Oh (O?) Canada! What's not to love about you? Your healthcare system, your beautiful cities, but most importantly... your food.
When I start to get tired of the food in Seattle, Vancouver is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. While I'll mainly focus on Vancouver's Japanese food in this post (of course), it's worth mentioning all of the different cuisines that this city offers, from authentic West African food at Arike to delicious Indian food at Tasty Indian Bistro.
There are many options for Japanese food in Vancouver, but I have a few particular favorites. I'll present them in order of mealtimes.
Regretfully, I have not been here just yet. But I didn't want to write this post without mentioning Iktsuarpok Coffee, a newish coffee shop in Vancouver. The shop is owned and run by a cute couple, Rika and Kento. You can read a more in-depth review of the shop here.
Yama Cafe is a homey and cute Japanese eatery that serves up an amazing breakfast set on Saturdays and Sundays. I've been here at least three times for this breakfast set and it's always worth it. The store is run by a family and, on the weekends, you might catch their kids running around or eating breakfast at the next table over. Before Yama was Yama, the cafe was called Basho and was owned by someone else who opened up shop elsewhere in Vancouver (more on this later).
If you're looking for something more along the lines of pastries, look no further than Kanadell Bakery, a Japanese bakery that serves classics like melon pan and curry pan as well as other baked goods with a twist, like takoyaki pan and cheesy yuzu pan.
If you're hungry, Saku might be just the place for you. In addition to a good portion of delicious tonkatsu, Saku also offers unlimited refills on soup, cabbage and rice, which is how it's done at most tonkatsu restaurants in Japan. If you're particularly ravenous, you can even swap out your soup with a side of udon. Saku, though, is wildly popular, so if you get there around lunchtime, be prepared to wait quite a while. Not to mention, your whole party needs to be present before you can sit.
In case the wait at Saku is too long, you could try your hand at Tendon Kohaku, another popular place that serves delicious tendon - donburi (rice bowls) topped with crispy ("saku saku") tempura. You really can't go wrong with anything you order here. Be aware, though, that this restaurant also can have quite the wait.
At this point, you've probably done your fair share of walking around the city and exploring... so what better way to reward yourself than with a snack? And boy, does this city have you covered.
Vegan Pudding was started by the Japanese husband and wife team Sora and Hiro. The window is on the corner of Richards Street and is very easy to miss if you're not on the lookout. The different pudding flavors they sell include black sesame, matcha, early grey and more. In case you miss them at their window, it's likely that you can find their goods being sold at different stores in Vancouver such as Whole Foods, T&T, and more.
BAKE49 is a place I spotted, admittedly, from Instagram. I was particularly intrigued by their cheese tarts which were supposedly inspired by Japanese rare cheese tarts. They offer two varieties of these cheese tarts - the regular and matcha. I opted for the matcha but would recommend others to get the regular - I felt like the matcha took away from the rare cheese taste that I love so much. Nonetheless, a great spot to stop in for a quick sack.
Tsujiri is a famous matcha brand that hails originally from Kyoto, and Canada is lucky enough to have a location in Vancouver. As a fair warning, the layout of the store is a little funky as well as the system. Food like soba is only served for a limited time and is eaten at a particular section of the store. Then there's the grab-and-go (sort of) section, where patrons line up to order an ice cream or pick up a cake slice. While their system is confusing, their matcha is s e r i o u s l y good. The best matcha ice cream I've had stateside. It was worth the initial confusion to get my hands on their ice cream.
Last but certainly not least, usagi sweets is subjectively the cutest Japanese sweets shop in Vancouver, if not all of Canada. This shop is run by the former owner of Yama/Basho Cafe. But here, instead of doing a lot of things, the store focuses primarily on pastries, though they do offer a rice ball set as well. The pastries range from matcha alfajores to kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) mochi muffins. There's nothing quite like these pastries.
Dinner may not be the most important meal of the day, but it's can certainly be the most exciting meal of the day. Again, while there are a lot of options for dinner, I have two favorites in particular: Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba and Pidgin.
Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba is yet another Japanese chain that found its way to Vancouver and I'm SO GLAD that it did. This was the highlight of my most recent trip to Vancouver. My friend and I ended up coming here two days in a row - it was THAT good. Whatever you do, do NOT order ramen here - this place is all about their fatty and savory mazesoba, which is something out of an umami dream. Do yourself a favor and make room for this in your itinerary!
Last but certainly not least is Pidgin, a rather upscale restaurant in downtown Vancouver that serves dishes influenced by Japanese ingredients and tastes. If you know me, you know that I'm very skeptical about "fusion" restaurants, but Pidgin executed well. The shishito peppers were probably too pricey for what they actually were, but the udon vongole and beef cheek croquettes (korokke) were creative and tasty. Not to mention, the ambiance was very pretty.
... And that's all I have for you. Though considering how quickly restaurants come and go in Vancouver, I'm sure I'll need to keep updating this guide. Did I miss anything? Let me know!
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