E: I’m finding that the out-of-the-way Japanese diners do better at serving up delicious meals than those in town. In the municipality of Oak Bay, there’s Osaka and in the district of Esquimalt, there’s Kyubey. In Saanich (Lower), there’s Yoshi. While there’s none to find in Gordon Head (yet) maybe one day that will come. Sorry Sushi Island, but there’s nothing ‘traditional’ I find in your dishes. While they do serve Okonomiyaki, I’m finding that going out to the docks on the opposite end of the city is where I need to be to get my serving.
The thought of the shrimp pancake offered here had me pulling James away from his plans in the morning and diving deep into this municipality for a touch of authentic fare.
J: And before our readers get all excited, no, Kyubey in Esquimalt has no association with the Kyubey in the Ginza district of Tokyo. One is a top-ten sushi restaurant while the other is a restaurant that probably rates in the top ten locally. I was skeptical at first but seeing photos of Totoro, Jiro (owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro) and Japan’s professional sumo wrestlers convinced me they are trying hard to say “we’re Japanese and we’re proud of it”.
E: That includes a chef who most likely trained in Japan; I can tell by the presentation of the maki rolls I ordered. It had the right balance of rice to filling. I had a scallop roll and eel to go with my brunch. I was served half the order at the start, and when the main dish arrived, I was in heaven. I had no idea in how big this okonomiyaki is going to be. At $6 per, I could have eaten two if I wanted to. The texture was just right, soft and gooey, but it did lack an essential part to this dish. I felt shaved bonito leaves would have helped add to the texture. What this condiment offers is an airy fluffiness and like a kid, I’d giggle at how it sticks inside my mouth.
What I ate brought back memories of me being in Japan and one of the first dishes I ate had been this dish! Had James and I sat at the hot-pot table, I’m sure I could have made it fresh and on the spot. But alas, it was made in the kitchen for me, and it was pleasantly warm and filling to my taste buds.
J: They have a great layout and that’s not bad when it comes to how you would like to spend an evening. There is the hot plate table, there are tables on the other side of the restaurant which seem to pay respect to the great sport of sumo and then there are tables located in front of a big screen TV so you can watch and eat at the same time. But would they mind if I switched the channel to TV Japan. Do they even carry that service? If they do my visitations would most likely double. But for now, I’ll return for the food. I started off with an excellent sunomono that is as equal to or better than that which is served by Sushi Plus. It has its own unique taste I could, to use one of Ed’s expressions, savour this like a bear savours honey. I managed to have three different tastes in one bite and all of them were pleasant. But the main meal was yet to come.
E: James, every other place tastes better than Sushi Plus. I still remember a time when he and I went to a Japanese conversation club, and upon his mentioning to go to that establishment, the shock and surprise alone from the people there was worth the price of admission. Even they don’t think much of the quality offered there. For a cheap meal, sure. For a tasty meal, it won’t happen.
I was not sure of Kyubey myself when I saw a Groupon deal (that was how I heard of this place) for their hotpot. Sometimes I think of using that service as a way to help a struggling operation gain customers. Instead, it was to let them know about their hot-pot specialty — a recent add to their operation. Maybe next time, I’ll try that. I definitely want to return to sample the chef plate and daily specials. I must say the Japanese spot prawns were sweet and their sunomono salads are many steps up beyond what other operations offer.
J: Observing Ed from across the table was like watching food porn. Flip on a Barry White record and I’m sure parents would vacate the room with their children in tow to avoid gazing at how he ate. I was ready to propose marriage to my tempura. I was loving the sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant and asparagus all covered in a flavourful yet slightly crispy batter. They match the quality I found at Vancouver’s Ebi-Ten. Finally, I don’t have to hop a BC Ferry to get my helping of tasty tempura (although I still would for any excuse to visit Vancouver).
E: But what about the ramen? I eyed James’ noodles, and although he offered to let me dive into and sample what was there, my heart was set on the Okonomiyaki. The next visit, however, will be on a chef’s plate, and go omakase.
J: The ramen had a unique taste and smell I’ve never encountered but once I got past the nervousness, I delighted in what touched my taste buds. Although the noodles were undercooked, the ingredients were worth it. The cooked half egg was unimpressive (Foo Ramen Bar at least beat everyone hands down with this). It was the tempura nori I wrapped around a slice of Japanese style pork that caused me to drop my guard and almost forgive the slightly rubberized noodles. Perhaps Ed was getting tired of hearing me compliment the combo from the ramen dish. For now, I’m sticking with Kuma Noodle for my ramen fix but if the ramen here was cooked properly I might’ve switched sides. For now, nothing beats what I’ve experienced in Vancouver. Big cities are always a tough act to follow.
4 Blokes out of 5