I love izakaya — the Japanese drinks and small plates concept — and now I love Suika Snack Bar the best.

Suika is the younger sister of the much-praised Kingyo Izakaya on Denman. A cheeky artwork of two diapered kids eating watermelon greets you at the door. (“Suika” means watermelon.) Cinder blocks, black painted pipes and a chandelier of Japanese beer bottles are ingeniously incorporated into the restaurant’s decor. There are hearty calls of “Irasshaimase!” but not as much yelling as at other izakaya.

A great-looking patio out front is just finishing renovation where you can sit and catch envious glances from passing drivers.

The folks at VANEATS.ca invited me to try a new promotion called the Suika Punch, six plates PLUS a pitcher for Sapporo. It’s available for only $25 from June 20 to August 31, 2012. Not only is it a good deal, it’s a nice showcase of Suika’s signature dishes.

The three cold dishes came on a beautifully presented plate:

  • The thinly sliced yellowtail carpaccio let the freshness of the fish come through with sesame soy dressing and tobiko.
  • The tomato kimchi (regularly $4.50), marinated with Chinese chives and cilantro oil, was a delightful change from traditional cabbage kimchi.
  • Unfortunately the lightly smoked tuna tataki (regularly $6) was a bit lost under the homemade chili oil. I did like the crunchy sliced onions that came with it.

The Hellz Chicken (regularly $8.80) is advertised on the menu with a red warning: “Dangerous! Addictive!” The boneless chicken pieces are deep fried and tossed with Suika’s “hell sauce” of jalapeno, hot sauce, lemon, garlic, vinegar and Tabasco. It was good but I was expecting more than one note of spiciness.

I give points for the originality of the Chinese Poutine (normally $6.80)  and impressively crunchy on the outside, soft and hot on the inside French fries. The topping of spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, chili oil, and sansho grew on me with each bite.

Tthe last part of the package, a pitcher of Sapporo, well, that’s just refreshing.

VANEATS.ca is giving away three Suika Punch passes. All the details are here.

Suika, Vancouver

We were quite happy with the six-course promotion but we also wanted to try more. It took us a while to make a decision because there are so many menus! We flipped through the regular two-sided menu, the one page of “tonight specials,” and another page of “Suika’s specials.” Everything sounded awesome.

The negitoro battera ($9.80) is a great alternative to nigiri or sushi rolls. Battera is sushi pressed with a box mold. The tuna belly with scallions, avocado and sesame was OK so the soy dressing and seaweed sauce elevated quite well. My only complaint is the rice was too soft and not packed well enough so it fell apart easily.

The grilled duck ($7.50) slices had a nice balance of juicy meat and flavourful fat. Again it was the accompaniments that really lifted this dish. Thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, tomato and a sauce of balsamic, soy, butter and Japanese pepper were a fantastic way to bring out the duck.

The tonsoku ($6.80) has a stark warning on the menu: “Don’t try, if you never had.” It made me laugh because pork foot is not for everyone. It’s fatty with some cartilage bits and really not much else. But done right, you can’t put it done til there’s only bone left. That’s what I did here.

Suika sautés the foot with soy butter until it’s tender and crispy. Oh my god, I was so happy when Jason said it was too rich for him. I swept in on the rest of it with no apologies.

Suika, Vancouver

For dessert, we shared the summer creme brulee which is frozen, making it taste more like a slab of delicious ice cream. It comes with mango gelato, whipped cream and blueberry sauce.

We noticed most of the tables around us had “reserved” signs on them, so make sure you call ahead especially if you have a large group. I saw lots of older kids here, so younger ones would certainly be welcome but bring your own gear as I didn’t see any high chairs or booster seats. Service is excellent.

Disclosure: The Suika Punch ($25) was complimentary but we paid for the rest of our meal.

Suika Snack Bar, 1626 W. Broadway, Vancouver, (604) 730-1678. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner Sunday to Thursday 5:30 p.m.-midnight, til 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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