We made Fettucini with Uni and sprinked some seaweed on top. But the only seaweed we had was some lovely roasted seaweed with Ume flakes on it. It was lovely. The sour ume and the crunchy seaweed did wonders with the richness of the Uni sauce. It was so good that instead of just sprinkling it on top I just wrapped some of the pasta in the seaweed. Yeah, it was real good.
If you've ever had a friend open a restaurant, you'll know that it can be a difficult situation. The biggest problem of course, is what if it's bad? I mean, what do you say?
So friends of ours opened a restaurant in San Francisco. And we went, and it was Awesome. Now, you can call me biased if you like. But let me tell you, I'm not. Ha. If I didn't like the place I just wouldn't say anything at all. And instead I'm saying lots.
So here it is, Izakaya Sozai in the Sunset district of San Francisco owned and operated by husband and wife team
They're great people and really love their food. Which often seem to go hand in hand to us. But that's just our opinion.
It's really fun restaurant with a great atmosphere. And if you have a chance, go sit at the bar in front of the kitchen and chat with Ritsu and Suemee, you'll enjoy it even more.
Now if you don't know what Izakaya is then I'll give you the brief and uneducated opinion. Izakayas generally center around smaller dishes that are to be shared. Some would call it bar food as Izakayas are known for drinking as much as eating, but I feel like that's cheapening the experience. Think Tapas.
So they were kind enough to just start sending out whatever they thought we'd like. And we started here.
Mushroom Fritters. They were delightful. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Japanese know something about frying that no one else does. Well, good Japanese restaurants at least. They always manage to get it crispier and less oily than everyone else. And who doesn't love good fried food?
This was the marinated mackerel. Also off the specials menu. Mackerel is one of those fish that you either love or don't. We love it. And this was brilliant. Layers of flavors, different textures, I can't hope to explain it adequately so just go and hope they have it that day.
Daikon Salad with Cilantro Vinagrette. Light and tasty.
Scallop Kiwi Sandwich, with Yuzu Salt and Jalapeno infused Oil. You always see Albacore with Jalapenos and the same old same old modern sashimi, so this is a very nice departure from the norm. Doesn't hurt that it's good too.
Thought I'd throw one in of Ritsu looking kind of gangster.
Now here's the business. I love Yakitori. I love it. It's everything that's great about grilled food. And for Yakitori I go to Nanbankan. I've been to other places and I've tried yakitori in Japan and still I keep going back to Nanbankan. I've been going there for 20 odd years (and if you've been opertating a restaurant for 20 years in LA that says something very good). And what I have to say is this.
Damn, I feel bad enjoying the yakitori at Sozai so much. I mean it's really good. Really good.
From the left lets start with the Duck Breast with Bluberry Glaze. Very Un-Nanbankan and very tasty. Fantastically tender. Duck breast can really suffer when done badly. It can dry out and become a mealy brick. Sometimes it can have too much flavor and just taste a little off. Done right? You get the crispy salty skin and the tender juicy meat and it's a delight. Topped with the fruity glaze? A french restaurant would kill to be able to do this.
Third from the left is the Chicken Skin. Yeah, chicken skin. You know you love crispy chicken skin, and this is just perfect. Crunchy, tender, salty and just chickeny. Order it and love it.
Behind the lemon is the Bacon Wrapped Mochi. You like mochi? You like Bacon? You'll love them together. Wife would've stolen mine if I hadn't grabbed when I saw her eyeing it.
And on the far right is pork cheek. If you haven't had pork cheek it's really worth trying. Often when you find pork cheek it's braised or stewed. And the conclusion you'd draw from that is that it must be tough. That would have been my guess. WRONG. It has a great texture when grilled. Maybe a little firmer than a pork chop but still juicy and so much great porky flavor.
Now you'll notice that I skipped the two skewers second from the left. I had to save them for last, as they blew our minds. Beef Tongue. And without a doubt the tastiest beef tongue I have ever had. Honest. I've had beef tongue at yakitori before, and I've had it at Korean BBQ before. Lengua tacos? Check. Tongue Tonnato? Check. Roast, Grilled, Broiled, Boiled, Braised? Tried it. I like tongue so much I made it at home .
And this was the best. By Far. Simple grilled tongue, and not skinny little slices like you're used to. Look it was more tender, juicy and tasty than any tongue I've ever had. I can't possibly begin to describe it. But I'll tell you that it's making my mouth water. Is there a secret to it? Maybe. Did I ask? Maybe. Will I ever tell? HA! Go eat it and ask for yourself.
Oh and the wonders never cease. Buta Kakuni. It's a simple dish you find everywhere. And often it's just an overlooked piece of braised pork belly. Kinda mushy, kinda salty. HA! Not at Sozai! Look Ritsu called it one of his specialites okay? So it has to be good. And really, it is. It's just so well done. Everything is soft without being mushy. The meat is tender, and the fat is so tasty. It has a little firmness to it then just melts. you have to have it.
And what do we have here? Guesses? Wrong!!! It's fried Yama Imo. The only times I've had Yama Imo (mountain potato) it's been mashed and releases all this slime. I don't like it. But fried like this? Very Very nice.
If you haven't noticed already, I really like the food at Sozai. Without a doubt it's one of the best Izakayas I've ever been to. If you like Japanese food, traditional and non-traditional, and you don't try Sozai, well...I'm not sure I can be your friend.
If you've been to London, you know M & S. For those of you who haven't been to London or any of the other countries where they operate, I'm talking about Marks and Spencer.
M & S is fantastic. It's in my book as one of the 2 best stores in the world. It's right up there with Tokyu Hands. But for those of you who haven't been you have to imagine a cross of Trader Joe's and Target, but about 100 times better, and even that doesn't do it justice.
M & S is also the largest clothing retailer in Britain. Now don't take that to mean they're selling crap. I'm no metrosexual and she's no fashionista but we like our clothes. And we love M & S. They have everything. It's wonderful.
But where they truly shine is with their food. They're much like Trader Joe's but so much better in every way. For example, take this.
So she researched and researched and asked around and finally came to Brown's Hotel. And it was awesome. How awesome? This awesome.
They had sleeves for the sweetener packets. I mean really, jackets required for patrons? No. Jackets for sweetener packets? Oh yeah. Nobody wants to look at the little pink packets, so let's class it up. Nice.
And very tasty, though my mother does slice her bread thinner.
Cakes? Oh, yeah.
Also very tasty. I'm not saying I would buy any of the cakes from the local shop, but as far as Afternoon Tea goes, they were far and away the best I've had.
But now we get to the important part.
Here's the thing, I'm not a scone person. I don't jams and jellies and cream? Be it clotted or whipped, really not my thing. Well until Brown's that was true. These scones were fantastic. (do you see a certain someone eyeballing the scones in the background?)
And the cream? The smoothest richest clotted cream I have ever had. Magnificent.
It was like warm ice cream, that didn't melt. Amazing.
So everything at Brown's was delicious. The assortment of teas was amazing. She had the whole rosebuds and I had a fantastic tea from Cornwall famous for, oh I'll let them explain it.
Cornish Grown Tea Cornwall has finally created the first true english tea, grown on home soil at tregothnan tea plantation near truro. this fine blend of cornish and assam leaves gives a unique breakfast style tea, suitable any time of the day.
Whole Rosebuds Light, graceful, stealthy notes of sweet-edged rose within a refreshingly light, leafy liquor and perfumed, languid aftertaste.
Let me summarize. Everything was fantastic.
She was very happy. As was I. And did I mention it was ALL YOU CAN EAT??? Insane! They kept offering more scones and more sandwiches and more cakes and more sandwiches!!! We had to postpone dinner.
So Vancouver has come a long way. I don't say this because of the Olympics, I say this for the Food and Drink. And for those two of my favorite things Vancouver has come a long way.
One of the latest I've tried is Chambar. And I have to say I really enjoyed it. It's on the edge of downtown and it's Belgian. It's got a lovely atmosphere. Low lighting, moody, a nice european feel (perhaps even Belgian)
And yes, as a Belgian restaurant they had a fantastic Beer list.
The food was lovely. We had a very nice Coquotte (mussels, white wine, cream, lardon(bacon) onion) with Moule Frites (terrific fries but don't let a Belgian hear you call them french fries, I made that mistake) and the Canard a l'orange was lovely.
But the real star here was Wendy. This is Wendy.
No not the asian one, you should know her by now. Wendy was the bartender. And the woman was Brilliant. And I do not say that lightly. If ever there was a mixologist...Not that I would ever call someone a mixologist as I think the term is awful.
But Wendy is a Pro. Mixes drinks beautifully, evidenced by her competing with the traveling team Canada Bartenders throughout Europe. But it's what she can makes that will just astound you.
So as I often do when I'm at a bar with an overwhelming cocktail list I asked the bartender to surprise me with whatever she wants to make. She looked at me and said "oh, so you want a dealers choice?" She proceeded to ask me what liquor I like and then came this.
or was it this.
Or was it this one that she stole from me.
I could not even begin to tell you what was what. All I know is that I ended up having about 5 different "dealers choices" none of which were on the menu. One had chartreuse, another absinthe, and another a base of bourbon. And each one was superb. So fine that Marika even ended up stealing several of my drinks so I had to order duplicates.
The photos won't do the drinks justice. You just have to try them yourself.
So here's the thing. The food was very good, definitely worth going back for, but the drinks stole the show.
Well at least until the next morning when the vast array of liqueurs, juices, sugars and who knows what else proceeded to merge into a hangover the likes of which I have seldom ever seen. But I would do it all again in an instant.