Monday, March 16, 2015

Hachibei


Hachibei is a small neighbourhood restaurant, Japanese owned and operated. A cozy establishment located on West 16th between Cambie and Oak Street. Normally I am not one to jump to every authentic Japanese restaurant because I have had my share of negative experiences, but lately I have been wanting to give them another go.

We arrived on a Friday evening and the restaurant was only half full by the time we left (I have heard that there are line ups and reservations are recommended). The interior is very simple and reminds me of a few tiny eateries in the really small villages of China. There are also around only ten tables and the restaurant is a fairly tight, but we did not find the seating arrangements cramped because we had a whole section to ourselves.


TUNA SASHIMI ($15.00).
Rating: 3/5.
The tuna is served from a fridge cold bowl to help remain the cool temperature and the pieces are nicely sliced into thick, but short pieces of sashimi. The sashimi also tastes fresh but if considering the higher price point, I would have preferred the proper lower body portion of the tuna for that extra flavour. Especially when considering that Hachibei is a Japanese operated establishment.

TUNA ($2.50) AND SOCKEYE SALMON NIGIRI ($2.50).
Rating: 2/5.
Hachibei offers only three types of nigiri, tuna, salmon and tamago at $2.50 each. My expectations were fairly high because 1. Hachibei is Japanese run; 2. The selection of nigiri are limited and; 3. The prices are on the higher side. However, the quality does not match the price.

The formation of the rice is too soft and every order of nigiri falls apart. The rice could have been more seasoned as well and if compared to other Japanese run establishments, we could not taste each individual grain (like at Takumi Sushi). As for the tuna, the nigiri tastes more fresh than the salmon which is more on the warm side.

STEAMED CLAMS WITH SAKE ($6.90).
Rating: 1/5.
The Steamed Clams with Sake is more like an asari miso soup, without the miso. There is no hint of sake and the soup base is literally a clear broth. Perhaps the addition of sake was forgotten? Asides from the bland broth, the clams are also overcooked and taste rubbery.

DEEP FRIED SOFT SHELL CRAB ($6.95).
Rating: 3.5/5.
When the soft shell crab arrived at the table, the batter looked thick, really crunchy and average. But, this is no average soft shell crab. The batter is extremely light, crispy and very well seasoned. Hachibei makes one of the best batters for soft shell crab that I have had. The sauce however, is overly tart, too acidic and overwhelming. Where is the dollop of carrot too?

GREEN ONION AND FATTY TUNA ROLL ($3.95).
Rating: 3/5.
Since Hachibei does not offer toro sashimi or nigiri, their negitoro roll is a must order. Why? Because the restaurant uses actual toro in the negitoro! There is no BS scraps of minced tuna. Instead, the roll consists of fresh, fatty and rich toro minced with green onion. I would have given the roll a higher rating but the seaweed is soggy.

SALMON TERIYAKI COMBO BOX, "Tempura, goma-ae, California roll" ($18.00).
Rating: 1/5.
The salmon has a nice barbecued flavour along with a crispy skin, but unfortunately it is overcooked and tastes very dry. As for the teriyaki sauce, the consistency is fairly watery and tastes very light. The teriyaki sauce is practically bland to be honest.

GOMA-AE, Rating: 1/5.
The goma-ae tastes light and refreshing, but there is no hint of peanut sauce or miso paste. Hachibei's variation consists of poached spinach with black pepper and sesame.

TEMPURA, Rating: 1/5.
The selection of tempura includes a couple of prawns, a carrot and potato. The prawns are small stretched out shrimp which is fine, but the steam from the prawns resulted in soggy along with limp tempura. Also again, because Hachibei is Japanese run, the restaurant could have used actual prawns rather than shrimp. As for the carrot and the potato, the batter is not as doughy and is only soggy. The tempura overall is a huge disappointment because the only difference between the ones here and Hwasarang, is that these are less soggy compared to the latter.

CALIFORNIA ROLL, Rating: 3/5.
The California roll has minimal cucumber and crab meat, but plenty of avocado which I prefer. The roll is also light on the mayonnaise and is evenly rolled with sesame seeds.

MISO SOUP, Rating: 1/5.
The miso soup includes seaweed and green onion, but no tofu. The flavour of the miso is also lacking in the soup and tastes fairly bland.

BARBECUE FISH SPANISH MACKEREL TEISHOKU, "Served with rice, miso soup and two kinds of daily dishes" ($15.50).
Asides from being known as a Japanese operated establishment, Hachibei is apparently know for their teishoku, which is a set menu. Only a few of their teishoku includes gomae, kinpira, tamago and tsukemono.

MISO SOUP AND TSUKEMONO, PICKLED CUCUMBER AND OSHINKO.
Rating: 1.5/5.
For the miso soup which is included in my friend's teishoku, it includes tofu puff, tofu, seaweed and green onion! The selection of ingredients are better because, well, there is more, but the miso flavour is lacking as well. As for the tsukemono, the cucumber and oshinko have a very light pickled flavour.

AGEDASHI TOFU, Rating 2/5.
The agedashi incudes a couple of large and thick pieces of tofu, but are unfortunately very soggy. The broth is fairly tasty though and I like the mild sweetness, but there could have been a bit more mirin.

GOMA-AE, Rating 1/5 || KINPIRA, Rating 2/5 || TAMAGO, Rating 3/5.
The kinpira consists of lotus root and there is not really any flavour, tasting more savoury than sweet. As for the tamago, there are plenty of fluffly and thin layers. There is also a medium level of sweetness and usually there is only a mild, but I like how it is sweeter.

SPANISH MACKEREL, Rating: 2.5/5.
The mackerel has a mild smokey flavour but tastes dry along with stiff, and not juicy at all.

TOTAL: $80.10 + TIP $9.90 = $90.00.

I was not expecting to spend so much on dinner for two people, and it was not until after settling the bill that I realized the quality of food does not match the higher prices. Some of the fried food are not crispy, the nigiri are poorly constructed and majority of the cooked items are overcooked. The menu is also fairly limited which is fine, but this is not the case where a limited menu ensures consistent and quality food.

POSITIVES
- Friendly staff
- Great batter on the soft shell crab
- For those who claim authenticity is better
- One of the few restaurants that offer housemade tamago

NEGATIVES
- Soggy tempura and agedashi tofu
- Majority of the food is below average
- Food could be better for a Japanese run joint
- Quality of food does not match the high prices

Food: 2/5
Service: 3/5

HACHIBEI
778 West 16th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5Z 4L5
Telephone (604) 879-3357
www.hachibei.ca
Hachibei on Urbanspoon

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