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.