Zakkushi Charcoal Grill on Main Street near King Edward Avenue is perhaps one of the more interesting looking establishments, even from the outside. If you didn’t know any better, you might not even know that there was a restaurant behind that exterior facade. And you’d be missing out.
Between the four of us at the table, three of us went for the $25 tasting menu and one of us went a la carte. The $25 menu consists of a total of six courses: appetizers, salad, sashimi, charcoal-grilled skewers, tapas, and sushi. That’s a pretty good value.
We started out with some basic edamame beans, as well as a tofu dip served with sweet potato and lotus root chips. The dip was very subtle, but I really enjoyed the crispness of the chips.
Off the a la carte menu came the Ahi Tuna Poke and the Bukkake Soba, the latter of which is basically a Zaru Soba topped with a half boiled egg, prawn tempura, and tobiko.
Back to the tasting menu, we were served a refreshing daikon salad. This is the portion size for three guests, but it was still a lot of salad.
The assorted sashimi (one piece of each per guest) included tuna, salmon, yellowtail, sweet prawn (amaebi), and scallop. I was particularly impressed with the slightly chilled scallop, since each “piece” was really two pieces sandwiching a slice of lemon in between. The pieces aren’t huge, but the fish tasted fresh.
The stars of the show, however, had to be the assorted charcoal-grilled skewers. This is really the reason why you’d go to a Japanese tapas place like Zakkushi, especially when “Charcoal Grill” is right there in the restaurant’s name. The pork toro (belly) was very good, as was the Me Maki (garlic stubs wrapped in sliced pork), though the latter was clearly on the saltier side of things. The flavors are very good, but I did expect the skewers to have more char to them.
Next up was the Ebimayo, which are battered and deep-fried prawn skewers with a house cocktail sauce. The sauce had just a touch of heat to them, which made for a nice “punch” to accompany the crispness of the prawn. I would have preferred the “extended” version of prawn tempura over the “curled” shape, though, since it’s a little easier to eat on a skewer when the tail is still attached.
Capping off the meal was the sushi plate, consisting of a California roll and the spicy salmon roll. These weren’t really anything special, but they weren’t bad at all either.
Considering that we had to rush through the tasting menu in under an hour (we didn’t have a reservation and they were expecting someone for the table in an hour), I had a fantastic time at Zakkushi. Service was attentive without being pushy, the ambiance was great, and the food is truly top-notch. If you like izakaya, Zakkushi Charcoal Grill is worth checking out. (There are other locations on West Fourth and on Denman Street too.)
The $25 tasting menu is a good value, but it depends on what you want to eat. Individual skewers are about $2, but California rolls are a little overpriced at $6. Next time I go, I’m making a reservation and giving the food the time it deserves.