Serving Superb Battera
In North Burnaby.
What defines a truly food obsessed person? For me it’s two things:
- An individual’s curiosity about all aspect of the food they eat
- Their search for great food where ever it is
The first factor usually means the person bakes or cooks. Whether it’s perfecting a technique or tinkering with a new ingredient, I haven’t met a passionate food person that doesn’t cook/bake food in his or her own kitchen. The second criteria results in a person knowing a few hole in the wall eateries that serves outstanding food.
These hidden gems are often tiny and the owners don’t spend too much money on décor or a PR team. What they lack in exposure and aesthetics, they more than make up for it with flavourful and well executed food.
Kilala in North Burnaby perfectly exemplifies the under the radar restaurant you should know about. This 12 seat sushi joint is run by a couple and just serves a pared down menu of raw fish and rice in a more old school way – no crazy fusion rolls here. The only cooked food they serve is udon.
Given how untrendy and small their menu is, I’m surprised that this place has been opened for at least 10 years. I remembered when this place opened, I was just starting out my sushi journey and Kilala was the first place that I finally got why tuna was yummy.
I’m what you called a lapsed customer and decided to change that by paying them a visit when I realized they were still around serving sushi.
On my first visit I decided to try one of their battera sushi, since it’s not as common, and a few nigiri to see if the itamae was on his game.
Battera sushi, also known as boxed or pressed sushi, is less common on sushi menus around town but not rare. In fact, Miku’s famous and often copied Salmon Oshi aburi sushi is pressed sushi.
My unagi battera arrived in 6 pieces. The eel was clean and sweet, with no muddy flavour. In addition to a sweet sauce, there were little pieces of tamago sandwiched between the unagi and rice. The egg added another level of texture and sweetness.
The rice was well prepared and I could detect vinegar in the rice. The battera was well constructed, easy to pick up and effortless collapsed in your mouth with just a chew or two.
I choose 3 different nigiri: uni, tamago and saba. All three pieces were well made but oddly I didn’t taste the acidity in the rice like I was able to in the battera.
The uni was probably the best value as I got 2.5 slivers of sea urchin gonads for $3.80.
The tamago was surprisingly homemade and not the bright yellow dense premade egg used by many eateries. It was subtle sweet was a lighter spongy texture.
The saba nigiri was may favourite out of the 3 piece of nigiri. It had a lot of flavours going on as the chef put sliced green onions, shiso leaf and wasabi to help offset the strong taste of the mackerel.
The fish itself was firm and just slightly pickled which toned down the natural oiliness of the saba. In one bite, you got spicy, herbal, fatty and tart flavours with this great nigiri.
I liked the sushi so much I decided to return for another lunch. I tried another battera sushi, a maki roll and a miso soup.
The saba battera I order came with 6 pieces like the unagi battera. Similar to the saba nigiri I had the previous visit, there were sliced green onions under the mackerel and shiso leaf embedded in the middle of the rice.
What was different was the saba was more sour and less fatty tasting. In addition, there was thin layer of pickled clear “skin” on top of the fish. I had no idea what it was. I initially thought it was some sort of vinegar agar film.
After doing some research, I discovered the clear “skin” was pickled kelp, which makes this offering a traditional Osaka style battera.
Despite the mackerel being more sour, the combination of green onions, shiso and fish was a great grouping of flavours. I was also very excited to try something I’ve never had before.
In retrospect, I should have had the negitoro maki first as I found the strong flavour of the saba battera washed out my palate a bit. The maki roll was well constructed. In addition to the albacore tuna and green onion, there was a smear of wasabi in the roll as well. I found the tuna to be creamy and fresh. Overall this was good execution of a negitoro roll.
This miso soup was the weakest item of the lunch, but it was not bad. It had nice chucks of tofu and good miso and umami flavour. The only thing I thought it was missing was the smoky flavour of bonito.
Kilala is simply a great place to get traditional sushi and nothing else, which suits me just fine. Clearly their focused menu works for them too, given the place’s longevity. I’m very happy to have this hidden gem in neighbourhood.
Sushi Bar Kilala
4749 E. Hastings Street
604 298 4749