Japanese


I often get sushi cravings considering there isn’t a multitude of good places to go in Kingston which is real shame. So when I manage to make the trip back to Toronto I instantly think of certain foods in hopes of satisfying my cravings until I finally come home for the summer. I have a definite fav place to go for my sushi craving which is out in Whitby (Sushi Mountain, yum!) but I’m always open to new suggestions especially ones closer to where I live. A friend of mine, J suggested heading to a place in Markham for All U Can Eat and I was happy to accompany. I had limited amounts of time to spend so we decided to go for lunch.

I had come to this specific plaza several times to visit other surrounding places but had never noticed the Japanese sushi place on the side. J often came here with friends for crazy feasts from what he described. I was certainly eager to see what they had and definitely hungry.

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UPDATED 01/12/09 @ 3:45PM — I forgot a few more dishes so for those who have already read this post, check the end to see even more food from the party

New Year’s is a huge event for my family because it’s a two fold celebration. In addition to the general excitement for the new year, New Year’s day happens to be my father’s birthday. My family throws an annual New Year’s bash, invite all of our family and friends and party from the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. Because it is such a long event and there are more people than the normal get-together, there’s a pretty big spread on our table.

After a year of numerous parties, my family tends to feel like we’ve gone through the majority of the Filipino dishes out there. Therefore, we like to attempt to ring in a new year with different food that isn’t always typically seen at a Filipino party. When deciding upon the menu, we consulted a variety of sources for inspiration and recipes and came up with a menu that features some of our most favourite dishes, some experimental food and some tried and true Filipino food.

Recipes that I reviewed

Recipes from various sources

Click to see more food from the party!

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I know I am terribly over due for a post and I have several (decent) reasons. First is the fact that I went home for my Christmas vacation and although you make think that I would have more time to update since I have no school to distract me, its actual more time-consuming as there are more responsibilities and duties while at home. During the holiday season there are several parties to attend, a lot of shopping/errands to run and many attempts at cleaning the house. Second is the fact that although as readers, there are no new posts, I do work on the behind the scenes stuff. For example, I’ve really been working on generating more readership that is stable. I’ve been joining other blogging/food networks to promote the blog because my secondary goal for this blog is to gain a decent amount of readership. I think I’ve done very well for only 3 months of publication and I hope that things only get better from here on out. I also spend a lot of time uploading/editing photos. My lighting and camera quality are not always the best so I do take the time to edit photos to make them as appetizing as possible. I’m trying to do the research needed to improve my photography skills so that I can cut down on editing. So I’ve caught up on editing, done a good chunk of promotion and gained more readership so now its time to get back to what it’s all about; food posts!

We’re gonna go way back to feature the main party food for this Christmas season. This is what a Filipino feast is like during the holiday season, in particular my home for New Year’s. Warning: this post is picture heavy!

For the annual Christmas day party, our family friends take turn on rotation deciding who will host it. This year it was held at my uncle’s house in Whitby from lunchtime until dinner. It was a potluck event and everyone was required to bring something. My family had decided to bring shrimp & vegetable tempura. It was also our opportunity to open our gifts with everyone else. Shortly after, I fell asleep from just exhaustion of the past few days. I awoke in time to eat a little bit of dinner, picture taking with the family and then headed home. But back to the food. There were tons and I wanted to feature all of them.

This was a black forest cake made by a family friend who specializes in baking. I’m not a huge fan of black forest cake, primarily because I’m not a fan of cherries. However, I was informed by my all-cake-loving sister that it was delicious. It was a beautiful cake fit for the season.

This was the tempura my family had brought. We used shrimp, eggplant, sweet potato and green peppers. It was a hit at the party and there were hardly any left overs. My favourite is always the sweet potato. It wasn’t as crisp as it could be since it was cooked earlier in the day but it was still very delicious and very easy to make.

Click to see more photos!

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Time again for some random meals. I don’t remember when I made these but I wanted to record them. First up is Korean BBQ.  Beef short ribs often go on sale and I decided to buy some. There isn’t a Korean BBQ place here in Kingston unfortunately (if a good one opened up, I would definitely be there often) so I miss the taste of it. When I came home I realized that I didn’t buy the typical BBQ marinade. I improvised by using soy sauce, black pepper, salt, chili oil and LOTS of garlic. I marinated it overnight and then pan-fried it since I didn’t have a grill. It turned out really well. The meat was well seasoned, tasty and infused the garlic flavour. I definitely prefer grill method but this’ll do. I’ll have to make it again sometime.

I unfortunately don’t have a finalized photo as I was so hungry, I forgot all about photos. I remember that I ate this with rice and some steamed vegetables since I needed something to but the fattiness from this meat.

Next up is homemade temaki (aka hand rolls) with egg and shrimp. I had a craving for the flavour of seaweed so I decided to make some sushi at home. I used carrots and cucumber to accompany and use as fillers. I choose to do temaki because my last attempt at maki turned out really bad so temaki would be simpler. It doesn’t have the greatest flavour but it did the trick that night.

 

 

The final meal is from my adventure to the AGO. The AGO featured the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit which was on display for a very limited time. I come from a religious family and this exhibit meant a lot to them to see. While at the AGO we obviously got hungry. I had brought some sandwiches and we bought a personal pizza. My sandwich was delicious. It was a toasted whole wheat toast filled with cream cheese, red onions, smoked salmon, and baby spinach. The pizza was a regular pepperoni pizza but it was thin, crispy and not too oily. I’ve heard good things about the food at the AGO so I shall return again for a more complete culinary experience.

 

Udon noodles are one of my favourite types of noodles. They’re starchy and filling. They’re also the one noodle that I’ll willing eat with soup as I’m not a big fan of soup and noodles. But Udon in a warm miso based soup is simply divine. They’re my asian version of spaghetti. After going to sakura and tasting their Yaki-udon, I decided it couldn’t be too hard to make my own just the way I like it so I experimented. I don’t know how authentic it is but it’s definitely delicious to me.

Ingredients:

1 package of udon noodles
1+ carrots, julliened
1/3 of a cucumber, julienned
4+ button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2+ cloves of garlic, finely chopped
few tsps of oil
a few tbsps of soy sauce
1/4 tsp of sesame oil
1/4 tsp of chili oil
salt & pepper to taste
sesame seeds, garnish

Instructions:

  1. Boil a pot of water, add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes (or according to the packaging)
  2.  Heat pan to medium-high. Add oil. Add onions until translucent. The add garlic, and vegetables. Toss until tender.
  3. Add cooked noodles. Then add all the sauces and spices. Adjust to your liking.
  4. garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro if you like.

I also cooked and fried some frozen dumplings for something meaty on the side. I love crispy fried dumplings. The contrasts in texture are very playful.

The final meal looked like this.

Review:

 I ended up adding a little more chili oil than what I would have liked (I’ve adjusted it in the recipe) so it ended up a little spicier than I would have liked and overtook the flavour a little bit. But overall, it was warm and delicious. The noodles were slippery and well seasoned and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. The dumplings on the side were a perfect accompaniment to the noodles. It was a lot of food and I didn’t get to eat it all in one sitting. It’s definitely a hearty meal.

I had a friend come into town the weekend following my birthday to come celebrate with myself and friends. He had a craving for sushi and since we had all just woken up from a long night of partying the previous night, no one was in the mood to get dressed and go out so we opted for delivery. He asked me where was the best place to get sushi in Kingston and sadly I couldn’t suggest anything since my search for the best sushi in town was just beginning. I presented him with as many take out menus I could for sushi and upon much deliberation, we decided to go with Sakura. After debating further what we should order he opted for the complete dinner #19. Nara ($14.95)which included: California roll, strip loin steak, shrimp & vegetable tempura, dessert, steamed rice.  Since Sakura features free delivery for my area if I ordered more than $25 before tax, I decided to order Sushi Set A # 75 ($13.99) which included: 8pcs – Salmon, Tuna, Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon & 1 Salmon skin Handroll.

The food was delivered at the time they predicted 30-45 mins. I don’t know how standard that is for delivery time. At the time I lived near the Kingston centre so its one straight drive on bath rd to reach my apartment but in any case, I didn’t notice it too much as I was preoccupied with other things.

I didn’t do a review on my friend’s food since he pretty much inhaled it the second it arrived. It seemed like a substantial amount of food, at least it would have been for me so quantity for price seemed right. My meal included miso soup along with the sushi.  

 

The miso soup was actually pretty delicious. It was just a tad salty but passable. The tofu pieces found at the bottom was firm but silky. I don’t normally eat miso soup as I find it normally lacking in flavour or too salty or muddy but this was completely opposite of that.

This was my sushi set which included everything as previously described. Both the regular tuna and salmon were decent. Nothing too remarkable. The spicy salmon and tuna were not what I had expected. I had anticipated more of a roll. Their flavours were unremarkable as well. There wasn’t very much for spiciness. The spicy salmon and the tuna also tasted so similar, I couldn’t tell any difference. The nori around the hand-roll was a little soft from transportation and fell apart a bit while eating. The salmon skin inside wasn’t crispy, again probably due to transportation.

Once again nothing truly satisfying from Sakura. All passable if you’re just looking for a different meal. Best thing about it was the low minimum balance required for free delivery as most places require a $30-40 minimum and their delivery zone is rather large.

Sakura should be experienced once but I don’t know how many more times after.  

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
1350 Bath Rd., Kingston. ON
613-531-8882
website

Sakura Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kingston has a large amount of Japanese restaurants but unfortunately all of their authenticity comes into question as most are under managed by Koreans or Chinese. It’s apparent when you look at their menus and realize that there’s a whole other section dedicated to their cuisine alongside the japanese fare. It begs one to wonder why they don’t just specialize strictly in their food as I would happily go to an authentic Korean BBQ place over a less authentic Japanese restaurant but that’s beside the point.

For my 20th birthday, I was having a major cravings for sushi. I had originally considered ordering in as I was still in the process of making my birthday cake and didn’t want to stop but after consulting some of the prices plus the cost of delivery, that idea was quickly squashed. I’ve been a little weary of eating sushi in Kingston due to price and freshness. I’m used to the concept of All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) which is easily found in Toronto for a rather affordable price. I’m also the type of person who often doesn’t eat sushi (to keep it a more special occasion when I do) so when I eat it, I eat TONS of it!

I had heard good things from friends about Sakura, claiming that it was the only place in Kingston to go for sushi. In hindsight now, I realize their advice is a little one-sided since most have not ventured to other sushi places beside Asha and Ta-ke, both of which I’ve read enough mixed reviews. But since it was AYCE, I decided to give it a try. Now A is not a fan of sushi but since it was MY birthday, he was willing to go along.

When we arrived I wasn’t sure whether or not to go for the teppanyaki menu or the AYCE sushi menu since I knew that A would probably prefer the teppanyaki more, but I couldn’t ignore my craving and convinced him to just give it a try. The place was rather busy even for a Wednesday night. I realized a little later that another birthday get together was going on. Itwasn’t overly loud and we still were able to enjoy the evening.

There were two menus provided with the option of AYCE sushi. One listed their menu standards while the other featured some special items. You could definitely tell the Chinese influence on the place as there were quite a number of Chinese dishes. I was really craving udon noodles as I remembered fondly of this delicious soup with udon noodles dish that I always have at one of my favourite Japanese restaurants back in Toronto. Since I wasn’t interested in soup, I opted for the stir-fried variety, chicken yaki-udon.

NOTE* I apologize in advance for the yellow tinge lighting on all the photos. This is the flaw in having only a P&S and forgetting to turn flash on. I also apologize for a lack of photos as I was so hungry, I almost forgot to take any at all.

The udon itself tasted okay, nothing remarkable. It just needed more flavour. The chicken was horribly dry even amongst the sauce/soup of the yaki-udon. I prefer a little more bite to my vegetables but it would do. The portion was perfect as it allowed you a sample. Any more and I would have over-stuffed myself on the highly starchy noodles.

Next up was the chicken and steak teriyaki:

As you can see, I couldn’t manage to get a photo of the steak fast enough before A ate it all up. It was probably the only thing on the menu he was willing to eat. The steak teriyaki was deliciously tender. It wasn’t overly chewy and just melted in your mouth.  The teriyaki sauce that accompanied it wasn’t overpowering or too sweet as some other Japanese places do it. For example Ta-Ke normally has the meat swimming in its sauce, which I often don’t mind because I’m a huge sauce fan, but of course, the steak should be the highlight. It was a reasonable portion but since it was so delicious we opted to get 3 more servings I believe, most of it going towards A and his appetite. Unfortunately their steaks were inconsistent which dampened our excitement and praise for their steak. One ended up being a little too rare for my liking. I don’t like a steak too well done but it was bleeding a little too much for me to attempt to digest. Another steak was overcooked for its thickness and size so it ended up being horribly chewy with very little flavour, even with the teriyaki sauce. All in all, their steaks didn’t match that of the first experience and we deemed it as a fluke on their part.

As for the chicken, just like the pieces found in the udon, it too was horribly dry despite the sauce. It lacked flavour and had an unsettling mealy taste to it. It may just have been that night but as a safe bet, I’d avoid it.

I also ordered some shrimp & vegetable tempura:

I love tempura and try as I might, I just can’t get it to be like those I find at Japanese restaurants (I’m still working on it) . I don’t normally get the vegetables but it came as a set along with the shrimp. It was fried to perfection, not overly oily. The shrimp were a good size and didn’t have too much coating. I love sweet potato tempura so that out of the vegetables was the best. The onion was a little undercooked but overall a tasty fried dish.

A also ordered some chicken fried rice (I don’t know why we kept ordering the chicken knowing how bad it was, wishful thinking I guess). It was a medium size portion (although much too big for my capabilities at that point). Upon discovering onions A decided not to eat anymore and left that up to me.  The chicken was again horribly dry and I picked them out of the rice. The rice didn’t have a lot of flavour but it was passable as a filler. I could certainly fry up a better batch at home.

The one and only photo I took of the sushi as it was presented to me ended up being far too blurry to showcase so the best I can provide is the photo above with the few pieces of sushi seen at the bottom right hand side.

Knowing that A wasn’t going to partake in the sushi experience I ordered their Sunshine roll (8pcs), as well as a Spicy Tuna roll (6pcs). They describe their Sunshine roll as having ‘Salmon, Tempura & Avocado Inside, Topped with Fresh Salmon, Scallion Spicy Creamy Sauce and Crunchy’. Upon its arrival I was disappointed to realize that the inside salmon was cooked and I’m not particularly a fan of cooked salmon, especially in sushi but I ate it anyway. To be honest, it wasn’t anything remarkable. It was well balanced in textures, underwhelming in flavours and not all that exciting. As for the spicy tuna roll, there was too much rice for my liking and after all the other food I indulged in, I didn’t need more starchiness from rice. It too was nothing spectacular.

A and I shared a vanilla ice cream to finish the meal which was sadly probably one of the best things of the night.

Dinner prices are as listed (and of course subject to change):

Overall, it satisfied my craving for the time being but was nothing compared to my experiences back in Toronto. I don’t know if i’ll be returning for their sushi but I may give their teppanyaki a try as I’ve heard mixed reviews on that as well. This time around quantity sufficed the lack in quality. A who didn’t eat much from the menu and was disappointed in the steak at the end probably won’t be joining me for another sushi adventure, however he’s never experienced the cheesy show that teppanyaki offers so maybe we’ll go just to give him something new to look at.

As for service, it was certainly lacking. We ended up having to follow up several times for some items and they often took a tad too long to clear the finished dishes. There’s definite improvement to be made there.

Sakura also features delivery which I will be reviewing next.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
1350 Bath Rd., Kingston. ON
613-531-8882
website

Sakura Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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