Western Canada: Cowboys & Sushi (World)

But on this particular trip, the highlight was the discovery of a Japanese restaurant that everyone who is anyone already seems to know about. Tojo’s is across the bridge from these hotels, museums and shops, on the south side of Granville Island, on the second floor of an unassuming building at 202-777 West Broadway (604-872-8050). The chef, Tojo, is apparently famous for creating the Vancouver roll, but I wouldn’t even bother suggesting that. This Tojo is a true sushi master. He seems humble when he comes to say hello, and very sure of himself. When my wife, who is Japanese, tells him that rather than order from the menu we’d like to put ourselves in his hands, he bows and disappears to make us dishes we will talk about for weeks afterwards.  He began with tuna sashimi, the fish as soft as butter, topped with just the most pleasing garnish. A very good beginning. Then came the crisp zucchini flower filled with scallop and crab. String beans and burdock root wrapped with flounder baked in a paper that had to be unfolded. Soft eel with crab sunomono. Fried halibut with sesame seed and sautéed shitake mushroom. Special cooked tofu, spinach, and Portobello mushrooms. With these appetizers digested, the sushi followed: handrolled scallops with a special sauce; fresh shrimp; smoked salmon; tuna; crab wrapped in thin baked egg; cucumber rolls with various pickles. He brought over some vintage cold sake poured from a bamboo chute. Then a dessert of warm fried red bean and cold vanilla ice cream. A parting shot of Japanese white liquor.

We’ve eaten at some of the better Japanese restaurants in Tokyo, Kyoto, New York, and Los Angeles, but we both agreed that this Tojo had put himself alone at the top of our recommended list.

It was our last night in Western Canada. The Stampede, the golf, the fine hotels, the first class train, the scenery, the sailing in the English Bay and this meal: even the weather held up throughout our trip. I don’t have to be reminded why I always enjoy Canada. I just have to look at the pictures I’ve taken. Or when I put on my Tilley hemp hat before driving in my convertible. Or see the sensuous glint in my wife’s eyes when I cuddle up at night and whisper that magic name that is guaranteed to bring a response: “Tojo.”

No, I never wanted to be a cowboy. But I sure enjoyed watching them at the Calgary Stampede. And took that as a jumping off point to explore the Rockies and the cities to the west. And all I can say, upon reflection, is….Ya-hoo!

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