Tokachi Japanese (Whalley, BC)

Restaurant: Tokachi Japanese
Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi/Sashimi
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)
Service: 5
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Japanese owned/operated
  • Family owned/operated
  • Traditional Japanese cuisine
  • Fresh sashimi
  • Sushi bar
  • Great sashimi/nigiri
  • Friendly service
  • Spacious/clean
  • Reasonably priced
  • Extensive menu
  • Lunch/Dinner
  • 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 Roll (Daily Special) 4/6

  • 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 Gomaae – 6/6

  • 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.

**Horenso Gomaae5.5/6

  • 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.

Chawanmushi – 3.5/6

  • 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.

**Tuna & Salmon Sashimi 6/6

  • 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.

**Toro Nigiri (Tuna Belly Sushi) 5/6

  • $1.75
  • 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.

**Hamachi Nigiri (Yellowtail Tuna Sushi) 5/6

  • $2.25
  • 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.

Tamago Nigiri (Japanese Sweet Egg Omelette Sushi)5/6

  • $1
  • 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.

Yakitori – 1.5/6

  • 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.

Grilled Miso Sablefish2.5/6

  • $7.95
  • 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.

**Spicy Tuna Roll – 4/6

  • $4.50
  • 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.

Ice Cream

  • 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!

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31 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    I have the odd feeling I will have some fun with this post of yours! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Iโ€™m totally unfamiliar with the area and I really hate taking a chance with a restaurant sometimes.

    Oh, c’mon! It suddenly sounds as if you frequent a bit too often those “usual suspect” areas (i.e., Downtown, Gastown, Yaletown and Kits). I mean, didn’t you go to Mochikas (in a car shop???) or with me to El Inka Deli (middle of nowhere, near Burnaby General Hospital)? And then that tea place in Cloverdale (which recently closed)? Remember, there are good eats out there, it is a matter if you have that willingness to try, that sense of adventure! ๐Ÿ˜›

    From the outside it looks super dodgy and sketchy with all the glass windows blinded up, so I definitely had my hesitations.

    HAHAHAHA!!! In that case you are lucky you didn’t go with Jenny, Sherman and myself to Afghan Chopan because, afterwards, we went to Fireside House – which is almost across the street from Tokachi. Not sure how much you would have enjoyed “Daydream Believer”, hahaha!

    All the servers are dressed in kiminos (sic) and slippers and I donโ€™t even remember the last time Iโ€™ve had such a traditional Japanese dining experience.

    Probably because you have been going to the more modern/trendier places? Miko Sushi in Robson has it; Octopus’ Garden is as well.

    (I can see Kimโ€™s grin already).

    ๐Ÿ˜€

    Sounds like an easy enough lesson, but itโ€™s taken me a while to learn and it has been a costly journey to accept this fact.

    I will hold you accountable for this one sentence! ๐Ÿ˜€

    The funny thing is that, in the end, you got only three types of nigiri sushi, two rolls and 2.5 type of sashimi. Still long ways, I guess, grasshoper? ๐Ÿ™‚

    But, back to the restuarant itself, I was supposed to go there last summer; however, I ended up taking a detour instead. I won’t necessarily call it dodgy but, then again, to me, Downtown Eastside is not dodgy either. I guess I should take my time and drop by one of these days. After all, it is not that far from a Skytrain station!

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – don’t get me wrong! I LOVE trying new places, but take a look….
    – Mochikas – recommended by Sherman
    – El Inka Deli recommended by you
    – China Cup – recommended by Tourism Surrey
    I simply like to do some personal research before I spend hard earning dollars on it lol

    – yup you’re probably right about that Japanese thing!

    – omg I want to erase all your grins…. I still LOVE the fusion funky rolls, but I will order nigiri at less “trendy” places now and not be bored ๐Ÿ™‚ No matter what I still like exploring the menu and trying different sections of it. okay now go try it!

  • Linda says:

    holy guacamole! japanese owned and operated and in WHALLEY?!??!! wow, i am beyond shocked right now – that’s amazing! i’m not even sure i’ve actually been to whalley considering how shady everyone makes it sound but the fact that this place is so authentic, is crazy!

    mm lobster – this was definitely a good price for what you get – the pieces of lobster look huge but too bad it wasn’t as juicy as expected! i also really like gomaae too so the tuna dish would probably be a favorite of mine plus the spinach ๐Ÿ™‚ i almost always order toro when i eat sushi because it’s definitely my favorite cute of seafood – i always have it warm too but i figure it comes from the rice and the heat of it probably helps melt all the delicious fat in the tuna ๐Ÿ™‚

    i’ve never had the egg custard before so i definitely need to try it one day – i hear ppl raving about it all the time ๐Ÿ™‚ i’m a really big fan of tamago and spicy tuna so i’m glad those dishes were pretty good – i never ever order yakitori in japanese restaurants nor satays in thai/malyasian establishments – i can never justify the cost for some reason lol

  • Jeffrey T says:

    Awesome. Its rare to find Japanese run places with a reasonable price point to what they provide.

    I’m not out in Whalley often. But next time I will put this on my radar since I’ve driven past it before..

    PS: Its spelled Kimono’s not kiminos. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Sherman says:

    Aha! You made it out there! Definitely a surprising find. I liked how the owner/sushi chef is so knowledgeable. That is a rarity these days in Japanese restaurants.

  • Dilara says:

    Glad to see that you liked it, Mijune. This is the only decent Japanese place hubby and I could find in Surrey and we discovered it a few years ago. Seeing your post and all the photos are making me want to go over there right now! lol

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – okay this place is definitely for you then!! Everything you say you like is really really good here! The egg custard is delicious and it’s Japanese comfort food. You can get it at a few places that do a great job with it. You can search it on my blog and I’ve had it at about 4 places that all did a good job! Yay! I’m so excited for you to hopefully try this place… mmm now I want sashimi!

    @Jeffrey T – lol oops! Thanks for catching that error! I’ll fix that! Yes! Please do try this place, it’s been in existence for ages and for great reason too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Sherman – Omg Sherman!! That basic tuna and salmon sashimi was out of this world… amazing!

    @Dilara – ohhh it’s so yummy!!! Yes this is when i was trying to go to Taste Nice to find it closed :(… but it all worked out because I found this! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dilara says:

    I’m glad you found and liked it! You definitely need to try Taste Nice – their oxtail stew is the best I’ve had! Whalley has a few ‘gems’ actually (surprising I know!). Tokachi and Taste Nice certainly fit the bill. I also recommend trying La Conquistadora – it’s a Mexican/El Salvadorian resto. It’s not the best I’ve had but it’s pretty authentic and their portions are quite generous.

  • Bow says:

    Given how nice the sashimi was, it’s too bad that the chawan mushi and sable fish didn’t meet expectations. It’s pretty hard to cook sable fish badly…however the tuna gommae was very generous and the hamachi looks beautiful. One of the secrets of great chawan mushi is the addition of a couple of thin slices of fresh lemon, as you raise the lid off, the beautiful and heady aroma of the mirin/dashi stock/sake, shitake scented broth is accentuated by the fragrant lemon. It will smell amazing ! Such a perfume.
    Not going to Whalley soon, but I at least know where to get some great chirasi, and sashimi. It’s hard to find a true Japanese sashimi chef with trained knife skills.

  • lisa k says:

    omg!!!the food looks delicious but i wonder why the restaurant empty .

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – lol Dilara – you are just listing everything I have on my “Whalley list” right now.. I have both Taste Nice AND La Conquistadora on there… and they’re so close to each other! Both closed on a Monday too! Thank you for the tips love!

    @Bow – lol yes this is on the opposite end for you huh? But man, chef has great knife skills here! Oh and thanks for that lemon tip!! I never knew and it totally makes sense! Thank you!

    @lisa k – lol this was already last call so I was last table out. It was about 1/3 full on a Monday night… which is okay otherwise…. for a large restaurant too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dilara says:

    lol well I’m glad they’re on your list! I’m throwing another one in the pot – Taste of Punjab. It’s a great little Indian restaurant, good food and good service. Their butter chicken and lamb biriyani are sooo good!

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – omg we JUST talked about Taste of Punjab at dinner tonight!! lol… are you sure you weren’t there in spirit? thanks dilara!

  • Dilara says:

    I’m EVERYWHERE! muahahahaha :p

  • Ed says:

    Wow, I didn’t expect there to be authentic Japanese food that far out there.

    Actually, it’s not TOO far…would probably take a little while for me to get there from Richmond but if it’s awesome, then maybe I could make that drive.

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – loves it!

    @Ed – Make the drive!! my friend from Japan just went a few days ago and was like WTF? It’s awesome!! REAL DEAL Ed! Make the drive! best salmon and tuna I’ve had.

  • i’d have to visit this place if i ever get to this part of the world ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mijune says:

    @Simon Food Favourites – You have to!!! There’s LOTS here you have to try!! I have to get to YOUR part of the world too!

  • Harry says:

    Hi,

    First-time commenter here – been snooping around for a while, really enjoy your super helpful and knowledgeable posts! Your recommendations have made finding great restaurants so much easier. My parents stumbled upon Tokachi nearly two decades ago when they were newly arrived in Vancouver, and we’ve been going ever since! Even now that we live in Burnaby, we try and make it out there a couple of times a year. They really have some of the best fish in town. If you ever go back, do try their assorted tempura. They have the best tempura that I’ve had personally – super light, crispy, and low-grease, with some little-seen items like green beans, onions, and fish (the definite highlight!). They also make an incredible lobster sashimi.

  • Mijune says:

    @Harry – woohoo!!! So happy you enjoy my blog and it’s helped you out!!! Thank you for visiting and hope you come back. Thanks for your comment and lobster sashimi rec!

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