Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Waraku Sushi

The last time I had sushi in North Vancouver was at Sushi Bella, an experience that makes me steer clear of the franchise. Also on that day, I considered going to Waraku Sushi but because the exterior looked meh… I passed on the restaurant. However, I decided to give the restaurant a try after finding their Facebook page. There is not much information online but the photos on their Facebook page did not look bad. What lured me in is that the restaurant used to offer mirugai and there are a few unique dishes, so I thought perhaps the restaurant could be a little gem on the Lonsdale strip.

Walking in, the staff was welcoming and we were seated in a tatami room (minus the tatami…). The interior has a rustic look and majority of the material is unfinished wood; from the booths, dividers, pillars and the rooms to the tables. As for the seating arrangements, there are booth seats along the wall, the usual seats by the sushi bar, a few rooms at the middle of the restaurant and smaller tables on the opposite side. All the booth seats were taken when we arrived and I appreciate the waitress for seating us in a room rather than at the small tables. The restaurant is also fairly clean but the rooms could have been wiped down better.

The miso soup and a bowl of rice are included with the purchase of a lunch box bento. The soup is served hot and although there are no ingredients, there is a rich miso flavour without tasting salty.

We wanted to order uni but the waitress mentioned the restaurant was already sold out, despite arriving only a couple of hours after opening. Hearing this is better than "uni is not in season" though… which has happened more than four times within the last two weeks (and is not true). Asides from uni, we wanted a few orders of amaebi nigiri but had to stick with only one order since the restaurant offers the very small ones.

TORO ($1.80), HAMACHI ($2.95) AND AMAEBI NIGIRI ($1.95).
First up, the toro tastes very fresh and buttery. Following, the hamachi tastes fresh and the proper cut is served. Continuing along, the amaebi tastes slightly sweet and there are three small ones in an order of nigiri. As for the rice, it is a bit mushy and slightly too stiff. This is a shame because a softer rice could have highlighted the flavours of the sashimi more.

Many Japanese restaurants offer lunch bentos and usually there is a choice of teriyaki, sashimi or nigiri, and a roll, tempura, salad, rice as well as fruit. The lunch bentos are always a good deal as well as a must order, and Waraku Sushi's are a great price.

The california roll is very generic and is a favourite filler of mine. The roll tastes light, refreshing, and the creaminess from the avocado as well as the light flavour from the mayonnaise is essentially what a california roll is. In addition, the rice does not taste as mushy or stiff compared to the orders of nigiri.

The selection of tempura includes an orange pepper, eggplant, pumpkin and a couple of prawns. The batter is light, crispy and the ingredients taste moist. My favourite is the eggplant because the tempura tastes juicy. As for the prawn tempura, the medium sized prawns have a nice bounciness and are not over stretched.

Moving towards the highlight, we ordered the salmon teriyaki. Usually I prefer beef teriyaki because salmon tends to be overcooked in bentos. In this case, the salmon teriyaki is not overcooked but does taste dry, perhaps because of the use of a panini grill. In addition, there is a wet pool of water on the bottom and the sauce tastes very light. There is a very light soy and sugar flavour but no mirin, at least it is not a generic teriyaki sauce? Nevertheless, the salmon as well as the vegetables have a nice char despite the pool of water and lack of sauce.

The asari sakamushi is one of the items that lured me in because not many restaurants offer this, despite the simplicity of the dish. The sauce has a rich sake flavour along with a hint of garlic and green onion. However, the clams are a touch overcooked and some taste dry or rubbery.

We wanted to order the deluxe sashimi but for $22.95 it seemed too pricey for only salmon, tuna, ebi, tai as well as tako… and not very deluxe.
When we ordered the sashimi, the waitress provided us with the option of wild or farmed salmon and we went for atlantic for that butterier flavour. The salmon sashimi tastes fresh, buttery and fatty. As for the tuna, it was a bit icy but after waiting a few minutes the sashimi tasted great. The tuna has the perfect lower body portion cut, temperature and texture. If anything, the presentation of the tuna is a bit weird… not like it matters though.

Another dish that caught my eye is the kora yaki consisting of crab meat, chopped scallop, masago, mushroom, salmon and spinach. Majority of the ingredients taste moist but the crab meat tastes very stiff (which can be expected because it is packaged). As for the sauce, the mayonnaise base does not taste overwhelming but the flavour is very sweet. The spinach helped cut some of the sweetness but it was not that big of a deal because we scooped out the ingredients easily. Also because we liked the sweetness in the first few bites!

TOTAL: $52.75 + TIP $7.25 = $60.00.

All in all, the lunch was good. The staff at Waraku Sushi are friendly and the interior looks nice. As for the food, some dishes are better than others and the biggest disappointments would be the rice for the nigiri as well as the overcooked clams. In spite of that, Waraku Sushi is one of the better Chinese operated Japanese restaurants.

- Friendly staff
- Fresh sashimi (3.5/5)
- Cheap lunch bento boxes

- Rice for the nigiri could be better
- Deluxe sashimi has a poor selection

- Salmon teriyaki (2/5)
- Asari sakamushi (2.5/5)
- Better than Sushi Bella
- A few different dishes that are not offered at many restaurants

Food: 3/5
Service: 3.5/5

Waraku Sushi on Urbanspoon

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