Maruyama: Omakase with Chef

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Thanks to Raymond of ChineseBites, we were invited to a private omakase nigiri tasting at the new, cozy Maruyama Japanese Restaurant, opened June just earlier this year.

Previously the raw bar chef at Blue Water Cafe, Chef Yoshiya Maruyama has ventured into opening his own restaurant in East Vancouver on Rupert St, replacing the old Kimura.

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“Omakase” is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it up to you”; an omakase tasting means the dishes are selected by the chef himself. This way, the chef can choose from the freshest seasonal ingredients available to create a unique and special meal for each customer, that showcases Japan’s delicate cuisine.

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The first course of the evening, our appetizer was Hamno with ume sauce, pike eel served cold, with tamago on the side.

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On this beautiful nigiri platter was :Aji (horse mackerel), Tako (octopus), Red Tuna (bigeye), and Renkodai (yellow sea bream).

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On this plate: Madai (Red Seabream), Engawa (flounder), Alaskan sockeye, and Hamachi (yellowtail).

Favourites from these two nigiri platters? Everything. It’s impossible to just pick one or two. Each bite was so luscious and exquisite, prepared delicately as an art form.

Maruyama’s fish and seafood come from over 7,000km away directly from Tokyo (Tsukiji Fish Market), and Osaka in Japan. Their seafood is shipped to Vancouver daily, so you can definitely taste the freshness in each bite of nigiri.

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On the left, Bluefin Tuna Otoro. Otoro is the most expensive cut of tuna, and high in fat. It’s important to mention that this bluefin tuna from Maruyama is farmed, not wild, especially since bluefin tuna are currently listed as endangered.

On the right, Salmon Toro (Norwegian Steelhead). Both the tuna and salmon tuna simply melt into your tastebuds. I couldn’t get enough of these!

Maruyama’s supplier of seafood is actually the same one as Miku and Minami downtown, which already speaks volumes as to their quality.

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Housemade cold udon: This udon is meant to be mixed with the cold soup (top right corner), and customized with different toppings as you please. Love the udon – as it’s handmade, each bite is chewy with just the right amount of bounce.

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On the left, Ankimo (monkfish liver). The liver is first rubbed with salt, and then rinsed with sake, but still maintains its distinctive taste. On the right, Hotate (Japanese scallop). The scallop was soft, succulent, with a rich, sweet taste that lingers on your tongue.

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Soft shell crab tempura – One of my favourite Japanese dishes, Maruyama did not disappoint. A wonderful crispy crunch on the outside, and buttery soft crab inside.

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On the left, Ikura (salmon roe) with cucumber. On the right, Takowasa (raw octopus with wasabi). Beware the wasabi in this one, it’s a real kicker, especially when you’re not expecting it!

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All in all, an exquisite omakase nigiri tasting of Japan’s finest seafood. If you visit Maruyama, I would highly recommend reserving seats at the bar to be able to watch up close and hear about the chef’s sushi masterpieces.

Thank you, Chef Yoshiyama, for a truly wonderful evening!


Minami Restaurant – Pet Peeves

I celebrated my friend’s birthday a few weeks ago, by taking her out to dinner to Minami Restaurant, in Yaletown.

Before this trip, I liked to think of Minami as Miku’s little sister. As were were seated and looking through the menu, our server mentioned that the Minami menu was 80% similar to the Miku menu.

The food was fantastic, our server was great.. but Minami hit two of my biggest restaurant pet peeves that left a sour note in my memory.


1) Why is it so loud? 

The restaurant was quite full when we arrived at 7:30pm. Aside from smaller tables of 2-4 people lining the sides, there was a big party sitting at a long table running down the middle of the room. The “room” we were sitting in probably seated about 50-60, but it was deafening loud in there. It was like there was no design for any kind of noise reduction.

I found I had to raise my voice quite a bit and lean in towards my friend so she could hear me. This was very uncomfortable, and impacts our ability to have a flowing conversation over dinner. Imagine going out on a date, and then having to shout at your date over dinner – very attractive (sarcasm intended).

Pet Peeve: I hate loud restaurants.

2) Why is it so dark?

It was very very very dark in the restaurant, only lit up by very dim lighting, and individual candles on each table. It’s like walking into Hollister and feeling like I need to bring a flashlight to see what’s inside the store. It’s the kind of dark that if you don’t tilt your menu the right way, you can’t catch the dim light of the candle, and therefore you won’t be able to read the menu probably. Has it not been considered… if I can’t even see my food properly, how am I to enjoy the exquisite artwork that the chef put together on my plate?

I understand this is done for ambiance and mood-lighting – but there’s a difference between making it “romantic” by dimming a few lights, and making it Dark Table-esque, where I have to discreetly examine my food to figure out what I’m putting in my mouth.

Pet Peeve: I hate dark restaurants.


I know I enjoyed the duck entree and the aburi oshi salmon I ordered – but honestly, these two pet peeves are enough to prevent me from returning to Minami to enjoy a second meal.