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We’ve been falling behind on our project of reviewing all of the restaurants on Commercial Drive that are within walking distance of the Bee & Thistle Guest House, our little Vancouver B&B. So we thought that a rainy Tuesday was a good day to venture out to our next stop – the Red Pagoda Vietnamese Restaurant. Unfortunately, when we got there we were disappointed to discover that it was closed. Undaunted, we soldiered on for at least another 20 feet to the next restaurant, which happens to be the Sake Maki Japanese Restaurant. Shifting gears with our taste buds from Vietnamese to Japanese was difficult, but when one lives in such a culturally diverse area as Commercial Drive, it’s important to be prepared for every gastronomic eventuality!
In reading the various review sites while preparing to write this blog, I was amused to note that many people suggest that Sake Maki looks like a Greek Restaurant turned Japanese, which I have to admit it kind of does. The interior colour and arches are also slightly reminiscent of a Greek island eatery, but the cozy restaurant appears clean and comfy. It definitely felt good to come in out of the Vancouver Spring rain! We are not totally adventurous sushi eaters, even though we live in a city that seems to have more Japanese restaurants than Tokyo (well, maybe not, but definitely lots of Japanese restaurants), and due to the chilly, damp weather we were definitely feeling more inclined toward something warm (which may be why we were originally focused on Vietnamese Pho!). But as soon as we were seated we were greeted with a hot mug of steaming tea – most welcome and it did keep coming through out our meal! The menu was quite expansive, with so many options to choose from including some interesting sounding rolls with mango and other unusual ingredients. You can check out their menu and/or order on line at: http://www.just-eat.ca/restaurants-sake-maki/menu (they deliver for orders over $25.00).
Michael & I couldn’t decide what to have so, in the end, we both opted for a lunch “platter” @ $7.50 each in order to sample a variety of dishes. The combo platters included a little side salad, 8 pieces of California roll and 2 gyoza, plus a main dish. I chose Wonton Soup for my main, Michael went for Chicken Teriyaki (he’s never afraid of a few calories!). The food came relatively quickly, beginning with a small salad which we unfortunately found to be uninspiring – but we weren’t really expecting a lot at this price. It basically consisted of a few pieces of iceberg lettuce and a couple of slices of carrot, topped with a sweet ginger/soy dressing. My wonton soup, however, was satisfying, with enough veggies to feel healthy and a generous number of wonton dumplings, all floating in a nicely flavored broth. Just what I needed on a rainy day! I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get the California rolls without mayonnaise, but they do offer real crab rolls which are made fresh and can be done without mayo for an extra $2.00. For the purposes of this review, I wanted to try the basic California rolls, but would perhaps go for the real crab rolls another time. The basic ones were fine, but the gyoza were my favorite part of the meal – nicely flavored and served with the usual dipping sauce (well, I just like gyoza!). Michael enjoyed the chicken teriyaki which was apparently nicely cooked and served with a flavorful sauce on top of a small bed of rice (see photo to the right). All in all, it was quite a lot of food for me, and a generous amount for the price! I couldn’t eat it all but Michael happily polished off his, plus some of mine, so that probably speaks pretty clearly about his opinion of the food! In summary, I would say that it was very acceptable food for such an affordable meal, and we had an altogether good experience having lunch at this unpretentious little restaurant.
In looking at the reviews on line, I see that many people have been very pleased with Sake Maki, though of course there are always those who didn’t like it at all. Yelp reviewers give it an average of 3 1/2 stars, with some individual reviewers giving it as much as 5 stars and others only one or two (restaurants definitely can’t please everyone!). Both DineHere and TripAdvisor show an average of 3 stars, and an impressive 86% of UrbanSpoon reviewers “like” this little restaurant. The biggest problem with Japanese restaurants on Commercial Drive (and what a terrible problem it is!), is that there are so many to choose from! It’s difficult for us to recommend that our guests go to this one in particular because, truthfully, there are others we like better, but there are also others that we don’t like as much (and we’re only half way up this side of the “Drive”!). But if you happen to be wandering up the street and looking for an inexpensive and tasty lunch or dinner, then sure – give it a try!