Formerly published in TofuMag.com.
Published on April 26th, 2013 | by Elliot Chan
Modern artist Andy Warhol was famous for his paintings of Campbell’s soup cans and distorted celebrity photographs, so if he was to open a sushi restaurant one can only imagine that it would mirror the flare of The Eatery in Vancouver. Contrary to the traditional vibe and décor, The Eatery lacks the usual paper walls, wooden panels and thin cushions of an authentic Japanese restaurant, instead it has papier-mâché monsters hanging from the ceiling, glow in the dark figurines standing sentinel on elevated shelves and Astroboy portraits on any remaining surfaces.
Initially the restaurant’s atmosphere rushes you, like entering a nightclub after a couple hours of pre-drinking, but then you take a moment and adjust to the candlelight illuminating from the Dad’s Root Beer bottles and listen the audio melding of jovial conversations and boisterous music. Suddenly, you are ready for anything — but you are here for sushi.
For all those indecisive folks who read menus like textbooks, The Eatery is a dining experience that you shouldn’t study for. Don’t try and cram, the more you evaluate each selection the more disheveled you’ll become. Deep breath. Ignore the fact that you are ordering food, look at the artwork the menu offers and embrace the possibilities. After all, with names like ‘erotica roll’, ‘drunken monkey roll’ and ‘x-rated roll’, how can you go wrong?
Two special rolls lured me. One was the ‘crazy-spice roll’, because whenever something claims to be crazy — I’m intrigued. The next was the ‘Godzilla roll’, my strange childhood obsession with the Tokyo destroying monster had followed me to adulthood and now it is controlling the food I eat. Go figure.
Over the years of eating sushi, I’ve learned to strategize my meal accordingly. If I take a bite from a piece with an overwhelming taste, I follow it up with one that is subtler. Coincidently, the ‘crazy’ and ‘Godzilla’ paired nicely. While the ‘crazy’ supplied the gentle singe of any good spicy tuna and salmon, ‘Godzilla’ followed up with the gentle cleansing of crab, avocado and unagi eel. It seems a little contradictory that ‘crazy-spice roll’ was the one causing havoc and ‘Godzilla roll’ was the one to sooth the palette. But I guess in the funky dimension where The Eatery’s artistic chefs craft their work — the plate as a canvas — sculpting with rice, painting with sauce and slicing each piece into a mosaic, there is no boundary for creativity. Each meal evokes a story, but do I dare say it leads to a happy ending?
The classic model for Japanese desserts is usually mango and green tea ice cream. Although sometimes you might have a laugh misleading sushi-novices to believe a spoon of wasabi is ice cream, after time the novel prank wears off. Time for something new. Instead of staying culturally conservative, The Eatery branches off when it comes to sweets. Such simple carnival delights like deep fried Mars bars and root beer floats are available as well as more exotic selections. Dreaming of summer, I chose a showstopper in a steel martini glass, ‘Caribbean Fantasy’. Here’s a phrase to remember, bananas sautéed in rum and brown sugar. If ice cream is sunshine for the taste bud, the ‘Carribbean Fantasy’ might as well be a supernova. There is a lot happening for such a small serving. Individually, the saccharine flavour is too much to handle, but with the neutralizing effects of vanilla ice cream, suddenly the dessert is gone – black hole.
Sushi always had a futuristic aura, but now it has entered a post-modern phase. It has gone to a place where it no longer needs to be associated with serving plates shaped like boats or bento boxes. In this brave new world, sushi is the pizza, burger and burrito. In Vancouver where so many restaurant march to the same beat of knife to cutting board and Hobart machines, it is refreshing to know that there is a place breaking the mold. Warhol would be proud; then again, he might just say it was The Eatery’s 15 minute of fame.
The Eatery is located at 3431 West Broadway, Vancouver BC.
For more information visit their website at http://theeatery.ca.