When it comes to Vancouver street food, the undisputed champ – easily blowing away all other sausage vendors, chestnut roasters and popcorn sellers – has to be Japadog. Five years ago, Japadog inventor Noriki Tamura revolutionized the hot dog universe by serving up dogs with a Japanese twist: turkey smokies with daikon radish; bratwurst with soy sauce; beef dogs with teryaki and seaweed. His hot dog carts were an instant sensation, drawing long, hungry lines to the corner of Burrard and Smithe Streets and other locations.
Now, after winning the hearts of Vancouverites and visitors alike (include Ice Cube and Steven Seagal), Japadog has taken a big step and moved into its own restaurant. The new dog house opened its doors at the end of May at 530 Robson Street (at Richards). As reported in this week’s WE magazine, moving indoors has given Japadog the opportunity to take its culinary creations to a whole new level. You’ll still find your favorite dogs (with the notable absence of the popular Misomayo), but now there are fries spiced with Japanese seasonings and a range of new creations.
Popular new options include the Tonkatsu, a deep fried slab of pork coated with wasabi mayo. There’s also the mysterious Love Meat, a kind of chili dog topped with Bolgnese sauce and melted cheese. For desert, you can try the Choco Banana Sweet Dog, a bun-shaped doughnut holding a chocolate-covered banana (not sure how Japanese that is, but I’m sure it tastes good).
The big question so far seems to be whether the Japadog experience somehow loses something by being moved indoors. Part of the original appeal of Japadog, after all, was that its crazy hotdog creations stood out from typical street food. As a prim and proper restaurant, Japadog loses a bit of its novelty. Then again, it will be nice to be able to sit down at a table with my Terimayo, rather than stuffing it down in the middle of the sidewalk.
What do you think? Are you a fan of the new Japadog restaurants? Is it better than the old carts? Worse? If you care about your dogs, please leave a comment below.