I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
Visiting Vancouver (or any big city for that matter) is akin to me taking the Hajj. And for the 96.8% of you in Canada whom are not Muslim, I’ll have to explain myself. The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca done every year by millions as a duty to their faith. And like that righteous journey, I feel compelled to travel to distant lands (yes, I admit, Vancouver is not a distant land) to reaffirm my commitment and remind me of my responsibility, though in my case to culinary gods—wait, are there kitchen gods. Holy crap, there actually is a kitchen god—God bless the Chinese.
Traveling to a big city like Vancouver or Calgary each year reminds me of why I write my reviews and why I set such high standards. No greater example of this can be made than sushi and ShuRaku a lightning bolt splintering through the compromise I sometimes fall into when eating in Prince George.
In a quick summary of events, I had found myself in Vancouver over a single 24-hour period for the purposes of business. I had my trusty Toyota Camry rental and was content finding a Chinese restaurant near my hotel in Richmond. My accompanying coworker insisted on crepes, forcing a drive into the heart of the city at 9:00 pm. One rather lackluster café experience later and with moon drifting past 10:00 pm, I knew I had run out of time, and finding a restaurant still open which wasn’t a Denny’s appeared unlikely. But fortune favored the hungry and less than a minute’s walk away was ShuRaku, opened until 11:00.
Immediately upon entering, I was awash in the comfort of being inside a proper sushi bar. I was directed to a table but found a barstool immediately. Dim lighting over darkened wood was the motif of choice, compromising some form for function as the countertop was crowded with bottles, boxes, and an adorable folding card showcasing the different types of rice in the world. The daily specials were lovingly scribbled on a paper, and my eyes fell on proper sushi. Ignoring any prices, I immediately selected the abori chūtoro (seared tuna) and premium red tuna nigiri. I also ordered the sea foie gras (green onion and spicy grated radish over pureed monkfish liver) and something called a volcano roll. Still hungry afterwards, I added a final spicy scallop roll.
Cutting to the climax, everything was amazing. The tuna was so buttery, it practically disintegrated in my mouth. The rice was perfect. Everything was a level so above anything encountered in Prince George, it reminded me how far that city has fallen in regards to quality sushi. I’ll stress that again; I’ve named the best sushi restaurants in Prince George but that’s on the condition readers understand these are satisfactory at best, and that said best is only marginally better than a tray picked up at the local Superstore. It’s not due to the size of our town. I am a wholehearted supporter of our local Indian, Vietnamese, and Persian restaurants, and our fine dining bistros I still believe can measure of with those in larger cities. But not with sushi…not anymore. It wasn’t always that bad, but now it is, and for those denouncing me, parading their preference as proof, I’d say come to Vancouver.
On a single day, I picked a random sushi bar, the only one opened late, and it just happened to be awesome. And I have eaten at other sushi restaurants in Vancouver before, and those were astounding as well. Are there bad ones? Of course, but those patrons living here don’t have to settle for them. Every served plate I ordered showcased the talent of a chef committed to his craft. The volcano roll, with spicy tuna, crunchy tempura, and lava sauce, was shaped like its title. Each tuna nigiri was topped with a subtle garnish of green onion. I would have kept ordering if they hadn’t forced our hand by closing the kitchen at 11:00.
If ShuRaku had opened in my home town and served this kind of food, I’d declare my blog finished, and I would dedicate myself to ShuRaku as my weekly ritual, a fitting replacement to the hole left by the lamented Suzuran. I love sushi and ShuRaku reminded me as to why. If done well, it’s sublime, and I fear it may be a while before I get to enjoy it again. Even as I write this, remembering my time, reminiscing over crisp iPhone pictures, I pine for ShuRaku as I would a lost love. I can’t find any fault. At $35, it even wasn’t that expensive. Truly amazing.
OVERALL: 9 out of 10