Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill : Downtown Location

After having what was supposedly dinner at Simba's Grill, we were still hungry and headed literally next door to Zakkushi Charcoal Grill. The izakaya uses Binchotan which is a Japanese charcoal that produces no flame or smoke (although I have seen photos of flames from Zakkushi?), making it comfortable for those who only go to barbecue restaurants on "laundry" or "wash hair at night" days… like me.

Similar to most izakayas, Zakkushi is not very big. The restaurant is long and narrow but surprisingly the seating arrangements are not cramped. Menus are provided on every table and kept there, which is great for those who like to order a bit and add additional orders later.

MISO ODEN, CHIKUWA ($1.80), GYUSUJI ($2.10), TOFU (1.90), EGG ($1.80) AND MOCHIKIN ($2.40).
Rating: 1.5/5.
Zakkushi offers an original or miso oden along with a chef's selection or an a la carte option. We chose the miso oden and selected five ingredients which include fish cake, tofu, beef tendon, mochi in a bean curd pouch, and an egg. The miso ingredients cost $0.10 more than the original and does not include any broth, which we did not know or expect.

In addition, there is no miso flavour whatsoever and karashi may only be available with orders of the original oden. As for the ingredients, the egg, tofu and fish cake taste very generic (as always). Further on, the beef tendon tastes soft but neither moist nor dry and includes a mix of brisket. Last up and a favourite of mine, the bean curd pouch ripped and the mochi leaked out. We also wanted daikon but Zakkushi sold out. As for the "broth" at the bottom of the bowl, there is a light sweet soy flavour and the brush of hatcho miso has no taste.

UZURA MAKI "Quail eggs wrapped with pork" ($2.40), UMESHISO YAKI "Chicken thigh with sour plum and Japanese basil" ($2.00), TOMATO WITH BASIL ($1.80), OKRA WITH SOY SAUCE AND BONTIO FLAKES ($1.70).
Rating: 1.5/5.
Being cheap and rarely having expectations for Japanese izayakas and tapas, I insisted on ordering only one kushiyaki per choice to test out the waters. Beginning with the Uzura Maki, the quail egg is fully cooked through but does crumble apart. Moreover, the bacon tastes very chewy and there is not even the slightest hint of a smokiness… let alone a crispiness or any browning. Pair that with a cold drizzle of Japanese mayonnaise and a luke warm kushiyaki, it ain't so good. Following, the chicken in the Umeshiso Yaki tastes tender but again is lacking that char flavour and caramelization. Furthermore, the sour plum tastes very tart and the flavour is followed by a refreshing taste from the basil. Both flavours do not match and I believe it may be because of the lack of smokiness.

Continuing along, the tomatoes taste juicy and have a light basil flavour. The tomatoes are pretty much the only kushiyaki we enjoyed because well, nothing can go wrong. Last up is the Okra, which is not well executed. There was no attempt at all to reduce the slime in the okra and when eating, the gooey interior stuck to the roof of my mouth. In a disturbing explanation, the gooeyness resembles slimy thick phlegm which was hard to swallow and my mouth literally dried up. The sliminess really stuck to the roof of my mouth and it was really uncomfortable.

Rating: 2.5/5 (salmon 2/5).
The bite sizes of sashimi have a nice thickness, but the salmon should have been more cool. The salmon sashimi tastes warm and not properly stored, but in no way was it rancid. As for the tuna, the sashimi tastes more fresh and at a nice temperature. The middle body portion of the tuna is served so the sashimi does not taste bland either.

Rating: 3/5.
"Do we eat it like this? Without cutlery?" I asked my man before grabbing the chop, which was easier than I thought. The lamb chop is cooked all the way through and tastes juicy. Furthermore, there is a nice crisp crust along with a simple and light seasoning, and a mild gamey flavour. I could not help but think back to how only less than half an hour earlier, the lamb chops tasted unpleasant at Simba's Grill.

TOTAL: $38.85 + TIP $6.15 = $45.00.

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill is disappointing overall. Our plan was to start off with only a few items and because the menus are kept on the table, we could order more along the way. However, the kushiyakas are not even good which is odd for a restaurant that supposedly specializes in them! Forget about a smokiness, the kushiyakas do not even have a caramelization. In addition, even if we wanted to order more, none of the staff was around despite that the restaurant was not understaffed. We even waited ten minutes just for water and the restaurant was only at a 65% occupancy when we arrived. By the time we left however, majority of the bar seats were taken and I assume the restaurant is busier on weekends.

- Friendly staff
- Non rushed atmosphere (great for those who are here to snack and drink)

- Inattentive staff
- Signature items are below average

- When we inquired if the ribeye steak is previously frozen, we were glad to hear it is not. However, our waitress came back and mentioned the kitchen confirmed the steaks are frozen. I appreciate her actually asking in the first place and not just guessing, because some staff do

Food: 2/5
Service: 2.5/5

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon

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