Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Shirakawa by Itoh Dining


It is pretty evident that I fell off the blogging world for a while and writing about older restaurant experiences do not always work out, especially in this case because Shirakawa closed their doors. Shirakawa was a Japanese restaurant located in Gastown, Downtown Vancouver that offered modern and traditional cuisine. And of course the authenticity of the restaurant appeared to be a wow factor as well.

Floor to ceiling glass windows, an open kitchen and the irezumi mural were my biggest eye catchers when I walked in to the restaurant. The atmosphere also makes Shirakawa one of those Japanese restaurants that are not on the top of my list to visit because I worry the quality is not there or the quality does not match the higher prices, but I decided to make a visit for lunch. You never know until you try right?

KAKI, "House-marinated, cooked oysters, on a bed of ume dressed onions, garnished with shiso" ($5.50).
Rating: 2.5/5.
Served as a cold appetizer, the oysters had a nice slippery, silky and smooth texture from the marinade and the natural flavours were there. The ume dressed onions did not really do anything for me however.

KAKUNI, "Braised pork belly served with a sweet soy reduction and karashi mustard" ($8.00).
Rating: 3.5/5.
The Kakuni was pretty good and you could tell it was actually slow braised, where the lean portion tastes tender (although a touch dry) and the fatty portion melts in the mouth. The karashi on the side tasted housemade too and had a nice spicy kick to it.

KISHU SOUR, "Bourbon, plum wine, orange, egg white, lime, plum bitters" ($13.00) AND COSMOSAKE, "Sake, cointreau, cranberry and yuzu juice" ($10.00).
Rating: 3.5/5
Starting with the well prepared Kishu Sour that exhibits the nice texture of foamy egg whites, the drink was fairly strong and the mix of plum wine went well. I also appreciated the massive cube of ice as opposed to regular sized cubes. The Cosmosake on the other hand was a light, refreshing and fruity drink.

After a couple of appetizers and the lengthy amount of time it took for the drinks to arrive, our selection of nigiri arrived shortly. We ordered the toro, hamachi, maguro, amaebi, wagyu and foie gras nigiri. As for the rice, we found the texture a touch on the harder side and not well seasoned. The rice could have had a stronger hint of vinegar overall.

TORO ($3.75) || Rating: 1.5/5.
MAGURO ($4.00) || Rating: N/A.
Beginning with the Toro Nigiri, it did not taste fresh, fatty or buttery. The toro tasted bland and dry, which was a huge disappointment considering the higher price and that Shirakawa is a Japanese operated establishment. Well in general it would be disappointing regardless of the aforementioned reasons. On top of that, we ordered Maguro Nigiri and received Albacore. I am not the type to send back dishes but I really wanted red tuna... so we mentioned this to our server who took it back to the kitchen.

To our surprise however, the sushi chef sent it back and stated this was red tuna. The albacore nigiri tasted fresh, but it was not maguro. To be fair however I posted this on Instagram, tagged the restaurant and the manager saw my post and removed it from the bill.

WAGYU ($5.00).
Rating: 2/5.
Continuing along, the Wagyu Nigiri could have been prepared more carefully as it was chewy and not flavourful.

HAMACHI ($4.00) || Rating: 3.5/5.
AMAEBI ($4.25) || Rating: 3.5/5.
Carrying on to the better selection, the Hamachi Nigiri was great. The hamachi was as fresh as it could get and exhibited that nice burgundy trim. Moreover, the amaebi tasted fresh and sweet as well.

FOIE GRAS ($7.00).
Rating: 3.5/5.
Ending the selection with the best, the Foie Gras nigiri fell apart but we did not mind so much because this was very well prepared. The generous amount of foie tasted rich, buttery, smoky and flavourful. To this date, I still have not found a restaurant that prepares foie gras nigiri as good as Shirakawa did!

GINDARA, "Saikyo miso marinated black cod, sauteed mushrooms and sundried tomato" ($15.00).
Rating: 3/5.
The first entree to arrive was the buttery cod that exhibited a hint of miso and was perfectly cooked, not a second over. The sautéed mushrooms on the bottom were well prepared as well and flavourful. The Gindara was a very simple, tasty and light dish.

RISOTTO, "Grilled prawns, scallops, salmon served with snap peas and white cream risotto, finished with dried miso" ($20.00).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The second entree we ordered was the risotto, where the texture resembled congee and was too soft. The risotto had a heavy creaminess however that my guest enjoyed (I found it too heavy). In regards to the seafood, the salmon was just cooked as well as flaky and the prawns exhibited a nice strong flame grilled charred flavour, but the scallops were overcooked, stringy, and lacked that caramelization.

The biggest disappointments at Shirakawa were that the toro was not fresh and the red tuna/albacore tuna issue. It would have been nice if the sushi chef owned up to his mistake rather than pulling a fast one on us. As for our server, she was friendly and polite despite trying to wave her down a couple of times when we were the only ones in the restaurant. 

- Nice atmosphere
- Really good foie gras nigiri

- Higher prices
- Toro was not fresh
- Maguro mistake

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 2/5

#115-12 Water Street Vancouver, BC V6N 1A5
Telephone (604) 336-6918

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