Thursday, August 04, 2011

Charcoal Sushi & BBQ (Featuring: Steven!)

Hello, and welcome to the debut of Steven! First, a little bit about myself: I am a regular Lumico reader (hopefully, as are you!) and a fellow wannabe "food enthusiast" - that is to say, I like to eat. Though to be honest, I never really pictured myself writing down and commenting on food I had just wolfed down, because well a) I just wolfed it down, didn't think too much, and b) my go-to comment would probably be "Well, that tasted... good." But the one time I do happen to go out for dinner with Lumico (hereby referred to as some kind of fused human entity), they get lazy and decide to toss me an assignment. Well then, challenge accepted! Now armed with the power of the blog and the strength of my words, follow me as I bring my keen senses of taste to the masses! OK delusions of grandeur aside, I'll try not to make you cringe too much from my writing.

Tonight's restaurant of choice is Charcoal Sushi & BBQ, located on the corner of Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road in Richmond. Although this is quite a busy intersection and smack in the heart of Richmond, I had actually never seen or heard of it before. The reason for this is because the restaurant is found on the second level of the plaza and pretty much obscured from street view. A better description for its location would be "above TD, across from London Drugs." The restaurant itself is also quite small, and rather squished. The interior decor was decent, and fairly modern; there was bar seating as well as regular booth seats, and several TV's to give it a more lively feel. However, the restaurant does not have a waiting area, and tables are set up all the way to the entrance. Since the restaurant was jam packed when we got there, we had to wait while hovering around people who were seated at their tables (and giving us their stinkeye looks - "How dare you watch me savor my food!")

We finally got seated - unfortunately, by the door - and began the customary menu rummaging routine. What I liked, was that in addition to the menu, there was also a book that contained pictures of all the items on the menu, all photographed in a more realistic, this-is-what-you-get kind of way. I mean, don't you just hate it when you order something based on the menu description or some sneaky menu picture only to get a sorry excuse of a dish?

We settled on 7 items from the menu: Tuna Tataki, Tuna toro sashimi, Crunch roll, Indian roll, Madness roll, Kimchi tofu and pork stew, and Kobe beef stone bowl. Yumminess ensued.

First up was the Tuna Tataki. Served on an organic spring mix, the tuna was lightly seared on the sides and still raw in the middle, just the way I like it. Coupled with the acidity of radish and the freshness of green onions, the tuna salad was a good starter for sure.
Tuna Tataki $5.95 + tax

Next up was the Tuna toro sashimi, which was quite hyped by my fellow dinner-mates. Tuna toro is the underbelly of tuna fish, and so I expected the sashimi to be more fatty in taste. And indeed it was! And much more than just that! Other than the Saba sashimi, the Tuna toro is the most expensive on the menu, and justifiably so. If you like having fish, you'll know that in general fish belly has a pretty different texture than the rest of its fishmeat neighbours. The Tuna toro was the same. Because of its higher fat content, the Tuna toro had a smoother, more tangible mouthfeel than regular tuna sashimi. It's one of those times you ask, "Did my tongue die and go to heaven?"
Toro Sashimi $7.65 + tax

Then came the rolls! The Crunch roll was stuffed with prawn tempura and topped with mango, sliced avocado, and spicy tuna. I don't know who came up with the idea to combine rolls with mangoes, but that (wo)man is a genius. The drier, crispier prawn tempura inside was complemented by the creamy goodness of avocado and the sweetness of mango, and the spicy tuna served to bring an extra kick of spicy moistness.

Crunch Roll $9.75 + tax

The Indian roll is one for those with heavier tastes - spicy tuna inside topped with chopped scallop. Tons of flavor for sure, but not as much in terms of cool textures. When it's in your mouth, good luck telling where spicy tuna ends and chopped scallop begins. Still, a good dish, especially if you like mushy with more mushy.
Indian Roll $9.25 + tax

And finally, the Madness roll, which is described as "imitation crab and avocado topped with salmon tempura, tuna, green onion, and sesame." Or more commonly, "California roll with extra Japanese stuff on top," as you can see from the picture. Mind you, it is actually my favourite. California roll is always a safe bet for me, and I'm totally not going to complain about having salmon tempura AND tuna on top! I like it. As with the Crunch roll, there are more interesting texture combos here, only in reverse. Crunchy outside, creamy inside. It's all good.
The Madness Roll $8.75 + tax

I'm a pretty big fan of soup, so I was happy about getting the Kimchi tofu and pork stew, and I was satisfied. Nothing can really go wrong here either, with the powerful Kimchi flavors seeping into the cabbage, tofu, and meat. The soup was also pretty dense with its contents and the soup base was certainly not lacking in twangy goodness. I only wished there was more pork, but maybe that was just the meatlover in me talking. It should be overflowing with chunks and chunks of soft, tender meaaaatttt. I mean it's a stew, right? But I digress.
Kimchi Tofu and Pork Stew $10.95 + tax

Last but not least, the Kobe beef stone bowl! Sounds super appealing doesn't it? I will say outright though, it was the most disappointing dish for me. The bowl came hot, with rice covered by raw egg and ground Kobe beef. Our server then stirred the bowl, mixing the rice with the raw egg and beef, and effectively cooking them in the process. The finished product looked more or less like golden fried rice. And therein lied my biggest gripe: where is my hunk of Kobe beef?! Like a toddler upset when his cookie breaks into crumbs, I too wanted to have my meat in its entirety! Sure, I could still taste the beef - and actually the rice was really rich in flavor, having soaked itself in delicious egg and meat juice - but it just wasn't the same. In retrospect, maybe the name of the dish and its accompanying picture (showing the raw form of the dish) did trick me after all. Or is it my meat-thirst again?
Kobe Beef Stone Bowl $12.95 + tax

At the end of the day, Charcoal Sushi & BBQ is a great place to come for good food. Aside from the Kobe beef stone bowl, you really get what you ordered. The portions are reasonable, and I definitely left having pleased my appetite. The dining atmosphere is not the best, and at times it felt like the restaurant was understaffed, but all in all Charcoal is pretty decent. Just make sure you don't make eye contact with the stinkeyes while you're waiting.

Taste: ★★★★★
Envrionment: ★★★★
Service: ★★★
Price: $

Charcoal Sushi & BBQ
250-7997 Westminster Highway
Richmond, BC
Charcoal Sushi & BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Food looks good, prices look reasonable....but the Indian roll? Haha, why is it called the Indian Roll???

  2. perhaps because the scallop on top resembles a turban..?

  3. lol at the turban comment....I ate here for a friend's bday 2 years ago...i moved to a small town... I AM CRAVING all these richmond guys are making me go crazy looking at pictures!

    1. Haha, thanks for reading the blog! I hope you find a chance to come back for a visit and curb your cravings soon! :)

  4. I have come back to richmond many times now...but still haven't had a chance to go to charcoal...I got a groupon for Watami japanese resturant in richmond. it used to be where tokyo ichiban was...I saw the reviews and they all say the place is really bad especially if you use the coupon. I'm wondering if you guys ate there before? I want to refund the groupon if it is as bad as the reviews say!



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