Suika (Japanese Izakaya Restaurant)

Restaurant: Suika
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Fusion/Eclectic/Tapas
Last visited: June 12, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 1626 West Broadway
Transit: EB w Broadway FS Fir St-
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30+

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

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

  • Funky fusion Japanese tapas
  • Opened by Kingyo Group
  • Sister to Kingyo Restaurant
  • Casual dining
  • Extensive menu
  • Daily fresh sheet
  • Modern/lively atmosphere
  • Sushi bar
  • Affordable izakaya
  • Group dining
  • Good for drinks/snacks
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Extensive drink list
  • Sun-Thur: 5:30pm-12am
  • Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-1am

**Recommendations: Deluxe “Suika” Box, Lightly Smoked Tuna Tataki, Negitoro Tartar, Beef Short Rib, Aburi “Shime-Saba” Sushi, Negitoro Battera, Matcha Brulee

Finally! Finally there is an option for relatively affordable izakaya in Vancouver that isn’t any of the Guu‘s. Don’t get me wrong, Guu is “Guu‘d”, but just not all the time. To be honest I actually prefer Suika to Guu and it’s only slightly pricier. If I take into consideration menu, price, quality and flavour I’d choose Suika. Parking is also easier since it’s out of the downtown core too!

Suika has easily made it as one of my favourite izakaya restaurants in Vancouver and I’ve only been here once, but it totally impressed me. The only thing they’re missing is a restaurant website, but otherwise I’m a happy girl and I got dessert!

Izakaya has been popular for years in Vancouver now and I don’t know why it carries the stigma of being so trendy, posh, and “fancy”. In Japan izakayas are watering holes and here they’re so damn expensive, which totally sucks in my opinion because I love izakaya! I love izakaya a lot, because I love Japanese fusion and share plates, but I find outside of dim sum, it’s a very costly way of dining. Yes, I probably order more than most people, but hey, variety is the spice of life!

When Hapa Izakaya opened up their higher end restaurant Hapa Umi, Kingyo did the opposite. Suika opened earlier this year by the people who opened the upscale award winning izakaya restaurant Kingyo. It’s really a bit ironic that one of Vancouver’s priciest izakaya restaurants has opened up one of Vancouver’s more affordable izakaya restaurants. Being a fan of Kingyo, I was very excited!

The menu is huge with lots of variety and the food is top notch for the most part. It’s not cheap, but it’s reasonably priced for izakaya especially compared to what’s out there now. It’s solid izakaya, good value, and the menu descriptions are random and entertaining (just like they are at most Japanese restaurants) and I can’t wait to come back.

The set up is really nice and modern too and the prices don’t speak of the atmosphere which I love. Maybe I just ordered the right items, but I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here and I can’t wait to see it win awards in the casual Japanese restaurant category. I even think the food is as good if not even better than Kingyo at times, and Kingyo is already a favourite of mine in Vancouver.

I know I’m making bold statements, but I believe in this place and I just hope they don’t change. I’m passionate about their philosophy and concept and hope that it trends faster than cake-pops. Okay, seriously, I think I’ve gushed enough, so grab your phone, book a table here and call me to join you! Kampai!

On the table:

**Deluxe “Suika” Box 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Deluxe appetizer box (nine kinds) It’s like a jewelery box… gorgeous! $10
  • Gorgeous it was! This is a must try. I can feel your excitement from my picture too!
  • It’s such a bargain and it gives you a sample of everything. It’s enough for 2 people as a shared appetizer.
  • I loved the description and it really is like a foodie’s jewelery box! A bunch of one bite samples is heaven for me.
  • More than half the items are available a la carte as an appetizer in some form.
  • It’s not like everything was amazing and there’s some really simple dishes in it, but for $1.10/item who cares? It’s good and well worth it.

Top row: Toast with Lobster Cream Cheese (left) Cold Tofu with Homemade Chili Oil (right)

  • It was just Melba crackers topped with a bit of imitation lobster meat mixed with regular cream cheese.
  • It was cubes of tofu topped with a mildly spicy and sweet chili sauce, aromatic sesame oil and some green onion.

Bottom row: Iceberg Lettuce with Sesame Dressing (left) Tomato Kimchi (right)

  • It was a couple leaves of iceberg lettuce with some sweet and slightly tangy Japanese sesame salad dressing.
  • The Tomato Kimchi is available a la carte and I liked it. It’s Kimchi marinated tomato with Chinese chives and cilantro oil. It’s fresh slices of juicy plump tomato in sweet and slightly spicy kimchi sauce. I could taste sesame oil and it’s very savoury and sweet and tasted like a summery kimchi salsa with the raw tomato. It’s simple, but I’d consider ordering it a la carte.

Top row: Cold Tofu with Homemade Chili Oil (left, description above) Egg Pudding (right)

  • I loved chawan-mushi (steamed egg pudding) and this was a small sample, but it’s available a la carte. The sample only has a small piece of chicken, but if you order it a la carte it comes with a variety of seafood in it too. It’s a savoury pudding and it’s smooth and silky like tofu and had a gel liquid on top. It was quite good, mildly salty and I could taste the dashi broth used to make it. I liked the salmon roe garnish too.

Bottom row: Tomato Kimchi (left, description above) Mackerel Sashimi (right)

  • Seared cured mackerel sashimi with grainy mustard seed and soy dressing. This is my second favourite in the box. This is delicious, savoury and well marinated with a kick of mustard and if you like this I’d strongly suggest the Aburi “Shime-Saba” Sushi, which I also ordered. See below.

Bottom row: Lotus Root Kinpira (left) Tuna Tataki (right)

  • The Lotus Root Kinpira is available a la carte and it’s stir-fried lotus root seasoned with fresh Shichimi spice. It’s crunchy, quite smoky, slightly spicy and a bit bitter. The lotus root is supposed to be sauteed and simmered and I have a feeling it might be better a la carte.

Bottom row: Tuna Tataki (left) Negitoro Tartar (right)

  • The Tuna Tataki is available as an appetizer a la carte and I’d recommend it a la carte because it doesn’t do it justice as a sample. It’s still very good, but even better a la carte. This was my favourite in the “jewelery” or “foodie” box.
  • The negitoro tartar is also available as an appetizer a la carte and the sample will leave you wanting more. This was my 3rd favourite in the box and I write about it below as I ordered it a la carte too.

Ton-Jiru Soup 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Pork & root vegetables in specially blended miso broth scented with sake kasu $3
  • It tasted like a richer miso soup broth, but it wasn’t as thick as a miso ramen pork broth.
  • There were bits of fish in it as well and it was very good for what it was. It wasn’t instant miso soup powder.

**Lightly Smoked Tuna Tataki 5/6 (Excellent)

  • With homemade chili oil on a bed of sliced onion topped with scallions $6
  • It was cubes of tuna rather than slices and I loved it! The sauce is one of the best parts.
  • I think it was roughly crusted with crushed Japanese rice crackers and for sure with some almonds and sesame seeds too. I could have used more almonds, but I loved the crunchy texture it brought.
  • The home made chili oil is amazing. It’s sweet initially and then mildly spicy with lots of sesame oil and perhaps a little ponzu for some tang.
  • I loved the buttery creamy tuna with crispy nutty bits and the freshness from the red, white and green onions kept it light.
  • The tuna didn’t taste smoky, but the sauce really made it aromatic with perhaps some Shichimi spice (Japanese pepper) as well and it would be good on anything.

Chinese Poutine 3/6 (Good)

  • French fries topped with spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, chili oil, sansho, and minced cilantro $6.80
  • This is from their fresh sheet menu.
  • It’s didn’t taste bad, but I just wouldn’t order it again and for fries I found a bit pricey.
  • It tastes like sweet and spicy “ma po tofu” sauce or Chinese pork ragu made with soy sauce, chili sauce and sesame oil.
  • It was almost like Asian chili fries without the beans.
  • It was stringy and cheesy with lots of melted cheese and great sauce, but the sauce wasn’t anything I haven’t had before.
  • The fries were decently crispy, but quite soft from all the sauce and they weren’t anything particularly special, so overall it was what it was.
  • They do offer a “French Fritz” tossed with blended spices served with blue cheese and dried shrimp dip for $4.50 which I’d be curious to try though.

**Negitoro Tartar3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Home made kimchi sauce marinated chopped tuna topped with scallions served with garlic butter toast.  $6.80 Add extra toast $1.
  • This is from their fresh sheet menu.
  • There wasn’t a whole lot of chopped tuna and the green onions were raw and served on top for you to mix yourself.
  • The negitoro tartar is delicious but I just wasn’t a fan of the garlic butter toast, which was a bit too thick and I couldn’t taste the garlic butter.
  • The tartar was melt in your mouth creamy and well marinated, but I would have preferred crunchy crostini so I could taste more of the tartar.
  • The kimchi marinade was delicious and not really tangy like traditional kimchi flavouring, but more savoury and aromatic.
  • The marinade was made with a good amount of gochujang, which is a savoury thick Korean hot pepper paste made from fermented soy beans.
  • It’s very potent sauce and a little goes a long way (in terms of savouriness, not spice) and it was well balanced with sesame oil and the perfect amount of flavourful heat, but it wasn’t that spicy.

My Ebi Mayo 1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)

  • Deep fried cilantro battered Tiger Prawns with chili mayo $7.80
  • It was a great value with 5 large Tiger Prawns, but it wasn’t very good.
  • This is the only thing that was disappointing and it’s because the batter was really thick and not crunchy or crispy.
  • The batter was a heavy chewy flour batter, but the prawn was crunchy and tender.
  • The sauce was a very basic chili mayo and it was heavy with the mayo. I expected more from the sauce because ebi mayo is so creative at izakaya restaurants now.
  • I prefer the Ebi Mayo from Hapa Izakaya – see here.

Grilled Sable Fish4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Grilled Miso Marinated Sable Fish $9.80
  • I always order this. This was actually quite pricey for the size, and even for sable fish, but it’s authentically executed and very good.
  • It had a very crispy skin and it was smoky and perfectly infused with miso marinade.
  • It was juicy, flaky and tender and served authentically with the grated radish and lime on the side.
  • I was surprised it didn’t have the miso sauce drizzled over top. That’s the “modern” way to serve it and it’s quite common to see at Japanese Izakaya places.
  • This was a traditional Gindara Saikyo Miso, but my favourite version so far is at Aki Japanese – see here.

Ma-Po Rice Cake3/6 (Good)

  • Deep fried rice cake with spicy ground pork sauce dusted with Sansho (Japanese pepper) $6.80
  • The sauce was the same sauce on the “Chinese Poutine” I ordered above, in which case I would go for this over the fries since it’s a bit more different.
  • The deep fried rice cakes were actually mochi cakes and they were house made and incredibly soft.
  • It’s not common to find freshly made mochi in Vancouver, so I saw value in this, although not everyone likes mochi. I do though and it’s rare to see it served savoury.
  • It wasn’t battered, but it was lightly deep fried so it had a crispy exterior and then the mochi was very soft, chewy, stretchy, sticky and almost like a marshmallow or gummy, but not sweet. It’s rather neutral since it’s made with rice flour.
  • I wish it was in smaller pieces instead of 2 big chunks though so it would be easier to enjoy. Mochi is better in smaller portions too.
  • It was a sweet and spicy “ma po tofu” sauce or Chinese pork ragu made with soy sauce, chili sauce and sesame oil.
  • It was an interesting concept and the mochi was a nice play on the tofu, but having it in smaller cubes with some scallions, shiitakes or fermented black beans would have been better. It was just a bit plain otherwise.

**Kakuni Bibimbap 4/6 (Very good)

  • Stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp & scallions on rice served in a hot stone bowl. HOT HOT HOT! $8.80
  • It’s a big portion and I think it’s worth the price although I could use more ingredients, especially the pork belly.
  • If you like pork belly done Japanese style, I also suggest the Kakuni at Guu with Garlic as well – see here.

It’s mixed at your table, and I suggest letting it sit for 7-10 minutes until the rice crisps up along the hot stone bowl.

  • This was winning in flavour, except I wanted more pork belly because there wasn’t that much after it was all mixed together.
  • I couldn’t really taste the sweet dried shrimp, but it was almost pureed and in a paste before it was mixed so you can’t really see the shrimps to begin with.
  • The pork was incredibly tender, not chewy or gelatinous, and melt in your mouth creamy. It had a sweetness and at times it was a bit dry, but I still loved it.
  • The rice was a bit sweet from I guess the paste and also what I think is Teriyaki sauce and a bit of pork belly stew poured over top.
  • It was savoury a bit nutty and slightly spicy and the rice was a good quality chewy sushi rice too.

**Beef Short Rib 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Fried and tossed with sweet balsamic, blanched spinach on the side. Like sweet and sour pork without the pork! $14
  • This was amazing! Oh god I’m drooling just thinking about it again. It’s a must try.
  • It wasn’t served with blanched spinach though and I wouldn’t compare it to sweet and sour pork. It’s way better.
  • It’s hearty, indulgent Japanese comfort food and I wanted it over wasabi mashed potatoes.
  • It was extremely tender, buttery, and juicy beef and it had a crispy charred bark from the sweet syrupy thick glaze.
  • There was minimal fat, but the fat it had just melted in your mouth like cream.
  • It was a very bold and heavily sauced, and the flavours just stuck like glue to the short rib.
  • It was sweet and a bit tangy, and it must have been a very reduced sweet balsamic glaze.
  • It was on the sweeter side and it was almost rich with Teriyaki or Oyster sauce flavours.
  • It was syrupy and sticky and just coated your lips like honey, yet its flavours didn’t overwhelm the short rib itself.
  • I ditched the knife and just used my fork to shred away at this with minimal effort. The meat melted right off the bone.

**Aburi “Shime-Saba” Sushi 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Seared cured mackerel pressed sushi served with mustard soy dressing $12
  • I’m very specific with aburi sushi especially after being spoiled by the ones offered at Miku Restaurant. Even after that, this was still impressive and I would order it again for sure!
  • It was a very generous amount of saba (mackerel) sashimi which is a naturally fishy tasting fish.
  • There was almost more fish than sushi rice, and I didn’t mind at all even if it’s not the proper ratio for pressed sushi.
  • If you like pickled herring with grainy mustard you’ll like this.
  • The fishiness was a bit intensified with the aburi (searing) process which just released the fish’s natural oils and the raw onion on top helped cut through its strong flavour.
  • It was very smoky and then tangy and the fish was even juicy and creamy.
  • There was enough mustard soy dressing which gave it a good tang and savoury punch and there was also a shiso leaf underneath to take the fishy edge of the saba.
  • It was very aromatic with lots of dynamic flavours and it came together so well with a pickled mustard flavour.
  • It had great balance and texture and the shiso leaf added that intense licorice and minty flavour that made the pressed sushi very unique.
  • Traditionally pressed saba sushi will always have the shiso leaf (see here), but the mustard soy dressing was the creative addition that worked incredibly well.

**Negitoro Battera 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Pressed sushi with tuna belly, scallions, avocado & sesame topped with home-made soy dressing & seaweed sauce $9.80
  • I loved this too and it was almost an innovative take on a California roll meets Negitoro roll executed in pressed sushi form.
  • It was a creamy pressed sushi that just melted in your mouth and the sauce was a melted seaweed sauce which I’ve had at Morimoto Napa in Napa Valley – see here.
  • If it’s going to be fusion anyways I would have loved some crushed rice crackers, crispy millet or crunchy shredded daikon on top for some crunchy texture.
  • The seaweed sauce is a bit slimy and it was tangy as well. It wasn’t that savoury though and I wish it was.
  • There was also a sweet and tangy ponzu sesame oil sauce served over top and it was almost like a tangy plum sauce. It really needed this sauce because the melted seaweed sauce didn’t carry enough savoury or sweet flavour on its own.
  • Underneath was a Shiso leaf which was quite noticeable and it gave it that minty licorice aroma. I didn’t mind the Shiso leaf, but I didn’t find it needed it either.
  • The avocado is quite masked and I wanted more of it, but it did make for a creamier texture.
  • The seaweed sauce was very creative and I’ve never seen it being offered in Vancouver yet. I’d order this again too.

**Matcha Brulee 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Frozen Matcha creme brulee with fresh whipped cream and red bean sauce $4.80
  • It looks like it has a crust, but that’s only an imprint of an accidental knife cut. Thank god the initial cut was too small because this was delicious and I wanted more.
  • It was almost like a frozen matcha creme brulee popsicle bar meets a semifreddo, but completely frozen of course.
  • The texture was similar to Indian kulfi ice cream and it’s almost a bit starchier and powdery tasting on the tongue.
  • It was a bit icy, creamy and thick with matcha powder flavour, but not bitter either.
  • It’s refreshing and has great texture with the crispy caramelized brulee sugar crust.
  • I didn’t even mind the red bean sauce which was lightly sweetened and so faint with red bean that it didn’t bother me at all. I pretty much despise red bean.
  • I loved this and would certainly order it again.
  • It was a delicious way to complete a very satisfying meal.

Frozen Grapes – The signature Kingyo “mint” and perfect ending.

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