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Big in Japan: Japanese Brasserie

Posted by Mandy / June 5, 2010

Picture 10.png Ever since it opened earlier this spring, this self-proclaimed Japanese brasserie on St-Laurent and Pins has been hard to miss - and I've been dying to try it out. It's difficult nowadays, especially in Montreal, to find a restaurant that serves Japanese cuisine that isn't sushi-centric. I had a little taste of Japanese bar food in Asia once - fried chicken cartilage, chilled tofu, yakisoba - and was anxious to see what Big in Japan could offer.

I dropped by on a weekday for lunch. First off, the atmosphere is incredibly fun and casual: from the friendly hipster waiter, to the display of action figures and other doodads on your way to the bathroom, to the J-pop cheerfully playing in the background. Big in Japan is open until 3 am everyday, and I can easily see this being a choice environment to be in to do a little late night drinking, grazing, and chatting.

Picture 5.png The menu seemed to be full of excellent choices: chicken wings, onigiri balls, brochettes... but the lunch menu was, although very affordable, much more limited. I opted for Hiro's Special of the Day ($12 - includes soup and coffee/tea) while my dining companion chose the cold ramen salad with vegetables, pork, and soy dressing ($10). All prices include tax!

Picture 4.png My special included a little soup - chicken broth with sparse shreds of chicken. Nothing too special, but the light broth served before my meal screamed Japanese. I was also amused by the fried noodles they threw over top, which was a nice interpretation of soup and crackers.

Picture 7.png The special of the day was pasta with meat sauce, with three panko-breaded croquettes: one crab, one shrimp, and one corn, all made with a bechamel sauce. You'll notice that the portion sizes are extremely generous. The meat sauce of the pasta was made Japanese-style, meaning slightly sweet. I found it to be alright - but not something I would order again. Out of all three croquettes, I found the corn one to be the best. It had just the right amount of filling and not too much bechamel sauce, which combined nicely with the corn. The crab in the crab croquette was heavily masked by too much sauce, and the shrimp in the shrimp croquette tasted very fishy. Although I was able to finish my meal, I wasn't impressed.

Picture 6.png The cold ramen salad, on the other hand, was fabulous. It was the perfect kind of dish to slurp up on a hot, summer day with a cold beer. The soy dressing was not overpowering (although maybe lacking just a little bit of acidity), and the dab of yellow wasabi they smeared on the edge of the dish was strong enough to tickle the sinuses of even the biggest wasabi-lover. And my favourite part of most Asian noodle dishes was prominently included in this salad: the perfect semi-hard boiled egg, tinted light brown with salty-sweet flavour.

Picture 2.png As for drinks, we ordered beer and Ramune. I've seen Ramune before in the drink aisle of Asian supermarkets, but I had never tried it before. It is a Japanese carbonated drink that you open by popping a marble into the bottle. The cheerful waiter patiently instructed me how to open the bottle, then politely held back his laughter as the weakling that I am took several tries before I could pop the marble into the drink. Ramune just tastes like sugary fizzy water, but I thought it was a fun and appropriate addition to the drink menu.

The bill? Lunch for two including drinks was under $30.

I would definitely go back to Big in Japan to check out their dinner and late night menu. I'm actually curious to see the other items that they offer, and this type of dining is right up my alley. Although the food was just slightly above average, its clear affordability, excellent service, and casual atmosphere would draw me back. Picture 11.png



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