Right next to the Holdom Skytrain Station in central Burnaby, is a comfortable, friendly, slightly surreal sushi joint called Sushimoto. It’s a somewhat sleek and very unique venue.

Aside from the great fare, the room is full of interesting knick-knacks. Some traditional Japanese, some quirky eye candy. There’s the requisite paper lanterns but there’s also a cool collection of action figures.

The detail on Tony Montana is freaking eerie…right down to the five o’clock shadow!

I’ve been meaning to hit this place up for quite awhile. Since I first saw their vibrant menu and then read the continuing stream of positive commentary, it was obvious that this was a spot to go to for stellar eats.

Sushimoto offers up some pretty decent lunch specials. One of them is the Maki Roll, Miso Soup, Sunomono Combo. For $9.99 you choose from one of eight specialty rolls and your choice of Vegetable, Tako or Ebi Sunomono.

Quite a substantial sunomono. Nearly double the size I’ve become accustomed to in a combo setting. Clean, cool and very fresh.

The Red Hot Chili Roll really hit the mark. Great sushi rice to start…perfectly cooked and seasoned. A nice, creamy scallop filling topped with spicy tuna and drizzled with spicy sauce & mayo. It has a bit of zip…no serious heat factor, though.


Okonomi Sushi

The latest addition to New Westminster’s growing Asian restaurant scene is Okonomi Sushi on Sixth St. They recently took over the spot that The Orange Room previously occupied. Okonomi has another location in New West down on Fourth St. I was a bit surprised to see a second one open so close. Then again, this stretch of Sixth St. is in definite need of quality Japanese.

Sherman and I arrived on a Monday at noon to a warm and inviting yet deserted room. Knowing we’d be eating large, we grabbed a four-top for extra room. Our very friendly server presented us with one of the heftiest menus I’ve come across.

Weighing in at around two pounds (at least it felt like that!) this menu is absolutely loaded with options, 199 to be exact. To get a good sense of the fare, we opted for the Okonamiyaki & Tempura combo as well as the Special Assorted Combo A.

As the main parts of our meals were being prepared, we were peppered with an assortment of appies and sides.


Ali Shan Taiwanese

Ali Shan is another one of those places I’ve walked by many times on my way into Crystal Court. I’ll pause awhile, peruse the colorful array of food photos, and keep on going. Finally, after many months, I stopped in for a quick lunch.

This is a small, comfortable and welcoming room that fills up fast over the lunch hour. It’s located on the south side of the mall, across from the library, right next to the entrance to the parkade from hell. Here’s a tip for whenever you want to hit Crystal Court…grab a spot at Station Square. It’s a short walk and it’s free. You will, however, miss the never-ending entertainment of circular parking.

***Since I started writing this (yesterday), Ali Shan has closed this location and moved shop around the corner. They are now two doors down from Green Bamboo, a big-time favorite of mine! The new store hasn’t yet opened. A server told me they plan on opening sometime in May.

This post is a compilation of three visits. The first two were solo scouting missions, the third one I dragged in Becky & The Gut for a table-filling chowdown.

Ali Shan’s menu consists mainly of cafe-style Taiwanese with a few hints of Korean and Japanese.

Dang. Too many good options. Being in the mood for something spicy (as usual) but not soup-wise, it took awhile to choose. Luckily, there was a big poster displaying the ”Spicy Stired Beef with Rice Cake”. Sounds good to me!

At first glance, I was just a bit worried. The tubes of rice cake looked to be on the hefty side. Turns out they weren’t at all…fantastic these were! Rather light, actually. They picked up the sweet and spicy sauce beautifully. A great plate, this.


Lion’s Den Cafe

Obviously, the one word that sums up the Greater Vancouver food scene is, “diverse”. The vast range of ethnic food in these parts is simply staggering. An especially cool aspect of all that ethnicity is when multiple cuisines converge in one restaurant. At the Lion’s Den Cafe, the Jamaican-born owner and his Japanese wife have created Vancouver’s first “Japaribbean” restaurant.

The menu is primarily Caribbean fare and breakfast sprinkled with a few Japanese items. There’s even a Jerk & Teriyaki combo so both cuisines can reside harmoniously on one plate.

Along for this Japaribbean cruise were Kim from I’m Only Here Fore The Food, Jessica and Mark from Yum-O-Rama, Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures and Elaine from parkerpages. Sherman, the stalwart that he is, joined us even though battling a seemingly never-ending bout with the flu. Looks like seventeen hockey games a week and eating at every restaurant he drives by finally caught up with him.

This Sunday lunch-feast took place on an exceptionally beautiful spring day. So nice, in fact, that I grabbed the big table on the sidewalk. Kind of a no-brainer as the small restaurant was completely full.

After everyone was settled in and menu items were decided upon we waited for our server. Then we waited a bit more. Hey! Aren’t the people who take our orders supposed to do the waiting? After some more waiting I went inside and placed our order.

This is a salad.

Luckily, it was a really nice day and no one was in a big hurry. As my breakfast consisted of  coffee, I was a wee bit peckish. I managed to stave off my hunger with a bottle of ginger beer. After a good half-hour the plates started to roll in.


Tomoya Japanese

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining Ben from Chowtimes for lunch at Kura in Burnaby. It was a unique experience in that I’m still somewhat unfamiliar with uncommon Japanese cuisine. A simple suggestion to deviate from the mundane, everyday fare was all it took. A light kick in the pants is all I need when it comes to discovering great food.

As a follow-up to Kura, Ben suggested Tomoya Japanese on Nelson. Another foodie friend told me Tomoya was a top pick in Burnaby. This place is starting to look better and better.

The complimentary Miso Soup…a great way to get the gustatory juices flowing.

As per Ben’s suggestion of trying out unfamiliar items, I chose the Takoyaki. They are basically doughy balls of seafood, fried and smothered in, what seems like, Italian dressing. Somewhat tasty but not a big hit. On the other hand, this next dish is phenomenal.


Kura Japanese

Here’s a question we’ve debated a little bit around the office: Does it matter if the owners and staff of a restaurant are from the same country as the food they serve? The short answer, it seems is, yes. Some would say there’s good food too be had in ”non-authentic” restaurants. That is very true. Plus the food in those places is usually cheaper, making them even more attractive. The common denominator always ends up being quantity over quality. When it comes to Japanese restaurants, the majority (at least in the Burnaby-New West area) aren’t ”authentic”. One exception is Kura Japanese.

Kura has probably the most unique façades for a Burnaby restaurant. The front door is a stunning piece of work. Ornate wrought iron overlayed on thick, ancient-looking hardwood with metal rings as doorhandles…a solid piece of craftsmanship. I’m quite curious where this door originated from…it looks to have had some history.

Another intriguing aspect is the thick slab of wood overhead. Translation? Anyone?

Judging from the entryway and from what I had heard about Kura, I had a very good feeling about this spot.


Kingsway Sushi

There’s something slightly different when a group of folk gather for all-you-can-eat. For some at the table, it’s a challenge to see if you can put back twelve bucks worth of food. Most often you’ll pay for a dish, sight unseen and pay what the menu says. With AYCE, one is given the opportunity to try and gorge himself in the hope of getting ultimate value in his meal. It’s a no-win situation. Even if you succeed in stuffing yourself silly with said amount of mediocre food, you’ll inevitably wind up regretting it. The slow and steady approach is obviously the best. Right now, I’m about midway between the smart, slow method and the “Load the table, let’s eat!” tact.

After several visits to Kingsway Sushi, I’ve come to realize “more isn’t good”. It’s best to figure out and order the better menu items than to haphazardly order everything off the list. In this case, the majority of the menu is fairly decent.

Kingsway Sushi is one of a handful of Chinese-owned Japanese AYCE restaurants in the Burnaby-New West area. None of them are exceptional, but this spot offers up quite a few tasty options.

This is also one of the most efficient AYCE places around. The servers, armed with PDA’s, send your order to the kitchen. The pre-made appetizers arrive in the blink of an eye.