Suanne and I met up with Kenneth for dinner. It had been a while since we last met but over the years I had been in touch with him over Facebook. Kenneth is an avid photog and I got my interest in photography from him. The reason I am using Canon (and not Nikon) is because of him.
Kenneth had been to Barcelona a few years ago and after all these years, I still remembered the stunning pictures he took from his trip. Since Suanne and I will be vacationing in Spain this summer, I wanted to meet up and learn more about Spain. Also, I had just gotten a brand new lens and wanted to learn from the master himself since he had a similar model.
Kenneth and his wife shares a lot in common with us. They travel a lot and makes a trip to Japan at least once a year. They are going again this year and planning to dine at a Michelin 3-star restaurant (expensive!).
So with all the badgering (LOL!) I had from chowtimes reader about my constant trips to cheap sushi joints, I decided to meet up at a Izakaya. Moreover with Kenneth’s experience with Japanese food, I won’t go wrong. This is like killing THREE birds with one stone … lens, Barcelona and Izakaya. Perfect.
The Soul Robata and Izakaya restaurant must be new. I had never noticed this place before. Had I not eaten at the new Cattle Cafe (located just next door), I would not have known.
Somehow, I think there is an explosion of Izakaya restaurants in Metro Vancouver. Do you reckon? It is like a in thing these days to dine at an Izakaya and do find that people are thumbing their noses (snobs! LOL!) to cheap sushi joints.
Soul has daily specials from Mondays to Thursdays. I can’t recall which day but one of the days’ special is 50 cents oysters. I gotta check that out one of these days.
Kenneth came late and without Christina — baby problems apparently. While waiting we ordered a Japanese beer — Sapporo Premium. This is $8.50 for a large bottle. It is light bodied and had a mild bitterness. Not big alcohol drinkers ourselves, this is perfect at 5% alcohol content … even Suanne thinks it is good.
Soul has an extensive Sake menu. Ooooo … expensive! Some of them costs something like $150. I stayed away from that … my taste is not THAT refined.
Service was excellent. The wait staff who waited on us was very helpful and genuine and tolerated all my dumb questions. These are some of the things that makes it a great start to a meal.
You know, I think Soul is a Chinese owned restaurant because I thought I heard them speaking in Cantonese. That and the fact that they did not yell as loudly as in the authentic Japanese Izakaya joints. 🙂
We had to get their special of the day. It is simply called the Marinated Hamachi which costs $4.95 on Saturdays. On other days, this is $9. Taste wise, there is a hint of sharp spiciness and served with “Soul Special Sauce” … not sure what that sauce is. It is really a small serving with only 4 pieces of Hamachis. Delicious.
They call their Okonomiyaki the Homemade Japanese Pizza with Seafood. I would call it a pancake more than it is a pizza. The size of this is like a medium pizza with 6 slices. We like the base which is crunchy and crispy. According to Kenneth who had been many times to the home of the Okonomiyaki (Osaka), he finds the quality of this quite close to those he had in Osaka. This is $11.
The Sake Steamed Clams ($8) were just OK .. passable, I say. It has a very mild sake taste but the clams were rather dry’ish.
Under the Robata section, Kenneth ordered the Beef Skewer. It is $2.50 per skewer and simply seasoned with just salt. There is another way to make it but they recommended it this way as it gives the best natural flavor of the beef. The beef was quite tender. This is good and highly recommended.
They call the one above the Yaki Nasu ($4.50). It is basically steamed eggplant and served skinless. I am saying skinless because Chinese normally serves eggplants with the skin on. I find this a bit on the bland side and thought it would be better if they serve this with some kind of a sauce. The wood shavings like thingy above is called the Bonito (or so I was educated by Suanne). It is best described as “fish shavings”. I was kind of mesmerized with the moving dancing bonito flakes. LOL!
The Deep Fried Japanese Pepper Stuffed with Shrimp Paste ($6) is more like vegetable tempura with a fancy name to me. It is really light in taste and in texture. We like the dipping sauce, especially when mixed which imparts a more intense flavour to the [taking a deep breath] Deep Fried Japanese Pepper Stuffed with Shrimp Paste.
He he he … I think Kenneth was kind of still hungry. Putting words into his mouth, I think he needs carbo … like all true Chinese who need either rice or noodle or they feel they had not eaten at all. He asked for the extra dish of Mushrooms and Beef Fried Udon ($8). The udon is fried with various types of mushrooms (button, shitake, enoki) and is really creamy. This is really nice.
We hung around for a bit after the food. It was so much to catch up on after the past few years. Needless to say, I bombarded Kenneth with questions of his adventures in Spain but I think I ended up more confused than ever!
We ordered Asahi Black which I had seen being promoted a lot throughout the various Japanese restaurants these days. I had avoided this because I thought it was like Guiness Stout which conjure images of a rough working class beer drunk by labourers (I know I am going to get lambasted for saying this!). The Asahi Black was pretty good with a bit of sour-bitter lingering after taste. We like it.
We also ordered the Deep Fried Ice Cream ($4.50) with Green Tea flavour. We expected that the outer skin to be at least warm but it was not — not that it is a problem. It is just that we associate the words “deep fried” with something hotter. This was great. I can see Suanne enjoyed this a lot.
The bill came up to $72 before tips. This is for the three of us and a lot of food, I must add. I like this kind of dinners with friends, learning new stuff and trying new food.
Oh yeah, below is my new toy. I had normally used the 17-40mm f/4 L lens but for the last few months it had been giving me “Err 99” errors at the widest. I loved that lens but it is giving me so much grieve that I thought it’s about time to change it. The old lens is now with the Canon Service Center and will sell it off eBay when I get it back.
So, I got one of the best ultra wide angle lens on the Canon arsenal L lenses. In many aspect the 16-35mm f/2.8 L is similar to the 17-40mm. Both lens are perfect for table level shots of food. With both lenses, I could move to 6 inches of the food subject and yet be able quickly auto focus. With the f/2.8 aperture, it performs great in all kinds of poor lighting conditions. This lens is about as best as they can make it with today’s technology for wide angle shots.
Kenneth has the older original model while the one I bought was the Mark II. I absolutely love the 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens — it is certainly had way better optics than the 17-40mm f/4 L.