Tenku Bakudanyaki and Fumisen – Richmond Food Trucks

by Ed Lau on May 14, 2010

The food trucks are no longer located at Clarke Place as stated below. They have moved to 8740 Charles Street, Richmond, BC, which is about one block south of the Bridgeport Canada Line station and River Rock Casino.

I heard plenty about the Richmond food trucks for damn near a year but never really took the opportunity to go. I tried last week but discovered that the lot they used to occupy across from Rona and the ICBC building in Richmond was empty. A quick search on the internet revealed that they moved to an industrial park on the other side of Richmond…that was a little strange looking from the outside, to be honest.

One of the things I miss the most about the Japan was the interesting, miniature-sized, often family-owned restaurants there. Well, quite often they can’t even be referred to as restaurants. Right outside my apartment was a place that served great yakisoba…and it was an old VW van. I saw a place serving pho that was basically a toolshed with some clear plastic sheets as doors.

These food trucks in Richmond tap into this Lower Mainland discovery of authentic Japanese food. Years ago, people thought that California rolls and teriyaki chicken were the full extent of Japanese cuisine.

The trucks are now located at #140-12831 Clarke Place, hidden amongst the generic looking store fronts and car repair shops. I’m not entirely sure what the rationale behind moving here was since it seems to be a lot more out of the way compared to the old location and far less accessible to the majority of the city. However, there is now a couple tables and a roof in the form of what I assume used to be a large garage…which I guess is an upgrade over the tool shed you would have to eat in before.

I mean, there’s a couple of paper lanterns and a strip of Christmas lights on the floor that give the place a sort of ghetto charm but it’s still quite evident that you’d usually find cars here rather than food.

It started with Bakudanyaki, which serves a gigantic ball of batter filled with various seafood, crisped up in a cast iron mold and served covered in a sauce of your choice and bonito flakes. There are six sauces available: original, chili mayo, curry, pizza, mustard mayo and wasabi mayo. There’s also a special that I assume changes daily. I went with the mustard mayo since I got wasabi mayo in my cone from Fumisen.

The bakudanyaki is about the size of a tennis ball and served in a cardboard Chinese take-out container, which prevents things from getting too messy but makes getting at all the good stuff a little difficult with chopsticks. Each is filled with shrimp, squid, cabbage, quail egg, calamari, fish cake and mochi, which is a sort of Japanese rice cake.

The huge ball is made to order and takes about 10 minutes. If you’ve ever ordered the smaller takoyaki at various stands in Japan, you know you want these made fresh. The outside is slightly crispy and mixing up all the various ingredients with the mustard mayo, sauce and bonito flakes make for a hearty seafood mash. I’m not a huge fan of takoyaki as I think the octopus to batter ratio isn’t all that delicious but for a ball of this size, you actually get a lot of stuff and it’s actually very tasty.

The looks might scare a few people but I really enjoyed mine…scraping every bit off the sides of my takeout container. At $5, it’s not a bad value either.

Right next to Tenku Bakudanyaki is Fumisen, which specializes in hand-roll sushi or sushi cones. It seems more recently, you can also order a chirashi don, which is basically a bowl of sushi rice topped with raw fish and other stuff you might find in a roll.

As you can see, there is a number of combinations you can go for. I ordered a regular sized roll ($3.75) with sushi rice, chopped scallops, avocado, tobiko and wasabi mayo. In hindsight, I should’ve been a little more adventurous with some of the options available but what I ordered is pretty much my go-to hand roll combo.

The scallops were sweet and fresh and everything was perfectly balanced although I could’ve done with a little more avocado. It’s clear that all the ingredients are fresh and the friendly gentleman behind the counter makes each one with the utmost care. I thought it was delicious although $3.75 is a little steep for the small cone. The large size actually seems to be the best deal.

There’s a third cart, Shoryumen, which serves ramen but I forgot to go to the bank and I assume they don’t take credit. However, I also saw the small bowls and the menu said they would be $10 after adding some toppings so I’m not sure about the value here compared to the giant bowls you might find at a place like Kintaro for about the same price. I mean, I’ll try it anyways at some other time but it would have to taste amazing to justify the cost.

Overall, there’s something really charming about these food carts. I mean, it might just be my nostalgia and fond memories of Japan talking but the food tastes good. If the prices were a little better, I’d probably visit more regularly…although it looks like prices have actually went up according to comparisons with pictures I’ve found from earlier this year. Either way, the trucks are worth a visit even if just for the novelty. I mean, it is certainly more interesting than the majority of restaurants around. I’m sure the location will be a bit difficult to get to for some people and certainly not very convenient since…well, no one would ever just be in that area but if you got some time, check them out to see for yourself.

Tenku Bakudanyaki on Urbanspoon Fumisen! on Urbanspoon

in Food and Fine Dining

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Laptop Briefcases June 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm

That’s awesome. It’s like the Richmond Night Market outcasts. I’d love to check these trucks out some time, but with a location like that I’m sure to forget.

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bj Harrower February 4, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Please contact me by email, or phone if you can rent out a food truck for a day while we film a scene in Steveston, Thursday February 9th, for the TV Series ‘Once Upon a Time’.
Thank you.
bj harrower
(604)218-3490

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Ed Lau February 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm

…yeah, I…don’t even know where to start with this.

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