Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tapas Term Rant

Just a quick rant, and then I'll be on my way. Well, I just saw another instance of an Izakaya type restaurant (Japanese place to go and have drinks plus small dishes of food) referred to as a "Japanese take on tapas." The Spanish did not invent this concept! Small dishes are a natural part of Japanese cuisine. Even in the Japanese home, it is typical to serve a meal as lots and lots of small dishes. I personally think the popularity of the "tapas" phenomenon, or sharing many small plates, in Vancouver is partly due to the high Asian population here anyway. Being Chinese myself, I am used to enjoying Chinese meals that involve small bites of a variety of dishes (served communally), and therefore tire somewhat more easily of a huge entree involving many bites of the same item in a row. So the small plates style of dining definitely appeals to me, and I'm quite happy with the trend. However, I recently visited Ichibankan on Thurlowe off Robson, which used to be a charming little underground (I mean that mostly literally) Japanese restaurant with a full menu. Very homey. The type of place that would have about nine (!) dancing santas wiggling away all over their restaurant at Christmastime, and also the type of place where you find tables and tables full of Japanese students. Now it has become a "Sake and Jazz Bar" and they have modernized the room, and the menu. It does look great, with deep red walls and sleek, black furniture, and equally sleek, black (clothed) servers. But it's such an abbreviated little menu now, and just reeks of trying to keep up with a trend, and trying to be more downtown. It's kind of like seeing people buying ponchos for half price at Army and Navy, and thinking they're in fashion. Or like noticing how the South Granville MacDonald's interior has to look nicer, and more understated compared to other MacDonald's to blend in. Anyway, we did have some tasty food at Ichibankan (teriyaki chicken, tuna roll, agedashi tofu, and chicken karaage. There are more interesting things on the menu, including wild game meats, but we just didn't order them), some nice hot sake, and service was excellent. But it's no Guu, and has a bit of a wannabe air to it. Nice room though. At least they didn't use the word tapas anywhere. But I'm likely to try and strangle the next reviewer that does call it a tapas bar.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love Izakayas so thanks for pointing me to a new one. In case some still insist on calling it japanese tapas, here's a little more information about them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya

Dumpling_Girl said...

Hi, thanks for this comment. However, I find this happens quite a lot on my blog - I quite often am either complaining or giving what I'm intending to be a negative review of a restaurant, and then someone comments that they are going to try the restaurant because of what I said. I'm starting to not even blog some of my negative experiences now, just in case simply writing about a restaurant accidentally promotes it. So I want to try and clarify this post. I didn't really enjoy the new version of Ichibankan much. I didn't like the short menu, and found it hard to find things that I wanted to eat on there. I missed the old place.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the clarification, i may avoid or not. i really enjoyed Nan Chuu in richmond at 1160-8391 Alexandra Rd.

Anonymous said...

You know what's the worst? Seeing dim sum referred to as "Chinese Tapas"!

I never really liked the old Ichibankan. It was convenient for cheap and filling takeout bento boxes, but I always found the sushi mediocre. Very unappealing chirashi.

Despite my proximity to it, I haven't been to the new Ichinbakan yet, mainly for the same reasons you gave: there's a certain Johnny-come-lately air in trying to repackage a small inexpensive sushi restaurant as an upscale "wine bar".

TOSHI'S !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me.

Bruce

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks, Bruce. I don't know how this has happened, but I've never actually heard anything about Toshi's (181 E. 16th, off Main) until you mentioned it. So, thanks! I will try it out next time I get a chance. Hey, I went to Samurai Sushi on Davie at Burrard the other day for lunch, had their daily bento box special, and it sucked big time. But I have been there at dinner where the food was fabulous. While the lunch was very cheap, I really regretted it. The tempura batter was thick, awkward, greasy, and unwieldy; the Alaska roll was not tasty (giant rolls aren't my thing anyway, and this one was just piles of crab, and I think the little chunk of salmon wasn't that fresh); the salmon teriyaki was overcooked (dry and tough) and served directly onto the rice with teriyaki goo everywhere, the salad of just iceberg lettuce with dressing was limp and room temperature. Maybe it was a bad day, or maybe their cook didn't show up for the shift? I don't know what was going on. Yes, it was a very late lunch on a Tuesday, but come on people, this food was embarassing.

Anonymous said...

I actually went to Ichibankan this past week. There were three loud young Japanese guys in suits at the bar, and a few isolated groups at the tables. It has a very empty, quiet feel - I think they have too many tables.

Food was decent, though quite different from the old menu - I had a pretty good avocado and negitoro thingy, and the ika karaage wasn't bad.

The waitresses are more fashinaboly dressed than before but their English skills have degraded. I can't tell if they're the same people or whether a new batch was hired.

I think they need some art on the red walls. The colour is certainly vivid, but there's a certain cheap plainness to the space.

Bruce

Anonymous said...

Toshi's in SoMa totally rocks. Line ups are long but the fresh fish is ohh so worth it.