Miku: Aburi sushi, love at first bite
#2-1055 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
This was my first experience with aburi sushi, and if you can believe it, it was love at first bite. The excellent service at Miku also added to my experience too. As soon as guests walk into the restaurant, enthusiastic and friendly greetings are shouted out by the sushi chefs behind the bar. It creates a wonderfully lively and welcoming ambiance.
Miku is famous for two things: their aburi sushi, which is seared sashimi and (served on their nigiri sushi) a special warm sauce, a tasty concoction of garlic, soy sauce and butter. I didn’t get a good picture of my favourite item off the Miku menu: the Aburi salmon sushi, third from the left in the below photo. We ordered a couple of lunch box specials and the Aburi salmon sushi pieces were the first to be gobbled up. I can’t handle the spicy slice of pepper placed on top of the sushi, but I thoroughly enjoyed the smooth and fresh piece of salmon underneath, brushed with Miku’s trademark warm sauce.
Also in the lunch box special was a collection of Miku’s other artistically lovely nigiri sushi, shrimp and tuna. Each piece was put together with such meticulous care that it seems like a shame to eat them.
We also ordered the Crunchy scallop roll, which was a traditional chopped scallop roll with aonori tempura bits sprinkled on top. My two favourite items in Japanese cuisine have got to be chopped scallop and tempura so this roll was my two favourite things rolled into one (pardon the pun). You know you are in a gourmet sushi restaurant when the rolls don’t fall apart with the grip of your chopsticks before they land in your mouth. As a global foodie city, Vancouver is filled with so many All-You-Can-Eat sushi joints and low-end sushi restaurants that sushi rolls are now ubiquitous with anything else you can find in a shopping mall food court. This might devalue sushi rolls in the Vancouver foodie landscape. It’s a shame because sushi rolls and nigiri sushi have an amazing history of being pieces of culinary art form. The technique that goes into preparing sushi rice, then placing sushi roll ingredients in a required order and quantity as well as rolling the sushi roll at a specific angle and with the precise pressure to ensure tightly rolled but not squashed rounds of aesthetically appealing and delicious sushi is an art form that may get taken for granted in Vancouver.
All I have to say about the sushi rolls at Miku, are that the rice is amazingly soft, sticky but not overly gluttonous, and they don’t overstuffed their rolls or under-stuff either, there was just the right amount of sweet and cold chopped scallop pieces in my Crunchy scallop roll for me to taste the seafood, understand the dish and also long for more when my plate was empty.
It’s very entertaining to watch the chefs behind the counter sear the sashimi with a blow torch. And the aburi sashimi comes out looking delectably stylish with a thin strip of cooked area on top, and the rest of the fish still tastes clean and fresh.
Also included in the lunch box was the most scrumptious aburi chicken I have ever tasted. It wasn’t just the tender chicken under an incredibly crispy skin but the chicken was drenched in this tangy and creamy white sauce that added an extra hit of flavour that really made the small dish memorable for me.
The tuna sashimi also came so beautifully arranged in a little bowl that I almost didn’t want to touch it. But I’m glad I did. The fish was firmer than most other tuna sashimi I’ve tasted and I liked that. I usually don’t order tuna sashmi because of the mushy, crumbly texture it can have, but this was not the case at Miku. Miku’s tuna sashimi was velvety and silky on the tongue but was also firm when I bit down so that I could taste every morsel of the delicate fish.
Lastly, I have to admit I am not a big fan of vegetables, especially not leafy green ones so I rarely order spinach goma-ae in Japanese restaurants. But the goma-ae at Miku may change my mind. The sprinkle of sesame and the sweet nutty flavour in the sauce was so tasty that it almost made me forget that I was fulfilling my vegetable requirement for the day.