Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kadoya - Best. Sushi. Ever.

There are certain restaurants that, given even the slightest provocation, I go off into dreamy, starry-eyed effusions about, whispering in an awed hush about the perfection of their meals. Kadoya is one such place. In a city filled with great sushi restaurants and high-quality Japanese dining, Kadoya still stands out to me as one of my favorite places to eat in all of Vancouver.  Its large portions, addictive flavors and bold fusion styling make it a must-visit for anyone who likes Japanese cuisine.

About the restaurant: In the past year, Kadoya has undergone a bit of a facelift. While the d├ęcor used to be quirky and homegrown, with handwritten post-its from satisfied customers all over the wall, the new look is much sleeker and more sophisticated, with blue lighted walls that would not be out of place in a high-end night club. Despite its apparent gloss, however, the restaurant remains charmingly unpretentious and small. The staff is very quick to take and deliver orders; even when the place is crowded and there’s a backlog of takeout orders, we’ve never had to wait long for our first sushi rolls to be delivered.

There is one bad thing about Kadoya, though; while their chairs are perfectly fine, their booth seating is inexplicably uncomfortable. The bottom portion of the seats is extremely narrow, meaning there’s little room to spread out or settle down, or to put bags and coats down. You get used to it after a while, but they’re still not exactly welcoming. My friends joke that the seating is intentionally uncomfortable so as to keep customer turnover high; can’t seat new guests if the old ones are getting comfy and chatting!

Speaking of which, Kadoya is VERY popular, and as such often has a short lineup outside. Ordering takeout or coming during off hours is often quite effective, but frankly, even if you have to line up, it’s worth the wait.

The food:  Right, let’s cut to the chase; this place makes the best sushi I’ve ever tasted, not to mention some of the most unusual. Of course, many common kinds of sushi are still available on the menu, such as tuna, salmon, California and so on… though even here there are some original takes on the classics (Tempura California, anyone?) I have it on good authority that the regular sushi is excellent, but I have to take my friends’ word for it as I am addicted to the real showstopper: the chef special sushi rolls.

The “Chef’s Recommendation” sushi incorporates fusion cuisine and a mix of both fresh and deep-fried ingredients.  The various combinations of ingredients really push the boundaries of what we expect from sushi; this effect is enhanced by the strong flavors of the garnish, Japanese caviar mixed with tangy mayo and unusual sauces. The results are always uniquely Japanese with an element of Western inspiration. The perfect example is the Canada roll: warm bacon inside, tempura tuna on top and covered with honey mustard and a ketchup-like sauce. It may sound strange, but the flavors combine to create a meaty and moist taste with a little kick. Other great rolls include the Kadoya roll (tempura tuna and deep fried salmon skin, all with a crispy texture), the Spider Roll (imitation and real crab meat along with yam tempura) and the Stanley Park roll (yam and unagi tempura, with a very soft texture). They even have dessert sushi! Be aware that these sushi rolls are very large in comparison to other, more “mundane” rolls.

Kadoya’s non-sushi dishes are also very tasty. I often order some of their veggie spring rolls as an appetizer, as they’re crispy and come with a sweet sauce that perfectly sets off the dish. Their rice bowl dishes are very large and filling, and will usually keep you going all by themselves!

My favourites:  Kadoya roll, Canada roll, Spider roll, Stanley Park roll, vegetarian spring roll, katsudon.

Cost:  The chef special rolls range from $7.50 to $8.50; more expensive than your average sushi restaurant, but considering that the rolls are much bigger and more filling than most, it’s well worth the price. Other dishes are comparable in cost to other Japanese restaurants in the same bracket; non-sashimi entrees range from $6-8, sashimi from $12-18. There are also several combos from $10-15.

Take-out?:  Yes.

Delivery?:  No.

Licensed?:  Yes. Beer and sake is available.

Location(s):  On Davie Street near Burrard. Link to Google Maps.

Website and menu: Here.

Summary:  If I had to tell Olympic visitors to try one Japanese restaurant in Vancouver, it would be this one. Kadoya has something for everyone, balancing East and West as well as adventure and familiarity. Try their sushi, even if you’re not a sushi fan. I suspect that you, like so many others, will become a convert.

Kadoya Japanese on Urbanspoon


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