I was invited to a dinner with other food bloggers/journalists at the Irashai Grill. This was the first ever dinner invitation I received from a restaurant, and it was a great experience to dine with Miss 604, John, Heather, Sherman, and Daniel and Eddie. And because of that, you may consider this a biased review, but let me start by saying that I’m about to review the restaurant with an honest opinion.
We basically left it up to the owner/chef to decide which dishes to serve us as they tried to highlight the best that they could offer. To start, we each grabbed a cocktail. A mango fan, I opted for the Mango Cosmo. The dinner began with an Asparagus Salad, dressed with a sauce that was similar to hollandaise sauce. While the asparagus was crunchy, I found the sauce a bit too salty and sour to my liking. The lemon juice was a bit too overpowering.
Following the salad were Rib Eye Beef Tataki and Hamachi Sashimi. The beef was of high quality and it was a good combination to eat with the ponzu jelly. The saltiness of the ponzu brought out the best of the meat. On the other hand, the hamachi sashimi was very light in flavouring, even with the mustard dressing. The daikon salad underneath was meant to bring a refreshing taste to the dish, but I think it further diluted the seasoning.
Then we were all wow’ed by a plate of Red Snapper Sashimi. It was “Usu-Zukuri” cut, i.e. thinly sliced. We ate it with ponzu sauce mixed with some spicy raddish. The sashimi was good on its own, but the flavour was accentuated after dipping into the ponzu sauce. With the raw items, I was particularly impressed with two dishes, the Ice Wine Marinated Tuna and the Spot Prawn Sashimi. It’s a very innovative way to marinate tuna sashimi in ice wine, and then served with a red wine sauce. I could definitely taste the ice wine in the fish and the little tartness of the red wine made it more interesting. And ’tis the season for spot prawns – not only did we have the spot prawn at its freshest state, we also had the heads deep-fried and tried the brains. Good stuff.
We have tried a number of rolls: Summer Roll, White Slope, Spicy Beef Volcano and Alaska Crab Leg Roll. Of all rolls, I liked the Summer Roll and Alaska Crab Leg Roll. Interestingly, both rolls have a crunchy component – Summer Roll has the crunchy tuna hiding underneath the avocado, and the Alaska Crab Leg Roll is slightly deep-fried on the outside. The most “out there” one has to be the Spicy Beef Volcano. It reminded me of a burger since it’s a beef and cream cheese filled roll topped with baked cheddar cheese. Since I’m not a cheese person, even though I appreciate the creativity, I didn’t enjoy the roll as much I hoped to.
I was quite happy with the warm dishes. The Yam Fries were excellent. And unlike regular tempura, the fries came with unagi sauce and spicy mayo, which made a great dipping sauce. Pearl Chicken Karaage was yummmm – the meat was tender and the texture of the pearl rice cracker on the outside was nothing like ordinary battered chicken nuggets. The last two dishes were Aigamo Duck and Sable Fish. Duck meat was juicy and the fish was done in perfection.
To wrap up the dinner, we got to taste the Mascarpone Tiramisu and Matcha Crème Brulee. According to our host, the chef only makes a certain number of creme brulee everyday. It’s sold on a first-come-first-served basis. The 8 of us actually had to share 1 creme brulee among ourselves because that’s all they had left. The mascarpone cheese was very creamy, but I would have hoped for a more traditional Tiramisu with layers of flavours. The Matcha Creme Brulee didn’t disappoint, it was smooth with a strong green tea flavour.
This is one area where I cannot objectively comment on. Because we’re there by invitation, I had assumed that good quality of service was guaranteed, a given. However, by observation, the service was still pretty good at other tables.
One thing I do want to point out, though, is that they could work on the service order. In Japanese cuisine, the dishes are meant to be served from the lightest to the strongest in terms of flavouring. Therefore, it often starts with sashimi, sushi, followed by tempura, robata and rice/noodles. When we had the dinner at Irashai, some items were served out of the aforementioned order. It’s not a big deal, but it would show the attention to detail if it’s done in the proper order.
This restaurant is a hidden gem in Coal Harbour. The restaurant would be a perfect venue for watching playoff games, or a gathering with friends or family. It has a bar and booth seats that offer a cozy environment for any occasion. I especially like its high ceiling, which adds to its modern decor. Lighting, on the flip side, could be a problem. It’s affected by the glare of the sun when it’s still bright outside, but it could become really dark after sunset.
Props to Irashai Grill for putting together an innovative menu. They’ve got some interesting items in every aspect of the menu. I’m interested in trying its lunch menu since it’s fairly close to my office.
Price Range: $20-$30
1368 West Pender Street, Vancouver