March 21st, 2008 · 2 Comments

Sai Z SignSai-Z
(604) 732-7249
Address: 3116 West Broadway (map)

‘Sai –Z’ing up
a Quick Bite

By Desmond Cheung
Eat Vancouver writer

Any visitor to Vancouver will notice that there are Japanese restaurants aplenty here. The city’s Japanese fare range from all-you-can-eat satisfaction to the exquisite Omakase dining experience, yet Japanese food lovers should always welcome a new quality restaurant, especially one such as Sai-Z where the unusual décor and an exciting menu should appeal not least to the fashions of its Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Sai-Z’s headline boasts are its use of a traditional Japanese soup stock, that they serve Wild Sockeye salmon, premium grade American Kobe beef and AAA Canadian beef. If these were not enough of a lure, Sai-Z also offers Omakase dinners, with the difference that one knows what’s on this special menu before the dishes are served, unlike other restaurants offering this mode of dining where the chef conjures up delightful dishes after hearing the diner’s preferences.

I confess, however, that I tried none of these vaunted specials but decided to order à la carte as there was so much I wanted to try. I was dining with a group of friends for a birthday and decided to share some favourite dishes and also to taste some less commonly featured items.

Sai Z Sashimi saladTo start the meal, we were given an amuse bouche on the house. This was a nice gesture though the spoonful of seafood cocktail was dominated by its creamy sauce. Then came the Spicy Sashimi Salad which was fantastic. The freshness of the sockeye salmon, unagi eel, prawns and scallops was brought out by the slightly spicy, tangy sauce. The greens and shreds of sprouts and onion provided the perfect cushion and the crunchy slices of lotus root were a genius addition. The Soft Shell Crab Karaage was less impressive. I would have preferred a crisper batter and any fine flavour of the crab itself did not come through. I appreciated the jellified sauce though – the crab would have been overly dampened had it been poured over. As for the Tuna and Salmon Isobe, it was an interesting idea but I think that the fish might have held better if it were gently seared instead of being deep fried. For rolls I ordered the Caterpillar having heard that it was a Sai-Z specialty. The rich slices of avocado on top of the roll were perfectly matched by the unagi eel and cucumber within, and the tempura bits at its heart were a superb addition. I also tried pieces of Double Smoke Roll (smoked eel and smoked sockeye salmon) and California Roll (made with Dungeness Crab) and enjoyed those too.

Sai Z tableThe design of the restaurant itself is remarkable if somewhat strange. I was told that it’s the only Japanese restaurant in Vancouver that has a piano and live music performances – apparently crowning the stylish main restaurant/bar area. Yet beyond this fashionable front, there is a dining area on two levels with a quasi-rustic feel complete with woody balcony and earthen courtyard colour. It seems as if formerly separate spaces had been stuck together. (The storage room-like space at the very top and rear of the dining area suggests that they ran out of ideas or that the design budget had been exhausted). So, while I did not enjoy unreservedly everything I sampled, the quality seemed generally high. I like the place and hope that next time I visit, I’ll get a table near the piano.

Sai Z on Urbanspoon

Tags: Japanese · Quick Bites

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dean // Apr 5, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    One of the few classy Japanese restaurants in a city saturated with all-you-can eat

  • 2 Clutterer // Apr 25, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Don’t sit near the piano unless you like being drowned out in muzak Celine Dion. It’s enough to ruin the entire meal.

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