Not long ago, a friend introduced me to a lovely Japanese restaurant called Hi Genki. Tucked inside the Nikkei Home for seniors, and found next to the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, reveals a surprisingly long line of eager foodies, families, and residents of the neighbourhood.
What greets me first is a table full of food that gives me a visual, accurate representation of a few of today’s specials. I love how they show you what the food looks and smells like, so that it helps people, who may be undecided or unfamiliar with the menu, understand what their selections are.
Since I arrived quite early, I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to wait too long to get a table. The service is prompt and friendly, and soon I was given a menu, along with a pot of tea. Since I arrived early, I felt bad to order my main meal first, before everyone else got here, so I wanted to get something to pass the time.
I thought that I knew what I wanted already before even coming to the restaurant, but boy was I wrong. When I saw the Sake Manjyu, I knew I had to have it! And yes, I know what you’re thinking.. dessert at the start of my meal? Well why not?
Manjyu is essentially a steamed or baked bun with some kind of filling. They have various different flavours ranging from sweet to savoury, and can be shaped differently depending on the region you get it from. In this case, mine was filled with a sweet anko paste that is made from cooking adzuki red beans and sugar together. The result is a smooth, dense, and sweet consistency that reminds me of cheesecake. The outside dough seems to give off a hint of sake (Japanese rice wine) that is overwhelmed by the red bean. Hot green, oolong, or barley tea would go perfectly with something like this!
By the time I was finished with my app, my friends arrived and we all placed our orders. The one thing I always get here is their curry, specifically their (Chicken) Katsu Curry. I usually get pork, but this time, I got their chicken cutlet, just to try out.
The plate is gigantic! Since I was really hungry at this point, I was giddy with excitement. The curry is filled with diced carrots and potatoes, and the flavour is very mild and smooth. Japanese curry is very different from Indian curry; it is generally sweeter and commonly served with or over something deep fried (e.g. pork cutlet, chicken cutlet, fish, croquette, tempura, etc.). And while the chicken katsu had good flavour, it did feel a bit dry compared to the pork from my previous trips here. The salad was fresh and lightly dressed (just the way I like it), and they give ample white rice to go with all of this food. I think next time, I’ll go back to the pork, or try another dish altogether.
Next up, we ordered dessert. I wasn’t looking for more sweets, but I saw something on the menu that caught my eye – Anmitsu. I actually had no clue what this was until I started watching this crazy Japanese manga-adapted show from Netflix called Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman. The way the main character describes it, oh man.. it’s basically like a show where anime comes to life in a literal sense, and you finally realize how weird cartoons are ahaha.
Obviously, the places that Kantaro visits are considered one of the best local spots in Japan, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a similar dish in Canada! Going back all the way to the Meiji-era, I was surprised to find out that Anmitsu is actually a pretty old dessert that is still much-loved in Japan. There are different compositions of this dessert, but a classic version is made with agar or seaweed jelly cubes (think of a firm, flavourless jell-o), anko paste, fruit, and a sweet black syrup. The anko paste and mitsu (syrup) is what make up its name. Popular toppings for this dish are chestnuts, ice cream, whipped cream, and mochi.
The anmitsu that I received is comprised of agar jelly, canned mix fruits (pre-soaked in sugar syrup), anko paste, sugar syrup, vanilla ice cream, and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Overall, the flavours combined well, with nothing overpowering the other. It wasn’t too sweet at all, despite the canned fruit, syrup, and red bean. I think this is where the agar jelly and whipped cream come into play, combining all of the elements together into one cohesive dish, but still allowing me to taste each ingredient. The only problem I had was with the ice cream, actually, which was icy and dense and did not compliment the rest of the ingredients. Otherwise, it was great, and I can see why Japan still treasures this old-timey dessert.
- Good portions
- Good prices
- Food is homey
- Friendly service
- Gets busy fast
- Free parking
Hi Genki Japanese Restaurant
6680 Southoaks Crescent,
Burnaby, V5E 4N3
11:30am – 3:00pm
6:15pm – 8:30pm