Sherman's Food Adventures: Black Rice Izakaya

Black Rice Izakaya

I'm going to go on a rant here about Black Rice Izakaya.  For those who don't know, it is a Korean-run Japanese restaurant.  For some reason or another, that is somehow a negative for certain people.  Even if the food is consistently good and the chefs are legitimately trained to produce quality Japanese dishes, it still isn't enough.  Besides, Sushi Jin is Korean-run and I believe it is one of the best in town.  So my question is: what if there is a Japanese-run Korean restaurant?  How about an Asian chef at a French restaurant?  Those do not seem to be much of an issue and frankly, it shouldn't be an issue.  In a day and age of inclusion and equality, why do we still prejudge things like this?  Okay, onto the post...  Mijune and I dropped by to try some of their new menu items.  Before the haters start hating again, I've been here on my own coin before, so no, I didn't rant because I was invited.

Before we got to new stuff, we had the 5 Kinds of Sashimi Platter albeit a more "special one".  This featured kinki, chutoro, hirame, madai, shima-aji and Hokkaiko uni.  The kinki (channel rockfish) was torched rather than blanched, which meant it remained sweet bearing natural flavours.  Naturally, the bevy of Hokkaido uni was a real treat with an intense sweetness.  Everything else had a nice sheen, but the chutoro was my favourite since blue fin tuna is so buttery and delicious.

We were then presented with the Aburi Hakozushi Platter consisting of Aburi Salmon, Aburi Negitoro, Aburi Ebi and Aburi Saba.  Our favourite of the bunch was the negitoro as it featured buttery albacore toro mixed with just enough green onion.  It was topped with spouts as well.  The saba was pretty solid with a flavourful miso sauce while the ebi featured a briny and creamy mentaiko mayo.  Lastly, the salmon was different than most places imitating Miku, this was a bit spicer and more zesty.

Before we moved onto the new menu items, we had the B.T.S. (Black Rice's Top Secret) Box featuring fresh items on hand and also curated to not duplicate (as much as possible) what was already ordered.  So we ended up with a selection including steak bites, a fish croquette, lollipop roll, black angus beef, chicken nanban, grilled sablefish 
and salmon tataki.  This was a nice array of small dishes where I thought the beef, salmon and sablefish were the best items.

Onto the new dishes, we had the Nori Soba first.  This was a cold noodle with house-made seaweed pesto, shiitake mushroom, pickled onion and topped with tobiko.  We thought this was an absolute umami bomb with earthiness, brininess and tang.  Being a cold noodle, the soba had an appealing chew with a nice rebound.  I felt that if this noodle was hot, it would lose some of the fresh seafoody flavours, so being cold worked.

Next dish was the Rose Ragu Soba, which to me, was good enough to be served in a fine Italian restaurant.  No joke!  This consisted of a spicy ragu made with minced Black Angus beef, bacon, onion, sundried tomato and Parmesan cheese served with crispy parmesan chips.  Once again, the soba was firmly al dente.  The ragu was impactfully spicy with a meaty richness (with help from the cream) that helped temper the heat.  Pops of tang and sharpness were provided by the tomato and onion while the cheese helped add even more body.  I absolutely loved this dish.

Last noodle we had was the Pad Thai Yaki Soba with black tiger prawns, bay scallops, egg, chives, peanuts, micro cilantro and Thai chilli pepper.  Okay, you might be thinking...  Pad Thai?  In a Japanese restaurant???  Well, rest assured, this was actually quite good with great balance of sweet, tangy and spice.  The noodles were al dente again and the prawns had a sweet snap. Personally, I would order the first 2 noodles before this one, but for those who want something familiar-tasting and sounding, this would be it.

Okay, if we didn't have enough sashimi already, we also got the Kaisen Donburi featuring 10-12 kinds of local and daily catch sashimi including hotate, tamago, ikura and kaki pon.  This was served on a separate dish atop a bowl of sushi rice (with the ikura on top) so that it would be easier to eat.  All of this was served with fresh grated wasabi.  As you can see, they did not skimp on the sashimi and it also included a spot prawn with a fried head.  The rice was on point in texture with a chewiness while completely seasoned (sweet with tang from the vinegar).

If that wasn't enough, we had the Aburi Salmon Donburi for good measure.  This sported Atlantic salmon sashimi, salmon tartare, tobiko, ikura and chopped shiso on top of sushi rice.  The fish to rice ratio was 50/50 so that each spoonful was balanced with chewy seasoned sushi rice with buttery torched salmon.  This was as simple as it gets and the freshness of the fish (as fresh as flash frozen can get) was evident with a seafoody sweetness.

As a bonus of sorts, we were served an off-menu item in the Grilled Eel.  Already par-cooked, the buttery soft eel was finished off on a hotplate at our leisure.  This helped crisp up the skin even more than it was already crispy.  Therefore, the contrast between the buttery eel and skin was an absolute delight.  Eating it with the julienned ginger and garlic chips was good enough (ginger helped cut the richness), but for those who want unagi sauce, there was some as well.

For dessert, we were served one each of the Tiramisu Tart and the Yuzu Custard Tart.  The tart shells were on the softer side (I would've liked them firmer) while the fillings were creamy and flavourful.  This was especially true for the yuzu custard with a sweet tanginess.  They were finished off with fresh whipped cream.  Overall, the new noodle and rice dishes we tried were quite good.  I especially enjoyed the rose ragu soba and the kaisen donburi.  Honestly, I don't care what other narrow-minded people think about Black Rice.  The food is solid and prepared with high-quality ingredients.  For those haters who want to keep on hating, do they know that there is a Japanese-trained chef as well as a French-trained chef in the kitchen?  It isn't as if this is Sushi Garden!  If there are Michelin-Star restaurants in France with Asian Executive Chefs, then people should have open-minds to who is in the kitchen.  I do admit I had some of those negative views before, but as I experienced more, it became clear to me is that we judge the food regardless of who is preparing it.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Fresh high-quality ingredients
- Well-prepared food
- Fairly reasonable pricing

The Bad:
- Seating is fairly spacious but I'm not a fan of the hard chairs


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