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May 15, 2009 10:28 PM

Zipang: more than just manga and anime (Vancouver)

Apparently Zipang is a favourite cartoon (manga) that was made into a 26-episode anime series in Japan. I thought it must mean something else but that's all the Google had to offer. Anyhoo, Zipang has been mentioned favourably on this board, and I’d been resisting going for a silly sentimental reason: it is housed in the space that used to be our favourite pho restaurant. I finally got over it and made a reservation to go with the parentals, when I clued in that they serve takoyaki.

I’ve been remiss in posting about it (see this thread but since I got some decent photos I’m hoping I’ll be forgiven :-). I can also report most positively on this excellent little local. It’s a good thing we don’t live closer or I’d be here twice weekly.

The sushi is fresh, innovative and beautifully presented, complete with veggie sculptures and daikon-sheet-enrobed tealights. I managed to lose my notes so I can’t ID the exact rolls we ordered but the daikon covered one had smoked salmon and the other’s sesame seed coating should be a dead giveaway if you want to try them. The local tuna sashimi was delicious and the portions were generous without being slabs. The tako sunomono was pronounced very fine (I don’t do raw tako) and we all agreed that the seaweed salad was the best we’d had, despite the slightly odd addition of grated carrots on top. Dad found the uni not wanting either.

Then it was on to the cooked stuff – tempura that was very light and screaming hot, spicy deep fried tofu that even the non-tofu lovers approved and okonomiyaki (we got the noodle one but there are a few options including one that contains a rather amusing typo) which was different from all the others I’ve tried but very satisfying. The only item that disappointed in the entire meal was the gyoza which were uninspiring and as you can see overcooked.

So a great meal all around… wait, you say, what about the takoyaki? Okay, enough teasing – I’m no expert but these little round balls of comfort were everything I’d expect them to be. Nicely browned and crispy on the outside, a bit “sad” (in a good way) toward the centre, with an octo-bomb in the very middle. But even better for me anyway was the ebi yaki. I could easily go and just have an order of those with a sparkling sake and be very happy.

Did I mention they carry Gekkeikan’s Zipang sparkling sake? Kind of a splurge (I think it was $17 for a small bottle) but tasty and fun to try. Makes me even more determined to try the bubbly stuff from Osake if he is making it now. And finally, though we were all pretty much stuffed, we had to try the black sesame ice cream. We had one order between the four of us which was enough as it is very rich and sesame-ey. Definitely worth a try but do beware as the blackness transfers at least temporarily to your teeth.

In case you missed it, this is pretty much a rave for a near-budget sushi place that you could return to repeatedly and not get bored at. The décor though relatively utilitarian has enough funky touches to be interesting and the service was attentive, efficient and very gracious. Do get reservations if you can as there was a continuous lineup when we were there and the space is quite small. FYI they seem to have changed the chairs to less hairy, more comfortable ones, though the most desirable spots are still the booths.

Here are some pix of the tempura, the sake, the sashimi and the uni gunkan

Zipang Sushi
3710 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3N7, CA

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  1. Takosu, ebiyaki with mayo writing on bowl, spicy agedofu, gorgeous rolls

    4 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      ebiyaki, 2xgyozas (oops) and black sesame ice cream

      1. re: grayelf

        Seaweed salad and double okonomiyaki (doh!)

        1. re: grayelf

          Eep, I'm really having trouble placing these photos, sorry for the repeating repeats -- HERE is the takoyaki!

          1. re: grayelf

            Sorry, didn't mean to hijack your thread! I'm glad you liked Zipang too. Thanks for your pics and writeup!

    2. My wife loves the mid-century modern stuff in there -- chairs, lights, Atomic Ranch magazine, the poster right beside the door...

      We went there recently with my Aunt and parents, who are more middle-of-the-road japanese food eaters. I'm much more adventurous, so I thought Zipang would be a good plcae to go. It was Sunday lunch, and they were open! Unlike a lot of good japanese restaurants... So that's a big plus for Zipang.

      Pics: Ebi Mayo was ok-ish...7/10 as my wife says. Not as good as we've had at Guu with Garlic, but I wouldn't turn it away if someone offered it to me.

      Chirashi-don was presented as a mound of rice on a plate with toppings laid against it. Kinda creative. Included some flame-charred white fish, which I really appreciated.

      A vegetarian sushi combo for my veggie sister. I'm glad the place has the option.

      The grilled mackarel lunch combo was your standard combo which was perfectly fine for my mom.

      4 Replies
      1. re: flowbee

        More pics:

        Sashimi lunch box. Wild sockeye salmon was great. Better choice than the hideous palid farmed salmon.

        And our two kinds of takoyaki: squid and octopus. I liked both, although I prefer takoyaki to be a bit more hot 'n runny on the inside. The balls here are massive!

        For me, Zipang's a very good place that hits a sweet spot in Vancouver's dining landscape. Prices aren't outrageous, and the menu has more interest than the typical faux-japanese place.

        1. re: flowbee

          Thanks for the addendum, flowbee. Pics and report are muchly appreciated!

          1. re: flowbee

            As luck would have it, we went there again today! More pics:

            Chicken Karaage - delicious and juicy! japanese, "juushi" (^_-)
            Nasu Dengaku (sweet miso eggplant) - also excellent. soft carmelized eggplant with a sweet not-salty miso sauce on top.
            Tako Sunomono - octopus sunomono was fine. Noodles were firm and springy, and the dressing wasn't too sweet or sour. The tako was almost crunchy, which I love.
            my sushi platter - 2 hamachi, 2 anago, 1 uni. Hamachi's probably my favourite sushi fish. I'm growing to appreciate anago more, now that I've learned that unagi isn't sustainable at the moment, and that anago is the slightly better choice now. The uni was a bit "off" frankly, with a metallic off flavour...but it's hard to find really really good uni, where the taste is fresh with a silky sweetness.

            1. re: flowbee

              Even more pics:

              Some sushi roll of their special sushi roll menu. I never know what the etiquette is when eating these massive futomakis. Beside the futomaki is the Ikashiso roll (squid and japanese basil).
              Sauce Katsu Don. Pork cutlet dunked in a special soy sauce and served on rice with a bit of shredded cabbage. The first impression when we got this was, "where's the sauce"? But it tasted ok. The pork was a little dry...cooked a bit too long. We asked for a little bowl of extra sauce. Not terrible, but not the best. Could use a side dish of pickles or something to make it a little more special and a little less bare.
              And finally the Ume Spaghetti (pickled plum with spaghetti). This is their "japanese style pasta", where they also have cold spaghetti and a seafood spaghetti. The ume spag was quite nice. The sourness of the pickled plum really matched the olive oil, spaghetti and seaweed. I love japanese style spicy cod roe pasta, but sadly they don't make it here (the waitress said that you could buy spicy cod roe in tube form from Fujiya, to squeeze right on pasta for a quick simple meal).

          2. Great write up as usual grayelf! It's now on my hitlist.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fmed

              Me too! Thanks for all the great pictures & review!

            2. Great posts grayelf and flowbee....Zi Pang is one of the places I return to every time I'm in Vancouver and yearn for when I'm not....all these photos have given me a serious craving for sushi tho which isn't an option here.... unless I make it....

              2 Replies
              1. re: balini

                Looking forward to hearing from other 'Hounds who go, especially about the takoyaki. I didn't mention that they are quite large as flowbee notes as I'm not sure what a standard t.y. size is :-). We also had the eggplant which I forgot to mention and it was so simple and good -- you could really taste the vegetable over the sauce and the cooking time was spot on. I had a feeling there were going to be items on the menu that weren't perfect apart from the gyoza -- hard to deliver everything on point with such a big menu -- but given their prices I feel I can afford the odd shot off the mark. I have made a note of your comments, flowbee, and will avoid the less stellar items on our next visit. Thanks.

                1. re: grayelf

                  I can't believe it's been over a year since we ate at Zipang! Decided to pick up some take away on Thursday night and it was very good. We had a chicken karaage roll, a crazy roll (tempura bits), an ebi chili roll, a dynamite roll and tako sunomono. All four rolls were fresh and well made with a nice thin layer of rice, a nice change from the 2/3 rice monster rolls of our usual lunch grade sushi places. The SO loved the tako su, which looked nicer in the takeaway container than most dine in presentations, and was a very generous size.

                  This food was nearly double the price of our go-to cheap and cheerful, but the quality made it worthwhile. $25 all in is not bad for such a tasty repast. The only wrinkle was they were not answering their phone so I had to go in to make the order, and then wait 20 minutes.