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Sit at Miku’s sushi bar on a busy night — and most nights there are busy — and the sweet, smoky scorching of fish flesh means you will order the house specialty. This isn’t the kind of intimate sushi bar where you chat to the chef/proprietor, buy him a beer, and eat whatever he selects for you. Here, you accept a ringside seat to witness four blowtorch-wielding chefs in a bustling kitchen feeding the crowds of well-heeled locals and tourists who’ve been frequenting the place since it relocated to the former Aqua Riva on Canada Place last June.
Miku introduced aburi (flamed, seared) sushi to town in 2008. Aburi is one kind of hakata-mae, sushi from the ancient city of Hakata, now part of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Seigo Nakamura, president of Tora Corporation, which owns a small chain of restaurants on Kyushu as well as Yaletown’s Minami, has translated it neatly into the Vancouver vernacular. The must-order is aburi salmon oshi, distinctively vinegared pressed rice with two layers of sockeye salmon, dabbed with mayonnaise, blowtorched, and finished with a ring of jalapeño. For dinner, it comes either as a solo dish ($16 for six pieces) or as part of the premium aburi plate ($26) with two kinds of tuna, mackerel, shrimp, scallop, and hamachi, each with its own sauce.
In its new waterfront home (it used to live in the Guinness Tower a couple of blocks west, where Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar now stands), Miku is slick and sleek. The wraparound patio will be packed come summer with groups tucking into substantial raw seafood platters ($78 for three people, top quality except for the tasteless farmed shrimp). Mixed with the local are international influences, especially Italian, as is typical of contemporary high-end Japanese food. That cosmopolitan drive means the squid is not ika but calamari, a mound of it hot and crunchy with the lightest of tempura batters, a sauce of balsamic reduction and sweet soy ($14). The onomatopoeic shabu-shabu (“swish swish”) is thin-sliced beef, enoki mushrooms, and arugula to dip in broth, with tamari-ponzu sauce and the fierce Kyushu yuzu chili kosho paste ($26).
The short, well-chosen wine list features big marine-friendly names: JoieFarm, Black Hills, Le Vieux Pin, and Poplar Grove from B.C.; Zind-Humbrecht from Alsace; Cakebread and Signorello from California; Ata Rangi from New Zealand; and Grant Burge from Australia. A couple dozen sakes include a house ginjo and a handful of endearingly named misfits that elude traditional categories. Japanese visitors will probably migrate to the premium shochu list, possibly more palatable in the popular shiso mojito topped up with fresh lime juice ($12).
Service is affable, informed, and adept, from the welcoming “Irrashaimase!” shouted out on entry to the reminder not to forget the chocolate mints on exit.
70–200 Granville St. (at Canada Place & Howe St.), 604-568-3900
Order: Aburi salmon as an appetizer ($16) or a premium sushi plate ($26). Or go all in: from $100, the Miku Omakase goes off-menu to present a coherent overview of traditional and fusion, including aburi (requires 72 hours’ notice)
Hours: Daily 11:30am to 10:30pm (later some nights)
Prices: Specialty sushi, around $15; entrées around $30
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