As the world descends on our fair town for the Olympics, they might be disappointed to find that Vancouver’s street food is comprised of 99.9% hot dog carts and the odd roast chestnut cart, with even that slight exception dependent on the season. Kushi Box isn’t quite street food, but the impetus is all the same.
Kushi Box is Zakkushi’s fast food option on Robson (between Richards and Seymour), and serves up a smaller selection of Japanese skewers on a purely to-go basis. You have your pick between grilled items in a rice box, grilled items on a skewer, or a small assortment of other quick fixes like oden (which are various things stewed in dashi broth). This is food for those in a rush, or food after drinking…or street food, conveniently housed indoors.
For the rice boxes, you can take your pick among a four or five options, and supersize it for around $10 with either chicken karaage or kushi (ie skewers) and a pop or miso soup. Oden items run a bit more than a $1.20 a pop, or $6.50 to try all six.
We opted for two kushi combos, a chicken tsukune (teriyaki meatballs) rice box and an onion “P-toro” (short for pork belly) rice box with a half-cooked egg. The tsukune and pork, with that slight grilled char, hit the right spot, though the p-toro box had a slight edge when mixed in with egg yolk.
There’s really not much one can say about the skewers – they’re pretty hard to mess up. (To contrast, the karaage tended to be mushy, largely from sitting under a heat lamp while sitting in its own juices.) I do wish they had shitake mushrooms instead of the regular brown, but that’s not much of a complaint. The tofu skewers were great; we ordered the tsukune skewers out of plain greediness.
We tried a few oden items as well, given their relative rarity despite the enormous number of Japanese places in town. Daikon, fish cakes, ikamaki (a fish cake tube stuffed with squid), mochi kinchaku: all great winter comforts. While the ikamaki won’t please those with aversions to fishiness, the daikon was meltingly soft and warming, while the savoury kinchaku will be a huge hit for anyone remotely familiar with mochi.
(I realize that photo of the tub of oden might not look overly appealing, so we plated the daikon and mochi kinchaku on a separate plate to make it look at least half as delicious as they actually were.)
Overall, there’s little to argue with at Kushi Box, which really elevates simplicity to its best. It may not fulfill our dreams of having other food cart options in town, but Kushi Box, sandwiched between the soon-to-open Gyudon Gyu and Japadog, has staked its lead in what may soon be the holy trinity of cheap Japanese eats.
520 Robson Street (between Richards and Seymour)
604 689 9455
Hours: 11:30 am to 8:00pm