Monday, March 12, 2012

Lunch at Shizen Ya

Shizen Ya on Urbanspoon
Last Friday I went back to the brown-rice-sushi and organic-everything Shizen Ya on Broadway to try more of their menu, this time with a friend who had said she was very impressed by them and their brown rice sushi. She was vegetarian and I wanted to order stuff to share, so most of the the Shizen Ya menu was out because of meat or seafood.

I went with two appys and dessert, but sadly neither the Tofu Cookies nor the Tofu Cheese Mousse was not available that day (and since we were in shortly after Noon, it really surprised me). The waitress explained that the cookies were very popular and quick to be sold out. As for the Mousse, it was hard to keep the ingredients fresh, and without that quality assurance, they weren't willing to offer it to patrons. In fact, she said it would probably be dropped from the menu (and at the time I am writing this, it's gone on their online menu from under Green Tea Creme Brulee). Anyway, I was disappointed, but my dining companion was non-plussed ("There's no chocolate in the dessert").

I started with the Hijiki and Lotus Root Kimpira, and browsed the menu for something else interesting. My companion ordered the Organic Tofu Steak Combo lunch special (way down on the bottom of the menu; there's a lighter version of this order midway on the menu, which does not have salad or gomaae).
I have a Japanese friend who one explained to me that Japanese food tends to be on the subtle side, instead of the stronger flavours that Westerners expect--Which would clash with the idea of appetizers being small but flavourful pre-meal bites. I was curious to see how it would turn out with my appy orders. (I did order Natto before, which is listed as an "appetizer", and while that has a type of strong flavour, it was also disgusting).

  • Hijiki ($2.95; braised sea vegetable, chickpea, carrot)
    • The "sea vegetable here" is black and looks like pine needles. Combined with the orange carrot and yellow chickpeas, this dish has an interesting look to it.
    • For $2.95, you get approximately 1 cup. 
    • It's served cold and is slightly on the sweet side. There's some sauce/dressing on it which does pool to the bottom eventually.
    • Overall it's interesting to try at $2.95. Get some spoons, especially if you're sharing.
  • Lotus Root Kimpira ($2.95; braised lotus root and organic carrot)
    • Another appy served cold. You get approximately 1 cup of this as well.
    • If you haven't had lotus root before, it is mild in flavour and has the texture and crunch of apple.
    • To me this dish was similar to the Hijiki, except the lotus root has a clearer flavour than the "sea vegetable".
  • Tofu Steak Combo ($7.45; sukiyaki style organic tofu with organic vegetable teriyaki sauce, with brown rice, spinach gomaae, vegetable salad)
    • My veggie friend loved this. Since I'm allowed to eat all sorts of things, I thought it was numbingly boring: It's tofu, rice, and spinach. Duh.
    • You get a large slab of tofu, approximately one typical square of it. It's pretty plain on its own, so the sweet teriyaki sauce definitely helps that go down if you're forced to eat it and tofu is very bleah to you.
    • The brown rice was plain brown rice. If you need to jazz this up, maybe mix in some of the teriyaki sauce if you can spare it from the tofu. Or order one of the appys, like the Hijiki, and mix it in. Or ask for more sauce. Making this a porridge would definitely help me put down each blob of tofu.
    • The leafy spinach gomaae was a small portion, maybe a half cup worth. This tasted to me like spinach with some nut content to make it palatable (if you're not the I-like-my-spinach-plain type). It doesn't say on the menu what the nut was, and my friend thought it was peanut, but for the spinach gomaae on the appetizer menu, it reads "boiled spinach with home-roasted sesame sauce".
    • From my biased omnivore's perspective, I'd have to say the tofu steak is probably the bleakest choice on the menu. If I had to pick a veggie main course, I think I'd go for the all-veggie rolls instead. That way at least I'd have a bit more flavour.

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