With the name Charcoal Sushi & BBQ Restaurant, you would expect a Korean-owned establishment serving sushi and Korean BBQ. Not like there aren’t any, Kyo Korean BBQ & Sushi House just to name one. However, Charcoal is Chinese-staffed and owned, situated on the second level of London Plaza, there are plenty of covered parking underneath. Having never being tired of Japanese food, Cal and Mizu wanted something aside from different then their usual go-to place Manzo.
The place was decent sized, but was only half filled despite it being dinner time, with most of the patrons seated at the tables with the grill enjoying their meats. Luckily, we were seated away from the tables that were grilling, since none of us felt like having BBQ or smelling of grilled meats afterwards.
Charcoal didn’t have an extensive sake menu, but seeing how they had 1.8L put up as decoration I asked the server if they serve any of them. They did and we proceeded to order a 1.8L bottle of 古都千年 Koto Sennen – junmai dai ginjo, which was surprisingly cheaper than the all the other Japanese restaurants in Richmond, or anywhere for a fact. We ended up drinking two bottles between the three of us.
Found on their ‘Specials/Chef Recommendations’ menu where they had cheaply printed pictures of the menu items. It consisted of chopped salmon, tuna & scallop tartare topped with black tobiko and served with a side of seaweed for you to wrap up the ingredients. There was also a quail egg ontop, but Mizu dug into it before I was able to take a picture. The tartare didn’t have any speical seasoning or flavours aside from mayo, which made the ingredients inside very creamy. I guess your’e supposed to mix everything along with the dollops of sauces outside to get the ‘tartare’ effect. The sauces were wasabi mayo and a sweet unagi kabayaki. The caviar added a nice crunch to it, and just a hint of saltiness to bring out the seafood flavours more.
Served with a heavily yuzu flavoured ponzu and jalapeño. The thinly sliced jalapeño wasn’t too spicy, it added a nice kick to the fish. I really enjoyed the addition of yuzu to the ponzu, it makes it different and standout from the other Hamachi Carpaccios. So far Charcoal is doing a pretty good job of exceeding our pre-expectations, and look at all the nicely plated dishes.
Seasoned Herring & Capelin Roe & Uni
Other sashimi that were ordered, I haven’t had the Herring and Roe for a while, so it was nice to see it on the menu. I was a little bit disappointed with the bland flavours and hard texture, but I guess it can’t really compare to those in Japan. The sea urchin was nice and sweet, very fresh and a decent amount.
Jade Diva; deep fried sliced avocado tempura
It sounded interesting on the menu, and I thought it would be similar to the Monkey Brain from Mega Sushi. Though it wasn’t as tasty as Mega Sushi’s it was still good, nice and crisp layer of tempura batter with an interesting mayo sauce.
Beef Sashimi – full order
If I had known neither Cal or Mizu ate beef, I would not have ordered a full portion size. It was tasty and well marbled, just slightly seared on the outside making it one of the rarest Beef Sashimis I’ve had. The ponzu was nice, but it was just too much to eat all by myself.
AAA Roll; ginger, avocado, yellowtail, topped with scallop
There was also a bonus of Seaweed Salad in the middle for garnish! I was worried that I wouldn’t like it because of the ginger, maybe because the spicy sauce covers it a bit so I didn’t really taste it. It was nice, but I wouldn’t have considered it a ‘specialty’ roll.
Garlic Butter Clams
Sorry for the fogged up picture, this dish came still boiling thanks to the Korean-style hot stone bowls. Aside from giant, juicy and plump clams there were also a lot of onions. It was nice, and though the aroma and flavours of garlic and butter were present, I find the broth to be a bit too weak, bordering bland.
Unagi Stone Bowl
Being the rice eaters the guys were, they weren’t gonna get full unless they have a rice dish. The stone bowl came hot just like the clams, so it crisped up the rice just right. The Unagi served was a pretty decent size given the price was just $14 or so.
By the end of the night, we were the last table there. Our server asked if we would like some ice cream, despite our bill already being paid. Probably because we opened two bottles that the dessert was on the house. Service here was better than most usual Chinese-run establishments, food was pretty solid as well. Maybe we’ll come back some time to try their barbecues.