Restaurant: Tokachi Japanese
Last visited: March 21, 2011
Location: Surrey, BC (Whalley)
Address: 10767 King George Highway
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 5 (6 for sashimi)
- Japanese owned/operated
- Family owned/operated
- Traditional Japanese cuisine
- Fresh sashimi
- Sushi bar
- Great sashimi/nigiri
- Friendly service
- Reasonably priced
- Extensive menu
- Lunch 11:30am-2pm
- Dinner 5pm-10pm
**Recommendations: The sashimi and nigiri. Also the Tuna Gomaae, Horenso Gomaae, Tuna & Salmon Sashimi is a must, Spicy Tuna Roll and Spicy Tuna Sashimi
Alright, what the heck am I doing Whalley? Well I was actually on my way to Taste Nice Caribbean Restaurant just around the corner, but discovered it was closed upon arrival. I’m totally unfamiliar with the area and I really hate taking a chance with a restaurant sometimes. I experienced a similar situation not too long ago and ended up dining at a disappointing franchise called Presto Cucina. I don’t necessarily have anything against franchises, but I try and support something locally owned or independent foremost.
Without any plan B or foodie research of the area I was feeling a bit nervous, but luckily I turned the corner and discovered Tokachi. From the outside it looks super dodgy and sketchy with all the glass windows blinded up, so I definitely had my hesitations. However the line up of cars and a packed parking lot convinced me that I could have discovered a hidden gem. Well it was either going to be a successful Japanese restaurant, or a place selling cheap fireworks under the banner of a “sushi restaurant”, or a semi disguised adult store with red light district “decor”. I was really crossing my fingers that it would be a successful Japanese restaurant and hidden gem… and thank the foodie gods it was!
The inside was actually quite nice, very traditional, clean and spacious. This photo was taken at the end of the night, otherwise it was decently busy for a Monday night. They have tons of private rooms available and I totally wasn’t expecting this kind of atmosphere.
It’s Japanese owned and operated and I’m pretty sure it’s a husband and wife team. The restaurant has actually been here for ages and the traditional Japanese attire definitely added to the overall ambiance and charm. All the servers are dressed in kimonos and slippers and I don’t even remember the last time I’ve had such a traditional Japanese dining experience. There was nothing gimmicky about it and I must say I was pretty excited… but then again I almost always am.
It was at Kiriri Japanese Restaurant in Richmond that I suddenly experienced a strong appreciation for the sushi bar and new love for nigiri. (I can see Kim’s grin already). I always found it a pretty boring thing, although I do love sashimi, but my tastes usually cater towards fusion items and innovative dishes. However at Kiriri I learned my lesson. If the owner, and or chef, is older generation and traditional Japanese, and the sushi bar seems like the focus, then stick to ordering from the sushi bar and to traditional Japanese food! Sounds like an easy enough lesson, but it’s taken me a while to learn and it has been a costly journey to accept this fact.
Tokachi offers authentic Japanese cuisine and I’d say it’s the best Japanese restaurant in Whalley out of the ones I’ve been to… which is only one lol. But on a serious note, I would be impressed even if it was in Vancouver. The sashimi is a highlight and it’s incredibly fresh and they offer a wide selection of it as well. I’d also go for the basic sushi rolls, nigiri (sushi), and anything with a home made sauce is pretty good. I wasn’t too impressed with their grilled items or anything too complicated or hard to keep on stock though.
I was in awe with the specialization and care in their sashimi because of the quality, knife skills of the chef, and proper cutting technique, it spoke of fine execution. The sushi rice was also good, although I could have used a bit more flavour. I liked the sushi rice better at Kiriri, but the sashimi was even better here and it was already great at Kiriri. I’m totally comparing the two because they share similar strengths and weaknesses but they’re just in different restaurant settings and cities. Also my Kiriri experience was just the day before, so it’s very fresh in my head. Yes, it was a back to back sushi binge and I’m nervous about my mercury levels.
On the table:
- Lobster tempura, prawn tempura, cucumber, tobiko $9.95
- This was the daily special and I actually found it reasonably priced for the size and the ingredients.
- There was a large piece of tempura lobster, two prawn tempura, cucumber, a little bit of mayo and some tobiko on top.
- There was a nice crunch and I could taste the lobster the most which is great. The only thing is the lobster was chewy instead of juicy and tender.
- There was a slight creaminess from mayo and nice crunch from cucumber and then just lobster meat being the most dominant flavour.
- It was a pretty good lobster roll, but not the most memorable thing of the night.
- Tuna sashimi with our sesame sauce $6.95
- This is the best tuna gomaae I’ve had to date. I don’t see it on the menu often and I already enjoy the one from Sushi Garden, but this one is no doubt the best yet.
- Everything was so fresh on this dish and it was served with a nice helping of shredded daikon on the side and at least 8-10 pieces of tuna.
- It was generously covered and coated with a thick, creamy, grainy, nutty, sweet, savoury and tangy home made sesame sauce.
- I could taste the fresh puree of toasted sesame seeds and there was some savoury soy sauce and tangy sweet mirin (rice vinegar + sugar) mixed in.
- The tuna was fresh and creamy and then the nutty sauce was flavourful enough to almost infuse into the pieces of tuna without overpowering its naturally buttery flavour. Each piece of sashimi literally melted in my mouth and I barely had to chew it at all.
- Steamed spinach in our sesame sauce $3.95
- After discovering how good their gomaae sauce was, I had to order this. I love gomaae anyways so I almost always order it.
- This wasn’t as heavily dressed as the tuna gomaae, and I wish it was because the sauce was so good. On the other hand it was still well flavoured.
- This is perhaps one of the best gomaae I’ve had to date and it was a pretty decent portion.
- The highlight was the freshly toasted sesame seeds they use for the sauce.
- The spinach was lightly tossed in the sauce and then they sprinkled the top generously with toasted and cracked sesame seeds.
- It was almost flaky and added a nuttiness that was light from texture but strong in flavours and quite aromatic.
- The sauce was sweet, nutty, savoury with a slight tang, but it wasn’t as creamy or rich as the one in the tuna gomaae.
- A custard of chicken, seafood and vegetable steamed in egg and broth $5.95
- This is home made Japanese comfort food. It’s a very good appetizer, but it wasn’t my favourite here.
- I just wanted more broth and savoury steamed egg custard and the broth wasn’t as flavourful as I’ve had before.
- The great part was that it was packed full of ingredients and really fresh seafood.
- There’s 2 shiitake mushrooms that were dried out, 2 pieces of chicken breast that were decently moist, tons of fresh spinach, a large crunchy fresh prawn, a tender medium sized scallop and 2 big slices of kamaboko (Japanese pureed fish with the pink swirls in the middle).
- The ingredients were all wonderful and usually the soup has enough flavour that soy sauce isn’t required, but it was required for this one.
- I like the ones from Seto Sushi or Manzo Japanese Restaurant the best thus far.
- Three pieces each $7.50
- This came highly recommended by the server and I didn’t think it would be anything different from the usual, but it sure was!
- This item probably features the skills and precision of the sushi and sashimi chef best.
- Excellent! It’s probably the best tuna and salmon sashimi order I’ve ever had.
- This was like a kaku-zukuri cut, a super thick cut of sashimi! That’s also what makes it so good here besides the quality of it.
- The salmon was super fresh and glossy with a beautiful colour and it was firm yet clean in flavour.
- The tuna was also super fresh and super meaty and full of flavour. It was still buttery, but leaner than most tuna and I actually liked this more than the salmon which is rare… ha! Pun intended.
- The tuna belly was slightly warm, which made me a bit nervous, but it was still good.
- I actually enjoyed the one from Kiriri more and I found their tuna belly to be a better quality, but this was still very good.
- It was super creamy still and almost stringy in texture because it was melting from being in its naturally oily state.
- Although oily (in a good way), the Kiriri one was even more oily and juicy (in the best way possible).
- It’s traditional to put the wasabi underneath and it was nice to see that tradition being showcased here. It helps to open up the palate. I didn’t even need any soy sauce for this.
- Although the rice was chewy, moist and decently flavoured, I personally would have preferred it to be even more flavoured.
- This was a beautiful hamachi in texture, colour, smell and flavour.
- It’s a very young tuna so I wasn’t too worried about the mercury.
- It was actually a medium cut and it was smooth, but not too oily or fishy in flavour.
- It was a bit firmer and the finish was cleaner than the tuna sashimi I had earlier.
- Nice and sticky rice, but could have used slightly more flavour again.
- I can’t get over the quality and knife skills of the sashimi and nigiri here.
- The test of a great sushi restaurant is if they can nail the tamago.
- The tamago is a sweetened and layered Japanese style omelette.
- It was well executed and pretty much perfect without being too sweet.
- The layers were seamless and it was almost completely yellow. Almost perfect.
- It was moist, but not as juicy as I would have preferred.
- It wasn’t actually that sweet at all and I could taste a slight hinder from perhaps some added Japanese dashi (fish broth).
- The fishiness was extremely mild, but I could taste a bit of it. I did just want more flavour overall though.
- The best tamago I’ve had is from Aki Japanese Restaurant in Vancouver, BC.
- Two grilled chicken skewers with teriyaki sauce $4.95
- Okay so it’s not a place for grilled stuff (robata).
- This was the most disappointing and it was such a let down because everything had been going so well up until this point.
- I barely saw any grill marks on the skewers and the chicken was dry and didn’t even seem hot.
- The teriyaki sauce was way too sweet and I’m not sure if it was homemade but it was very honey and syrup like with a slight orange flavour in the background. I wasn’t a fan of it, so I guess I could skip the teriyaki items in general next time.
- It tasted bottled to me and just overly sweet with no smoky or charcoal flavours from the so called “grilled” chicken.
- Yeah so it takes me two lessons before I learn from the first mistake. This wasn’t a mistake necessarily, but there’s better grilled Miso Sable fish than this.
- I love miso sablefish and it’s almost always a 4/6, but this one is tough to say because the flavour was 5/6, but the quality of sable fish wasn’t great and the execution was only okay – hence 2.5/6. Yes it made that much of a difference.
- I’m not sure how to explain it, but the cut was almost a sliced fillet rather than a piece of the body. Therefore the skin was minimal and only the ends of it were crispy, but the rest was soft and slimy.
- The flavour was fabulous and it was intensely marinated with miso as well as some sake and mirin (rice wine vinegar + sugar).
- I’m glad it didn’t have the miso mayo on top because that’s a modern thing that I can only appreciate at some restaurants who do it well – like Kingyo. However I agree with one of my frequent commenters, Bow, who thinks that mayo is unnecessary for an already rich fish.
- The fish itself wasn’t flaky and it wasn’t even that moist for sable fish.
- Sable fish is almost impossible to NOT be moist, so something was really wrong with the equation here. Either it was frozen fish or just over cooked, which is impossible because it didn’t have that smoky charred flavour yet and the skin wasn’t crispy.
- The best ever grilled Miso Sablefish I’ve had to date is the one from Aki Restaurant – see here.
- I’m so glad I ordered this before calling it a night.
- It was delicious! Not the best spicy tuna roll, that might still go to Tokyo Joe’s Sushi Factory, but it was still very good!
- The spicy sauce wasn’t the usual spicy mayo, but it was actually mayo free. It was flavourful enough to not require soy sauce.
- The sauce was great and slightly sweet in the beginning with a little tang, and then a heat in the middle and end which lingered for a while.
- It was perfectly spicy and the tuna was creamy, fresh and plentiful in the roll.
- I could have just ordered spicy tuna sashimi and that would have been great as well.
- The sushi roll was good and the rice was well flavoured, but the seaweed was a bit too wet at times as to why I recommend the spicy tuna sashimi.
- A scoop of mango, mocha, matcha or vanilla from Mario’s Gelati $1.95
- So was it ice cream or gelato?
- It tasted like ice cream, but who knows? It was cheap, good and a fairly big scoop!