Monday, March 2, 2015


Sometimes when people walk into an empty restaurant (especially during a period that should be busy) they may be skeptical. Why is the restaurant empty? Why are there no seated tables? Does the restaurant have a bad reputation? As for myself however, I never think much of an empty restaurant. In fact, I truly want to believe that empty restaurants are underrated which is why I like trying small family owned establishments or new restaurants. This includes Hwasarang, which was an empty restaurant on a weekday during the lunch rush hour.

Hwasarang is located on Denman and Haro street in Downtown Vancouver, serving Korean and Japanese cuisine. Majority of the items on the menu are Japanese oriented such as sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and udon, but there is one page of Korean dishes. Although unfortunately the restaurant does not offer galbi or gamjatang.

Like many Korean owned Japanese restaurants, Hwasarang has a faux white cherry blossom tree in the centre of the restaurant. The restaurant also has well spaced out tables and the seating arrangements are not too cramped.

Rating: 0/5.
The miso soup is included with an order of a lunch box and the soup is served hot, so no warm BS here. But, the miso soup tastes very bland and there is no flavour at all.

The Beef Teriyaki Lunch Box includes a side of salad, a california roll, a couple of deep fried gyoza, beef teriyaki and tempura. The green salad is actually the best item from the lunch box, consisting of a slice of fresh along with ripe avocado, dressed with ponzu and a hint of sesame oil, and topped with alfalfa sprouts! Yeah, the highlight is definitely the alfalfa sprouts.

Beef Teriyaki, Rating: 1.5/5.
As for the entree portion of the lunch box, the beef teriyaki is all clumped up. On top of that, there is no caramelization, the beef tastes boiled and the meat is not even tender. The teriyaki does not include a bedding of rice either and the amount of vegetables are minimal compared to other restaurants. I like how the teriyaki is not drenched with sauce though, despite that the flavour is very mild and the sauce is cold.

California Roll, Rating: 2.5/5.
The california roll tastes moist and not dry, while also being easy on the mayonnaise. I consider california rolls as generic fillers and never really have a "bad one" but if I ordered this a la carte, I would like to see more avocado and sesame seeds.

Tempura, Rating: 0/5.
The selection of tempura includes a couple of prawns and a piece of yam along with pumpkin. Also like exhibited in the photo, the tempura is a soggy mess. The limp prawns along with the soggy batter are not what tempura is. As for the fried gyoza, it tastes better than the tempura because the wrapper is not soggy. The wrapper is not crisp though and is pretty soft.

TORO NIGIRI ($2.00), HAMACHI NIGIRI ($2.00) AND UNI ($2.50).
Having learned from my mistakes in the past with regards to ordering sushi at a slow restaurant, I always make sure to ask if the toro and hamachi are fresh. This way if the sashimi does not look fresh when it arrives at the table, it can always be sent back. Although despite promising myself to start doing that, I still never do.

First up, the toro nigiri lacks that rich fattiness in, well, toro… and there is a fishy flavour. The toro is not fresh one bit. What does look fresh however, is the hamachi. Exhibiting a dark deep burgundy red border, the hamachi tastes fresh and buttery. As for the hamachi nigiri overall, it is literally a thick slice of sashimi that is slapped on a log of rice. When we picked up each piece, the sashimi fell off the rice. Is Hwasarang trying to be unique? The nigiri was awkward to pick up and imbalanced.

Another "uniquely" presented item would be the uni, which is executed in a round shape rather than an oval. Well, thank goodness for packaged uni because nothing can go wrong here. The uni tastes fresh and exhibits that naturally sweet taste and creaminess. As for the rice throughout the orders of nigiri, it is a touch too hard but the seasoning is not bad. The rice does not taste bland or too vinegary.

SPECIAL ASSORTED TEMPURA, "Assorted tempura, 2 pcs lobster, 1pc salmon and 1pc tuna" ($20.00).
Rating: 0/5.
Not many Japanese restaurants offer lobster tempura so when I saw the opportunity, I took it. But after trying the tempura from the Beef Teriyaki Lunch Box, I wish we could have cancelled our order. The selection includes a couple of yams along with prawns, red and green pepper, salmon, tuna, asparagus, broccoli and two lobster tails. The tempura pretty much costs $10.00 extra for the lobster tails, tuna and salmon.

Beginning with the positives, the tempura are somewhat nicely presented and are not dripping with oil. Now for the bad news, the oil was not hot enough which resulted in doughy and soggy tempura. Moreover, the ingredients are overcooked! Under fried but overcooked tempura? Really? The tuna and salmon tempura are not even battered too, but the kitchen fried the heck out of them which resulted in stringy and dry kebabs. The tuna actually tastes rock hard, resembling dry and overcooked white chicken meat.

As for the lobster tempura, the tails were not defrosted properly, have no flavour, taste stiff and are chick tails. These are not even remotely comparable to Hirame Sushi's. I mean, even the broccoli tempura tastes soggy and this is a first for me because usually they taste crunchy and juicy.

TOTAL: $48.30 + TIP $5.70 = $54.00.

As a new restaurant, Hwasarang fails in regards to their food quality and service. Why is a piece of sashimi on top of rice called nigiri? How is fishy toro, fresh? Since when is tempura overcooked and under fried? I decided to speak up about the poor quality of food after paying just to let the restaurant know and hopefully they can improve in the future. The waitress's response was, "oh really?". Well… yeah, why would I bother telling you something that is not true? Whatever, being a lady, I understand that eyebrows are important and she was more concerned about hers than our crappy lunch. The waitress did not even remove empty plates from our table when we needed more space, or remove the empty plates that we placed on the table beside us too. Good luck Hwasarang.

- Nice addition of alfalfa sprouts on the salad
- Prices are not high for Downtown (although they should not be for the quality)

- Fishy toro
- Below average food
- Doughy and soft tempura
- Inexperienced waitress
- Inexperienced kitchen staff
- Did we order nigiri or sashimi?

Food: 1/5
Service: 2/5

851 Denman Street Vancouver, BC V6G 2L8
Telephone (604) 568-8767
Hwasarang on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Ms VP - just wanted to let you know the cross street is Haro, not Robson (next block down) :-)



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