Miku Restaurant – Review 3

Restaurant: Miku Restaurant – Review 3
Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi
Last visited: June 6, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 1055 West Hastings Street
Price Range: $30-50, $50+

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 6
Service: 4.5
Ambiance: 5
Overall: 5.5
Additional comments:

  • Part of the Tora Corporation (Family owned Japanese restaurant group)
  • Authentic Japanese techniques with contemporary twists
  • Trendy/Posh/Contemporary
  • Fusion/Creative recipes
  • Upscale Japanese dining
  • Best spot: At the bar
  • Specializes in aburi (lightly seared) & sushi
  • Daily specials, fresh sheets
  • Seasonal menu
  • Omakase available – (Chef’s Choice menu) from $80/person
  • In house pastry chef
  • Global wine list/Specialty sakes
  • Oceanwise
  • Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
  • Sat 5pm-10pm
  • Closed Sunday
  • Miku Restaurant – Visit 1/Review 1
  • Miku Restaurant – Visit 2/Review 2
  • Sister restaurant – Minami in Yaletown

**Recommendations: Any Aburi items (lightly flame seared sashimi), Premium Aburi Sushi, Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, Miku Roll, Red Wave Roll, Una-kyu Roll, Chicken Nanban, Miku Zen, Blueberry Coconut Cream, Green Tea Opera, Pistachio-Saffron-Rose Ice Cream and Blueberry Lavender Sorbet. Sit at the bar if possible – best spot!

My sister came from out of town to surprise me and she was only here for a week. She’s majorly deprived of good sushi where she is and I was more than happy to settle her craving. Treating her like a tourist I brought her to one of my favourite Japanese restaurants, Miku Restaurant. She had seen me blog about, but never tried it yet, so we were both quite excited. Well really it was more like my best friend brought us here because she treated!

It was actually partially for my birthday lunch too. I didn’t have any plans since the hockey game was taking place during dinner time, so I decided last minute to have a little cake earlier on in the day… and then also some at night!

It wasn’t quite warm enough to sit outside yet, so we ended up sitting inside. However with the warmer weather finally coming around I’m hoping to check out their summer patio soon. I get cold really easily so the blankets and heat lamps are an added bonus for me.

It’s no secret that I’m head over high heels for Miku Restaurant, and I guess that also means I’m not really a stranger here either. It’s hard for me to repeat restaurants because I always want to try something new, but when I find one I love, I’m quite loyal to it.

Miku is probably one of my favourite casual fine dining Japanese restaurants, or restaurants in general. I’ve never been disappointed by Miku yet and I’d certainly recommend it as a “must try” in the city. It’s authentic, yet funky and creative and I can’t think of anything else that comes close to its quality, flavour, and style in the city.

Miku Restaurant specializes in aburi sushi which is seared sushi and it is considered a higher end restaurant. If anything people may find it a bit pricey, which I can see, but I think it’s generally worth it. I actually recently learned that they were opening up another Miku in Los Angeles, California later this year as well. My response: as long as it always has a home in Vancouver, I am willing to share!

On the table:

**Miku Zen 5/6

  • A selection of seasonal items chosen by our traditionally trained Chef’s: 4 items from our kitchen, 6 pieces from our sushi bar & miso shiru $23
  • This is one of their “bento boxes” and if you’re dining solo it will give you a good sample of a few Miku favourites.
  • The Chicken Nanban and Aburi Tuna with Masatake Sauce are standard on the Miku Zen and the other two items change daily, although I never find the other two anything special really.

Aburi Tuna with Masatake Sauce (Part of Miku Zen) 3.5/6

  • Seared albacore tuna with Masatake Sauce (which is onions, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil).
  • I remember this being part of their Premium Aburi Sushi platter that I love so much.
  • This was incredibly smokey in flavour and it’s mainly due to the aburi execution.
  • I could taste lots of sesame oil in the dressing and I do wish the tuna was cut a bit thicker to expose more of its flavour.
  • The combination of the crunchy Welch onion dressed in a tangy sweet sesame soy dressing and the charcoal Aburi flavour actually created a slight bitterness.
  • The crunchy onions aren’t spicy and they’re not caramelized either, but almost naturally bitter as well. They’re only sweet from the sauce.
  • It was almost like a Japanese onion relish, but it kind of overwhelmed the tuna at times although delicious.

Albacore Tuna Salad (Part of Miku Zen) – 2.5/6

  • This was a Japanese version of tuna salad and it tasted like egg salad as well.
  • It was very creamy with sweet Japanese mayo, some mashed albacore tuna, smoked salmon, egg and potato with some cucumber for crunch.
  • I would prefer the ingredients coarsely chopped or the fflavours to be a bit more Japanese or different.
  • It was a bit heavy with the fillers and the texture is mushy which I find common with Japanese style “potato salads”.
  • It’s good, but a bit ordinary and compared to everything else it becomes very mediocre.
  • I was hoping for something else since one of the Miku Zen components is always the daily goma-ae salad.

Daily Goma-ae (Part of Miku Zen) – 2/6

  • One of the Miku Zen components will always be the daily goma-ae, which I usually find underwhelming.
  • I love goma-ae, but the one here always tastes like boiled veggies without any goma-ae sesame dressing.
  • There was some tender sweet eggplant, wilted spinach, and Shiitake mushrooms and there was some sesame oil on it, but that’s about it.

**Chicken Nanban (Part of Miku Zen) – 5/6

  • Fried chicken soaked in nanban vinegar then topped with original tartar sauce with cabbage coleslaw on the bottom.
  • It’s not crispy crunchy “good for the batter” fried chicken, but good for the chicken fried chicken! It’s barely battered and still delicious!
  • I thoroughly enjoyed these little, but plump fillets of incredibly tender juicy deep fried chicken. It was so soft that the chicken reminded me of tofu in texture.
  • It was almost sponge like and they must tenderize it in the nanban vinegar quite a bit before deep frying it.
  • The tartar sauce is quite thin and I don’t know if I would call it a tartar sauce although it is tangy and creamy.
  • I loved the cabbage slaw underneath which was dressed in a house made Pesto sauce. I could really taste the basil and herbs and it was nice and salty. This pesto sauce mixed with the tartar sauce was a wicked combination and great with the tangy, savoury, sweet chicken.
  • The only thing is that the sauce ended up making the chicken a bit soggy so the batter isn’t crispy, although still nice and thin.
  • If you’re looking for the crispy and crunchy Chicken Karaage type of deep fried chicken try the one at Hapa Umi – see here.

Assorted Aburi Sushi (Part of Miku Zen)

  • These are the standard aburi sushi always served with the Miku Zen. It’s some of the favourites on the Premium Aburi Nigiri Sushi platter which is my favourite.
  • They did a cleaner job on the plating this time than last time (see here), and maybe because it was after the lunch rush already.
  • You’re supposed to eat it left to right in order of richness and flavours and I would have swamped the hamachi and the albacore tuna.
  • I know I sound really picky right now, but I know Miku standards and I know that the chef’s plate things very specifically with intentions in mind.

Hamachi (Tuna) with Avocado Puree (Left)4.5/6

  • This piece is one of my favourites and it’s part of my usual Premium Aburi Nigiri Sushi platter.
  • It’s creamy, rich and indulgent with the buttery hamachi and almost melted avocado puree. I also loved the salty black pepper seasoning on top.

Ebi with Basil Miku Sauce – 4.5/6

  • This was quite smoky in flavour with a creamy and savory rich Miso mayo that’s more like an aioli.
  • The Miku sauce is mixed with a basil pesto-like sauce and it’s very buttery, savoury and a bit sweet.
  • This tasted Italian Japanese fusion to me. It tasted like a seafood alfredo or bechamel sauce mixed with a hint of pesto.
  • The famous Miku sauce is almost like a very rich and fishy tasting aioli (in a very good way). It’s ultra creamy, and I’m almost 100% sure there is some eel oil/fat in it. When it’s seared it becomes smoky, aromatic and almost nutty and sweet.

Albacore Tuna with Miso Sauce – 3/6

  • This one is a bit forgettable and not as strongly flavoured as the other ones.
  • I could still taste the smokiness from the aburi searing and the miso sauce is heavy with the miso paste and quite creamy and savoury.
  • I think it should have been placed first on the platter leading into the heavier cream sauces.

**Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi6/6

  • The last 2 pieces are the star of the show and one of my favourite nigiris ever. It’s good enough to order a la carte and we did. Just scroll down for the details.

Miso Shiru Soup  – Included in the Miku Zen. The miso soup was also made with dashi and there was some tofu and fresh kelp in it.

**Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi6/6

  • Local salmon pressed & dressed with our Chef’s own soy & Miku sauce, topped jalapeño $14
  • This is the must try and probably not even the most expensive with ingredients, but just the best tasting nigiri you could possibly have in the city.
  • It’s a creamy, savoury, rich, buttery and moist salmon with 2 levels of spice coming at you with the freshly cracked black pepper and slight crunch of jalapeño.
  • The fishiness of the seared salmon was blended with a smoky charcoal flavour and it was extra buttery, rich and indulgent with the seared Miku sauce.
  • The famous Miku sauce is almost like a very rich and fishy tasting aioli. It’s ultra creamy, and I restate that I’m almost 100% sure there is some eel oil/fat in it. When it’s seared it becomes smoky, aromatic and almost nutty and sweet.
  • I could taste every layer of ingredient including every crumb of black pepper. Each bite was a perfect balance and harmony of flavours.
  • It’s a creamy buttery texture and the rice is chewy, flavourful and moist and the whole thing just melts in your mouth.

Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi 4/6

  • House cured saba, pressed & dressed with MIKU miso sauce $10
  • This is also very good, but compared to the Aburi Salmon Oshi sushi it’s not the better of the pressed sushi.
  • Being that it was Saba (Mackerel) it was a very fishy and strong flavoured sushi. It was the perfect ratio of rice, fish and sauce.
  • It was incredibly smoky from the aburi (searing) which just melted the buttery sauce and released the oils from the mackerel and made it taste even fishier.
  • It was great that it had so much flavourful Miku miso sauce because the creamy saltiness helped balance the fishiness.
  • The sauce was creamy baked salty miso sauce and it was very rich and indulgent and just melted right into the oils from the mackerel.
  • Although very good, I would probably go for a sushi roll unless I was sharing this plate with a few people because it’s quite strong and rich.
  • I tried this again at their sister restaurant Minami and I liked it even better. See my updated post/comments for this dish here.

**Red Wave Roll4.5/6

  • Snow crab & avocado wrapped in maguro & topped with masatake sauce $13
  • This is another delicious roll and what makes it is the Masatake sauce which was also on the Aburi Tuna in the Miku Zen above.
  • It’s basically a high quality California roll topped with thin sliced blue fin tuna and masatake sauce (onions, sesame oil, soy sauce).
  • It was a very buttery and creamy roll with a nice crunch from the tangy sweet soy marinated onions and aroma of sesame oil.
  • The masatake sauce really carried the roll and it had great texture and I could taste every layer. It required no sauce or additional flavourings.
  • The thinly sliced maguro (blue fin tuna) added to the buttery texture, but I usually prefer it as sashimi.
  • This is actually one of their lighter rolls and if you like something richer try their MIKU Roll. If you like crunchier and ebi mayo try their King Roll.

Dessert

This was a surprise! So sweet and sweet it was! I’m a huge fan of the polish pastry chef here and I’ve never been disappointed by any dessert. If anything, it’s just not big enough 🙂 It was difficult narrowing down the desserts since everything sounded amazing. I can never leave without ordering dessert here and chef just launched his new dessert menu for the summer so I was very excited!

**Blueberry-Lavender Coconut Cream Tart6/6

  • Toasted coconut cream, blueberry compote, vanilla sable, mint-glaze blueberry and vanilla sauce. Served with blueberry-lavender sorbet $10
  • How beautiful is this? Oh god! This disappeared faster than I could “mmm” and “ahhh”.
  • It’s so pretty, girly and tastes as good as it looks.
  • This dessert is very my taste.  No doubt I knew I would like it since it was coming from trusted hands too.
  • Everything was so fresh and it just melted in my mouth especially with the sauces and sorbet.
  • It was an aromatic and creamy dessert with a giant crispy buttery shortbread cookie crust to give it some texture. The crust had a bit of salt to enhance the flavours.
  • It was the perfect balance of sweet and tart and I loved the textures with the nutty coconut topping.
  • It was a creamy fluffy smooth coconut cream and it wasn’t oozing but almost like a mousse.
  • It was topped with an intense blueberry compote which gave it a bit of tang, and I loved the vanilla and blueberry sauce, except I couldn’t taste the mint infusion.
  • The flowers were edible and even the fresh blackberries were more delicious than usual. They were incredibly plump, sweet and juicy.
  • All the lavender flavour came from the Blueberry-Lavender Sorbet it was served with.

**Blueberry Lavender Sorbet5/6

  • I could have ordered this alone too. This was served with the Blueberry-Lavender Coconut Cream Tart.
  • I could taste the aromatic infused lavender in the beginning followed by the blueberry. Lavender fans and non-lavender fans would like this.
  • It wasn’t too floral, sweet, tart or bitter and it was the perfect accent to the coconut cream tart.
  • The flavours were somewhat stronger in this sorbet, but it didn’t overpower the coconut either and just made it more refreshing.

Chocolate Raspberry 5/6

  • Chocolate mousse, white chocolate cream, raspberry jelly, hazelnut-wafer chocolate cake, chocolate glaze & raspberry sauce. Served with raspberry ice cream $10
  • For what it was, it was delicious. The only thing is that there are so many chocolate raspberry desserts in the city that it’s hard to find something different.
  • It’s also a bit small and pricey, but at least it comes with the sorbet.
  • This one was as enjoyable as the chocolate and raspberry cake from Thomas Haas.
  • It was a multi-layered chocolate cake with a crispy and crunchy bottom layer, creamy white chocolate layer, fluffy chocolate mousse layer and intense raspberry jelly for some tang to balance out all the sweet.
  • It bittersweet chocolate and it would satisfy any sweet tooth although it wasn’t overly sweet either.
  • It was rich and creamy and just melted in your mouth especially with the soft chocolate glaze all around it.
  • If anything I would have preferred the bottom layer of the cake to be just the hazelnut wafer crust without the chocolate cake. I’ve had the hazelnut wafer crust crispier, which I prefer.
  • Overall I did like his Chocolate Chestnut Slice better, but too bad it’s off the menu now.

Raspberry Sorbet4/6

  • The raspberry sorbet was good, but a bit on the sweet side and I prefer mine a bit tangier.
  • It was great with the chocolate cake and any sorbet or ice cream with any dessert is usually a win for me.
  • I probably wouldn’t order this on its own since it’s just a raspberry sorbet. It was well made, but there’s more creative stuff here.

**Handmade Ice Cream and Sorbet 6/6

  • Ice Cream Flavours: vanilla, chocolate, green tea, pistachio-saffron-rose – Single scoop $3 Double scoop $4.50
  • Sorbet Flavours: lavender-blueberry, raspberry, passion, kiwi, strawberry, guava-pineapple, cassis – Single scoop $3 Double scoop $4.50
  • They were each served with a crispy lemony vanilla sable (shortbread) cookie with sugar crystals.
  • I think it’s the same cookie used for the “crust” in the Blueberry-Lavender Coconut Cream Tart.

**Pistachio-Saffron-Rose Ice Cream 5.5/6

  • Single scoop $3
  • Even if you have no room, you must make room for this ice cream. It’s the best of the 3 I had and most memorable.
  • I’ve had this in gelato form at Bella Gelateria, but I like the balance here better because it was a bit more subtle with the rose water and saffron. On the other hand I do miss the actual pistachio pieces that I would get in the gelato version.
  • That’s the only thing missing was the crunch of actual pistachios.
  • It’s a very Persian tasting ice cream and it was creamy, rich and nutty in the beginning and the rose water was in the aroma more so than the flavour, which I prefer.
  • It was the perfect balance of ingredients which is hard to achieve with such strong flavours.
  • Definitely don’t miss out on this one!

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