Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant

After having several thoughts about returning to Japan, I’m glad a restaurant like this popped up around the Bay Area.  There are two locations open today, one in Palo Alto, and one in Cupertino.  During this trip, we visited the Palo Alto location.  It’s really neat to see that the restaurant culture and the technology behind this place really reminds me of Japan.  Behold, travels to Japan in the blink of a second!

The whole atmosphere of the restaurant is super simple and minimalistic – very similar to the “muji” look, y’know what I’m saying?  It can get pretty busy though, so if you wanna sit down ASAP, I recommend giving them a call before heading there.  What’s really cool about the menu is that all the prices that you see in the menu (and in this post) are all tip inclusive, meaning you don’t have to worry about how much tip to give them and just pay the taxes on top of the prices.  I’m SO glad something like this finally exists in America!  This really follows how the restaurant etiquette in Asia is like, and I’m so sick of trying to math how much tip I should give TT.  So grateful for this!!

The ‘technology’ side of Japan is demonstrated by the way you order the food.  Each table is accompanied with a tablet, an electronic menu.  Customers will then go through the menu and choose the items that they want, add them to the cart, and order when ready.  The ordering style is much like AYCE sushi tablet ordering (at least back in Toronto)…except not AYCE..haha.

The process is all very seamless.  Ordering is quite self explanatory, with detailed descriptions and nice pictures.  Everything looked very appetizing and it was hard to decide what to eat.  Food didn’t take long to be served.

Self ordering technology

For starters, N and I got a salmon carpaccio to share.  The kick of flavour in the ponzu and thinly sliced red onions, along with the texture of the pea sprouts, went very well with the thick slices of raw salmon.  I think the amount served in the appetizer was really a balanced amount to begin the meal.

Salmon Carpaccio ($9 USD)

For mains, I ordered myself the Hatsumabushi, which is a meal with eel served Nagoya style. Although ingredients very similar to the Eel rice which was a couple dollars less, I chose to go for this dish because it was a little more creative and it almost seemed like it was three individual dishes. The meal comes with an instruction card, showing you how to eat it in different ways.

  1. You can eat it plain eel with rice as it is already served in the bowl.
  2. You can add the condiments (green onion, wasabi, pickled vegetable, soft tofu) to the eel rice.  What I thought was interesting was the tofu on the bottom right, the dish was a cold dish and the tofu was very fragile and soft.
  3. You can eat the eel rice along with dashi stock on the top right.  Eating it this way reminded me of a very yummy congee.
Hatsumabushi ($22 USD).  Eel over rice in 3 different ways 🙂

My favourite way to eat it was to eat it in the 2nd way.  Dry and with the condiments.  All the condiments added a new depth to the dish, and I thought it was very fun in general.  Don’t forget to add the mountain pepper, it’s an awesome addition to the dish!

N got a Yakiniku Ju, a simple grilled slice beef rice dish.  It is served with a miso soup on the side, which is super flavourful (and in my opinion, almost too salty ><).  You can replace the miso soup for asari miso soup for a couple of dollars, which is a clam miso soup.  This dish was a bit of a disappointment to me.  The mushrooms were very tasty, but I found that since the beef slices were so thin, it would easily overcook (which I thought it was), which in turn resulted to be a bit too dry for my liking.

Yakiniku Ju ($17.50 USD)

We ended our meal off with some matcha warabi mochi, which is what I like to call a “water mochi”, powdered in matcha.  The texture of warabi mochi is very interesting.  It’s not dense and chewy, but it feels like gummy water that isn’t very wet..if that makes sense at all..haha.  For extra flavour, it comes with brown sugar syrup which you drizzle on top of the warabi mochi.  Such a light touch to end the meal – I really enjoyed it.

Matcha warabi mochi ($6 USD) (omg sorry for out of focus-ness)

All in all, I really enjoyed my visit.  It really felt like I was reliving in Japan for a moment.  Although a bit disappointed in the Yakiniku Ju, I really enjoyed the Hatsumabushi and will definitely be back to try out other items on the menu.  And let me take a moment again to express how grateful I am that a restaurant that includes the tip into the price exists in North America!  Amen, sista!

-ksdn.

Canoe Restaurant & Bar

I may be a bit late, but first this first – Happy new year, 2013!
So my friends and I decided to participate in this year’s Winterlicious (see here for the full restaurant list).  We decided we wanted to go to the renowned Canoe Restaurant & Bar because we always wanted we’ve heard so many good things about it.  One quick tip for those who are interested in going during a Winterlicious/Summerlicious – there’s no way you can book any later than the first day that they start taking reservations!  Seats/tables go by super quick!

Moving forward, Canoe is found on the top floor of one of the TD Towers Downtown Toronto.  The view that the 54th floor restaurant is phenomenal.  There’s an awesome view of Lake Ontario and CN Tower.  The restaurant itself is quite fancy, so I suggest that if you’re planning to go, it might be better to dress for the occasion.

Here are some pictures of the interior:

Canoe entrance – on the 54th floor of TD Tower
Interior of Canoe. An awesome view facing Lake Ontario and the CN Tower.

This is the Winterlicious 2013 menu that they offered. What I found really neat about it was that they also included wine and cocktails that match well with the dishes:

2013 Winterlicious canoe menu along with beverages that complement the meals.

So before our 3 meal courses, we were served an appetizer of two types of bread (sorry! I forgot the types of bread) and a mushroom dipping. I think the bread was some sort of sour dough, which I am not too fond of, but the dipping was very tasty.

Pre-appetizer: two different types of bread with mushroom dipping.

And the long awaited 3 course meals:

APPETIZERS:

I ordered this one. I found it quite flavourful and creamy. There was a strong spice flavour, which I found slightly overpowering, but I liked the incorporation of yoghurt in the soup.

Roasted Squash & Parsnip Soup Birch Yoghurt & Spiced Croutons. The majority of my friends ordered this dish (mainly because we wanted something chilly since the day was so cold too)
Sheep’s Milk Quark – Baby Greens, Beet Reduction & Crisps

MAIN:

The brisket was perfectly cooked, the meat would melt in the mouth and nothing was overly chewy. What I enjoyed the most was the contrast in texture of the oats and the cabbages really complimented the meat.

Slow Cooked Ontario Brisket – Steel Cut Oats, Red Wine Cabbage & Cedar Pickled Mustard Seeds

I really liked how the pork was so soft (almost like a pulled pork). Although, I found it a bit salty at first, I eventually grew to love it and the spinach soaked in the sauce was fabulous. However, I found the crispy things on the top of the dish quite questionable…haha.

Maple Braised Willowgrove Pork – Orecchiette, Crackling, Kale & Thunder Oak Gouda

DESSERTS:

Maple Gingerbread Pudding – Cranberry Preserve & Scorched Citrus Crème Anglaise

Most of my friends ordered this one. I was afraid it was going to be too dry, but I found that the apples with the contrast of the cake blended very well together. It was all in all, probably my most preferred dessert.
Almond Cake – Niagara Apple Compote & Salted Caramel Sauce

The spice in the chocolate was subtle yet evident. I found it a bit overwhelming after taking a few bites. However, I enjoyed the marshmellows a lot. I found it refreshing in contrast to the strong spiced chocolate flavour. I found the contrast in texture also quite satisfying.
Spiced Chocolate Panna Cotta – Marshmallow Graham Cracker Crumb

The total of the lunch was a $25 price fixe + tax and tip. The atmosphere of the restaurant was very nice and higher tier. I thought it was very cute of the waiters to wait until the table was finished completely before they all gathered to retrieve our plates. They also timed the presentation of the dishes. All in all – service was extraordinary, atmosphere was very nice, and food was pretty decent. I would have to say it’s a bit overrated though compared to what it really is though..I just got so hyped up from everyone telling me its the BEST restaurant in Toronto! I still think it was a great experience and super fun and tasty, though.

Here’s my rating:
– atmosphere: 9.5/10
– value: 7/10
– food: 8.5/10

The regular priced items are slightly pricey (or so I find), so if anything just find a time to go during Winterlicious or Summerlicious!
Oh yes, and happy Chinese new year!

Canoe Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

-ksdn