Name: Zakkushi on Carlton.
Chef: Hiroshi Tamanaha.
Signature: Grilled meat, vegetable, and seafood skewers.
Price: $1.50–$4 for most individual skewers, $3–$9.50 for small sharing plates.
Open: 5:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Sun–Wed., 5:30 p.m.–2 a.m. Thurs.–Sat. Closed Tuesdays, though that will change starting in March.
Assessment: One of the most recent izakaya imports from the west coast, Zakkushi has three locations in Vancouver, and has set up shop on a non-descript stretch of Carlton, just a few blocks from the bustling Parliament strip in Cabbagetown. The multi-level restaurant lacks the shiny bells and whistles of its competitors, but the main room of the restaurant, made up of dark wood partitioned sections, is cozy and inviting, and the staff still make a big deal (read: shout at you in Japanese) out of the arrival (and departure) of cherished customers. Like the city’s other Japanese pubs, Zakkushi has an extensive picture menu of cold and fried snacks, as well as noodles and sharing plates. The main draw here, however, is the yakitori (grilled skewers).
There are over 45 different varieties of beef, chicken, pork, vegetable, and seafood skewers, all of which are cooked over a bed of Japanese charcoal (known as binchōtan) which imparts the juicy (if slightly salty) skewers with a distinctly smoky taste. The menu has a few mainstay skewers—the tsukune (chicken meat ball), momo (chicken thigh), oporpon beef, and p-toro (pork)—all of which can be tarted up with additions like spicy cod roe mayo, fresh wasabi and seaweed, or sticky rice. And though set skewer menus exist, your best bet is to mix and match a variety of selections. Try the pork skewers ($1.80 each) on their own, or wrapped around garlic stubs ($1.90 each), or the chicken meat ball ($1.60 each) ribboned with rich teriyaki sauce and mayo ($1.90 each). For the adventurous eater, the menu also has sticks of offal, like chicken gizzard, heart, or liver ($1.60–$1.90 each), which are all, surprisingly, much better than they sound.
- There’s great attention to detail here: each table has a little cup to put your leftover skewers in, and the bench seats open up for storage.
- The grilled skewers are delectable, and they’re slightly different than the fare offered at the city’s other izakayas.
- The restaurant takes reservations, and a front patio and downstairs dining space (which will function either as a private party room or just an extra dining area) should be open by May.
- Open for over a month now, the restaurant is still working out some kinks: though they recently got a liquor license, there’s still no Sapporo on tap (though we’re told that should be sorted out in the next few days).
Bottom Line: Proof that there’s more to izakayas than karaage chicken and ebi mayo, Zakkushi is the city’s premier spot for delicious, grilled meat skewers.
193 Carlton St., 647-352-9455, zakkushi.com.