Akemi and I don’t get out as much as we used to but, the other night, we hung up our pots and pans (and packed away the sous vide machine) in favor of a night out.  We headed to Gastown to check out Pidgin, one of the newest additions (less than a week old!) to the local dining scene.  The man behind the menu, Chef Makoto Ono, was the winner of the first Canadian Culinary Championship at Gold Medal Plates back in 2007.  Since then, he has opened Makoto restaurant in Beijing, as well as Liberty Exchange and Liberty Private Works (which made the World’s Best 50 Restaurants) in Hong Kong.  And finally, Chef Ono has set up shop in Vancouver.

I’ve heard the menu described as mix of French, Japanese, and Korean influences with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.  Akemi and I were intrigued…


The menu is a one-sheet covering everything from appetizers to larger plates, the individual prices a guide to their relative portion sizes.  We started small and worked our way up.

The rice crackers and sweet soy anchovies weren’t my thing (as I enjoy neither rice cracker or anchovies) but Akemi is a big fan of both and loved this starter.

Akemi concentrates on eating.


More my speed where the fried shisito (Japanese) peppers with parmesan and pine nuts.  I’m a big fan of their sweet and slightly bitter taste, also the fact that roughly one in every three is mouth-blastingly hot.

Akemi presents…

One of the highlights of the night, however, was the sea urchin with cauliflower mousse, ponzu jalapeno salsa, and dashi.  Forget what you think you know about sea urchin.  Most of the stuff served at many sushi restaurants is packaged and possessed of an unpleasant funkiness.  But get them fresh – as served here – and they’re nothing but creamy sweetness melting in your mouth.  I ended up having two servings.

Akemi also did a wedge salad with tofu dressing, nori, and bonito flakes.  Again, not my thing but very much hers.

The only dish that didn’t impress was the Korean rice cakes with pork belly with tomato sauce and furikake.  It wasn’t bad, but I thought the belly and rice cakes an odd textural combination.


On the other hand, there was the other highlight of the night: beef tongue and cheek with broccoli pistou and mustard.  A marvelous dish but, I thought, a little pricey given the portion size.

We had three options for dessert and, rather than risk second-guessing myself, I decided to go with all three.

The black sesame cream with red bean and snow fungus was interesting and I loved the little crunch imparted by the fungus, but it felt like a very good Chinese dessert – which is my way of saying it was better than what I’d expected but not something I’d order again.

The chocolate fritters with the matcha dipping sauce were a bittersweet treat.  My only quibble was that the chocolate inside the fritters hadn’t totally melted and were solid and cool at their center.

The meringue with yuzu curd, vanilla, and celery (Yes, celery!) was excellent – and Akemi’s favorite.  This was the dish she was talking about on the way home.

The verdict?  Akemi put it best: fresh, clean flavors.

We’ll definitely be back and, on our return visit, I’m definitely getting the one menu item I regretted missing: the foie gras rice bowl with chesnuts, daikon, and unagi glaze!


18 thoughts on “February 8, 2013: Pidgin Restaurant!

  1. YEAH, you found a new place to enjoy eating out! Looks good, except the concept of blazing hotness. You are a masochist.

  2. I’m totally with you on the anchovies – not my thing. And I have nothing to forget about sea urchins since I’ve never had one. But, all the stuff looked very good. Not sure about celery in my desserts – that just sounds wrong – but heck, I’d try anything once.

    I read that at first as “beef tongue IN cheek”, which I suppose would have been a more humorous menu item, if somewhat difficult to execute for the chef.

  3. I can’t believe you, who will brave protestors, passed up on the foie gras. Makes me think you were just taunting them. “Korean rice cakes with pork belly with tomato sauce and furikake.” Are you cursing? “…meringue with yuzu curd, vanilla, and celery…” This sounds like the dessert round on Chopped. Chef’s, open your baskets…

  4. I love anchovies! Nom nom nom!

    @Akemi: Love the ring. What kind of stone is that? I’m not a big ring wearer myself (it bugs me when I’m typing), but yours is lovely!

    @Joe: I’m running out of pics for my stalker-ish artwork. More, please!


  5. Snow fungus? Yeah I just threw up a little. I figured that us the stuff that grows on top of dog poop in the snow when you don’t scoop the poop. I think I’ll put a picture of snow fungus on my refrigerator so I never go near food again.

    I think I have a thought about why you stay so trim. Thermogenesis.

    Hmmm. Pretty ring on the finger used for engagement and subsequent wedding bands. A clue?

  6. Yes, chocolate fritters should have a melted center.

    JeffW: Yesterdays story…YIKES! Funny because you kept your cool and didn’t get creamed. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Everything looked wonderful. I would even try the anchovy dish. Reminds me a bit of a kabocha (Japanese pumpkin – yum!) dish I had in Kyoto – served with tiny salty baby anchovies. I’ve got to agree with Ponytail: that dessert combination was a little odd. But interesting.

    I just looked at the doggie outfits from yesterday. Very cute! Is is just me, or is anyone else reminded of Pinky and the Brain when looking at Jelly in pictures two and three? In a good way – I’ve always thought Brain was adorable.

    Okay – back to work. I’m taking my mom couch shopping this afternoon.

  8. Hmmmm…I swore I posted last night. I must have gotten distracted. Dang ADD. 😛

    Firstly, nary a flake here (well…besides me 😛 ), so we dodged another bullet. Just wind and rain, typical nor’easter for us.

    Secondly, I’m with you on the anchovies, Joe, but I do like rice crackers. Kinda have no choice in the matter since going gluten-free. My biggest problem with rice crackers is that if you don’t eat them all within five minutes of opening the package, they go stale. The food – well, the stuff I’d actually eat – looks good – especially the hot peppers! And speaking of hot, I saw this on the interwebs and had to steal it, just for you:


    Thirdly, isn’t the edible part of sea urchin the ovaries, or something? If so, what is it with you and your appetite for the reproductive organs of sea creatures? I’m telling you, Joey, you better be careful eatin’ that stuff ’cause I’m pretty sure one’a these days a giant Cthulhu is gonna come crawlin’ outta yer backside, face tentacles and all. And lemme tell ya, despite mental imagery to the contrary, it sure as heck ain’t gonna tickle. 😉


  9. Those anchovies look very fresh. Desert with celery, I’d never have come up with that combo. I’m enjoying some me time before a hectic week with family visiting and work demands. My inner hermit is enjoying Lost Girl, Inspector Lewis and I even checked out Do No Harm; even if a show isn’t being renewed, just two airings doesn’t seem like enough to make that decision. I remember Seinfeld getting terrible ratings early on, as did Friends.

  10. @das: Giant Cthulhu…PML. 🙂

    Mr.Deni’s gone for the weekend, so Lauren and I are being lazy and bad. We’re off to buy some lobsters and champagne and will have a feast at some point today. We will watch cheesy/crappy movies and sleep! Baby allowing. 🙂

  11. Looking at that last picture reminded me that I need to start back learning Japanese. It would come in handy as I continue to travel via NRT quite often. Those gate agents are so darn cute and love they way they HUSTLE. Nothing special but pleasant small talk can make traveling much more enjoyable. Really being a gate agent is one the the top 5 jobs I would never want.

  12. Joe – glad you liked it as much as I did. Thanks for your kind comments on UD – very much appreciated from a writing pro like yourself.

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