Friday, August 08, 2008

What? Another Izakaya? Toratatsu is my new fav!

Saba (mackerel) Getting Torched, with Barley-fed Pork Salad in Foreground

Seriously Delicious Saba, Post-torching

Onigiri ($4)

Buta Shabu Salad - Barley-fed Pork Salad ($7.30)

Avocado Fries (I know!) and Negitoro

Cheesecake (made with Camembert) with Honey

Okay, so I'm walking along Denman, like I've done hundreds of times before, and I notice a little Japanese izakaya.  I go in, I am pleased by the fun menu, I order, I am blown away, and I ask, how long has this been here.  A year!  I could have been eating here for the last year!  I come back again another day and everything is tasty again.  I come back with friends (some Vancouver ex-"pats" that have moved to Calgary).  Everything is tasty again.  The name of this little gem is  Toratatsu Japanese Tapas Bistro (735 Denman St. at Alberni St.,  604-685-9344).  

The place is worth checking out for their negitoro dish ($7.80) alone.  I am a huge fan of tuna with green onion anywhere, but this place serves it as a dip for avocado fries!  Yes, you heard me.  They deep-fry avocado, and it's absolutely delicious. They coat it with panko (light and crispy Japanese bread crumbs), and it goes great with the negitoro dip that is chopped tuna and green onion dressed with rice wine vinegar, a little fish roe, mayo and other things that get all mixed up together.  I've never had deep-fried avocado before, and it seems a bit extravagent, but it's really good.  It almost doesn't need any sort of dip, but what the hell, if you're going that far anyway, you might as well top it with negitoro too.  I love their little tempura skewers (they will call it different things on the menu - kushiten or fritters, $7); they include a wonderful selection of bite-sized crispy coated veggies and fish cake, seafood or meat.  I really enjoyed their sablefish in particular too.  The have some nice starch dishes too, like their rice dish in a hot stone bowl (when I went, it was eel and cucumber) and their Tarako Kimchi Udon, a fried udon dish that was very tasty and satisfying.  

Another fun bit about the restaurant is that they have fresh fruit smashed drinks.  They list the fresh fruit available that day on the board, and you can have it with the liquor of your choice (vodka, sake, shochu...) (only $5.50).  They also serve sake in a freshly cut piece of bamboo, which I have not tried yet ($9) and have a few cocktails, like the Dark and Stormy rum and ginger beer drink that I enjoyed ($8).   They have quite a wine list too for a Japanese place.  Service has been quite good, and the cute young chefs pop out to bring you the food too.  Don't be surprised that these folks know what they are doing though.  This restaurant has only been open since June 2007, but the owner/chef is the youngest son of the same family that ran the now closed Yaletown restaurant Shiru-Bay Chopstick CafĂ©, which was the Lower Mainland extension of a successful chain of restaurants in Tokyo.  The chef trained at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and incorporates flavours and ideas from Europe on the menu.

It seems like the staff of all the izakayas in town are very connected to each other.  I wonder if that would make a good tv show setting?  This place is just a few blocks away from Kingyo, which is another fantastic izakaya (a bit bigger, with great service and excellent food too).  They are also close to the Japanese charcoal grill restaurant Zukkushi which is tasty, but I haven't been back for a while, feeling like it was a bit pricey when I went.  And now there is a new izakaya off Robson St. on Jervis (next to my favourite crepe place) called Kakurenbou Japanese dining.  I've only been once, during it's soft opening with a reduced menu, and the place looks sharp, and it has very traditional flavours such as a lot of sancho and fresh shiso leaf.  The name comes from the Japanese for hide and seek, and meant to refer to the space which is small and intimate, and like a little hideaway.  I will give it a try again now that they have their full menu before posting fully about it, but in general I am much more excited by Toratatsu, and generally get more of a cosy home-y feel from it.  I went to Toratatsu again recently, and they had their AC blowing, so it was quite comfy, and it was a hot summer day, so I received a nice refreshing cold towel upon arrival.  The first time I went, they had these little tablets that they poured water on, which magically expanded into a disposable wet towel, but they were quick to tell you that they were towels and not some sort of candy.  That was fun and cute, but it's nice to have the reuseable towels now.  They're open seven days a week, and take reservations.  


shoku said...

Really interesting to hear of both these places, thanks for the intel!


Mattias said...

just found your great blog . . . thanks for sharing your great finds. I'm moving to the Island in a year and want to delve into Vancouver's best food before we go. thanks!

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks, Shoku and Mattias! Mattias, a friend of mine has recommended a little Japanese place in Victoria called Daidoco. I appreciate the comments. :)

Jen said...

Does anyone know if Shiru Bay is actually re-opening? It still says it is on their website, but it's been well over a year and nothing. Any update?

Follow Me Foodie said...

I just came here last week, but comparing my experience to yours they've completely changed their menu. Well I guess we did go a year apart lol....your avocado fried look really tasty.