Light, light, and lite: Bistro Sakana

My original plan was to visit the new southern BBQ place on Denman for lunch today, but my wife convinced me that it would probably be a better idea to wait for the restaurant to work out its newly-opened-restaurant kinks before trying it out. Instead of finding another restaurant in the west end to dine at, we headed all the way across the downtown core (in less than 10 minutes) to Yaletown so that we could audition the food at Bistro Sakana.

Since my wife, son, and I visited during lunch time, we ordered off of the restaurant’s lunch specials menu. My son had their daily chicken teriyaki special. The meal came with miso soup, sunomono, chicken teriyaki, dynamite roll, and white rice.

My son wanted no part of the miso soup or sunomono. Naturally, I took on the responsibility of finishing them on his behalf. Because I had already finished the miso soup that came with my lunch, I knew what to expect with the miso soup: blandness. There was way too little miso paste present in each bowl of soup; the miso flavours were faint and felt watered-down three times over.

The broth of the sunomono tasted as watered-down as the miso soup. Gone were the usual tangy and acidic flavours that accompanied sunomono; present were flavours that occupied a spot in the flavour spectrum between light lemonade and lemoned flavoured iced water. The ingredients of the sunomono were pretty typical; there were thin rice noodles, cucumbers, seaweed, and baby shrimps. Each element had textures that were both recognizable and predictable.

My son liked his chicken teriyaki. I could tell that the texture of the chicken meat was tender – it took very little effort for my son to chew through each piece. The sauce must not have been too sweet because my son adored it. He usually complains about the sweetness of teriyaki sauces and often wants to have as little of it covering whatever meat he happens to order as possible, but he actually demanded to have every last drop of the teriyaki sauce on his plate to be scooped up and transferred to his bowl of rice. The only complaint that my son had with his chicken teriyaki was that there was not nearly enough chicken meat in the order to satisfy his appetite.

The dynamite roll was interesting. The roll was thin and short; there was less rice than filling in every piece of the roll; there were leafy greens in the roll. The leafs gave the roll a fresh, bright, and crunchy character that I enjoyed. But their strong presence in the roll also resulted in the flavours and textures of the tempura shrimp being almost completely masked. Eating the roll made me feel like I was on a diet eating a vegetarian roll that was itself on a diet.

The ‘diet’ theme continued with the lunch box special A that both my wife and I ordered.

The lunch box came with the following items:

Three slices of chicken teriyaki – the slices were thin and the chicken meat was lean, white, and almost-chicken-McNugget-like in its texture and appearance. Although it did not have a texture that was dry nor tough, the chicken was also neither juicy nor tender. The teriyaki chicken basically tasted like way-too-thinly-sliced mystery meat drizzled (once again) with watered-down teriyaki sauce.

Four pieces of California roll – like the dynamite roll, there was more ingredient than rice ┬áin the roll. Also like the dynamite roll, the pieces of sushi were thin both in girth and length. Biting into the pieces of California roll revealed flavours that were subdued and light. In other words, the flavours were dull and bland.

Sashimi – the pieces of raw fish were very fresh. There was enough fattiness in the tuna for me to detect a sweet unctuousness in them. The salmon was conversely devoid of marbling and consequently full of flavours. The way the pieces of fish were cut was odd and awkward. The cubes were way too small for the sashimi to be considered enjoyable in even half-a-bite. What could’ve been beautifully enjoyable raw fish was reduced to merely hints and flashes of possibly-enjoyable flavours and textures with the inexplicable decision to cut them into tiny cubes.

Rice – I ordered brown rice instead of white rice. The tiny bowl of rice lasted me all of five bites. Pathetically-portioned, period.

Tempura – the two pieces of shrimp and three pieces of vegetable tempura had outer shells that were almost-perfectly thinly battered. The batter was crispy on the outside and the ingredients residing underneath the thin shells retained all of their natural flavours and textures. The only slight misstep with the preparation was that the tempura felt a tad too greasy. You would think that, as well-executed as the pieces of tempura were, I would have completely fallen in lust with them. I didn’t. I completely…was not able to enjoy the tempura because there was simply not enough of it for me to enjoy. Before I could even start to savor or appreciate the pieces of deep fried goodness, they were gone. Were they really as well-executed as I remembered them to be? I honestly can’t say.

Four grapes and half-a-slice of a tiny orange – the grapes were sweet. The orange was rescued by our server, who was way too eager to clear plates off our table.

The themes to my lunch today at Bistro Sakana were as follows: light, bland, dull, watered down, and way too little food. The tiny portion sizes and light flavours made us feel like we were forced to go on a diet…I do NOT need to go on a diet. In fact, I don’t even have that big of an appetite. All I need and desire is a meal that will help me maintain my less-than-145-pound-and-one-inch-less-than-six-feet frame. Is that too much to ask?

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About dontcallmeafoodblogger

Just like most people can think of a song that perfectly fits the mood of a moment or a particular situation, I often think about meals or dishes that would be perfect for a specific moment. Most of my thoughts are about food and I think in terms of food. To me, food is much more than something you ingest, desire, crave, or dislike. It relates to culture, to family, to politics, and to every other aspect of my life. I admit I might be a little obsessed and maybe even addicted to food, but I've been afflicted all my life. I was born with it and with this outlet for my food thoughts, I'll have a chance to run wild with it.
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4 Responses to Light, light, and lite: Bistro Sakana

  1. Gary S. says:

    Love this restaurant, and eat here 2 or 3 times a week for lunch. It sounds that you might be suffering from an MSG addiction. I know for a fact that they don’t use it here. Miso soup made from scratch, from actual miso and dashi (bonito/kombu broth), not from a package laced with MSG, will certainly seem bland compared to it’s cheaper counterpart (found in most cheap Japanese restaurants). The same goes for sauces. MSG is frequently used to “pump up” the flavor. Is it good for you? Does it taste natural? Or is it used to mask the use of poor quality ingredients? Another story. Myself, I refuse to eat in places that use MSG. I know that once people are used to it, it’s difficult to appreciate food without it. Try eating food without it for a while and you may find that some flavors, although subtle, will start to come back to you.

    • Hi Gary, I appreciate your comment. My main problem with the meal was not the light flavours, but the small portion sizes. But in terms of the light flavours of the miso soup, I do not think that it from the lack of MSG. I grew up having (and making) home made miso soup and I have intimate knowledge of the relationship between the amount of miso paste utilized and the intensity of miso flavours in a soup. Miso soup is not really that difficult of an item to make for most restaurants to need to substitute the MSG-included powdered form for the various miso pastes (organic, non-organic, made-in-Japan, made-locally, red, yellow, white) readily available at local supermarkets or commercial vendors. The miso soup (and sauces) at Bistro Sakana simply tasted ‘lighter’ than I would’ve liked. They probably purposely and consciously toned down the overall intensity of flavours for the sake of their health-conscious target patrons. My comments on the lightness of flavours was simply an expression of my preferences for more intense and bolder flavors.

  2. Karen says:

    Love this little place. Creme Brulee trio is very yummy. :)

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