In a foodie’s paradise like Vancouver, one could literally eat out at a different restaurant every day for an entire year and not even make a dent in the overall culinary ecosystem. It is this sheer wealth of variety and choice that Vancouver foodies have come to know and appreciate. The one downside of having so much choice is that it makes restaurant revisits somewhat difficult as there is always the urge to try something new. That said, there are always shining exceptions in every city and for us here at Eating in Vancouver & the World, Suika Izakaya on West Broadway is definitely one of them. When the wonderful gents over at VANEATS.ca invited us out to review their upcoming “SUIKA PUNCH” dining pass, there was not even a moment of hesitation. VANEATS has actually worked with Suika a couple times in the past so we were eager to see what this upcoming summer special had in store for us!
A. “Lightly Smoked Tuna Tataki“, with home made chili oil on a bed of sliced onion topped with scallions
B. “Tomato Kimchi“, kimchi marinated tomato with Chinese chives & cilantro oil
C. “Yellowtail Carpaccio“, thinly sliced yellowtail topped with sesame soy dressing and tobiko
D. “The Hellz Chicken“, deep fried and tossed with the hell sauce (jalapeno, hot sauce, lemon, garlic, vinegar & tabasco)
E. “Chinese Poutine“, french fries topped with spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, chili oil, sansho and minced cilantro
F. “Sapporo“, 1 pitcher of Japan’s legendary biru
Coming in at the $25 price point, a cursory look over the 6 course offering makes it pretty apparent this pass can feed two people. For the purpose of this review, I tackled the dinner solo but honestly speaking this dining pass is ideal for two. Upon sitting down, a cheerful staff member will set an enormous pitcher of Sapporo in front of you. Now, even if you are not a regular beer drinker, let me tell you this is one smooth libation. I personally prefer Japanese beers over their western counterparts as I enjoy the light balance and smoothness of beers like Sapporo the best. For one person, an entire pitcher of beer may be slightly excessive but if you are a big drinker, by all means ganbatte-yo! I managed to polish off a couple frothy mugs of the delicious stuff throughout my dinner and found it was the perfect compliment to the dishes served. The beer was a godsend later in the meal when I got to the “Hellz Chicken” but we will get to that shortly heh.
After a few peaceful moments nursing my Sapporo, I was served the first few courses. From left to right, we have a beautiful serving of Lightly Smoked Tuna Tataki, Tomato Kimchi and Yellowtail Carpaccio. First impressions: wow. This open visual volley was definitely impressive and set the tone for the entire meal for me. Starting in the center, I started with the tomato kimchi as I am a huge kimchi fan. Traditionally, kimchi is primarily composed of some sort of cabbage component so this exclusively tomato kimchi was very refreshing. The tomatoes themselves were very fresh and juicy which went well with the Chinese chives and cilantro oil. The kimchi flavor was not overpowering either which will appeal to a broader demographic of milder palettes. I think this is a great dish to start with as the slightly acidic nature of the kimchi sets up the following two fish profiles nicely.
Moving on to the Yellowtail Carpaccio, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful sheen of the sesame soy dressing on the masterfully thin slices of Yellowtail. The key to a brilliant carpaccio is of course the sliver thin cuts of the primary ingredient which were definitely found in this dish. Garnished with just the right amount of tobiko, the subtle saltiness of the roe paired very nicely with the Yellowtail. Definitely a premium offering that I enjoyed very much as one does not normally receive such beautiful cuts of this fish unless dining at a premium restaurant like Suika.
Now I enjoyed all three of the opening courses but I must admit my favorite was the Lightly Smoked Tuna Tataki. The cut of tuna was a beautiful maroon rouge, that perfect shade that lets you know you’re dealing with the best of the best. Each finely cut piece of tuna was ringed by the slightest border of off-white sear. Served on a bed of thinly sliced onion, home made chili oil and a diced scallion garnish, this dish was aesthetically simple but of a complex flavor profile. I loved how each piece of tuna tataki just went down so smoothly and with such exquisite taste. This is definitely something I will be ordering on my return visit, so delicious!
Moving on the Hellz Chicken dish, I must say I did not quite understand why this dining pass was named “SUIKA PUNCH”. After eating this next dish however, it became clear: this dish will punch your taste buds with twin fists of hellfire! I will preface this next part by saying I handle spice very well. In fact, in my group of friends, I am the one everyone points at when talking about spice tolerance. The fact that I definitely felt the hit of this chicken dish lets me know that most people trying this for the first time will be left reaching for their glass of Sapporo. Coated in a “Hell sauce” made up of jalapeno, hot sauce, lemon, garlic, vinegar and Tabasco, this plate of deep fried chicken is definitely not to be taken lightly. Personally, I loved it and ate every last piece but to all of you readers that may not take spice as well, I suggest taking this dish slowly. Order a bowl of rice or noodles to eat with the chicken and you will have an amazing stand alone meal right there.
Wrapping the dining pass up is a really unique and innovative take on the classic Canadian poutine. Starting with a handful of french fries, Suika chose to add some Asian flair to this French-Canadian staple dish by topping the potato with spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, chili oil, sansho and minced cilantro. On my first bite, I already knew this was not your normal poutine. The spicy ground pork really added that punch of flavor with the chili oil and made it taste authentically Asian. The melted mozzarella was simply gorgeous and definitely grounded the dish so not to have it seem completely bizarre. I think even poutine traditionalists will find this offering pleasing as will those not so loyal to the Montreal inspired archtypes that poutine is normally judged against. Just be careful when eating this last course by the way, it smells very good but is served VERY hot. Sidenote: eating poutine with chopsticks is awesome and definitely approved of at Suika.
To wrap up with a few final thoughts, I have been to Suika many times in the past year and can sincerely say I have never been disappointed once. VANEATS’s greatest strength is giving their customers what they want and it is clear they have done it once again. At just $25, experienced and inexperienced izakayas diners will know this is a superb value. Just think how much a pitcher of Sapporo costs you in Vancouver, subtract that from $25 and see how much food you are getting for that amount. It truly is a wonderfully balanced and tasty dining pass that really lets you try a bit of everything. I definitely recommend this for two people as 1) the pitcher of Sapporo is massive and 2) it will allow you to order one or two additional dishes to try. This dining pass plus 1 additional entree would be the perfect dinner for two in my opinion.
If you enjoyed the photos and review above, definitely check out the VANEATS.ca SUIKA video above to see all the dishes we reviewed above. If you have seen or read enough and just want to eat, this “SUIKA PUNCH” dining pass will be available for a limited time for only $25 (before HST and gratuity). Head over to VANEATS.ca to buy your pass on June 20th and enjoy!