Sherman's Food Adventures: Black Rice Izakaya

Black Rice Izakaya

Eating with Milhouse and Lionel Hutz can be a very enjoyable experience.  Is it because they are great conversationalists?  Well, if one enjoys listening to Lionel Hutz's never-ending yammering about his exploits (hmm...  kinda like Lionel Hutz!) or Milhouse's self-deprecating humour (wait...  Like Milhouse?).  No wonder those are their nicknames!  Anyways, the real reason dining with them is so awesome is that they will eat anything and at any location.  Hence, heading into Downtown for some late night Izakaya after Friday hockey was no problemo.

Just to make sure (after recent fails), I called ahead to make a rez (even though we really didn't need one).  Another perk having them as dining companions is that they let me order!  So we kicked things off with the Chicken Karaage with nanban sauce.  This was a fair portion of succulent nuggets of dark meat that was coated in a lightly crispy batter.  It was inherently well-seasoned, but did benefit further from the nanban.  However, I would've liked to see more tang to balance off the sweetness.

Onto one of my "must-haves", we tried their version of Ebi-Mayo with buttery mayo and bacon bits.  Unfortunately, this was not to my liking.  I found the mayo to be uninteresting and lifeless.  Even the bits of chewy bacon didn't do much.  On the other hand, the fried ebi were decent having a meaty snap while coated with a light batter.  Another so-so item was the Black Rice Roll consisting of Pacific black cod, avocado,
cream cheese and sweet bell pepper wrapped in black rice.  We thought the firm and robust black rice was not a good match for the delicate black cod.  The fish was over-matched by the firm texture of the rice while the bell pepper may have not been the best choice of condiment either.  The raw flavour of the pepper ensured that the cod would not only be overshadowed texturally, but also taste-wise.

Arriving in a sizzling hot stone bowl, the Beef & Assorted Mushroom Ishiyaki seemed a bit small in portion size.  On the other hand, I guess that helped ensure the rice would be able to form a crust.  That it did and the right amount of sweet shoyu afforded a certain level of caramelization as well.  Nutty, chewy and browned, the rice was appealing in texture while the beef was succulent and tender.  The combination of peppers, onions and mushrooms added both aroma and umami to the dish.  Another solid offering was the Chef's Sashimi SaladThere was actually more sashimi than mesclun greens.  There was a combination of tako, seared tuna and salmon, tai and albacore tuna.  I particularly liked the seared tuna as it was buttery and fairly sweet.  Normally tako can be a bit chewy for a sashimi salad, but they sliced it thin enough in this case.  As for the dressing, it was probably a bit too creamy, but it did have enough acidity.

Whenever I see Aburi Salmon on the menu, I tend to order to see how it compares to Miku.  Well, the one at Black Rice was rather ordinary.  With that being said, there wasn't anything wrong.  In fact, the sushi rice was nicely chewy while the salmon on top was buttery.  However, the sear was far too weak and sauce was not impactful.  They should've put more sauce and torched the whole thing with more gusto.  Our last dish was the Tuna Tartare with garlic crostinis.  This was fairly enjoyable since the tuna was buttery and soft.  It was accented by avocado and a creamy dressing. It wasn't particularly sweet nor acidic though (it was just there).  Nice textural contrast between the crispy and airy crostinis and the soft tartare.  Overall, we were satisfied with our late night "snack" despite some issues here and there.  We still prefer the classics such as Hapa, Guu and Kingyo, but Black Rice is an option as well.

The Good:
- Serviceable food
- Decently comfortable for an izakaya

The Bad:
- A bit pricey
- Depending on the server, we either got attentive or completely indifferent   


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