Japas Bistro puts a new spin on sushi

Located at 552 W Broadway

Beef sashimi with stuffed olives and mustard ponzu sauce. Photos by Sherry Lu Photography

Japas Bistro, located at 552 West Broadway near Cambie, is just a few blocks from my work, and passing by it on a regular basis I couldn’t help but notice its consistently enticing aroma. After reading the menu posted on the window and seeing dishes being offered such as eel rice burgers and avocado tempura with jalapeno sauce, my curiosity got the best of me and I resolved to do a review.

Routinely altering their menu every two to three weeks, Japas' chefs informed me that their operating concept is to keep abreast of food trends in Japan, and steadily import them as they develop.  In my case, the result was a deliciously trendy twist on one of my favorite kinds of food.

Our order:

Avocado tempura with jalapeno sauce - $6.5

Salmon sashimi rice burger - $7

Beef sashimi with stuffed olives - $8

Spicy California roll - $5

Blue Hawaii cocktail - $4.5

Evil Princess cocktail - $4.5

A ubiquitous maki ingredient in most sushi restaurants, the avocado is typically overlooked as a stand-alone dish. Perhaps this is due to its richness, or its fragility when ripe, but Japas’ tempura had me doubting the wisdom of the status quo. Their avocado tempura was ripe and thinly battered, with a piping hot interior that was soft rather than mushy. A creamy, spicy counterpoint to the mild-tasting avocado, the fiery yet flavourful jalapeno sauce made an excellent dip.

 

Being a vegetarian myself, I relied on my photographer, Sherry Lu, to sample the beef sashimi. It was pan-seared for a few brief seconds and sliced delicately thin, then served on a bed of pea shoots and shredded onions, drizzled with a mustard ponzu sauce, and garnished with pimento-stuffed green and black olives.  Sherry said it was tender and delicious; an innovative example of a traditional Japanese dish fused with Italian inspiration.

 

Though not as outside-the-box as the other dishes, the spicy California roll did not fail to satisfy. Slathered with a generous helping of tobiko, served with spicy sauce and garnished with fresh greens, it was an excellent example of a classic sushi standy-by.

 

For me, the salmon sashimi rice burger was the highlight of the meal.  It was comprised of tender salmon sashimi, a thick slice of tomato, a quarter of an avocado, lettuce, mayo and smoky unagi sauce; all stacked between two curious patties of sticky, sweet rice. The chefs informed me that the rice patties, which act as the bun, are mixed with sugar and soy, pressed in a mold, and then lightly grilled to keep them together. They were delicious, but fragile. The burger is served in a wax paper wrap to prevent its contents from escaping. You have to hold it together a bit, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Something of a world traveler, Sherry commented that, although she has tried rice burgers abroad, she hadn’t previously seen them being served anywhere outside of Taiwan. 

 

The Evil Princess (left), a blend of green apple, grape, and orange juices; and The Blue Hawaii (right), a mixture of blue curacao, rum and calpis.

Japas also has a drink menu with over 20 specialty cocktails. We tried the Blue Hawaii and the Evil Princess, both delicious and refreshing.  Japas’ drinks are made with fruit juice, flavour syrups, alcohol (optional) and calpis, a yogurt-like dairy beverage.  

Japas Bistro is a great place to try something a bit different without getting too adventurous. I enjoyed both their classics and their innovations, and left with my appetite and my curiosity well-satisfied.

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