Vancouver is in no short supply of sushi restaurants. From the local neighbourhood haunt to the line-inducing holdout, most Vancouverites have more than one spot in their back pocket, and Miku surely lands high on that list. Since opening in 2008, Miku has defined premium sushi and Japanese fare in Vancouver. And after re-locating to its fittingly contemporary Coal Harbour waterfront location in 2013, the restaurant became a landmark for visitors and locals alike.
“Vancouver is saturated with Japanese restaurants, so we had to set ourselves apart,” says executive chef Kazuhiro Hayashi. “When we first brought aburi (flame-seared) sushi to Vancouver, it took a while to catch on because it was so different.” True, the restaurant’s sumptuous and savory aburi is a standout staple of the menu, but before one reaches the sushi course, Miku dishes out plenty of major players. The Coal Harbour platter, as the name suggests, presents the some of the finest seafood the West Coast has to offer: oysters on the half-shell, white-wine marinated mussels, and jumbo prawns are accompanied with kaisen poke, scallop ceviche and kale gomae—the ideal briney bunch to season any appetite.
After diving deep into the raw and chilled ocean options, Hayashi has opted for more comforting additions to the menu for the current season. “Our winter menus feature more fall/winter produce, flavours, and spices,” he says. “There are more comforting and warm options available.” An excellent example of this is the miso sablefish, paired with brown rice and a soft bok choy: it’s a perfect warm-up for the colder months. Additionally, setting up with Miku’s exclusive Aburi Ginjo sake, with its gentle vanilla notes, is as good as a warm blanket.
Further setting Miku apart from crowd is the exceptional executive pastry chef Chris Janik. As part of the winter menu, Janik has combined the best of the season in an impressive chestnut pear Mont Blanc plated with soft poached pears and floral fig ice cream. Even Janik’s version of the sushi house staple, matcha ice cream, is elevated to the sweetest heights, pairing ice cream with buttercream layered on top of dark chocolate ganache with crisp layers of hazelnut wafer to break through.
Recently Miku expanded its reach, bringing the likes of the Coal Harbour Platter to the East with a downtown Toronto location now in full swing. Similarly to Vancouver, Miku’s first Ontario outpost has an emphasis on locally-sourced products. “In Toronto, we are working closely with our suppliers to get the freshest, local ingredients,” says Hayashi. “For example, one of our suppliers is 100km Foods Inc., and as the name suggests, specializes in local produce. We also have sourced lobster from Maine, and are using more East Coast fish.”
Informing every part of Miku’s innovative offering is a model of hospitality that runs deep. “Ningenmi is a Japanese philosophy of having respect and trust for coworkers and guests, as well as creating your own happiness by bringing joy to others,” explains Hayashi. And it’s fairly simple to find joy in nearly everything that Miku creates. The ningenmi is mutual.