Vancouver has become a favourite city of mine, especially now that it is a relatively painless direct flight away. A number of trips there over the past few years created an interesting, and delicious dilemma for my most recent visit – do I retrace my past steps for favourite foods or do I explore some new restaurants and tastes in hopes of adding to my list of favourites? Of course, balance is everything, so in the spirit of “a little from column A and a little from column B” I did both.
There was no doubt that a visit to Vancouver would have to include some seafood, and in particular, sushi. There are a couple of reasonable sushi places in Saskatoon, but arriving at Sushi Itoga on Robson Street reminded me just how amazing truly great sushi can be. I placed my order at the counter, sat down at one of the long communal tables, and a few minutes later, this amazing spread was placed in front of me.
I highly recommend their “Sushi Combo D” – California roll, 2 tuna, 2 salmon, 2 ebi. What I was so impressed with was how soft and supple the fish was. The texture was simple perfection. Sushi Itoga went from a new experience to a favourite within a couple of bites as is now on my “can’t miss” list when I get back to Vancouver next.
A long-time favourite in Vancouver, and now a place that is always my first meal off the plane, is La Taqueria. Since I visited last, they’ve opened a couple of new locations including one that was a pleasant surprise for me – only 1 block from my downtown hotel. After dropping my bags, I was around the corner and tucking into a plate of four of their amazing tacos in no time – asada, carnitas, tinga de pollo and al pastor – all delicious!
Such is my love affair with La Taqueria, that I got back here one more time. An hour or so before I was heading off to a three hour wine tasting and needing something substantial in my stomach, I ordered one of their mammoth burritos. Their carnitas and I have a special relationship that has now extended from taco to burrito form. Having my favourite taco shop now so close to my hotel has made me even more a fan of Vancouver as a short vacation destination.
The big meal experience I was looking most forward to on this trip was a visit to Tojo’s on West Broadway. I entered the serene restaurant on a rainy, late February evening and put my faith in Tojo’s own hands for my ordering. I’d have had so much trouble making up my mind what to order, Omakase was an easy course of action.
First up – marinated wild British Columbia sockeye salmon. As I placed each morsel in my mouth, my eyes would slowly, and involuntarily, close. This was a beautiful start to the meal.
I was so eager for my second course, that I only snapped this photo after finishing half of the dish. What you don’t see here was an amazing shrimp cake that was sitting on top of the pickled vegetables on the right. On the left, raw octopus with mustard greens. Tojo was 2 for 2 in my books.
And yes, it was actually the restaurant’s namesake behind the bar preparing my meal.
The third course saw a sablefish dish placed in front of me. This was a beautifully tender piece of fish, warm in the middle, and complemented nicely by an earthy sauce of Japanese mushrooms.
The hits just kept on coming. Course four was albacore tuna, wrapped in seaweed and lightly fried. The outside was crispy, and the tuna was just barely warmed. The drizzle of plum sauce went perfectly with the fish. Overall, this was my favourite of the dishes. The texture contrast of the tuna to its wrapping made this exceptional.
No surprise that the last of the courses would be sushi – including tuna, shrimp, mackerel and scallop (my favourite of the group). Soft and supple, I really enjoyed this.
Happy and content with a full stomach, as a fruit and custard desert was presented to me to finish my meal, I had already mentally added Tojo’s onto my favourite list. Throughout the meal, I was texting pictures of my dishes to my wife back in Saskatoon. Safe to say, a return visit will be in order for her to experience this as well.