Sake Maki

by KimHo on July 23, 2009 · 0 comments under: British Columbia,Food,Restaurant

Sake Maki
1414 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC
Sake Maki on Urbanspoon

Here I go again, in the search of some interesting eats in one of the most “interesting” (for lack of a better word right now) neighborhoods in Vancouver: Commercial Drive. It was a hot night (Vancouver standards) and I just wanted something to eat. It was approximately 9:30 p.m., that gray hour in restaurant business. Since a lot of these shops close at around 10:00 p.m., it is inside the threshold of “last calls” but, since you are a walk-in customer at that point and time, you felt there could be a rush for you to finish and leave. What to do, what to do? Of course, I could go to one of the several clubs/pubs in the area that close later; however, I didn’t feel like going to a place where the main intent is to sell you over expensive watered down drinks (not to mention my low alcohol tolerance plus the fact I was driving). So, while walking by, I noticed something that might be “decent”, yet not that expensive: Sake Maki.

First impressions were mixed: There is a sandwich board outside describing the different specialty rolls (hence the “maki” part of their name?) at a flat $8 per roll. When I first started to eat sushi, like most people, it was rolls. However, the more rolls I ate, the less satisfied I felt. No, I am not referring to a filled stomach – something that a maki does a decent job. Instead, it was something else. When I started to order more nigiri, I found I like nigiri a bit more – probably because it was simpler? Regardless, I still have an occasional roll but, given, the options… As for the sake part of the name, yes, they do mention sake in their menu; however, since I won’t drink in this case, I did not even bothered to look into it.

As for the decor, something that I seldom write about, it was likewise odd. We all know about multiculturalism in Vancouver, right? However, I am not sure how well Greek and Japanese mix. Here, it seems they managed quite well to recycle the existing decoration and use it as part of their own. Feel free to call it creative…

And, now, to the food! As you might have read previously in my other Japanese/Sushi posts, I usually end up ordering a combo that has different type of nigiri sushi. Now, before any purist start yelling at me, I know I should be seated at the bar, ordering 2 or 3 pieces at a time and so and so. However, I am a fast paced eater, plus when it comes to food, I don’t like eating a bit, wait for the next order, eat another bit, make another order, wait for it and so on and so on. Of course, I could be wrong but, until then… Anyway, I started with…

Goma-ae, something I usually end up ordering (hey, you need your share of veggies, you know!). As for Sake Maki’s version, I will have to say it was disappointing. Now, the spinach was there, the sesame dressing was there, the visual was there. However, the flavours were not. Sure, I could taste the sweetness of the sesame seed; however, past that, the spinach was completely bland, no taste at all. I tried several pieces individually to check if it wasn’t a fluke of one leaf/stem or anything like that. Nope, it was the whole spinach serving… And the sesame dressing did not really managed to salvage it…

In an almost complete reversal of what I wrote above, I ordered the most infamous rolls of all: the California Roll. However, here is the twist: instead of ordering the “regular” one, which is made from surimi, I ordered one that is made from actual crab meat. While I had doubt of the claim, I was curious as well. As you can see, curiosity won this round. And, yes, indeed, it was made with crab meat. And, not sure if it was intentional or not, I ended up “biting” into a shard of the shell… One thing I did not ask was: what crab specie? 😛 As for the taste itself, it did taste slightly different from the ones made with surimi. Here, the consistency was slightly different (not as uniform as in the case of surimi) and there was a slightly sweeter taste. While it was different, it is not something I would order again: while it delivered what it promised, once you “graduated” from it, you will never want to go back.

I apologize for these two pictures as it is blurrier than what I thought. It is one of those instances you wish you brought your Speedlight/external flash with you… -_-;;; This is the rest of my order, four pieces of nigiri sushi, starting with amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), tuna, salmon and unagi/eel – each of these at $1.50 a piece. While not the worst I have had, it is not the best I have had either. In fact, when I saw that piece of salmon, I was wondering about the knife skills of whoever prepared it. There was no fishy smell to eat and it was quite pleasant to eat. However, other than the unagi/eel, I did not taste that taste I usually associate with shrimp, tuna and salmon.

I know that overall this post is full of contradictions: ordering something I usually won’t order just for the sake of it (no pun intended), like it but dislike it at the same time, etc. etc. So let’s bring it down to the question of “would I come back?”. The answer is “depends”. I will have to admit it looks better than some other sushi spots in the Drive (though I am almost sure that Lime will be vastly superior), yet there are some other better sushi spots outside of the area. So it boils down to, it is an option if I am in the Drive.

Now, unrelated to the post, but relevant at the same time (did I mention contradiction? :P), the operators are not Japanese. I am positive I heard several versions of Cantonese, if not Korean (though, since I was seated next to a wall did not help). So, to those who believe this is important, caveat emptor. Also, a really odd story: To those who pay their bills using a debit/credit card, you might have noticed that Micros (among other Point-of-Sales vendors) have units where they will bring them to the table to swipe the card(s). While that is usually good, the problem is that these are expensive and some places can only afford one, which is fine, considering that paying bills, unless split in 8 ways, is a straight forward process. However, when somebody does not have enough funds, it forces the operator to go over again and again. This happened to me in my meal: two friends, who were dining at the other end of the restaurants, were paying the bill and one of them did not seem to have enough funds in their debit card. It ended up in a “try this card, try that card” game and, which held the waitress – and the POS unit – for almost ten minutes, before they found one with sufficient funds. Needless to say, I was not happy and was really close to pay cash (no particular reason why I was paying credit). While the waitress was apologetic about it (it was not her fault, though), c’mon people, can you check if you have the $$$ before you go out to eat? ARGH!

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