CUISINE: Japanese ADDRESS: 1170 WELLINGTON ROAD DATE: January 25th, 2014
I have to say our blog dinner at Hanata House nearly ruined sushi for me. We were there the week before Christmas, and when I saw that sushi was coming up on the blog again this month, I can tell you: I was not feeling it.
Couple that with the fact that I was JUST getting over the flu, and you had recipe for Blog in a Bad Mood (patent pending—a Tumblr full of pictures of me just NOT HAVING IT.)
And this was no ordinary 24-hour flu. This was incapacitating.
HOW BAD WAS IT?
- A flu so bad that I missed out on utilizing a prepaid pass to the Food and Wine show. Like, it was a full festival. Of food and wine. Like, those are my thingssss. They should have called it, “Megan, Come Here.”
Luckily, Ian and his wife-if-I-die Jess managed to utilize the pass, but assuaged me by saying they had a bad time and the lobster tacos they ate were medium at best.
- This was a flu so bad, that not even the ridiculous plot twists of the fifth season of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva could get me off the couch.
MEGAN: Really? Jane, the-model-trapped-in-the-plus-sized-body-of-a-never-losing-lawyer wins the right for a MATTRESS SALESMAN to do his job in DRAG? Now, that’s implausible.
(I’m allowed to watch bad TV when I’m sick. That’s a thing.)
(And I obviously just watched the FIRST FOUR SEASONS of this Lifetime show to prepare for such an instance.)
- This was a flu so bad that when the elderly doctor asked if I lived alone, it was less about having Ian to take care of me, and more about having some one to find my remains.
There’s something about being in a Tamilflu-induced haze that really makes you dread the prospect of eating raw fish. But I persevered, mostly because I hate missing a week of the blog, and I had already slept through the weekend before.
It was a super-gross, snowy day, but I bundled up, and journeyed all the way over to Wellington South.
Jess said that my vest-and deer-sweatshirt-combo looked like I was a hunter who wore her prey on her shirt for easy identification. #fashion
Our dinner at Izakaya Shogun was an early one: a 5pm start allowed us to get to out post-dinner engagement at the 14th annual Trivialities. A fundraiser for the hospice of London slash an opportunity for my overachieving family to say “LOOK AT US! We’re SMART!” on a larger scale, my family team has entered 7 times before.
We’ve won SIX.
Here’s a picture of me after our first win in 2007. Let’s add up the FASHION DONT’S: crispy hair, brown shirt, BUTTERFLY CLIP??
The one time we didn’t win, my dad couldn’t make the competition, because he was on vacation in Florida. My dad is probably the smartest person on the team, but beyond that, he’s the VERIFIER. We will come up with a variety of answers, and he will say “THAT one is right.”
And with my dad unavailable for the team again this year, we HAD to eat some sushi. We needed all the brain food we could get.
Izakaya Shogun is a little bit off the beaten path. So much off my radar in fact, that Ian, my mom and I parked, took the facade picture, entered the restaurant and talked to the hostess before we realized we were at the wrong restaurant.
This restaurant didn’t have a Jessica Dawson in it!
This one did!
Izakaya Is located in the Super 8 on Wellington Road. That unassuming location actually belies a very cute decor, with lots of bamboo, rice paper lamps and the cutest decor of all, Ms. Jessica Dawson.
Ok, so I may have gotten so frazzlededoo over going to the wrong restaurant, I forgot to take pictures of the diners. And this MAY be a photo of Jess from a costume party from 2008. And that blonde hair to the right MAYYYY be me in a similarly ridiculous outfit, cropped out for my own protection.
But I told her to take a picture of herself that night and she declined. She knew this was coming.
So instead of the restaurant pics, here’s the rest of us at Trivialities later in the night. We’re wearing the same clothes.
Use your imagination.
The music in this Asian restaurant was a classic mix of dance music and 70s easy listening. So authentic. But the other really cool thing about the set up of Izakaya Shogun is the fact that each table has a doorbell attached to the edge of the table. When you press the button, it produces an unobtrusive chime that beckoned our lovely and smiley waiter to the table. Even though it wasn’t busy when we were there in the early evening, the bell allowed our waiter to move away from our table, but still take good care of us without hovering. He was lovely, friendly, helpful and prompt.
Jess had the chance to peruse the menu, as she had, you know, gone to the right restaurant in the first place (BOLD CHOICE). She noted that they had gluten free soy sauce (Jess has been known to tote a large bottle around in her purse; because eating sushi without soy sauce is just not worth the trouble). She also pointed out that the menu was huge, with lots of interesting choices.
The house rolls list.
The cool thing about Jess is despite the fact she’s Celiac, she still gets excited about things she can’t eat, and encourages others to eat them so she can live vicariously through SOMEONE imbibing them.
She pointed out some of the specialty house rolls, including ones that were partially deep fried.
My mom, who had only been to a conveyor belt sushi place once before, looked a little overwhelmed by the exhaustive menu, ordered a fried roll that Jess pointed out and closed her menu with relief. I decided to mirror Jess’s pick of a trio of sashimi, a veggie roll and a tuna roll.
The menu included a selection of Korean bimimbap and some other Asian delights, but Ian decided to go with a bento box with dumplings, ribs and tempura shrimp and veggies.
Most of the time when we go for sushi, we go to an all-you-can-eat place, that ends up at about $25 including a drink. Izakaya gave us a bunch of complimentary starters:
Lovely green tea in pretty ceramic mugs!
A cold and fresh green salad with peanut-ginger dressing (and no Cop-out Canadian utensils…I think this was my first time eating big chunks of lettuce with chopsticks).
The miso soup was hot and a bit salty, but I was too excited about the rest of the stuff I ordered to fill up on complimentary soup.
The service was lightning fast: we finished our many courses within an hour.The first to arrive at the table was my mom’s order of pan-fried gyoza.
The dumplings were fresh, crispy and very very hot.
Then came the glory that was the sashimi trio, a stunning palette of white and pink tuna, as well as salmon on a bed of jicama.
Unless you are buying your sushi out of a grocery store cooler, I feel like the freshness of most sashimi in restaurants, in London anyway, is about the same. It’s fine. But you really notice that the sashimi you’ve been eating is inferior when you try some really, really good stuff.
And this was really, really good stuff.
The salmon was smooth and light, white tuna was buttery and soft, the ahi a bit denser but still tender. Wow.
Then the rolls started to descend. Jess and I had both ordered the AAC roll—avocado, asparagus and cucumber. And Jess’ favourite sushi in the world is a Philly Roll, so the house specialty SUPER PHILLY ROLL, wrapped in seared salmon and served GIANT, was right up her alley.
Jess loved her meal, and thought everything was really fresh, but noted that the extra salmon wrapped around the outside of her rolls actually diminished the impact of the stuff inside (cream cheese, salmon et all), and wished she had got Izakaya’s original Philly rolls.
My AAC was of the crispy, spicy variety and were a great counterpoint to my tuna rolls.
Jess and I both liked our veggie rolls; my fancies and her, more spartan variety.
As soon as Ian’s Bento Box arrived, I was filled with jealousy. Tender ribs, jasmine rice, gyoza with a sweet sauce, california rolls and crispy tempura. Wow.
Ian’s favourite were the ribs: a sweet sticky sauce and perfectly prepared.
The thing that really stood out a Izakaya Shogun was how creative the speciality rolls were. I really have never had anything like them.
Mom’s hastily chosen selection— the Super Crunch roll—was a wonder to behold. These salmon tuna tempura shrimp rolls were then coated in coconut, drizzled with a sweet sauce and topped with ALMONDS.
My tuna rolls were so scrumptious, they were almost ART.
Coming soon to the MOMA. It’s at least as artistic as that room that had a pile of dirt in it.
These, my friends, are the Golden Spicy Tuna rolls. Deep-fried in tempura batter, with soft tuna and truly spicy sauce, these were so decadent. And very filling. I left two on the plate and felt a very visceral sense of loss.
With 14 rolls and 9 pieces of sashimi, I was as full as an All-you can eat gorgefest, for about the same price.
But it was just way, way better.
And I don’t know if the fresh and delicious nature of our sushi actually helped, but we won Trivialities. Again.
Me and my SMART SISTER. And my eye bag that shows that I’m old and wise.
And not only did Izakaya Shogun’s cute atmosphere, prompt service and delicious, delicious food repair the damage done by the garbage at Hanata House, I’ve been craving it since the moment that we left. I think It’s the best sushi in London.