No trip to Vancouver is complete without another jaunt to Zakkushi Charcoal Grill, one of our perennial Vancouver favourites. I wrote about Zakkushi previously, in April 2012, so initially I hesitated with writing a second review. But I figured enough time had passed and the true test of awesomeness is consistency between visits. So, how did Zakkushi fair this time around, over a year later? Not too shabby.
Like last time, I called ahead of our trip to make a reservation. Turns out that it wasn’t needed on a weekday evening. Most of our trips to Vancouver are over the weekends, so I was incorrectly basing our planning on the usual weekend pace. However, this was a Tuesday evening, and at 6:30pm when we arrived, only a few tables were occupied. It’s better safe than sorry, though, as the tables started to fill up steadily as the evening wore on.
It’s not that we’re particularly old or anything, but we can’t eat like we used to. Maybe that’s a good thing? So we took it fairly easy and ordered an appropriate amount of food for the two of us. This included a few of our usual favourites and a few new items to change it up a bit.
We started with a bowl of Original Oden (Chef’s Pick) that came with 5 different items: the egg, daikon, chikuwa (fish cake), mochikin (sticky rice), and lobster ball. My favourite was the mochikin, which was so different than anything I’ve ever tried. It’s like a packet of tofu encasing a rice cake filling. Yum. The broth was rich and flavourful as always, and I find it to be really comforting on a cold night.
Next up was the Daikon Salad (sliced daikon radish and cucumber with a plum dressing). This was tart, refreshing, and satisfyingly crunchy. It worked well to balance out with some of the other items that were rich and savoury.
Another new item we tried was the Age Mochi (deep fried sticky rice with sweet soy sauce), because I love all things rice cakes. I don’t think Mark was a huge fan, but I loved these (probably because of my love of all things rice cakes). They were delightfully crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
We got one of our favourites, the Umeshiso Yaki (chicken thigh with sour plum and Japanese basil), which was as tender and flavourful as I last remember. The addition of the shiso leaf (Japanese basil) elevates this otherwise simple chicken skewer.
From left to right, Uzura Maki (quail eggs wrapped with pork), Atsugiri Bacon (thick cut bacon), and Oropon Beef (“AAA” beef with grated daikon and ponzu sauce). I think we ordered the first one by accident, but it was a happy accident. The eggs were soft and the pork provided a more meatier texture to them. Sadly, I did not really enjoy the thick cut bacon (I KNOW, HOW DARE I NOT LOVE THE BACON). I thought it would be similar to Korean samgyupsal, but it missed the mark a bit. I found it much too fatty and chewy. Lastly, the beef, while flavourful, was a tad on the chewy side.
Lastly, no izakaya meal is complete without a couple of Yakioni (grilled rice ball with soy sauce or butter soy sauce). We went with the regular soy sauce vs. the butter soy sauce (not sure about butter + soy sauce, personally). I was still disappointed with these. They were just ok – nothing special like they were the first time we had them. What’s going on with your balls, Zakkushi? Get it together!
All in all, another highly satisfying and tasty meal at Zakkushi. It was actually nice to dine on a weekday afternoon – it felt a lot more subdued (in a good way) so we just got to sit and relax. We got quick, attentive, and friendly service as always, and our items came out at a nice pace. I will continue to keep Zakkushi on my list of Vancouver must-eats, but I really wish they’d fix the disappointing rice ball situation and return them to their former glory. Rice balls deserve better.
Zakkushi Charcoal Grill (Denman location)
823 Denman St
Vancouver, BC V6G2L6
Phone: (604) 685-1136