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Big in Japan

Hey guys, passed by this place on St. Laurent yesterday. Anyone try it? Opinions?

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  1. Mentioned twice in the latest Restaurant Openings thread. The second time, it's compared unfavourably with Kazu.

    1. I had never heard of it until this weekend. We had a friend over to stay who told us that in Ottawa there's all this buzz about an amazing new Japanese restaurant in Montreal called Big In Japan... So somebody's raving about it, that's for sure!

      3 Replies
      1. re: NickMontreal

        This place is sooo bad. Soooo bad. Umm... did i say it was bad??

        I could dissect each plate we had (diakon salad, cold ramen salad, brochettes, hot pot) but i won't. The hot pot, is honnestly, THE worst thing i've ever eaten at a restaurant. the waitress did not even seem surprised, in fact she removed the 4/5 uneaten dish from the table without ever asking how it was or why we didn't finish it...

        1. re: Arktik

          Okay. I'll never go there then!

          1. re: sockhead

            beer is cheap, but yea i sampled alot of there menu, pickle plate had too much shiso, and the dried bonito flakes were too big and over-powering.

      2. I ate at this place 3 weeks ago and although I said I should go back to try more items, Kazu has been keeping me satisfied.

        Onigiri rice ball 4$ - the rice tastes like bland fried rice
        Kimpira 4.5$ - a small "salad" of julienned carrot and daikon with a soy based sauce
        Niku-Jaga 6$ - a "potato stew" with one potato, some vegetables cooked in the broth that is the stew, a tiny amount of ground pork. I don't understand this concept if it's ground meat.
        Niku-Sakana (meat brochettes are 3.5$) - 2 large tempura shrimp, good enough
        Yasai (non meat brocehettes are 3$ - I picked quail egg and got 2x 3. They disintegrated during cooking
        Tea was supposed to be 2$ but they didn't charge me, perhaps because the stew came very late. I think they forgot the order because the manager was talking to the waitress and pointing my way.

        80s music was also free but thank god no "True".

        1. I think it's worth giving them some time to sort things out. Went there today and the food was fine, if not great. However, something about it did seem like it was real Japanese food (pickles?), and indeed the chefs are.

          The owner (or manager perhaps) is rather young, but he seems have some interesting plans in the works, such as grills on the tables for okonomiyaki, and he was talking about shopping for takoyoki pans. I say if you are familiar with Japanese bar food (not just Montrealified sushi), head over there and give them some honest feedback.

          1. I ate here on Friday night and it's really perfect for a late-night fix, since decent after-11pm (non counter) meals in this city are near non-existant unless you want to sit down to a table at Leméac or L'Express which can get pretty limiting in terms of menu and price options. This to me, is where Big In Japan really exceeds... it's not the best meal you will rave about to friends, but it's a great option for any size group to fill a late-night stomach and even better if you're with enough people to share. We started with the gyoza which came with a sweet plum-style sauce (which I didn't particularly care for) but the gyoza themselves were quite good and ultimately better than any of the generic Hot n Spicy style Asian dumplings you'd find across the downtown core available at this hour! Next was a bowl of cold edamame beans which I guess were good but nothing special that couldn't be done better at home. I found this suprising since they seem to be a featured item, but they were fresh and while not a total flavor sensation, they made a nice side. The crispy pork dish was next... I would've opted for the bbq pork/rice bowl but I was with a picky eater and fried strips of meat were right up her alley. I must say that while it may not be the most authentically Japanese nor unique or interesting dish, they were extremely tasty and I enjoyed them a lot. But my favorite dish of the night (and imo a must-have) was the BBQ buns... they were more like thick fluffy wraps with overwhelming chunks of BBQ pork and beef falling out in a very tasty (yet not overpowering or overly-sweet!) hoisin style sauce with grilled vegetables (onions, peppers, etc), sesame seeds, beans and I forget what else. It was a delicious mess! We ordered pretty safe and the food was certainly a good value at roughly $5/dish. The sake was great too. I walked out around midnight with a full stomach and will certainly be going back again for late-night fillers. It will never compare to a restaurant like Kazu (I'm not sure it's even trying) but for what it does, I think it does pretty competently. The music was all 60s soul and Motown and I found the decor and room kind of fun. I don't think it merits all the scathing reviews it's gotten on here, but maybe I just ordered "safe". It's not a place I'd ever go "out of my way" to visit. But as a late-night eatery, it's a great new addition imo.

            1 Reply
            1. re: OliverB

              went tonight after a show
              got the $23 grilled meat plate
              it was absolutely disgusting. Firstly, they sold it as if it were for 2. There's something weird about 2 people sharing a chicken leg - maybe that's just me though... It came with the aforementioned leg, a piece of beef, some kind of fish patty (my guess was that it was octopus but not sure), and an array of grilled vegetables. Every single item was unseasoned. The beef was overcooked and tough. The chicken tasted more boiled than grilled. Even the vegetables weren't graced with salt of any kind. It came with a soy-sesame-vinegary sauce which didn't help at all. It is unlikely that I would return because to me, these are unacceptable mistakes

            2. I went last night again also and agree that quality-wise it's nothing more than run of the mill counter fare, but still exists for me as a quick and inexpensive latenight sit down option. I had the staff plate which strangely enough was a Carribean curry dish that had nothing to do with Japanese food at all. It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible, and I've no doubt that I can and have done it ten times better. It just was. Had the gyoza again also... not very good and drizzled with a sickly sweet plum style sauce. My unadventurous food friend ordered the croquettes which tasted like fried potato puffs, and essentially were. We ordered a few other starter plates that weren't even memorable enough to recall. There's nothing particularly good or interesting about the food, but to be fair, I can't say that anything I've ever had there was distinctly "bad" either. It's just another boring option introduced to the Main among countless others for Montreal's less discerning food-eaters. I like that it's nearby friends and stays open late. I would never consider eating there during normal restaurant hours unless I was with others who were strongly opinionated in our food destination decision, and I didn't particularly care. It's that type of place... I wouldn't -not- eat a meal if placed in front of me, but I wouldn't have anything particularly great to say about it afterwords either. Nor would it ever give incentive for me to venture out on my own appetite. It just is and as such, probably no longer merits discussion on a forum like this.

              1. Btw, I had the buns again and they were not exceptionally good either. The beef was definitely better than the bbq pork hoisin and the winner of the two. I might have posted the last review after satisfying a latenight drunk appetite, or maybe I was slightly more impressed by our meal last time. Eitherway the best adjective to sum up this restraurant is: boring. To their credit though, they're in prime location for a gimmicky latenight eatery surrounded by the obnoxious dance club crowd so I;m sure they'll do well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: OliverB

                  Bingo. I'm sure they've survived this long based on location and novelty of the concept. The closest I've come to eating there was the outdoor grill they had at the street sales this summer. And it smelled just nasty.

                  Between that and the reviews here, it's as close as I need get. A shame about Le Pistol, I know loads of people who still miss that place.

                2. I obviously didn't read these posts before I went to Big in Japan. Let's just say if they WERE in Japan they wouldn't be big, in fact, they wouldn't be period. I LOVE Izakayas, lived in Japan for years, seek them out wherever I travel, haunt them in NY but couldn't stand this place. The atmosphere, lighting, general vibe was at best lacking.
                  My husband and I went because it was close by, opened late and I had read it was great. The things it had going for it were it was close by and open late and the draft was cheap and cold. That's about it. The fried chicken was decent but everything else was sub par (and I am not comparing to Japan, New York or any other place) and served in the most unappetizing manner.

                  My husband and I ordered beers but he was not allowed to be served because we didn't order larger plates. Because I had ordered a number or appetizers I was allowed to order a beer but I wasn't sure if this was a Montreal law or a restaurant rule. whatever it was it goes against the whole idea of a Japanese Izakaya which is based on drinking and small plates. My husband was so pissed he had water and nothing else. He won!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: schmutzyapple

                    That's weird. I've never heard of a rule like that. And I have to agree that the only time I went to Big in Japan the food was worse than disappointing. There seemed to be too much emphasis on a kind of heavy mayonnaise.

                    1. re: schmutzyapple


                      I assume Big In Japan has a restaurant permit, not a bar permit, so you would have to buy food if you want to order alcohol.

                      That said, there should not be a "size" issue (big plates vs. small plates); maybe they've been warned about that (srving booze with no food) and are over-reacting ?

                      I've been to other places with a group and we've ordered 1 order of french-fries for 10 person! (all booze were put on the same order with the fries).

                      1. re: Maximilien

                        Apparently, the inspectors have been cracking down and restaurants have been told that they need to serve enough food for everyone at the table in order to serve alcohol. Some places interpret this as one main per costumer.

                        1. re: SnackHappy

                          Far too many people think that BIJ is gouging them by requiring a main dish in order to get booze. While this could partly be the case, based on their license it is necessary for diners to order an amount that constitutes a "meal". This interpretation can obviously vary, but I know other places have been penalized for not requiring a substantial food order. One order of fries is not a meal for 10, or even for 1.
                          I think BIJ should make it much more clear on the menu that this requirement is imposed on them based upon their restaurant license.

                          1. re: Fintastic

                            I agree they should spell it out on their menu, but it's their rule, not the law. Any food out of the kitchen will do (ie. more substantial than a bag of chips). That includes an order of fries.

                            If they were smart and wanted to increase booze sales, they could offer snack-sized plates for 'free' (whilst upping drink prices slightly) - other places do.

                      2. re: schmutzyapple

                        For the record, my lukewarm review above from two years ago wasn't updated when we went there for our 2nd and last time.

                      3. Somewhat related, Big In Japan 2 (the bar) is great atmosphere but their cocktails and surprisingly sakes stink. From now on, I only drink whisky straight in Montreal!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: OliverB

                          Funny - I didn't care for the atmosphere at BIJ2, but they made us a round of seriously impressive clean & dirty gin martinis last week. $10 for Tanqueray is awfully steep, but at least they put em together right.

                          1. re: Fintastic

                            Well all their other cocktails were syrupy junk. I sent two drinks back, ordered sake and didn't touch it either. Had whiskey bullets the rest of the night.

                            Also went to Le Lab a few weeks ago and paid $30 for two of the shittiest drinks. We literally took one sip and walked out. Had similar experiences at Dominion Square and several other bars too. Their basil and rye drink tasted like a christmas cookie, even after specifying no syrup. Think I sent back an old fashioned as well. I also realized this past week that ordering a Tom Collins in this city means asking for mike's hard lemonade. Had one at Barmacie, Dominion and somewhere else... I'm never ordering another cocktail in Montreal again unless it's at a proper restaurant. The only time I've enjoyed decent mixed drinks were at places like Joe Beef and similar restaurants. I guess this is veering way off topic...

                            1. re: OliverB

                              i'm surprised by your le Lab experience. I love it! you should go for thursday happy hour. cocktails are $7

                        2. Is there a copy of their menu anywhere on the internet? Thanks in advance.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mats77

                            I don't think so - it's also changed a bit from time-to-time.

                            If I may give my opinion for a moment: If you're coming from out of town (especially if you're relying on the recommendation of this resto given by The Layover) I'd maybe advise you to consider other places. BIJ is fine in a pinch, but I'd never suggest it to a visitor. Although more expensive and incredibly busy, the obvious alternative is the infamous Kazu.

                            1. Stopped by yesterday for lunch.

                              Got a BIG bowl of (forgot the name) of broth with kimchi and pork and udon noodles.

                              Apart the fact it was huge, it was quite tasty and flavorful.

                              I will try it again.