Thursday, January 28, 2010

Japadog - Best hot dogs in town

When a hotdog stand is listed as the #1 restaurant in the city of Vancouver, you know it has to be something really special. Japadog has gathered a massive following of locals and tourists alike thanks to its unusual and international take on an old classic.; adding classic Japanese ingredients as toppings for an interesting take on fusion cuisine. If you like hotdogs, Japanese food, or just something original, you have got to get your hands on one of these!

About the restaurant: At first glance, Japadog looks no different than any other hot dog street vendor in the city, albeit perhaps a little larger and with longer lineups. A closer look reveals cheerful posters and pictures of their unusual hot dogs, as well as pictures of some of their celebrity customers. Aside from numerous Japanese celebrities, they’ve attracted visitors such as Steven Segal, Ice Cube, and Daniel Dae Kim from Lost.

The vendors are very cheerful and friendly, and chatter in Japanese as they prepare your hot dog. Thanks to their popularity, they’ve taken the step of having two separate lineups, one for ordering and one for pickup, so it’s very well organized with no confusion as to who’s in line!

Please note that there is no seating area; while there are some steps nearby, customers are specifically requested not to sit on them as they belong to a business property.

The food:  Japadog’s fame comes not only from its unique and copious toppings but from the quality of their meat. Many of their hot dogs boast a kind of pork known as “kurobuta”, or Berkshire as we call it here. The taste is very meaty and strong without being overwhelming, and the texture is very satisfying; the innards are soft and chewy while the exterior is a bit tougher. It's not hugely different from regular hot dogs, but it's still very good. The other dogs have also garnered acclaim for their meat; the next introduction to the menu is supposed to be a Kobe Beef dog.

What really sets Japadog apart, though, is the amazing and unusual toppings they add to their hot dogs. This is not your grandfather’s sauerkraut! Ingredients like grated radish, plum sauce, seaweed flakes and edamame are front and center, supplementing but not overwhelming the natural flavor of the hot dog. For my first visit to Japadog, I tried the Okonomi dog, as I’m a giant fan of okonomiyaki. The dog came with dried fish flakes, fried cabbage, Japanese mayo and okonomiyaki sauce. It was absolute heaven, with the soft and subtle textures and flavors of the cabbage and bonito flakes gave it a really unique taste. I highly recommend it!

As for drinks, the usual assortment of pop is available, but they also offer a Japanese soft drink known as Ramune which I’m very fond of. In terms of taste, it’s similar to 7-Up or Sprite, albeit with less sweetness and citron taste. What makes it really unique is its unusual bottle; rather than being sealed with a twist cap, it’s kept closed by a small glass marble wedged in the bottle mouth, and you must open it by pressing the marble into the bottleneck using a tab. Ask for assistance from the vendors, or give it a try yourself; it adds a bit of whimsy to the whole experience.

My favourites:  Okonomi dog, Ramune pop.

Cost:  Most of the hot dogs cost around $5, with the plain dogs at $4 and the Okonomi dog at $6.25. The Ramune pop is $2, with regular pop a little cheaper.

Take-out?:  Yes.

Delivery?:  No.

Licensed?:  No.

Location(s):  Japadog is located at Burrard and Smithe, very near the Scotiabank theatre. Link to Google Maps.

Website and menu: Here. Note that the website is mostly in Japanese, but there's enough English to find your way around.

Summary:  Vancouver foodies everywhere are abuzz over Japadog, and having at last gone to try it myself, I can see why. If you’re looking for a new take on fusion cuisine at an excellent price, or just hoping for some good street vendor food, give Japadog a try.

Japadog (Burrard & Smithe) on Urbanspoon


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