The older I get, the harder it is to find a venue that plays music from my era. I know Modern Steak does a hip hop night on Fridays after 9:00 p.m., but that’s an hour before my bedtime. I recently found a restaurant that’s exactly what the late 90s/2000’s doctor ordered. Whenever I’m craving a night out with my favourite foods and tunes, I head over to Shokunin.
My husband L just came back from a week long conference, which meant I could guilt trip him into taking me out for a late night dinner. Moments after we sat down, two of L’s colleagues stepped inside. Imagine this song came on when we first saw J-Thug and BottleNick, two ballers entering the restaurant.
J-Thug and BottleNick invited us to sit at their table. As they have never been to Shokunin, I suggested all the food. I ordered J-Thug and myself a glass of sake, Kaiun “New Fortune” Iwaizake Junmai Daiginjo ($20/3 oz), while BottleNick and L stuck to bottles of Asahi. Unfortunately, the restaurant was again out of the Shokunin/Big Rock collaboration, Okami Kasu ($8/16oz), which is made with Canadian grown rice from the Fraser Valley in B.C. and sake lees from Vancouver. Poo! If you want some, you’ll to wait until June.
BottleNick is a pescetarian, so I ordered him shiisito ($3) and mushroom ($3) yakitori, Japanese style potato salad ($8), rice ($3), the daily maki roll (scallop $16) and an octopus appetizer. The rice in the maki was a little hard. Looking back, I should have ordered him the scallop isoyaki (market price), which is a large sweet, still sashimi-like scallop roasted over charcoal, butter and soy. Next time.
I ordered J-Thug the most expensive cocktail on the menu, this cool glass sphere filled with fog ($20). I think the main ingredient was a costly Japanese whiskey, and as the fog lifted, it would change the taste of the drink. According to J-Thug, it was worth the price tag. I tried a sip and yes, it’s out of this world.
I also drank a lovely cocktail, the Remonado ($12), which is comprised of Beshi sake, Oolong tea and Yuzu lemon sake. Then I drank another sake, the Mikotsuru “Majestic Crane” Junmai Pink ($11). I’m going to play another song because I was in heaven at this point and you need to get into my mindset.
For food, J-Thug tried the chicken karrage ($11), which he thought was amazing. He also ordered thigh ($3) and skin yakitori ($2.50). The restaurant was sold out of gizzard, which J-Thug wanted to try.
All of us except for Pescetarian BottleNick tried a piece of a handmade crispy braised beef tongue gyoza. Our favourite guy at Shokunin, Moto, highly recommended this dish. While I enjoyed the gyoza, it’s not one of my favourite dishes here. Rather, it was a complimentary dish presented by Darren MacLean, the owner and chef of Shokunin, that wowed us.
Darren brought over a plate of four fresh Japanese Kabura turnips with the greens still attached. The turnip was sweet, crunchy and unbelievably fresh, while the rich saltiness of the red grainy miso and garlic dressing was just incredible. J-Thug didn’t finish the greens and I really wanted to eat it but since we just met, I held back.
L and I ordered our usual yakitori picks and Shokunin’s perfect steamed rice. We enjoyed dipping the chicken into the soy cured egg dip, which I’ve never seen before at any other izakaya. I tried chicken neck ($3.50) which was the softest meat ever. I also ate chicken skin ($2.50) which tasted like delicate crunchy fried chicken skin. To date, my favourite skewers rank in this order: chicken neck, chicken skin, chicken thigh (best value/flavour), chicken ass and chicken heart.
J-Thug said he couldn’t understand why this restaurant was getting such poor reviews on Zomato and Yelp. I can’t speak for when Shokunin first opened. However, I will say this place is not for those looking to get stuffed for cheap. It’s not possible with the top quality ingredients and the techniques employed here.
After our feast, we decided to head over to Milk Tiger Lounge, J-Thug’s favourite bar. While service was very good and the crowd was fun, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear our conversation. All I could see were pictures of tang. I would have preferred to stay at Shokunin for drinks, as the prices are the same (if you avoid the crème de la crème sake and the more extravagant cocktails). Milk Tiger does have a larger and more varied beer list than Shokunin.
This was my second time in Shokunin in two weeks. I might be in later this week for late night ramen if I can manage to stay up past 10:00 pm. I’m actually not a big ramen fan, but I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about.