Derm and I decided to skip dinner at St. John’s on Thursday night in favour of Sushi Challenge #5. Our continuing mission is to explore strange new all-you-eat-sushi restaurants; to seek out new sashimi, new maki…and to boldly gorge down more fish than anyone has ever managed before. We have already encountered Tanpopo, BC Sushi, Shabusen (Granville), and Tomokazu. Kisha Popo was the venue for Sushi Challenge #5. Below are the current rankings.
1. Tanpopo (Denman & Davie): I like the fact that the restaurant is on the second floor and that those waiting to get inside line up on the stairs out of sight of the tables. This allows for a clear separation between the people waiting to get in and those already seated. I hate it when the line up spills into the eating area. I find it mildy unsettling when people are standing around me when I’m eating, and I hate drafts from the door opening and closing. By the way, I don’t like sitting in the back row of a plane either.
Tanpopo was the venue for the first sushi challenge, and is alone among the sushi restaurants in that I have been there multiple times. It remains my favourite all-you can eat sushi experience. I am especially fond of the spicy tuna sashimi (which is the best I’ve had) and the bacon-wrapped scallop skewers (I have yet to find this item anywhere else).
Another dimension to the Tanpopo experience is the mind games they play with you. They try to fill you up with rice and tempura. Often they play subtle tricks like being slower to bring expensive items than cheap items and/or bringing huge portions of something like vegetable tempura and small portions of sashimi. Sometimes they are not so subtle and will bring big plates of filler that you didn’t even order! After they’ve decided that you’ve had enough, they will also slow way down. If you want to order three or more rounds, be prepared to be there for hours.
2. Tomokazu (Broadway & Spruce): I’m a sucker for second floor restaurants. I like looking down on the street carnival outside. Despite being on the second floor, however, the line-up still spills messily into the eating area. In addition, because the stairs are outside, a large number of tables are within draft range. The booths are sweet though; if you’re lucky enough to get one. The quality of the sushi was uniformly high here, although nothing stood out as particularly exceptional like Tanpopo’s spicy tuna sashimi. The fact that our table was the only one at which English was being spoken is an excellent indicator of Tomokazu’s quality as well.
My only complaint is that it is really hard to judge portion sizes here. This is a problem with all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants in general, but Tomokazu is even worse than most. For example, the “steak” turned out to be so small you could swallow the whole thing without chewing. We could have easily ordered 20 of them per person.
3. Shabusen (Granville & 14th): Shabusen is unique in that it is the only restaurant with Korean BBQ that we’ve encountered so far. Unfortunately, our experience was tainted by the fact that we made an ordering mistake with the BBQ. We ended up with 3 huge bowls of BBQ meat: pork, chicken, and beef. One bowl would have been more than enough. The staff kept a close eye on us, smirking at us the whole time. I wonder if they had wagered on whether or not we would crack under the pressure. Knowing that we would have to pay for anything that we didn’t eat added a bit of stress to the challenge.
It was tough, but we eventually succeeded, although without much help from Derm. This was by far his worst showing. I pwnd him. He just couldn’t handle the stress. At one point he started to hyperventilate, and tears welled up in his eyes. I tried to reassure him that we could always just put stuff in a napkin and make an extra deposit in the bathroom. Luckily, I was able to calm him down enough so that he could eat a couple more pieces. The BBQ meat is definitely more filling than the sashimi. Overall I think the BBQ (in moderation) adds a nice dimension to the challenge because it prevents fish saturation.
Winner: Tyson (no contest)
4. Kisha Popo (Davie & Thurlow): We made the worst ordering mistake of all the challenges to date here. We ended up with an Elvis Platter of sashimi. There was enough to satisfy a table of 8. It was hard to eat that much raw fish. I didn’t think it was possible to get full eating nothing but sashimi. I was wrong. I hit the fish saturation point about 20 pounds in. We must have each eaten a whole tuna fish and Salmon. If it weren’t for the side of spicy sauce, we would not have been able to make it.
I have never eaten so much fish in one go in my entire life. Even the individual pieces of sashimi were huge. We would have to cut them up before eating them. One day we’ll have to go back so we can sample a few more of the non-sushi items. The baked oysters were excellent, as was the steak tataki. This is the only restaurant where we did not even order a second round. It shames me, but we were both soundly defeated.
One reason to go to Kisha Popo is the character of Davie street itself. What a street carnival. There is always something interesting on the go. We couldn’t tell if the Hobo we stepped around was a man or a woman. The assortment outside the Starbucks included a lesbian couple (one was enormously fat), a scruffy-looking old man, a guy singing to himself, another lesbian couple, and about a half a dozen dogs.
Winner: none (nobody wins in a pure sashimi challenge)
5. BC Sushi (Broadway & Arbutus): There is nothing wrong with this place. It’s just a bit ordinary in every way. It doesn’t get much cheaper though: $10 for lunch. But there was a limit of 6 pieces of sashimi per guest and $1 charge for every 6 additional pieces of sashimi. Still you cannot beat the price.
Month: May 2006
Derm, Juan Gab, and myself celebrated our respective birthdays on Saturday night. Derm turns 19 on May 12 (he still has to use a fake ID for a little while yet), Juan Gab turned 27 on April 27, and I hit the big 40 on April 30. The tone of the evening was set when we started with a tall boy in a “bus bag”. I will share a “before” picture of us waiting at the bus loop (below). I will also share a “during” picture of us birthday boys at the Trap and Gill. The “after” pictures are too offensive for publication here.
Not only was there a good turnout at the Atlantic Trap and Gill, but also for the establishment that was on the agenda to close out the evening. Unfortunately, two of the three birthday boys were turned away at the door of said establishment. The combination of a narcissistic power-tripping bouncer and a drunk Newfie who couldn’t keep his mouth shut ultimately forced a change of venues. We went to the Two Parrots instead after gorging on chicken poutine. I call the Two Parrots “Tom’s bar” because the tosser got up on the table and sang “God Save the Queen” on his 22nd birthday (June 10, 2005) shortly before we dropped him off at Vancouver General Hospital for the night. But that is a different story.
The Two Parrots is where the photos become a blur. At some point during the festivities, I lost my cell phone (I figured this out the next day). There are pictures on my camera of us posing with the waitress at the two parrots. There is a video clip of the Derm singing “I’s the B’y”. Then there are pictures of us outside St. John’s College and in the hallways. There is even one of Derm knocking on some poor soul’s door. We may never find out whose.
The only pictures after entering the Two Parrots and before the next morning are of a party in Derm’s room. Unfortunately the screetch shots (this is what I get for celebrating my birthday with a Newfie) caught up to me at this point. It shames me to admit it, but the Newfie soundly beat me on this night and I retired at about 4 AM whereas he apparently continued to party until 10 AM the next morning. Hats off.
The Flames Suck
What a disappointing finish to a promising season. There will be no vindication for having the Cup stolen in game 6 of the Stanley Cup series in 2004. Did everyone on the team have the flu? I was looking forward to a battle of Alberta, but it was not to be. Oh well, I guess I’ll get more work done this way because I won’t be rushing home to watch hockey.
The Wait is Over
I found out last week that I have been accepted into the medical program at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I received the phone call on the Tuesday morning after Mark’s farewell party. I have no memory of getting home from the bar other than the fact that I got a ride with Meryn, but Derm informs me that I knocked on his window at about 3 AM. Needless to say, I was disorientated on the phone when the admissions officer called the next morning. It took me a long time to figure out who was calling me or what she was trying to tell me. After devoting so much time and energy to the application process, and investing so much emotionally on going to medical school, I always imagined that if got in I would feel euphoria and elation. I never imagined that I would feel no emotion whatsoever. But that’s exactly what happened because of the circumstances surrrounding the way I found out. I was simply in no shape to react in any way except go back to bed and hope the room would stop spinning.
I am happy that the wait is over. There is no doubt now that I will be a physician one day. The only question is where, as I am still waiting for the results from five other medical schools. I am on track to defend my PhD thesis sometime in June, so I will hopefully meet the requirements of completing my graduate degree prior to admission. It has not been easy. The five weeks I spent working non-stop on my thesis were brutal. On weekdays I would be in the lab from 9 AM to 7 PM, come back to St. John’s for dinner, then go back to the lab and work from 8 PM until midnight or 1 AM. The weekends weren’t much different except that sometimes I would go out for dinner, which was a welcome escape from my windowless stress-reeking prison of an office.
I am grateful to my St. John’s College friends for relieving my stress and making my experience in Vancouver so damn enjoyable. You have been officially acknowledged in my thesis.