Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae)

Restaurant: Manzo Japanese Restaurant (Itamae)
Cuisine: Japanese/Sashimi/Sushi/Seafood
Last visited: January 7, 2010
Location: Richmond,BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 120-9020 Capstan Way
Price Range: $20-30, $30-50

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.5
Service: 5
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Extensive menu
  • Daily specials
  • Fresh sheet menu
  • Japanese chefs
  • Chinese operation
  • Fresh/daily sashimi
  • Sashimi from Japan
  • More for izakaya/robata/sashimi
  • Great/friendly service
  • Quite pricey
  • Not recommended for fusion sushi rolls
  • Great for drinks/tapas
  • Lots of imported alcohol
  • Free parking

**Recommendations: Fresh sheet items, fresh sheet sashimi, Mentaiko Ebi dango (fresh sheet), Asari Sake Mushi (Clams), Hotate Yaki (grilled scallop), Chawanmushi (savoury pudding), Ankimo (Monk fish liver), seafood items

I know, I gave the food 4.5, service 5 and ambiance 4, so how does that make the overall 3.5? It’s the price. I did find it a bit overpriced and the dishes came in very small portions so it added up rather quickly. This meal was for 2 people and yes I did order a lot and we were quite full, but at the same time I didn’t think the price added up to what we were served. Manzo Japanese Restaurant is not fine dining, however the prices are still steep and comparable to those in downtown, Vancouver. Basically I have had more satisfying experiences for the same price, but was not disappointed by the food here.

It’s not as pricey or formal as Zest Japanese Cuisine, but you need to go in expecting to pay Kingyo or Miku prices, however if I compare it to those places I prefer those if it’s all the same price. Each specialize in different types of Japanese cuisine so it’s not that fair to compare.

Manzo Japanese is less fusion/creative though and the chefs are older and probably more trained in traditional Japanese cuisine. The food isn’t the most authentic Japanese, but it’s still quite authentic and the chefs do pay attention to traditional Japanese broths and techniques. It’s not as authentic as Seto Sushi Japanese in Richmond, but that is also more casual and family run.

“Special from our Sashimi Bar Menu”

Generally I was more impressed with their fresh sheet than their regular menu, although the regular menu didn’t disappoint for the most part either. I was also very surprised to see how much of their sashimi comes fresh from Japan. For some reason I thought Manzo specialized in more fusion izakaya type of dishes, but the food there was actually quite authentic and impressive.

I don’t know if I just happen to order the right items, but the things I had were excellent! I did stick to almost all seafood and more traditional items and maybe that was it… I’m not sure. I think part of me was expecting Chinese made Japanese food, which was not the case.

I never said anything and I don’t know if they knew or not, but the service was incredible! The owners or managers did a lot of the serving themselves, but they were very knowledgeable and honest with the menu and what they offered. Sure, they did try to up-sell a few things, but their recommendations were actually very good. Also my tea was never less than half full because a waitress would be there to fill it almost after every 3 sips.

On the table:

Spinach Gomaae – 1.5/6

  • $4.50
  • I tend to always start with gomaae, just because I really like it.
  • This was the most disappointing thing of the night and it was the simplest dish. I could barely call it gomaae.
  • It was wilted spinach coated in what tasted like plain old jarred creamy peanut butter, no sign of sesame besides the few used as garnish.
  • It was thick and sticky instead of saucy and I just really didn’t like it.

**Houbou Sashimi (Fresh Sheet item)6/6

  • Blue Fin Robin $22.95
  • This literally came into the restaurant 30 minutes before I arrived, so it was no doubt it was going to be on the table.
  • I’m sorry, it’s not sustainable and I am guilty in that sense. This fish is quite exclusive to Japan so it’s very hard to come across at any restaurant.
  • It was incredibly fresh and it only needed a tad of wasabi an no soy sauce.
  • I was very impressed with the quality, however I wasn’t too impressed with the cutting technique. Cutting the sashimi is a key factor in bringing out the flavours. Kingyo is great at it!
  • Houbou sashimi tastes like a cross of tuna belly and hamachi sashimi. It’s creamy, rich, buttery with a slight sweetness in flavour, yet the fish flavour is rather mild. It’s not as buttery as toro (tuna belly) though.
  • I wouldn’t recommend eating this too often because the Mercury levels are probably quite high in this type of fish.
  • Wasabi: The wasabi wasn’t freshly grated, but it was freshly made and it was strong and good for a paste.

Hiramasa Sashimi (Fresh Sheet item) – 5/6

  • Australia King Fish $22.95
  • For sashimi it was excellent, but in terms of the flavour of the fish I personally found it a 4. Overall I didn’t see it worth the price considering hamachi is the other type of Yellow tail and it tastes almost the same, but for less. However the flavour is stronger in this Hiramasa.
  • It was firmer, almost a bit snappier, a bit chewier and less creamy and rich than the Houbou Sashimi, although still incredibly fresh and delicious.
  • Being from Australia, chances are it is sustainable, although I didn’t ask.

**Mentaiko Ebi Dango (Fresh sheet item) – 5.5/6

  • Fried shrimp ball stuffed with fish roe and cheese $7.95
  • This is probably the most fusion I got with the ordering, which is unlike me, unless I’m at a Japanese restaurant known for its authenticity.
  • This was basically a shrimp cordon bleu. The shrimp was pureed into a paste with some savoury seasoning and parsley.
  • They’re dangerously hot but it’s best to eat them whole.
  • The dish was savoury, sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy and everything you want in anything deep fried.
  • I loved biting into the crispy Panko crust and then the crunchy texture of the shrimp ball, salty bites of crunchy tabiko, and then having that juicy burst of savoury cheese in the middle.
  • It was quite rich and creamy with the Japanese mayo and Tonkatsu sauce for dipping as well. The Tonkatsu sauce is like a Japanese BBQ sauce that has quite a tangy kick and it was perfect with these deep fried shrimp balls.
  • Wonderful texture and flavour and I would order it again.

**Asari Sake Mushi – 6/6

  • $8.95
  • I don’t really see anything too special about clams in broth and I actually meant to order something else, but I’m glad I made the error because I would have missed out otherwise.
  • The price is justified and there were a ton of clams and each one was massive! I swear they were jumbo clams and they were also incredibly fresh and prepared perfectly.
  • They tasted like they were fresh from the sea and I felt like I was actually at sea fishing for them, they had a distinct brine flavour that was undeniable.
  • The stock was also a highlight. It was a delicious dashi (Japanese seafood broth) and it was light yet very flavourful and definitely drinkable alone. It was savoury and infused with chives and dried orange peels.
  • There was nothing wrong with this dish and the hint of sake enhanced all the flavours and made everything come alive.

Fresh Kani Miso Roll – 2.5/6

  • Fresh Dungeness crab with Crab Tomalley $14.95 (8 pieces)
  • The ingredients were all there and I could see why it was the price it was, but the flavour was still lacking so it was what I call “calories without satisfaction”.
  • I’m a fan of fusion rolls, but this was the first time I’ve tried one with crab tomalley (guts/brains/organs/sperm of the crab). It’s incredibly rich, buttery and high in cholesterol and it’s really and indulgent savoury treat. It’s thick and pasty with a mucky quality, but it’s a delicacy.
  • I’ve had much better fusion/creative rolls than this for the same price so I didn’t really like this one. For items like this I would go to Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata if you’re sticking to places in Richmond.
  • The miso was completely overpowered and I couldn’t taste it in the tomalley at all. It really just seemed like fishy butter and mayo and I wanted it’s flavour to be developed to its full potential.
  • The sushi rice was flavoured quite decently, although a bit dry.
  • I could bite into chunks of dungeness crab but it was mixed in with some avocado and overall the roll was extremely creamy and it needed way more texture. It was overkill since the avocado and tomalley is so buttery already.

**Hotate Yaki6/6

  • Grilled scallop in teriyaki sauce Market price ($8.95)
  • It’s market price because the scallop is fresh and imported daily which is a good sign.
  • I wouldn’t have ordered this unless it was recommended… thank god it was!
  • I highly recommend this, although it is a bit pricey, but the flavour is delicious!
  • Eat it as soon as it is served because it overcooks since the flame is still going.

  • The scallop was pretty large and they include the coral part, which is the large pocket of scallop roe that’s attached to the white part of the scallop mussel.
  • Besides the scallop, the highlight was the juicy sweet enoki and shiitake mushrooms in the sharp and savoury house made sauce. The sauce was divine!
  • It essentially is a teriyaki sauce but it’s stronger and better. It’s salty, sweet and tangy and more like a broth than a thick syrup, and the flavour is quite sharp.
  • It tastes like a soy based veal gravy or Japanese demi glace. There was also a hint of sake in there that cooks off as it’s served and the mushroom juice and added sugar give a sweetness that is addicting.
  • It was just a super intense and well flavoured sauce you end up drinking or wanting to soak up with a bowl of rice.

**Chawanmushi- 5/6

  • $5.95
  • I love this dish. It’s a savoury and sweet creamy custard that’s silky smooth like tofu and the texture of creme caramel.
  • It tastes like savoury steamed egg whites with the slight sweetness of mushroom juice and mild seafood flavours.
  • The custard is made with eggs and dashi broth. It was delicious and melt in your mouth smooth. Upon piercing the tender custard, a river of savoury dashi soup  just leaks out and it’s marvelous!
  • It wasn’t served authentically like it as at Seto Sushi Japanese, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Never have I had an entire jumbo prawn in my chawanmushi. Whether using the full prawn is authentic or not, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The prawn was fresh, crunchy and perfectly cooked.
  • There was also some scallop pieces a large piece of Shiitake mushroom and a slice of Kamaboko (that fake crab meat with the pink swirl made from pureed white fish) at the bottom.
  • This egg custard is simply Japanese comfort food.

Gindara Yuanyaki – 3.5/6

  • $8.95
  • Sablefish to me is always good, it’s near impossible to screw up and I seem to always order it at Japanese restaurants.
  • This was quite good for what it was, but also not the best Japanese robata I’ve had for Sablefish. My favourite traditional version is the one from Aki Japanese Restaurant, however Kingyo and Hapa Izakaya do nice fusion versions of it with creative house made sauces.
  • The skin was crispy and it was flaky and juicy as it almost always is, but the smoky flavour wasn’t infused throughout. It had a sweetness to it and there were about 6 bones that they didn’t take out.
  • It was served with some Japanese mayo and chili seasoning on the side.

Shouga Coconut Tsubugai Yaki (Fresh sheet item) – 4/6

  • Baked Conch in Coconut Tamarind Sauce $7.95
  • This was almost a Japanese-Thai fusion dish and the presentation was solid.
  • The conch is fresh and they take it out and dice it in pieces, saute it in sauce, and then bake it back in its shell.

  • If you’re unfamiliar with conch it’s basically Asian escargot. It’s chewy and meaty and has a similar texture and flavour as escargot as well. The one here was slightly overcooked and rubbery, but overall it was still a very good dish.
  • It was extremely rich, buttery, heavy and quite greasy. I’m glad it was a smaller portion because a couple bites is just enough.
  • It had the sweetness of coconut and caramelized bell peppers and sauteed chives, then the salty crunch of tobiko which was slightly overpowered by the intense sauce which was more like a gravy.
  • The sauce seemed like a Japanese curry sauce made with pure coconut cream and butter. It was thick and very rich and carried quite a bit of heat which was a bit overpowering. I thought it would be more sweet and tangy than spicy.
  • Note: The conch offered on their fresh sheet will be fresh, but the one from their regular menu will be frozen.

Tamago Sushi – 4.5/6

  • $3 (Tamago Sushi is $1.50, but I just ordered 2 orders of plain tamago and they just gave us double for the same price as the sushi)
  • This is one of the items to order when you really want to test how good a Japanese place is.
  • It wasn’t the best tamago I’ve had and it wasn’t quite bang on, but it was still very good. It’s usually served cold, but this one was a bit too cold for my liking and I prefer it room temperature.

  • They nailed the layers, however it wasn’t as fluffy of good as the one from Aki Japanese, which was the best I’ve had it thus far.
  • The egg wasn’t dry and it was quite silky and smooth with a great sweet and salty balance. I could tell they used a bit of savoury dashi stock in it as well, which is a great sign of authenticity.

**Ankimo – 5/6

  • Monk fish liver $12.95
  • The Japanese version of foie gras. A Japanese delicacy.
  • This is very rare to find at Japanese restaurants, so only special places or higher end places will offer it.
  • It was my first time trying it and it tastes like pureed sardines, like the sardines from a can but without the tomato sauce. It’s very fishy tasting and very creamy and the texture of pate.
  • It’s executed like a Japanese salad with a bed of shredded daikon and a tangy soy sauce based vinaigrette to cut the richness of the liver. It also had a touch of sesame oil which I probably could have used a bit more of. The sauce didn’t mask the natural flavours of the liver at all and the tangy sweetness actually made it easier to finish.
  • It was quite spicy as well because each slice had a dollop of homemade chili paste that looked like tobiko. This semi-creamy paste is made by stuffing daikon with chillies and grating it.

Apple Crumble a la Mode – 2.5/6

  • $8.95
  • The presentation was quite unexpected and impressive, but I still found it overpriced. $9 for a dessert is about how much you would expect to pay at fine dining restaurants in downtown, Vancouver.
  • It was a cross of an apple pie and an apple crumble and it was quite small, but shareable.
  • The vanilla ice cream was quite standard and I wasn’t a fan of the quality which was a bit cheap and missing vanilla bean seeds. For $9 I think I can expect them.
  • I loved the colourful yam chips sticking out of the ice cream though and it tasted good together since the yam chips weren’t salted… even if they were, I still think it would be good.

  • I was actually quite impressed by the topping which was incredibly nutty and made with walnut pieces, butter, flour and not that much sugar. It was crunchy and crispy, but compared to Western apple crisps, it didn’t really stand a chance.
  • It wasn’t that sweet and there was a lot of tender diced apple inside, but the cinnamon was used as decor more than it was actually incorporated into the apple filling.
  • The pie tart was crunchy and not too thick, but homemade and not too buttery either. It was served over a bed of creme anglaise, which was also unexpected.
  • Overall I was more impressed with the presentation than the actual dessert itself. I debated the deep fried mango ice cream, but since this was on the fresh sheet and recommended I decided to give it a shot. Something more Japanese would have been nice.

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