Miku and Minami have swept the charts for being some of Vancouver's finest aburi style establishments but now it's time for Aburi Restaurants Canada to tackle a market that has been gaining popularity in the area: gyoza and ramen. As The city's first gyoza bar, the concept of Gyoza Bar + Ramen is definitely intriguing and gaining interest among foodies Vancouver wide. I had the chance to free up my previous Saturday night to attend their opening day as well as a quick late dinner the day after. Please remember that this is an opening day dining experience review!
My friends and I were able to get a table ~45 minutes after we put on name on the list at 6pm on Saturday. Unlike Miku at Waterfront, Gyoza Bar is considerably dark and relies on much of its light from small lamps on the side and candles at the table. Although Gyoza Bar occupies a considerably small space, it doesn't feel too cramped even after a full house of approximately 50 people. Despite being opening day, things didn't feel all too hectic or loud which I'm definitely not complaining about.
gyoza bar mule + aburi swizzle
oyster infused vodka, ginger beer, lime, pine nut syrup, house made mango bitters @ $9
Nikka Super Rare, Disaronno, bitters, demerara syrup, lemon @ $10
Along with the obligatory glasses of Sapporo with our meal, we decided to pick out a few cocktails to taste. The drink menu at Gyoza Bar isn't extensive but we were able to find these two drinks that sounded quite appealing. The Gyoza Bar Mule is the stronger of the two but definitely has a distinct taste due to the oyster infused vodka, ginger and citrus. Great mix though.
The Aburi Swizzle has a classic whiskey mixed with cinnamon taste but has an added layer of sweetness possible due to the Disaronno and syrup. The cinnamon taste is quite overbearing though so if cinnamon isn't your cup of tea, then this probably isn't for you.
Fraser Valley Pork Teppan Gyoza w/ spicy rayu soy + umami garlic soy sauce (15 pc) @ $16
This is one of their signature dishes; gyozas cooked in cast iron pans to supposedly give the gyozas a nice crisp skin which wraps around juicy locally barley fed pork. I love gyozas but honestly and unfortunately, I didn't much in this dish as there was no sign of crispy gyoza skins or juicy fillings on our lovely cast iron pan. In fact, our gyozas were more dry than I had initially hoped. I also like my gyoza skins thin so that at first bite, the skin breaks and reveals the warm meat and juice that drips out. Seems like none of that was achieved in any of the gyozas in front of us.
miso short rib + jalapeno-soy glaze specialty gyoza
feta, cherries, mushrooms, zucchini @ $12.50
The Hainan Chicken + Ginger Scallion Rayu gyoza was actually sold out so we tried this one instead, which in my opinion sounds better :$ I'm happy to say that I was much more pleased with these gyozas than the teppan ones. Although the skins were still not at optimal thickness for me, the filling was absolutely delightful and juicy. The short rib filling is just mouth-wateringly good and paired with a slight hunt of jalapneo soy glaze provides a nice kick of flavour. I would recommend eating the gyozas with the grilled cherries and veggies on the side. Trust me, you won't regret it.
"kaisen tomato" in tomato-saffron seafood broth
mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, chicken char siu @ $17
Another one of Gyoza Bar's signature items and I'm glad to report that this one is a hit! The broth is not too rich but has a good depth of flavour which combines a light tomato soup with a strong seafood broth. It kinda reminds me of the the Dockside Cioppino I had at Dockside Restaurant which was lovely as well. A consistent broth that wasn't overly salty or flavourless deserves a thumbs up for me (in fact I drank all the soup and almost licked my bowl clean). The noodles were done al dente to my liking but didn't have the same chewiness as the noodles from Santouka. Oh and from the picture above, you may be asking where the noodles are - don't worry, the bowl is actually realllyyy deep and that's pretty much where all the noodley goodness is.
"mediterranean salt" in pork tonkotsu broth
shio base w/ Aburi Pork Char Siu + Tamago @ $13.50
Tonkotsu broth is known for being rich and a bit salty and I'm not sure what we were expecting when tonkotsu is paired with a shio base in a bowl that's named Mediterranean Salt but wow was the broth salty. My friend almost found it hard to continue drinking the soup partway through. If you're really looking for that salty kick, I think this is your go-to ramen. The soft boiled egg wasn't too bad but I think Marutama has the stronger marinated-soft-boiled-egg game. Nothing all too amazing going on in that beautiful bowl though.
awase triple miso in free range chicken broth
vintage miso w/ Chicken Char Siu + Tamago @ $14
The vintage miso has the thickest broth out of the ones we tries as it has a much stronger miso base (triple the normal amount). It's not as salty as the Mediterranean Salt but still has a punch of salt in each spoonful. The chicken breast meat was a surprise since some pieces were quite tender and moist which was pretty good. Overall, not too spectacular though.
yuzu pate a bombe
cactus pear ice @ $7
This is slightly different than most desserts you see but essentially, it's a yuzu flavoured pudding bar paired with a pear glaze, fruits and bread crumbs. In contrast to the heavy ramen and gyozas, the yuzu and pear ice prove to be a good way to end off the meal by adding the right tinge of freshness and citrus.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
So after opening day, I can't say I was impressed by the food especially when Aburi Restaurant's other restaurants like Miku and Minami have such a high standard of quality in their food. I had such high expectations for the food here which explains why I sound more critical than I usually am with food. Although the "highligh" of the restaurant, aka. the gyoza, let me down for most part, I do have hopes that it will get better after a few more weeks of being in business. Service was okay but it was probably due to opening day being the first day of real work for the staff as well. The price to quality ratio just didn't cut it for me and for that reason, I won't be returning for a while but I hope that when I do, I will be able to expect something much better.
R E V I E W.
+ food quality: 7.5-8/10
+ service: 8.5/10
+ price/affordability: 7.5/10
+ atmosphere: 8.5-9/10
+ overall: 8/10