One of my favourite things about Vancouver is the international food market scene. Some stores I go to because they have the best prices on my go-to pantry staples, and some I frequent for their high-quality fresh meat and seafood. Aburi Market just so happens to have both of those categories covered, which is why I made the trek from the West End to West Van as soon as I heard it was open. I came with high expectations, and I left with my newest market obsession.
Credit: Huy Tran
Brought to you by team behind the award-winning restaurants Miku and Minami, Aburi Market is a high-end Japanese market that serves up next level ready-to-eat food, exclusive imported goods and some pretty stunning tableware.
This might be the one time it’s good to shop hungry, because this 4,000 square-foot space is home to a bunch of fresh food stations. As you enter, a dessert station sits directly to your right and features treats imported from Japan as well as baked goods from Yama Café. While all the desserts are delicate beauties, the roll cake (made with plant-based cream) won my heart. I can see future me picking up the full-sized version for a quickie dessert that looks super impressive (for a summer barbecue perhaps?)
Credit: Leslie Seto
Next up is the sliced-to-order Iwate A5 wagyu section. Yes, there’s a full section of the market dedicated to wagyu. If you’re a wagyu fan, then you know that Iwate A5 wagyu is the best of the best. Known as the pinnacle of Japanese beef, it is imported directly from the Iwate prefecture in Japan and has won top prize at the Tokyo Meat Market 11 times. A5 is the highest grade given to wagyu beef and based on the buttery texture (due to the high marbling) and umami flavour, I can see why. This beef melts in your mouth with just enough bite. Yes, this is definitely a splurge item, but Aburi is one of the only places you can purchase such a good steak in Vancouver.
A close-up view of the Iwate A5 Wagyu.
Credit: Leslie Seto
Next to the wagyu counter is a large sushi section where you can watch the chefs slice, prepare and torch sushi. All of the sushi creations are then housed in their grab-and-go section for ease (no ordering or waiting necessary). If you’ve been to Miku or Minami then you know that the quality of sushi is high, and this is an easy quick lunch or dinner option. The ready-to-eat section doesn’t stop with sushi though – they have a pretty awesome make-your-own ramen station where you can choose your broth, noodles and toppings (the single ajitsuke tamago was definitely my fave touch) which all come pre-bagged and ready to heat and eat at home. There are also a bunch of bento boxes and bowls (think chicken karaage with rice and veggies) and house-made onigiri filled with toppings like octopus and oysters. This is all to say, if you shop hungry you will find something pretty darn tasty to eat ASAP.
The single ajituske tamago, ideal for your at-home ramen creation.
Just a portion of the huge drink selection available at Aburi Market (Credit: Leslie Seto)
If you’re looking to prep a meal rather than eat right away, then you’ll probably be pretty excited about the frozen section, which hides good finds like frozen Hamachi blocks, pre-marinated fish and ramen kits for four. Also available in the frozen section are a bunch of desserts, like cult fave Melona bars and a wide selection of Castella cakes.
Aburi also rocks a mean selection of imported goods. From saucy staples you know and love (think Kewpie or Bulldog) to the best rice crackers I’ve ever had (Senbei Brothers, seriously run don’t walk), to tempura mixes and buckwheat noodles – all the items to build your elevated Japanese pantry are available.
These are the rice crackers in question!
Credit: Leslie Seto
Aburi is first and foremost a food market, but their homeware selection was the secret winner in my eyes. There's tea sets and tiny bowls decorated with delicate designs, and the items feel like keepsakes that you almost want to keep on display rather than use. However, as an owner of a brand new ramen bowl I can tell you–it quickly became the best and most-used bowl in my house. The store itself is super browsable (if you’re into that sort of thing) so that even if you come without a plan, you’re likely going to leave with something exciting to eat and perhaps a fancy new plate to eat it on. If you’re like me, it means shamelessly dummying a bag of rice crackers in the car.