Last visited: August 22, 09
1099 Richards Street
Price Range: $20-30 (average bill per person)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Izakaya dishes - small plates meant to be shared
- Japanese chefs/cooks
- Weak in decor for this type of restaurant
- Food is not bad, a bit expensive
- Not as good as Kingyo/Yuji's/Hapa Izakaya - almost the same price too
- Some creative dishes, some authentic Japanese, some Westernized Japanese
- Weekly specials
- Menu shows last week's most popular dishes
- Large selection of cocktails
- Not as busy as other Izakaya places downtown
- Dinner service only
This restaurant has been here for four years now. I never see it really busy and after talking to the staff you know that business is slow. I'm a fan of Izakaya places so I decided to give this place a shot. The food is actually pretty good, it's not the best Izakaya place in Vancouver, but the chefs and staff are really trying. I think because it's located in Yaletown/downtown people expect a lot, but it falls short when compared to the other Izakaya places in downtown eg: Kingyo and Hapas Izakaya (especially when they're charging almost the same price). It's more refined tha Guu, but Guu on the whole tastes better and is cheaper in price.
For the price Alpha charges and the clientele they're hoping for, they should really invest in decor. It just feels kind of dead because it's a bit dark inside and it doesn't have that high energy or eclectic feel you expect from an Izakaya place. I would go again for the dishes I recommended or if someone wanted to try it, but it wouldn't be my first choice for Izakaya.
On the table:
- **Tuna Garlic Pepper Sashimi 6/6
- Black pepper and garlic flavoured seared albacore tuna with ponzu sauce
- Wow! This is really good! They recommend it and it's an Alpha original. The chef seared it perfectly. You can see and taste the freshness - a simple recipe and quality ingredients. This dish should not be missed. I could eat 2 plates to myself no problem. It comes with a bed of radish salad underneath which is also great.
- You don't need to use soy sauce, maybe just a little wasabi to bring out the freshness.
- Pumpkin Croquette 4/6
- Deep fried kobacha squash and mashed potato croquette with "fruity vegetable sauce" for dipping (I call it a Japanese BBQ sauce)
- This is nicely done, nice and crispy. Really strong squash flavour as well, they went heavier on the squash than mashed potato which I appreciate. The texture is really smooth and the "fruity vegetable sauce" is that BBQ/mustard tasting sauce (see description in my review for Ping's Cafe) http://tinyurl.com/nb8gvq
- The pumpkin croquette here is stronger in squash flavour than Ping's...Ping's is more homemade - feels like someone's mom made it.
- Vegetable 2/6
- Mango, beets, cucumber, leaf lettuce and avocado
- I was actually pretty disappointed by this. The beets enticed me because I've never heard of beets in a sushi roll. But when it came you could barely see the beets, they were there to add colour. They julienne them and you get very little, so you really couldn't taste them at all. Too much cucumber, not enough beets...they need to balance out the ingredients in this roll. The mango shined through, but that's about it. I would pass on this.
- Spicy Tuna & Avocado Roll 5/6
- This was the best roll we ordered out of the three. It's only available as a weekly special though. It's done with an Alpha twist so it's a bit unique. It comes with that Japanese bbq mustard sauce that comes with the pumpkin croquettes. I dipped it in this with a little wasabi and that was enough. The put these things on top that taste like rice krispies - it's some kind of deep fried flour/starch...I liked it though. I haven't really seen it done anywhere else. I mean they're kind of flavourless, but they add a texture that makes this roll different than the others.
- Mango Vancouver Roll - 4/6
- Mango, avocado, mayo, crab meant wrapped in wild smoked salmon and tobiko with plum wine mustard mayo sauce.
- Not bad, but sounds better than it was. Try it once with the original sauce it comes with and then try it with your soy and wasabi. I found that it needed a little soy and wasabi because the original sauce couldn't stand by itself. They could have added something crunchy because it's a little bit on the mushy side, but still tasty. At $9 it's overpriced for what it is becuase I feel like I could get something similar somewhere else.
- Miso Teriyaki Beef - 2/6
- These miso grilled short ribs are one of there specialties, but I don't know why. I couldn't taste the miso flavour and it actually kind of felt like the stuff you get at Korean BBQ. They should have used a better quality beef becuase it wasn't that tender or anything...it was a bit tough. I actually enjoy the Korean BBQ short ribs more.
- **Mentaiko Udon - 6/6
- Udon (Japanese thick noodle) with spicy cod roe and shredded seaweed on top.
- Oh my gosh...this was sooo good. One of the best udons I've had. This is an authentic Japanese dish too! I don't know why it's not an "Alpha original"...I would come back just for this dish. I can't even explain how delicious it is. Really soft noodles and the spicy cod roe gives it this unique texture. It is slimy and it's supposed to be, it doesn't matter to me becuase I expected it. This is really really good, and I haven't seen it available at other Japanese places.
- Alpha's Taco Rice - 5/6
- Taco spice seasoned pork served on Japanese rice, cheese and lettuce with their original spicy tomato sauce.
- This is a bang for your buck! You get a huge bowl for $7.75 and it's worth a try. I mean you could probably reinvent something similar at home - but it's still good. A unique idea that tastes great. It tastes just like the description. Mix it all before you eat it though because the ingredients are served in layers with the rice o the bottom and freshly shredded lettuce at the top. I could order this again.
- Unagi Rice Gratin Age 3/6
- Baked unagi (eel) with creamy white sauce, seasoned rice and cheese.
- This is rich!! Don't order it unless you feel like something really greasy and heavy - or unless you're with 4 or more people. It's an Alpha original and it seemed like it would be really good...cause it's so fatty. It was pretty good, but you can't eat a lot cause it's really rich and heavy on the cheese and sauce. For $12 its a bit expensive, but you get quite a bit of eel so I can understand. The eel is completely covered by the cream sauce and cheese though...there's A LOT of cheese! When you order a gratin you better expect it though. They could have added bread crumbs to the cheese to give it a crispiness...it was more casserole than gratin.
- The best part of this dish is the baked edges around the bowl...the rice is so crispy and extra chewy because it's Japanese rice. Best part!
- Matcha Cake with Green Tea Ice Cream 3/6
- Made in house. I appreciated this becuase I could really taste the matcha....they didn't skimp on the powder. It was a strong matcha taste which is what I want if I'm ordering a "Matcha Cake". It come with red beans, which were way too sweet...I don't like red bean, but even the people I was with that do like it thought it was too sweet. It was almost syrupy.
- I didn't order this, but was tempted too. It's made in house, will try it if I go back.