Tojo

When you’re in Vancouver and looking for good fantastic sushi and are willing to pay for it head straight to Tojo and grab a seat at the sushi bar. We had been to Tojo once before together and I was there again last summer on a certain bachelor weekend that got pretty hazy after the third round of sake… Anyhow I digress. I’ll tell you in advance that this is not an inexpensive meal, if you go to Tojo and sit at a table you can choose the Chefs choice or Omakase menu and just set your price from $75 on up and they’ll make you a great dinner. However if you’re going to go for it, I suggest you go big and sit at the sushi bar where Chef Tojo will ask you about any dislikes and then start making you course after course of amazing food all of which features a local/regional slant which gives you a different sushi experience than you’ll find in most places.

A couple things that separate Tojo from other sushi places you may have been to:

  1. They use real Wasabi rather than the neon green artificial stuff you see most places.
  2. You will be advised when it’s appropriate to use soy sauce, if Tojo doesn’t’ say “use little soy with this” than don’t use the soy sauce.

We started out with a variation on one of the house specialties, Tojo Tuna and it’s sweet, spicy, fruity perfection with a fantastic sauce just highlighting the flavor of the tuna.

Next up was a BC Spot Prawn salad, these are only in season for about 8 weeks a year so we were happy to have them here prepared with some cod roe and a miso vinegar type sauce

The third course was a Dungeness crab salad with mango, apple and cucumber

The next course was KMJ’s worst nightmare…mushrooms. Note that when Tojo asked about any dislikes she decided to throw caution to the wind and say “none” but now I saw the look of fear on her face as Tojo set down a plate full of perfectly cooked morel mushrooms stuffed with scallop in front of each of us. The mushrooms had been broiled or perhaps pan fried so the texture was on the crispy side without affecting the earthiness of the mushroom and sweetness of the scallop.

To make up for the mushroom the next course that arrived was a beautifully prepared selection of thinly sliced pacific octopus with a soya and yam sauce. Usually octopus in sushi places is fishy tasting and tough, this was neither and it was just great.

The hits just keep on coming, up next was a mysterious parchment wrapped dish that turned out to be a smoked sablefish with some mushrooms, mango and green onion. The whole thing had been wrapped in a paper thin piece of cedar and then slow cooked in the over. Juicy, flavorful and fun, this was a great dish and one of my favorites of the night.

On to the rolls! First up was a king crab, shrimp and avocado roll that was pretty perfect but we were both starting to get full at this point.

The next roll was a salmon and shrimp roll with some cod roe that came wrapped in an egg wrapper

Next up was some Toro, very different than other Toro I’ve had as this was so much richer and fattier—delicious.

Finally we wrapped things up with a huge roll that included asparagus, mango and some tempura fried cod all wrapped up in cucumber, it was hard to eat due to the size but oh so good.

Not really hungry at this point we still found room for dessert, a green tea cream brulee that was a great way to cap thing off.

When you go to Tojo for Omakase be open minded, honest with the chef about your likes and dislikes and be prepared for a large bill but don’t let that stop you from experiencing one of the best dinner experiences you’ll find in Vancouver.

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West Vancouver or was that West in Vancouver?

A bit more than a year ago we had a fantastic dinner at West (thanks to SC for the suggestion) and it was over the course of that dinner that we decided to get hitched so needless to say West will always be a special place for us.  So now fast forward a year and a bit and we happen to have Groupon’s for the Listel hotel and for Skoah that both expired in February so off to Vancouver we went.  We of course made a quick stop on the way for Lime Polenta cake at the Farm to Market Bakery in Bow Edison on the way through the border and after a leisurely drive through Vancouver we got to the Listel.

With a few hours to kill we headed down Robson to Japadog for the Terimayo special and then wandered back up Robson and down to the water to check out the Olympic torch and 8 bit Orca Whale.  About that time it suddenly got really cold and the wind picked up a bit so we walked quickly back along the harbor and back up to the hotel where it was at least warm even though the bed wasn’t all that great or at least I thought so.

I remember watching a couple episodes of hoarders and napping a bit but before long it was time to head out to dinner but not before we got caught up in some best handyman game show on HGTV.

We grabbed a cab and began the death race across the city with the driver seemingly intent on breaking some kind of new land speed record to get through the traffic and across the bridge over to the west side of town.

The last time we ate at West we had arrive really close to our reservation time and just sat down only to discover that they have some great bartenders and a huge selection of classic and original cocktails so this time we decided to show up good and early to sit down at the bar and get a chance to try a couple.  I started off with a Vesper, made famous in recent years by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and KMJ had a blood orange fizzy thing that was delicious.  We followed that with the bartenders take on a Manhattan for me and his rose water and mescal creation for KMJ

On to dinner!  They have an interesting tasting menu or rather menus at West and we ended up getting the seafood tasting for KMJ and I got the Chefs tasting which was similar but had some lamb and beef to go along with the fish courses.  To start off there was an amuse of oxtail marmalade with bone marrow foam on a piece of crispy brioche.

While we pondered on that they served up the first glass of wine for our pairings which we enjoyed while waiting for the first course.    Now I’ll admit from this point onward we totally forgot to write down what we were actually eating and since the menu changed we’re not sure what we ate but it was all really great.  Even the Portlandia moment when the waiter described in detail what “bio-dynamic” risotto means (think organic to the 10th degree).

So enjoy the photos and I guarantee you they don’t do justice to the food, service and ambience at West.  Can’t wait to go back at some point though it’s going to be hard to pass up Tojo’s the next time around and then theres always Japadog again and that French place in Yale town and the brewery in Gas Town and so many other great places to eat and hang out.