Posts Tagged ‘isakaya’

Went back to Kazu, my favourite Isakaya in town, with my friend David who is curious about exploring all kind of cuisines.

KAZU, MONTREAL - roasted salmon bellyI ordered the $15 roasted salmon belly which continues to be the finest of its kind in Montreal, the quality salmon  belly packed with the typical layer of luscious fat that made this dish so popular among Japanese isakaya fans,  the timing of the roasting simply perfect, the seasoning judicious. As the years go by, plenty of Isakayas are opening in town and yet I still haven’t stumbled upon one single Isakaya that managed to get its roasted salmon belly as beautifully rendered as Kazu’s version. 8/10  by Montreal finest Isakaya standards. David was less impressed as he prefers salmon in its raw version.

KAZU, MONTREAL - lobster saladDavid has opted for the $27 lobster salad which he seems to have preferred over the roasted salmon belly. The lobster was served both in its tail (topped by some sort of patty which nature has so far eluded both of us –I forgot to inquire about it) as well as morsels of its flesh, timely cooked to ideal palatable consistency (meaning with proper chew), Kazu is always proud of dressing virtually  everything with their  secret homemade sauce –it works as it is generally pairs well with most of their food, so I won’t complain –, the lobster certainly of good  quality  by Montreal standards. David does not rate food, which I respect, but he said that he was surprised that such  unassuming place would pull off food of this sort. My rating: 7/10 (Good).

We rounded the meal with Kazu’s soft ice cream covered with a layer of wasabi powder (for me), black tea powder (for David). David didn’t appear very  enthused about it, observing that the powder was predominant with not much of the  other ice  cream’s flavor (the milk,for eg)  within his grasp. I forgot to ask him but I also suspect that he prefers hard to soft ice cream. I personally like both hard and soft ice cream. The soft ice cream fared much better to me: In my experience, Kazu’s soft ice cream has not always been  good  (sometimes mushy in texture, sometimes the wasabi powder too subtle  in flavor), but on this evening I found it, for my taste, to boast a spectacular depth of fresh milky flavor, the wasabi powder’s aroma  fresh and enticing. In my tender childhood I  used to drink  fresh raw cow milk (milk pasteurization was an unknown notion in that part of the globe) , therefore my palate and brain have always recorded that taste as their ‘ preferred One’. The soft ice cream that I was enjoying this evening tasted of fresh raw cow milk, the sort of  milky flavor that you’ll rarely get to sample in most parts of Europe and America nowadays. For me, a benchmark soft ice cream  10/10.

Personal overall food rating for this meal: 8/10 My  best Mtl isakaya meal since a long time and isakayas keep multiplying in town, so imagine.  It was reassuring to see Kazu back on  (almost) top form after my last disappointing meal under this very same roof  (last time I dined here, my  pork neck bbq seemed, to me,  reheated rather than grilled ‘on the spot’, the oftently exciting braised mono octopus leg  missing its  addictive chargrill flavor — in such conditions, the octopus leg’s dish  equates to an over-priced and meagerly  portioned offering).  On this evening everything was cooked to order and tasted delicious. Not Kazu in his prime, but  Kazu on a great day.

Conclusion: Despite disadvantages that could considerably weaken plenty of other restaurants (the inevitable line up,  the hole-in-a-wall decor, cramped ambience), Kazu manages to maintain itself ahead of its local competitors.  It is not a perfect place (some items are cheap but those are the insignificant ones, most are a bit pricey …which defeats the point of eating cheapily at isakayas, portions are less and less sizeable), but few are delivering better tasting isakaya fares in Montreal.  Kazu is bold, rustic, entirely Japanese Isakaya (Chef and staff are Japanese,  the food benefits from contemporary touches — Kazu-san was working at restaurant Toque! before, so he brought some  of their fine dining’s contemporary aspects with him — , indeed, but it is, in its  essence, as Japanese as you’ll get from an Isakaya in Montreal).

Raku, Brossard

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Japanese food
Tags: , , ,

Raku
Dinner on Wednesday April 9th 2014
Type of restaurant : Isakaya (Japanese Bistrot)
Addr: 8080 Boulevard Taschereau, Brossard, QC J4X 1C2
(450) 671-7386
http://rakusushi.ca/

RAKU 01

 

 

 

 

 

Raku is the other restaurant (after Yasu) that I ate at during a quick visit of South shore Montreal. It’s located in a mall center.

Being an isakaya, I did not expect much from their sushi but I still tried the red snapper sushi just to see how the sushi is crafted here (they do have a full list of sushis):

RAKU 2I picked  the red snapper sushi. The rice packed too tight for my liking, the bite way too firm and the fish (served cold) adhering (way too) persistently to the rice (adherence is needed when crafting a piece of nigiri, but certainly  not to such extent…And by stretching the flesh of the fish –over half the sushi’s height —  the way they did, the texture of the flesh was consequently…unappealing??). As you’ll see later, this is a competent Chef, and at his level I doubt he can’t craft the (conventional) sushi that we know, so all I can think about is that he is perhaps bored with sushis in its conventional form and and he is trying sushi in a different way (???).  You’ll certainly be critical if you head there expecting your usual conventional sushis and end up getting what I had (who knows, perhaps it’s done differently on other days), perhaps less critical when you’ll learn that many aspects of that sushi piece are not necessarily a flaw if you consider that in some parts of the world, the fish of the sushi is served colder than what you might be used to…yep, yep, and yep! That the texture of that rice is considered as ‘normal” elsewhere). Ha, you see…a totally new perspective now, Lol. Anyways, I still did not like that sushi (expecting someone like me who grew up in a fishermen village to be enthused with cold cuts of fish is a bit like expecting the moon to behave like  the sun ;p) , but again…that’s (more accurately) only because I prefer the type of sushis most are accustomed to. Therefore, I can’t score this one.

Spiced red tuna (you can see it accompanying the red snapper sushi on th eprevious pic) starred decent texture, but the seasoning (although certainly not bad) remained not particularly exciting (yes, it was indeed spicy as in ‘hot on that tongue’ kind of feeling, but you won’t have hard time finding better versions of this item right here in Montreal and its surroundings. 5/10

RAKU 3Then, the dish that would determine my appreciation of this isakaya, the simple sounding takoyaki balls. As ever, this is the type of dish that captivates my attention since it’s easy to overlook the details that set apart the good (it’s usually hard to not miss a decent rendition of the takoyaki balls – which is why I was disappointed by the meal at Yasu earlier on)  from the great  when it comes to those octopus-filled snacks. This was a refined take on most of the original renditions  of the takoyaki balls, so obviously not your usual sweet and rich bold tasting and  rustic looking takoyaki balls, rather a gourmet version of it, but a version that will reveal, if you have an eye for such details, some serious technical mastery: the texture superbly puffy , a texture that would make any ambitious pastry team really proud. The touch of (quality) Mayo kept to minimal use so that the (delicious) octopus filling as well as its (flawless)  takoyaki sauce take front stage. An inspired take on the takoyaki ball, its refinement absolutely pertinent.  Easily the finest takoyaki balls I ever sampled in Montreal (along those at Kyo, which were as great  but somehow a bit different in conception). 10/10

RAKU 4

 

 

 

Ended the meal with their eggplant  tempuras which light batter was achieved skillfully.   Of course, we are limited by the quality of the eggplants (ha..it’s not the the Mediterranea…so the eggplant did not have the depth of taste it could have – and NO it would not make that much difference if it was in eggplant season,  since we do import them anyways….), found locally but this is almost (Kyo remains the isakaya that does this the best in Mtl and surroundings) as good as your eggplant tempura will look and taste like in Montreal and its surroundings. My dining companion complaining that the eggplant  should have been seasoned, but I disagree with such suggestion since, for me, the point of a good tempura is to let the star ingredient’s inherent flavor unaltered (the batter needs to be well done to accomplish that feature, which is what they did).  8/10 by Montreal & surroundings standards

Verdict: 7/10  By Isakaya standards in Montreal and surroundings. South Shore Montreal has now an Isakaya that  they can be proud of. No need anymore to head to Montreal. Raku has a Chef who –by our local standards —  can certainly surprise with some inspired creations (his takoyaki, on this evening, being a great example). If you stick to proper isakaya items and factor the fact that they are more into refinement rather than bold isakaya textures/flavors,  you’ll certainly appreciate that this Chef performs a notch above the norm for this kind of food  in Mtl & its surroundings.

What I think weeks later : The Chef has skills, that’s clear (It would take an utterly naïve mind to believe that such brilliant takoyaki balls can only come from a poorly skilled Chef ). Still, those skills would have been no evidence to you if you had sampled that sushi or the tuna tartare.  It’s always unfortunate that  such poorly conceived tartare (the seasoning  did impart an unappetizing taste to the tartare) and sushi  (I know I am not in Japan, lol, but please..an effort..) could be enjoyed under the same roof as such dazzling takoyaki balls, or that well conceived tempura.  If only they could quell the disappointment of items like that sushi or tuna tartare, as those are problems that are easy to address…because for now, whenever  I’ll go back, I’ll remember that here…anything can happen;p