After a relatively ho-hum experience at Kushi Box, you'd think I was not really all that interested in trying out Zakkushi (which happens to be the full service version). Well, I didn't dislike the food at Kushi Box, I just thought it was pricey for what I got. Thus, after softball, as we were discussing eating destinations, I agreed into giving it a try. The closest location for us was the one at Main & King Ed in the same plaza as Beefy Beef. Now if you weren't specifically looking for the place, you won't necessarily find it. Hidden in the south corner of the plaza and masked by a wooden fence, it doesn't even look like a restaurant. Alas, it is indeed, in a very Izakaya-type form. The specialty here are the Kushi or charcoal-grilled meats on skewers. Mixed into the menu are Izakaya-type items, sashimi, sushi, rice and noodles. Joining me were Bear, Silent Bob, Milhouse and Boss Woman.
While not exactly spacious, this particular location can be considered enormous when compared to the other Zakkushis. We ended up with the "share" table at the front; but for the time, we never had to share it. This was probably due to Boss Woman occupying 3 spots to herself... So the meal began to go sideways before we even got a chance to order. We waited for about 10 minutes before we could flag someone down for the menu. It was probably another 5 minutes for the tea. Other than the Kushi, one item in the menu really caught my attention - Bukkake Soba. Wow, that sounded really interesting. I wonder if it is creamy and salty??? At this point Silent Bob was not very silent. He wanted nothing to do with this or be associated with the dish. Well, I just had to have it. Not every day you get a Bukkake! In addition to that, I got one each of the Gyu-Tan, P-Toro, G-Beef, Goma and Chicken Hearts. Unfortunately, they ran out of chicken hearts, so I got another skewer of Gyu-Tan (more tongue, how can anyone not like that?). Milhouse was getting a bit uncomfortable with the talk of Bukkake and tongue. To change topics, I suggested we share an Ebi-Mayo. He looked at me strangely. I guess that didn't sound too good either...
So Bear started off with the Appetizer Trio for $5.80. He got a double order of Gomae and a Goma Tofu. Unlike most "Japanese" restaurants out there, the gomae was not drenched in a candy sweet sesame sauce. Rather, we have perfectly tender spinach mixed with shoyu, toasted sesame and black sesame. Much richer and delicate flavours at work here. The tofu was smooth while not falling apart. Plated on black sesame dressing, the flavour was nutty and understated. Boss Woman wasn't all that hungry and went for the Japanese Calamari served with plum mayo. She liked the dip while the calamari itself was not that crispy. Much like foreshadowing my soba, the Ebi-Mayo arrived drenched in chili mayo. Lightly battered, the shrimp were quite good, if not a bit greasy. For some odd reason, Bear and Milhouse got their Zakkushi Savory Bowls next, while I was still waiting for my kushis and soba. I say odd because as you can clearly see, the bowls consist of rice, egg, mayo, teriyaki chicken and 2 skewers. We weren't exactly sure why they got their skewers while the ones that Silent Bob and I ordered didn't arrive at the same time. As for the bowls, both seemed to enjoy it with all items cooked the way it should be. The bowls looked very much like the one I got from Kushi Box, except plated more nicely.
Silent Bob decided to give the Triple Salmon Roll a go. It is named as such since there is salmon inside, salmon on the outside, topped with salmon roe. I didn't get to try the roll; however, Silent Bob enjoyed it. He thought the rice was prepared correctly. For me at least, the roll seemed too heavy on the rice. Okay, finally after a few complaints about my food taking so very long, I got my Bukkake... er... my Bukkake Soba I mean. Bear and Milhouse figured the reason for the delay was that the chefs were working really hard in the kitchen to produce this dish. I think Silent Bob wanted to just leave us at that point. The very al dente cold soba was topped with 2 fried shrimp, grated radish, green onion, tobiko, bonito, nori and a soft-poached egg. Essentially, this is Zaru Soba on steriods. Soba tsuyu (which consists of mirin, dashi and kaeshi) was served on the side. Being quite hungry from all the waiting since everyone had practically finished, I hastily mixed the whole thing together and ended up with what you see in the picture. At this point, everyone was quite relieved that they had already finished their food. Seeing that it was Bukkake Soba, they were quite troubled by the visual. Milhouse bravely proclaimed that it looked a bit "chunky". Heck, I didn't care, I was so hungry, I scoffed it down quickly and got it all over my face. What a messy bukkake soba!
Okay, after that, I was still hungry since my kushi hadn't arrived yet. After nearly 1.5 hours since we had arrived at the restaurant, we got our kushi. Okay, I understand that the place was busy and many people had ordered kushi. But honestly, if this is their specialty, there needs to be more resources in place to keep up with the demand. There is absolutely no excuse to keep patrons waiting for over an hour for meat on a stick. Other than the requisite apology when I had complained a few times of the wait time for my food, there was no other concession made. It could only be me; but if you make a customer wait over an hour for something that is equivalent of an appetizer, there is something horribly wrong.
Alright, was it worth the wait? Um, not really. Don't get me wrong, I liked the yakitori especially the Tsukune Goma (chicken meatball skewer with black sesame). The meat was really moist and the subtle nuttiness of the black sesame made for a simple; yet very clean tasting product. I was also quite happy with my Gyu-Tan, P-Toro and G-Beef. All were pleasant to eat; however, if you consider that the 5 skewers cost me $11.20 in total, it's not exactly cheap. In fact, most of the food at Zakkushi is a bit pricey considering what you get. It's not crazy expensive by no means; yet it's not a cheap eat for sure. In terms of the food, I actually enjoyed it. I'm just not sure that I'm dying to pay a return visit considering the slow service and the even slower food delivery. Well, at the very least, I got to try the Bukkake Soba, even though it's not a good idea to boast about it...
- Generally, the food is quite good
- It fills a niche
- A decent array of different items on the menu
- A place where you can get a Bukkake... Soba...
- A bit pricey for what you get
- Slow service
- Kushi shouldn't take over 1 hour