Monday, September 12, 2011

Let Them Have Sushi - A Review Of Two Restaurants Plus A Great Cupcake Find!

In August, friends of ours visited from Ottawa, Ontario; it seems that whenever people come to this part of the country, they have to go for sushi! I don't blame them, of course and I'm always happy to oblige. When our friends said they were coming for a week we knew that we would have just enough time to check out two restaurants: a tried and true favourite (Ichiro Japanese Restaurant in Richmond) and an all-you-can-eat place we'd never been to before (Tan Popo in Vancouver).
We decided to do Ichiro on a Friday night, after a stroll to Garry Point Park and through Steveston Village. It was a gorgeous day for it. The fishing boats were well stocked, interested seafood-lovers milled about on the boardwalk and we got more hungry as we anticipated that night's dinner. OK, so first of all, 2 things to remember about Ichiro: 1. They're very busy because they're very good! So, especially on a Friday night when you have a large group, you should make reservations. And 2. They are closed between the hours of 2 and 5 pm. Luckily, we were planning on an early dinner and thankfully they had room for us! The food, as always, was fabulous. Fresh, amazing quality served with a smile in a super-clean restaurant. Can you tell I love this place? My favourite rolls would have to be dynamite, california and avocado. I know - I'm not very adventurous! But Ichiro has a way of presenting even the simplest of rolls in an upscale kind of way. The price kind of reflects that. It's probably on the higher end, but it's a nice treat and one I'm willing to splurge on. Our friends were crazy about the salmon sashimi which they said was superior to anything they've tasted. I'll have to take their word for it! If you love sushi and you want to impress people with your impeccable taste in venues - check them out! Earlier that afternoon as we strolled about Steveston waiting for Ichiro to open for dinner, we stumbled upon a cute little cupcake shop on First Ave. The sign caught our attention right away! We walked in to a sweet little space with charming seating and an impressive display of treats. Needless to say, for dessert we headed straight to Bell's Bake Shop. I try and eat gluten-free when presented with an option, particularly a yummy-looking option such as the cupcakes in a special display on the counter. Coconut, no less! I love coconut! We bought 6 to go and devoured them when we got home. I really enjoyed the gluten-free coconut cupcake and the cookies 'n cream NOT gluten-free cupcake I sampled. Jennifer Bell, the owner, also told me that there were vegan options available for pre-order. Good to know for next time! Mmmmm...wish it was closer to where I live. I think I'd get to know all their flavours fairly well! Always nice to support a small business, especially one that caters to a variety of dietary needs. Yum.
A few days and several meals later, we spent a day at Stanley Park. A glorious summer Tuesday - picnic lunch at Lumberman's Arch and a walk along parts of the seawall. We were even lucky enough to spot a seal just off the shore. Tired and, of course, hungry we headed over to Tan Popo on Denman St. which was a convenient location as we left the Park. I was really excited to try this all-you-can-eat sushi place that came recommended by a friend who definitely knows her way around downtown sushi restaurants! The website really intrigued me. I made reservations given our experience at Ichiro but I really didn't need to. Probably because it was early on a weeknight, about 5 pm. Anyway, somehow I misinterpreted the website's claim "with its view of English Bay" to mean that you could actually see a lot of English Bay. I mean, you could if you sat in one particular area of the restaurant and craned your neck. But we weren't too disappointed since we had just spent a couple hours walking along the ocean. We were mostly there for the all-you-can-eat-ness of it. We did it, we ate it all, and we ate it well. The price was very reasonable for the amount that we ate but in comparing quality with Ichiro, I'd have to say Ichiro won hands-down. Plus, they didn't have a dynamite roll anywhere on their extensive menu. Uh-oh. That was a little upsetting.
I know, I know, how do you compare all-you-can-eat with a la carte? Well, I just did. I'm not giving Tan Popo a bad rating, but Ichiro comes out ahead for me in so many ways. But really, the fact that people plan their trip around West Coast sushi tells you that you can't go wrong when sampling our local delicacies Japanese-style. All in all it was a delicious visit for us and we hope to have more friends visit soon!