onion on toast
SECOND COURSE
Choice of Roll:
Sunshine RollYaletown RollRainforest RollWest End RollRound House RollCaterpillar RollNHL RollButterfly Roll
MIXED MAIN DISH PLATTER (you get all items)
Chicken Teriyaki with mixed vegetable
Two pieces of Sakura Ebi Tempura:Tempura style Crispy Dry Shrimps on a piece of seaweed
Two pieces of Beef Enoki:Japanese enoki mushroom wrapped in beef
Two pieces of Ebi Mayo:Fluffy prawn with spicy mayo
DESSERT
Coffee Jello or Ice-Cream
Pair with a glass of white wine for the total of $33 (RIESLING DEINHARD)
It was just me tonight so I went with the Salmon Tartar, Yaletown Roll, and Green Mango Ice Cream.
TIP: Under NO circumstances should you use the soy sauce provided at the table, nor ask for any wasabi. Most items already come with their own special sauce, and I recommend you take the time to pay attention to the flavour of that as well.

Salmon Tartar
  • I should have gone with the Tuna Tsunami because I had the Salmon Tartar before, and though it was delicious, I do like to try new things.
  • Anyway, this fun-to-eat appy has a refreshing mixture on a fried leaf that is typically firm enough to pick up. Don't wait too long to do that, though. The mixture on top is wet, so be careful, and have your napkin handy.
Yaletown Roll
  • Went with server recommendation on this one.
  • Presentation is ACE. Not your usual roll where everything is tucked in and every piece looks the same. Here, the prawn an fish are draped artistically on the outside, and the tail of the prawns are used as well. Beautiful to look at and every bite is slightly different.
Mixed Main Dish Platter
  • All pretty decent. The weakest item here, which you might want to eat first and wash down with tea, is the ebi mayo, which had a startlingly oily crust on it.
  • The most interesting item was probably the Tempura Style Crispy Dry Shrimps on a piece of seaweed. Despite how it looks, you can pick it up like a cracker. Really interesting and tasty.
Dessert - Green Mango Ice Cream
  • Not as sweet and intense as a regular mango ice cream.
  • You can taste the very slight hint of sourness that comes with green mango, which makes it different and interesting from a "regular" mango ice cream.
  • Just one scoop. Nothing fancy in presentation here.
Overall, Honjin Sushi gives beautifully prepared food, interesting to look at and eat. Honjin Sushi's 2014 Taste of Yaletown $29 promotion is superb value for what you get -- a filling meal, tasty food, artsy presentation. There's still time to go as TOY ends Thursday.

Late night service was attentive. Tea topped up regularly. No complaints there!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy to be gluten-free at Meet on Main

Meet on Main on Urbanspoon Meet on Main is a rather busy vegan/gluten free eatery that has apparently positioned itself very well geographically to grab the vegan / gluten-free demographic. We were there this past Friday for a 7pm dinner. Out at 9pm and the place still hadn't slowed down.
The kitchen is a bit slow but the servers do keep up quite well otherwise.
 
Décor is spacious and simple, with a remarkable amount of what looks like furniture lifted from an old high school. Not much to look at but not off-putting per se.
 
Food generally looks "normal" -- that is, if you weren't paying attention, you might think this a regular restaurant. Some of it doesn't taste "normal", though -- mostly the pretend-to-be-meat items. Vegan pretend-meat often involves soy or tofu or something else that has a bitter aftertaste. Texture isn't bad, but taste is too far off for a meat-eater to pull a fast one on them. For vegetarians and vegans, beggars can't be choosers and they will probably have a different experience of this restaurant than an omnivore like myself.
Diners who want to go gluten-free will have a great time here as almost everything is gluten-free.
 
Corn Fritters ($7.25) with spicy chipotle aioli dip (corn fritters contain egg)
  • Pretty boring tasting.
  • I think there were six fritters. Close to $1 per fritter -- totally not worth it.
Sweet-Chili Cauliflower ($8) house beer-battered with our tamarind chili ginger glaze
  • Ping pong ball sized chunk of cauliflower battered and fried. Looks like a fat meatball initially.
  • Kind of boring on the inside -- it's just cauliflower -- so the good stuff is on the outside: the batter and glaze.
  • One person in our party really liked this. I found it too sour for my taste and nothing crunchy about this apparently deep-fried product.
  • I think there were 6 large chunks. Still too pricey for what you get.
Whiskey BBQ Things ($8.75) Chiggin tossed with our house-made whiskey BBQ sauce
  • Chiggin is a sort of tofu-based (?) fake chicken. Texture is not bad, but taste is way off. And there's a bitter aftertaste which isn't quite covered up by the sauce.
  • You get something like six or eight (?) pieces, which makes this pretty pricey.
What the appys have in common is a not-that-tasty base item coated in or to be dipped in some tasty sauce. Which isn't necessarily the criticism you might think since (for example) real chicken isn't that flavourful to begin with and if you went to KFC for their chicken or chicken nuggets, you're really getting tastiness from the crispy fried crust with their special blend of herbs and spices.


Mac 'n cheese ($8.75) organic brown rice elbow pasta smothered in our cashew cheese sauce,
finished with a sprinkle of smoked salt
  • By all rights this should have been a pretty decent item. It had a nice creamy richness to it. No real cheese of course since this is a vegan restaurant, so don't even expect anything close if you absolutely must have cheese.
  • Something sour about this was immediately off-putting and made the prospect of finishing the large bowl rather daunting.
  • Price is not bad for the portion you get.
The Meet Burger ($12.75) house-smoked burger on a kaiser bun with sautéed ‘shrooms, chipotle mayo and 2 crispy onion rings. Served with fries and salad. Add cheese, daiya or queso sauce to any burger for $1½.
  • Price for portion is pretty good here. Token amount of salad but decent amount of fries, and it's a large burger to start, so you get a filling meal.
  • Disappointingly sloppy burger that was lopsided even with the knife thrust into it to hold everything in place. Combined with the wet queso sauce, this was messy to eat.
  • I opted for queso sauce to give it a go. Adds to the sloppiness factor, but I do think it really enhanced the overall taste of the burger, especially as the fake-meat patty had a slight bitter aftertaste, so the sauce drowned that.
    • I forgot to ask if they made the sauce with vegan cheese. If you're vegan, better ask first.
  • The burger tasted like the most normal thing on the menu. So if you're worried about fancy vegan stuff or strange faux meat, go for the burgers.
Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream with Beet Crystals ($5.50)
  • This is three small scoops, each about the size of a ping pong ball. Which makes for pricey scoops.
  • Strong coconut flavour, which basically killed any beet flavour, so your beet crystals are basically cosmetic.
Apple Crumble
  • With a single scoop of Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream on top.
  • Very hot dishware but the apple crumble, not so much. Hmm.
  • Strangely, not that tasty. Maybe it was a low dish with not that much apple? Not sweet enough? Too much flour taste on top? Not sure why I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. Maybe the slow momentum of the evening biased my impression of this.
  • Coconut Ice Cream still the winning component here.
Service had some overlap with servers asking about something we'd already mentioned to another server, but for a busy room I guess that was a good sign that they had enough servers to go around. Sometimes restaurants will leave the hapless servers to fend for themselves during rush hours -- happy to see that was not the case here.
Kitchen seemed a bit slow but it was probably due to the volume.