Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zakkushi on 4th Ave

Zakkushi is...a Japanese mystical creature of a restaurant.  Squeezed between a pizza hut and a Greek restaurant, Zakkushi's building looked as if it was teleported from 1930 Japan.  As out of place as it looks, I would walk right by and never notice its existence.  When you finally find the restaurant, you would feel as if you just step into a mystical Japanese old fishing house in some mystical forest. Suddenly, the busy traffic on 4th Ave seem out of place; not that you would even notice it with their small windows and double entrance.

Then, the interior barely looked like a restaurant.  It is tiny, seating no more than 20 people with 4 wooden table and wooden bar stools. Quaint doesn't began to describe it.

Food: 4.5/5
This is a place other chefs come to eat, to enjoy themselves, and to be inspired.  I have spotted at least a dozen local celebrity chefs here, leaning back with saki in their hands.  Their famous yakitori, charcoal grilled meats on bamboo sticks, are that good.  There are three pages dedicated to the different meat with other creative ingredients, sauces, and flavours: bacon wrapped asparagus, cheese wrapped chicken, or simple grilled beef. There is something for everyone and you can get one of each without breaking the bank.

Fried Savoury Mochi
 The rest of the menu offers delicious treasures as well.  I haven't had anything there I did not like.  Have you ever had mochi? Their grilled or fried stick rice treat is the perfect way to introduce yourself or others to this fantastic (and gluten free) Japanese delicacy.   How about ochazuk√©? The beloved onigri?

Salmon Salad
If you are looking for a more typical Vancouver styled Japanese restaurant, you would be sorely disappointed.  They don't serve California rolls, or any rolls for that matter.  Zakkushi serves authentic Japanese fare: things Japanese people would eat on a regular basis.  They do have a good selection of sashimi, but instead of chunks of raw fish on plate that Vancouverites are more used to.  Their sashimi are thinner, beautifully plated, and delicately seasons.  Drenching these in a soy sauce bath should be criminal.

Yakitori Don
On the other hand, they have plenty of dishes for the less adventurous.  For example, their yakitori don is my favourite. It comes with a poached egg that you mesh into your rice with a spoon.  The result is a soul healing bowl of deliciousness.  Their beef stew is amazing as well.

They also have sweet mochi with ice cream for dessert.

Service: 2.5/5
Hearty Beef Stew
Zakkushi is usually staffed with 2.5 servers and 2 chefs.  The half server is also a prep chef and a dish washer.  The servers are also responsible for bartending, managing the huge line up at the door, and taking (more like refusing) reservation on the phone.  This doesn't leave much time to serving.  However, they manage to find time to keep your table clean, well watered, and deliver food at a timely fashion.  However, other than that, you will need to wave a server down in order to get their attention outside their usual routine.

Ambience: 3/5
The air inside any izakaya in Japan would be blue with smoke.  Zakkushi offers the authentic izakaya ambience without lung cancer; something you can't get even in Japan.  The restaurant uses dim warm light and the lack of window give makes you forget about your bad day at work and that expiring parking meter.   It's almost romantic, if you don't mind the tight space between the tables, or bumping elbows with the guy next to you at the bar.  Just pretend you are in Tokyo where it's this crowded.  For lone diner, this is the perfect place to be.

Overall Experience: 3.5/5
Personally, I love this restaurant, but I can also see many people not liking it for the same reason I like it. People not not like it, because it deviate so far away from the norm of which we expect most Western restaurants.  This place doesn't really offer the 3 course routine (appetizer, main course, then desert).  we are more used to; Yakitori is eaten with hands and most dishes are tapas or for share.  It doesn't carry many mainstream Japanese dishes that Vancouverites are familiar with.  You may hate being turn away at the door without a reservation or having to wait even if you have one.  However, you might enjoy this  truly authentic Japanese experience.

Total: 13.5/5
I definitely recommend everyone to try it at least once.  Zakkushi is worth checking out for its food and the unique set up.

0: inexcusably bad
1: bad
2: below average
2.5: average
3: above average
4: excellent
5: perfection

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

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