A usual get together with Mizu and Tan, their customary reply to me whenever I ask them what they would like to eat is: “Anything is good.” I always find that annoying, cause they eat out so frequently, and often quite picky, it’s hard to find anything that’ll meet their standards. Thinking that they probably haven’t tried Shirakawa yet, we all headed down to Gastown. Shirakawa by Itoh Dining, a relatively new and modern Japanese establishment in the heart of Gastown. It is owned by Keisuku Itoh and Takuya Motohashi with an array of high-end ingredients such as Wagyu beef straight from Japan. Specializing in Kappo, a style of Japanese cuisine famous in Osaka, and sushi, it boasts a nice and spacious interior. With a irezumi painted mural atop their open kitchen, it is very Miku-esque. Then again, Miku is most likely what they’re trying to emanate, being their closest competition. Seeing how from plating and service, everything is quite similar, the methods and meticulous details to the dishes are to be noted, but whether or not they serve as a threat to Miku is a different story.
They were pretty busy, with all the tables filled except for the one closest to the door. We were greeted and seated after a short while. It seems to have taken forever for our server to come back with water and menus, then again for our orders to be taken.
風よ水よ人よ Kazeyo Mizuyo Hitoyo – junmai ginjo
Finally our server comes around with the sake, about 15 minutes since we ordered it. We were given the tall sake glasses that were placed into a masu, neither of the guys were used to it so we opt out from using them after the first shot. Though Kaze Mizu Hito is at the same level of Gekkeikan, I find this to be more smooth and light, and less of the strong stinging aftertaste of alcohol. The again, the light sky-blue bottle is pretty to look at as well. Turns out Tan has been here before for a friend’s birthday, they were given a group menu, but his experience and food didn’t leave him with a good cause to return.
Spicy Tuna; spicy tuna sashimi with milk bread, green onion & tobiko
We started with a few appetizers, hopefully it’ll change or confirm Tan’s experience. The tuna was average, there was a mild heat to it, the onions and tobiko did a good job in adding on to the texture. The milk bread was good, it was slightly toasted so it didn’t fall under the weight of the tuna, but I wished there was more.
Kaki; house-marinated oysters on a bed of ume dressed onions
Pretty self explanatory, we were told it was only one oyster per serving so we ordered three, thinking that they were going to be small. The oysters turned out to be the big, plump ones that are usually found in motoyakies. The dressing helped to cut a bit of the creaminess that a cooked oyster has, but I wasn’t a fan of the shiso that was shredded on top.
Hamachi Carpaccio; thinly sliced yellowtail, finished with kaiware sprouts & yuzu kosho
The hamachi had nice texture and was very fresh, I was a little disappointed and saddened that the bloodline was taken off as I like the offset of textures, and that the flavours are found to be much stronger there. It was the basic flare, so nothing really exciting or noteworthy for this dish.
Cut into delicate, bite sized pieces, the tuna was beautifully presented before it was all snatched away. Once again, the grade of fish was very high and with matching knife work. There were no tendons or tough spots despite it being a rather lean tuna, but one thing I really have to applaud them for is the fact that they cut their own daikon. Instead of threading it through a spiralizer, like what most establishments do, the daikon is delicately peeled and sliced to precision, forming each strand to be thin and even. A skill that takes a lot of hard work and time to perfect.
Shirakawa Maki; snake river wagyu beef, sushi rice & truffle onsen tamago
Since Mizu couldn’t eat beef for religious reasons, it was up to Tan and I to finish this roll. We thought that at least Mizu could pick off the meat and enjoy the fillings, but the maki itself wasn’t rolled with anything else but rice. It was topped with garlic chips, kaiware, and a light drizzle of the tuffle onsen tamago sauce, sans the egg. The beef was really buttery and soft, with mild beef flavours. The dipping sauce, though I couldn’t taste any truffles, maybe it was just for the namesake, was delicious. It made the rice less boring to digest, leaving it creamy and full of umami. Though it did overpower and outshine the beef, but for $22 I’m not too sure if it’s worth it or not.
Kakuni; braised pork belly, grilled to order and served with a sweet-soy reduction & karashi mustard
Since Mizu couldn’t eat the wagyu beef, we ordered a pork dish for him. The price was on the lower spectrum of the menu, but we didn’t expect to get just measly cubed pieces of belly meat. It was easily finished in one bite, rather disappointing. The taste was mediocre, thought fatty and savory, it didn’t do much for our stomachs or our taste buds.
Kani Pasta; rock crab, inaniwa udon, cream, brown butter & shichimi
There was only a rice and noodle dish to choose from for carbs, something the guys needed to fill themselves up. It was up to me to choose, and not wanting anymore rice, I went for the udon. Though it’s listed as inaniwa udon, it didn’t seem like the inaniwa that I’m used to, as they’re known to be more thin and flat. It was nice and creamy but was lacking in actual crab meat.
My final thoughts for Shirakawa was very underwhelmed. Though service was nice and friendly, it felt slow and air-headed at times, as if the servers didn’t know what and when things should be done. Some things that should have been figured out and solved from soft openings and such. For such a sophisticated looking restaurant boasting of all these high quality ingredients, the final product is lacking as a whole. There were outstanding moments that were just missing that one final push to become perfect. Overall, I don’t find this a threat to Miku, there are a lot of room for improvement so I do see them doing better in the future.