Monday, October 21, 2013

Taste of Yaletown - Honjin Sushi

Honjin Sushi on UrbanspoonHonjin Sushi is at the water's edge of Yaletown, in the plaza with the funny chairs and steaming floor lights (at night) that is opposite Urban Fare. Their sister restaurant is Kibo Restaurant and Lounge, also in Yaletown.

The restaurant is smallish but seating is spacious. Staff are friendly, attentive, and helpful. They can be counted on to list what is in each roll of maki sushi -- which is very helpful because the ingredients aren't listed in the menu or on the website. If you have allergies, you'd better ask because the names of the rolls aren't that indicative of what's inside (e.g., NHL Roll?).

The regular menu is available during the Taste of Yaletown promotion! In addition to trying all the sushi on the TOY menu, we also had a few side orders, which turned out to be a strategic error because you do get a really decent-sized meal for $29 because of the "main dish".

Taste of Yaletown $29 menu
Appetizer
Crab salad
fresh crab meat and crispy tempura flakes mixed with ginger mayonnaise surrounded with three pieces of
AND
Salmon Tartar
chopped salmon, avocado and cucumber served on a shisho leaf tempura
Second Course
Maki Mix
Choose any two:
  • Sunshine Roll
  • Yaletown Roll
  • Rainforest Roll
  • West End Roll
  • Round House Roll
  • Caterpillar Roll
  • NHL Roll
  • Butterfly Roll
OR
Assorted Nigiri
One piece of each:
  • Chopped Scallop
  • Hamachi
  • Sushi Shooter
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Ebi
Main Dish
Tara Miso (Marinated black cod in Miso)
OR
Salmon Teriyaki
Main dish served on a bed of brown rice and a side of Spring Mix Salad with Thai Dressing
Dessert
Coffee Jello 
OR
Ice-Cream

Karubi (not on TOY menu; $4.95) beef short rib with garlic sauce
  • Cheap tapas-plate sized order that was simple looking but really tasty with it's sweet sauce.
Salmon Head Shioyaki (not on TOY menu; $5.95)
  • It's the grilled head of a salmon, but not what you think. Shioyaki is a particular style of grilling. The salmon head came out raw-looking, but the meat was cooked.
  • I definitely think this isn't for everyone. Best to see someone else having it before trying it. Then there's the effort of digging out the meat from the various areas on the salmon head. Get a fork and spoon.
  • You actually only get half a salmon head, split lengthwise. Turn it over and start digging out the meat. I suppose there's a novelty to eating a salmon head, but even though it's only $5.95, in the end I don't think it's worth the effort and taste.
Crab Salad and Salmon Tartar
  • I both like and dislike this appetizer. There's a lot to like, though: It's a lot of fun to eat. Both of parts have fun crunchy bits. There's a light, refreshing taste to them.
  • What I didn't like was that the flavours flattened the crab and salmon flavours so that they didn't come through for me. Nevertheless, tasty and fun to eat.
We tried all the rolls. There were four of us, so we only got a single piece of each roll, which isn't really enough to properly dissect. Here are some general observations:
  • Do NOT wait. When it comes out, start eating right away. The "dynamite" (prawn tempura) inside goes soggy quite quickly. Depending on what is sitting next to it inside the roll, you may still get some decent crunch ten minutes in, but overall it's best when you get at it right away.
  • There's a lot of fruit used, which often adds a sweetness and fresh taste to each roll. Not very "traditional" but more fun to eat and it also makes the sushi good for every stage of a meal, whether as an appetizer, main, or just a snack over drinks.
Taro Miso / Salmon Teriyaki
  • This was the weakest and most disappointing part of the meal. After the fun salad and interesting rolls, we get a slab of fish on brown rice. Ho hum.
  • The fish is well-prepared and with beautiful grill marks, but in the end, fish is fish.
  • The rice (about 1 bowl in volume) might be a bit dull to handle. Try sprinkling a bit of soy sauce on it.
  • If you're a light eater, you might want to just eat half the fillet and ask them to package the rest to go.
Ice Cream - four flavours available - Vanilla, Chocolate, Matcha, Mango
  • We tried everything except Vanilla. You get a boring single round scoop. However, it's soft enough that you're not pushing the ball around when you dig into it. There's a smoothness and creaminess to it, and the flavour is strong. Overall, rather good ice cream.
In lieu of the Coffee Jello which wasn't available at the time we were dining, we got a "pudding", which turned out to be more like a crème caramel with soft whipped cream on top and sitting in coffee (?). Other than the off-putting appearance of the soup (steadily worsened by the cream falling into it and making it muddy), the dessert itself is nicely not-too-sweet and a safe choice, but not as refreshing as their ice cream. I think the unappetizing-looking watery-ness made me consider it less tasty than it actually was.

Overall, Honjin Sushi is a very solid choice for a Taste of Yaletown excursion, despite having a weak finish. I recommend taking the main course (fish and rice) home, eating everything else there, and maybe ordering a couple of interesting items from the regular menu.

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