1368 West Pender St.
Open Monday to Saturday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to late
Signature Drink: Nigori Genshu Sake
Signature Dish: Inaniwa Nabe Udon
Dinner & drinks for two: $80
Irashai Grill has been open for about a year, and has somehow flown under much of the media radar. It can’t be the Coal Harbour location. And it’s a lovely space. Maybe it’s the menu, which, at first glance, didn’t seem to promise much out of the ordinary. Rolls, teriyaki, sashimi, udon…nothing revolutionary here. Then we began to order and realized that God is in the details.
Kawahagi ($8) was a chewy, addictive starter of filefish skin, sided with slightly spicy mayo. If you’ve never tried filefish before—or heard of it—this is a tropical fish with a rough, sandpapery skin. Both fish and skin are commonly dried and turned into a salty-sweet jerky. It’s usually roasted before eating, but Irashai barbecues it instead.
Beef tataki ($10) was a platter of beautiful, not-so-thin slices of rare, seared meat. In fact, these were slightly on the thick side, and we loved it -- especially with the garlic and green onion ponzu. Red tuna carpaccio ($12) was fresh and tangy, with drizzles of mayo, bonito soy and more green onion over a bed of aromatic greens.
For mains, we started with sashimi, deciding on the special, aji ($16), a type of Japanese mackerel. The presentation was impeccable and the best part came when the head and tail that garnished our plate were taken away to be fried up crisp before coming back to our waiting chompers. Waste not, want not…although I definitely want more of this. This small, silvery fish has a texture reminiscent of fresh sardines, although less pungent and salty, with a very delicate flesh.
We also ordered the assorted sashimi platter ($22), which came with wild salmon, ahi tuna, scallops topped with golden tobiko, prawns and snapper. Total bonus that the prawns had the heads attached -- for all you squeamish Sallies out there, let me just say you don’t know what you’re missing.
Irashai uses only wild and fresh-caught seafood, so the overall quality is amazing. However, the restaurant doesn’t claim to be sustainable, to which the blue fin tuna belly sashimi on the lunch menu can attest. I suppose they’ll discover Ocean Wise eventually…
An order of assorted tempura ($10) was not as big of a hit as our previous items. While the fish and vegetables were delicious, the batter could have been a little more airy and a tad more crispy. The Irashai Black Eel ($13), on the other hand, was mouth-meltingly moist, with deep-fried eel topping an inside-out roll packed with fresh mango, cucumber and avocado.
Instead of dessert, which isn’t exactly prominent on the menu, we decided to finish with some udon. Inaniwa Nabe ($21) was a hearty bowl of crab claw and vegetables, with—instead of the usual thick, round udon—light, thin vermicelli-style noodles that got slurped up in an awful hurry by the only person at our table who still had room.
A Pearl Among Sakes
Located in Forest Grove, Oregon, Sake One is currently the only U.S.-based sake maker. Their Momokawa Pearl Nigori Genshu Premium brew is an “old-school,” roughly filtered pure rice sake, milled to 60 per cent. The milky liquid is definitely on the sweeter side, with notes of vanilla and coconut. Pair it with steak, barbecue or sweet berry desserts. BCLS $22.99.
Time to Tango
On Thursday, Oct. 1, “Discover Your Inner Tango with Wines of Argentina” takes place. More than 25 wineries will be on hand for your tasting pleasure, many of which are not yet available at B.C. liquor stores. Tickets $59 through winesofargentina.ca starting Aug. 21.
Blues, Brews and BBQ
On Sept. 2, Hamilton Street Grill (1009 Hamilton St) will be offering a “beefed up” beer-inspired dinner featuring barbecue, beers from R & B Brewing, and live music. Tickets $60. Call 604-331-1511 for reservations and information.
Brits in da House
On Aug. 31, U.K. chef Richard Neat will be the guest chef at former protégé Warren Geraghty’s current home, West Restaurant (2881 Granville St). The two chefs will prepare a seven-course collaborative menu. Tickets $138. Call 604-738-8938 for reservations.
Food in Brief
The Dirty Apron Cooking School, brought to you by the good folks at Chambar, has now opened its doors at 540 Beatty Street. Come one come all…
The Chefs’ Table Society of B.C. will be releasing their second collaborative cookbook on Oct. 17. Vancouver Cooks 2 will feature recipes from more than 70 top B.C. chefs. Pre-order soon.