Makoto Japanese Restaurant -
Today, for my family’s weekly Saturday lunch at a place fairly close to my daughter’s Mandarin school in Burnaby, I planned on taking them to New Age Chinese Cuisine. I chose New Age because I really wanted find a good, reliable Taiwanese restaurant after having two consecutive subpar meals at Dinesty, which I had erroneously assigned the title of ”the best local Taiwanese restaurant”.
As I was backing the family 7 passenger SUV out of the driveway this morning, my daughter asked me the dreaded question.
“Where are we going for lunch?”, she asked.
“oh…New Age…a restaurant you haven’t been to. I think you’ll like it”, I answered.
“What kind of food is it?”, she continued asking.
“Good food…Soooo how do you think you’re going to do on your exam?”, I asked back, trying to change the subject.
“No. I mean is it Japanese or French or Korean or some other kind of food?”, she persisted.
“It’s Chinese. No, it’s actually Taiwanese”
“I don’t want Chinese food!”
“…why don’t you want to eat Chinese food? You have it everyday for dinner…”
“I don’t want to eat the same kind of food everyday. I want Japanese.”
I don’t blame her. I know I wouldn’t want to eat at a Chinese restaurant on the weekend if Chinese food was all that I had from Monday to Friday.
“There is this one place that is sort of close to your Mandarin food that I’ve heard of…”, I said.
I was referring to Makoto Japanese Restaurant, which was within a ten minute drive from my daughter’s Mandarin school and which I seemed to recall being a fairly well-regarded mom-and-pop type operation from the reviews I’ve read. Since the decision to visit Makoto was a rather sudden one, I did not get a chance to do a bit more research on whether the restaurant was really any good or what type of dishes they specialized in. All I could do was hope that my memories of the restaurant being well-regarded were correct.
Arriving at the restaurant, I could at least confirm that my memories were correct in the fact that Makoto was a mom-and-pop type operation. Pop was solely responsible for the front-of-the-house, holding the duties of the host as well as the server, cashier, busboy, and sushi chef (I’m actually not sure of this, but it looked to me like he was preparing the sushi that he subsequently brought out while he was behind the counter). Mom (I’m assigning this moniker to whoever it was working in the kitchen) was responsible for the preparation of all the cooked items.
The interior of the restaurant also had the look of a mom-and-pop operation.
Pop handed us our menus and ran off to deal with some alcoholic-looking patron who was only there for a beer and to put together bags of takeout that needed to be assembled. We really wanted to ask him which items the restaurant specialized in, but he looked so busy that we didn’t want to burden him by taking up even an extra second of his time. So we decided to just order some items off of their lunch menu.
Both my wife and mother-in-law had the lunch bento box B.
The bento box B meal included the following items:
- Sushi – There was one piece of albacore nigiri sushi, one piece of salmon nigiri sushi, and three pieces of California roll. Both my wife and mother-in-law thought that the California roll was one of the better versions of California rolls they’ve had. My wife said that the salmon nigiri tasted pretty generic, and she thought that the albacore nigiri was downright disgusting. She said that the albacore had such a mushy, unfamiliar, and unpleasant texture that she almost threw-up while eating it.
- Shrimp and vegetable tempura – My wife said that the tempura was quite greasy and oily. She thought the shrimp tasted ok but then she didn’t like that they only gave her half a piece of sweet potato (compared to the size of the piece of carrot).
- Beef teriyaki – The opinions of my mother-in-law and my wife diverged on this item. My mother-in-law liked the sweet teriyaki sauce and thought that the sauce was a good match with the sliced beef and included bowl of rice. My wife thought that the teriyaki sauce was too sweet. She said that the sweetness of the sauce was so overwhelming that she didn’t even remember if the slices of beef had a pleasant or unpleasant texture.
- Potato Salad – My mother-in-law thought that the potato salad was a nice, cold counterpoint to both the warm beef teriyaki and the warmer shrimp and vegetable tempura. My wife didn’t think that the potato salad belonged in the same bento box with nigiri sushi, tempura, or beef teriyaki. She didn’t think that the potato salad went well with any of the three above-mentioned items
- Mixed greens with Japanese dressing – My wife thought that this was merely mediocre while my mother-in-law liked the freshness of the greens and the tartness of the Japanese dressing.
- Rice – Both my wife and mother-in-law didn’t have too much to say about the rice. They thought that the rice was neither poorly-cooked nor exemplary.
- Miso soup – My wife said that the miso soup was salty. My mother-in-law added that the miso soup was VERY salty.
I ordered the lunch bento box A.
My bento box meal consisted of the following:
- Rice – I thought that the rice was well-cooked. It was firm to the bite and chewy in the bite-through with each grain being individually separated from its neighbors.
- Soup – I have to agree with my mother-in-law’s assessment that the soup was VERY salty.
- Sashimi – There was one slice of whitefish and I thought that it tasted like a fishy betel nut, which was a very unpleasant combination of flavours. There was one piece of surf clam that I felt came from one of those pre-packaged supermarket-bought boxes of frozen surf clams. There were two slices of Albacore. Like my wife said, the albacore was so unpleasantly mushy that I questioned whether I would get sick after eat the two slices. This was definitely the second most unpleasant piece of mushy albacore that I’ve ever had (second only to the mushy, tasted-like-it-was-fremented-but-it-really-wasn’t piece of ponzu-soaked albacore I had at sushi wasabi in Tustin, CA). Finally, there were two pieces of salmon. Both pieces of salmon had very fishy aromas, which I took as a sign of the fish not being fresh. They should’ve cooked the salmon instead of serving it raw.
- Tempura – I also thought that the tempura was greasy. Further, I also thought that the batter was a little too thick on all of the tempura items. The pieces of tempura shrimp were very average-tasting and the tempura vegetables were forgettable.
- Chicken Teriyaki – I thought that they were being stingy by including only four pieces of the chicken teriyaki. I wanted more because I really liked how the chicken teriyaki tasted. I didn’t think the sauce was too sweet and I thought the sauce perfectly complemented the battered, deep-fried chicken. I could taste the grease used to fry the chicken when I bit into it and I liked the greasy aromas very much. I also liked the not-too-dry texture of the chicken meat.
- Mixed greens with Japanese dressing – I thought that this was fairly average and nothing special. The dressing tasted like bottled Japanese salad dressing and the greens looked like they could have come form one of those pre-mixed bags of greens available at your favorite local grocer.
- Potato salad – I liked eating the salad by itself and having it with a bit of rice. But I also shared my wife’s sentiment that the potato salad seemed out-of-place in the bento box.
My daughter and son shared a lunch combo consisting of two items: A mini beef teriyaki don and a mini beef udon.
My son didn’t finish the tiny portion of beef teriyaki in his mini don, so I assumed that he didn’t like it. My wife commented that my son was used to eating saltier versions of beef teriyaki, and that it looked like my son was having a hard time accepting the sweeter version of teriyaki sauce that drowned the slices of beef.
My daughter also took her time in eating her beef udon. She did say that she liked the udon noodles and thought the soup tasted ok, but she thought that the slices of beef in her beef udon were flavourless. It took my daughter almost an hour to finish her mini beef udon, which indicated that my daughter thought that the udon bowl was just ok overall.
Most of the dishes we had today were average or below-average. There were certainly some items that we liked – such as my chicken teriyaki – but there were also items that we thought we hazardous for our health – such as the extremely mushy raw albacore tuna. If you were to ask me to suggest items to order at Makoto, I will tell you to only stick with cooked items…but as I said, I don’t really know which items the restaurant specializes in. For those of you who have been to this restaurant, can you tell me what items I should order if I were to revisit Makoto in the future?