The Georgia Straight - - Best Of Vancouver -

from page 70 when Naka­mura opened Miku. How did this type of melt-in-your-mouth sushi be­come a full-time ob­ses­sion around town in just a few short years?

“Aburi-style sushi was never a sig­na­ture item in Ja­pan. It was al­ways a side item,” Naka­mura told the Ge­or­gia Straight in an in­ter­view at his wa­ter­front restau­rant. “It’s just a sim­ple com­bi­na­tion of fresh sushi and rice, so I thought about how to take it fur­ther than just the tra­di­tional combo.”

He took into ac­count that not ev­ery­one has an ad­ven­tur­ous palate, which meant that many tra­di­tional Ja­panese culi­nary cre­ations would have a hard time winning the hearts of those who grew up eat­ing mac and cheese, burg­ers, and pasta. He imag­ined an aburi con­cept that would com­bine the best of Ja­panese and Cana­dian flavours, fo­cus­ing on bring­ing some­thing new but mouth­wa­ter­ing to lo­cal palates. Go­ing through tri­als and er­rors with his kitchen team re­sulted in a best-sell­ing item that’s re­peat­edly mim­icked by other eater­ies.

“It took a long time for me to come up with our style of aburi sushi,” ex­plained Naka­mura. “One thing that our com­pany al­ways thought about was how to bring tra­di­tional sushi to Van­cou­ver that can be ac­cepted. Our kind of aburi sushi can be loved by all kinds of peo­ple in the world, and I can see it ex­pand­ing be­yond Van­cou­ver and Canada.”

Even though the pub­lic would prob­a­bly be con­tent with just sal­mon and ebi (shrimp) aburi sushi, the restau­ra­teur be­lieves that flame-seared sushi has plenty of room for growth. For him, it’s not just about sat­is­fy­ing ap­petites with a few items that never ro­tate off the menu. Naka­mura wants to be the leader in aburi cui­sine and con­sis­tently serve up in­no­va­tive and de­li­cious aburi dishes.

Last year, Miku launched aburi prime. Es­sen­tially, it’s an omakase (chef’s se­lec­tion) cre­ation that fea­tures pre­mium flame-seared ni­giri that can in­clude ev­ery­thing from otoro (pink fatty tuna) to Hokkaido ho­tate (Ja­panese scal­lop) to A5 Ja­panese wagyu (Ja­panese beef).

“When I try to in­tro­duce some­thing, I think about cre­at­ing some­thing that al­ready ex­ists into some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent in the city,” said Naka­mura. “I al­ways think about global flavours, but I al­ways want to re­spect the lo­cal tastes and palates.”

It’s been a decade since aburi sushi made waves around town, and it doesn’t ap­pear to be slow­ing down. Count­less other sushi restau­rants in Metro Van­cou­ver also of­fer a vari­a­tion on this pop­u­lar con­cept on its menus, but none can re­ally com­pare to the ones that are con­stantly be­ing made at Miku and Mi­nami.

One would think that a sushi pro­pri­etor would feel enor­mous pres­sure from com­peti­tors try­ing to copy his orig­i­nal prod­uct, but it doesn’t bother Naka­mura in the slight­est.

“I haven’t re­ally thought about my com­pe­ti­tion. I fo­cus on what we can do here. If we think about oth­ers, we may get lost in that con­ver­sa­tion,” said Naka­mura. “We al­ways try to be con­sis­tent with our flavours and prod­ucts. A great restau­rant gets a lot of good feed­back from cus­tomers, [and] hav­ing good trust and re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers is also im­por­tant.”

He’s got a lot on his plate (fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally) the next few months, be­cause he’s pre­par­ing to launch new restau­rant con­cepts in Toronto and Ja­pan. Af­ter that, he’s set­ting his sights on ex­pand­ing his aburi em­pire to Asia, and then to the rest of the world. To top it all off, he’s also writ­ing an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy-meets-culi­nary book on aburi cui­sine and how he worked his way up to be­come the owner of two pros­per­ous food and bev­er­age cor­po­ra­tions on op­po­site sides of the Pa­cific Ocean.

If you’ve never tried aburi sushi, you’re se­ri­ously miss­ing out.

“You might have cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions when it comes to what you think sushi will taste like, but our aburi com­bines ev­ery­thing you love about sushi as well as Cana­dian cui­sine,” added Naka­mura. “Come and try it, you’ll be sur­prised.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.