The Gist: Mr. Seigo Nakamura, Founder & CEO of Aburi Restaurants Canada brought aburi sushi to Vancouver eight years ago. This sushi is not to be eaten with soy sauce or wasabi. The "flame on top of the sushi changes ingredients and elements of sushi. It’s an easier taste than just raw," Mr. Nakamura says.
This new sushi brand, aburi sushi - seafood and rice carefully paired with signature sauces and lightly flame-seared with Japanese charcoal to enhance the flavours of the fish - was "innovative and new, and had to be introduced to everyone. In Vancouver, no one knew sushi without soy sauce or wasabi. We said 'get rid of it,' and we’ll make it even better. It’s very hard to break that stereotype. Innovation takes time."
Now their signature item - Salmon Oshi Sushi - is their most popular item. "Some guests only come in for this," Mr. Nakamura says.
Bringing influences from around the world is key – "Bring something good from Japan, bring something good from Toronto. Combine them instead of 100% Japanese."
The key is to "use one kind of fish, and create ten kinds of sushi, using different flavours, temperatures."
Miku means beautiful sky, and is the name of Nakamura’s first-born daughter (another restaurant of his in Vancouver, Minami, is named for another of his daughters).
Mr. Nakamura will soon be expanding – Toyko in December (he has 8 restaurants in Japan already), then Europe and Dubai. He plans on starting a franchise business in London next year. He is "not interested in something that already exists," instead he is exhilarated by the possibilities.
So it’s no surprise that Mr. Nakamura created "Ningenmi", Aburi Restaurants' corporate philosophy. The term is defined as "finding joy in your life by bringing joy to others," and encompasses the belief that success is achieved when it is built upon the passion and pride from each individual with the building blocks of respect and trust for your team.
Grub: Psst - This is not just food. Miku is an experience.
A sexy Bar Bites menu entices, but you’ve got to come for dinner. Appetizers, small plates, sea offerings using Ocean Wise certified sustainable seafood (local suppliers are used as much as possible), dreamy entrees, the can't-go-without Aburi Oshi Sushi, specialty rolls (don’t even with your California roll request), and sushi plates, are as beautiful as they are delectable.
And while ingredients are carefully curated, the rice is deeply considered. There has long been a traditional way of making sushi rice – there’s the texture and taste. How much fish, vinegar, and rice you use "equals perfect combination," Mr. Nakamura says. And while everyone competes over who has the best sushi rice in Japan, Nakamurais constantly on a quest of adding a bit more flavor, and developing a different style, asking, "How do we make it better?"
Whatever you do, save room for dessert (proof is below).
p.s. Not to be missed - three Kaisekicoursed menus – Shokai (4 courses $75), Miku (5 courses $95) and Aburi ($130 – requires 72 hours notice) and served on handmade Arita plateware.
Libations: Sake specialist Miki Ellis, out here from Vancouver for the opening, lives and breathes sake. She is passionate and energetic and it’s impossible not to get caught up in her fervor. She guides me through some of the selections from their extensive list:
"Aburi Ginjo was made especially for us. We worked with the brewery to push the limits for what we want to do. It’s not a private label but a 19 generations Noshi brewery, and it’s the first one on tap. It’s new for Japanese sake to be on tap. The keg is from California – a new innovative system where no gases are used, and the sake has no contact with air, helping to maintain the sake’s integrity. It’s light and clean with fresh fruit and a little more umami on the finish.
The Dassai brewery is "New World from the Yamaguchi Prefecture," says Ellis. "As a brewery, Dassai is incorporating the use of technology to improve on traditional techniques creating fresh, vibrant sakes." This brewery has a sake bar in Paris called Dassai 23. The Dassai Nigori is fresh and vibrant, with notes of melon but not overbearing. It’s in keeping with the dassai profile with texture and sweetness . It’s the only one to be polished to 50% - more than 20% polished is unheard of." p.s. it also happens to be Kosher certified and gluten-free.
Deets: The sweeping 7,000 square foot restaurant with soaring ceilingsfeatures two private dining rooms, a fresh raw bar and large outdoor patio. The floor to ceiling glass windows fill the room with light.
There are 180 seats with additional 80 on the patio.
Fixtures & Fittings: Mr. Nakamura says it best – the space is "exciting, happy, and bright."
The stunning hand-painted blue fish along the back wall was done by the same artist who swathed the walls of Miku Vancouver, Hideki Kimura.
White walls and blue accents make you think of the ocean, sky-high windows give you a glimpse of nearby Lake Ontario. While Minami is warmer, darker and woody, inspired by dawn, Miku Toronto is sleek and modern and fresh and sexy.
Off the Menu:
Miyazaki #2 ($16 - 2 oz.) a remake of the Miyazaki Mango, on the menu at Miku Vancouver Havana Club 7yr, ginger liqueur, mango puree, basil and citrus foam, lemongrass aroma
The fascinating gelatinous texture and slight sweet finish makes this go down way too easy.
Coal Harbour Platter (reg$32/lrg $64) fresh oysters (Blue Point pictured here in album), oyster shooter, mussels, steamed clams, jumbo prawns, scallop ceviche
The most beautiful seafood arrangement you’ve ever seen.
Aburi Beef Carpaccio ($19) sterling silver AAA short rib, organic shoyu egg, baby greens from a local farmer, asian pear,edible flowers, wasabi crème fraîche, jalapeño ponzu
Not only stunning to look at, but revelry for your tastebuds.
Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish ($35) prawn croquette, gai lan, charred eggplant purée, welsh onion, pickled turnip, yuzu-miso reduction, tomato relish
There is so much going on here, you’d think things would get lost, but everything stands on its own while working with everything else on the plate. And they’d better make those prawn croquettes as an appetizer because you’re definitely going to want more than just one.
Miku Signature Selection ($36) from left to right:
Traditional Nigiri - spot prawn from BC, otoro from Spain, engawa
Rolls - Miku Roll, red wave roll, Aburi Ebi Oshi (pressed prawn, lime zest, ume sauce), Aburi salmon oshi (pressed BC wild sockeye salmon, jalapeño, Miku sauce)
Aburi nigiri - Aburi bincho Nigiri, Aburi shima aji, Aburi hamachi nigiri
While you don’t want to use any soy sauce with the aburi sushi, traditional sushi is served with both a sweet tamari sauce and soy sauce for your dipping pleasure.
Green Tea Opera ($13.50) green tea génoise, matcha butter cream, dark chocolate ganache, adzuki bean cream, hazelnut wafer, matcha ice cream
It takes three days to make this cake and it’s the best green tea thing you’ll ever have. It’s also so gorgeous, you'll feel bad for messing it up. But it's too good not to, so dig in.
How Cool is This?! Everything from the handmade Arita porcelain plateware from Kyushu, Japan (some of the pieces were made exclusively for Miku) to the spacious, bright, modern dining room to the bar that just oozes date night appeal. And of course the exquisite food, but you knew that already.
At the Stove: From Aburi Restaurants Canada, Corporate Executive Chef, Kazuya Matsuoka, Chef de Cuisine Michael Acero, and Head Sushi Chef Kazuki Uchigoshi. Also Head Pastry Chef Aiko Uchigoshi.
FOH: Chanelle Andrade, Anthony Yeung, Marla Saba
Head Honchos: Seigo Nakamura, Founder/CEO, Aburi Restaurants Canada
Visiting Hours: 11:30am – 11:00pm weekdays, 11:30am – 12:00am weekends
Lunch (Daily): 11:30am – 3:00pm
Dinner (Daily): 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Bar Bites (Sunday - Thursday): 3:00pm – 5:00pm & 10:00pm – 11:00pm
Bar Bites (Friday – Saturday): 3:00pm – 5:00pm & 10:00pm – 12:00am
Map It: 10 Bay St. (at Queen’s Quay)
Phone It In: (647) 347-7347
Check out our album of photos on Facebook.