For those who didn’t know, “Torafuku” is the sister restaurant to the popular Asian fusion food truck, “Le Tigre”. However the truck has since broken down, and the owners have decided not to repair it until the new year. A decision made with the want to focus on the quality of food coming out of “Torafuku’s” kitchen, instead. So for those missing their “crack salad”, and servings of rice described as “awesomeness in a bowl”; you can now get both and more, at “Torafuku” for lunch.
I was invited down to their restaurant to reminisce over the more popular food truck offerings. Plus, try a handful of new sides and appetizers. So continue reading to see what you can expect from their lunch service, which is available throughout the week. It is a menu that includes seasonal items and rotating dishes, with the likes of fresh made dumplings in the new year.
For those who have never been, the restaurant is conveniently accessible by way of Main Street skytrain. Easy to spot with its painted brown exterior, and glass front. Inside, it feels sterile and cold with plenty of concrete and an ample aisle way. A wide birth between a row of low back, leather and suede booths; and lengthy share style tables opposite it.
Lunch is available Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. It boasts a fulsome list that includes the ability to make any entree a combo, with your choice of side and soft drink for $4.50 more. Or you go for gold, and grab a beer or wine with your afternoon delight.
They have an impressive cocktail program, so I choose to explore that a little better with “Dr. Sun’s Pencilin”. Ciroc Vodka, Johnny Walker 12 years Black Scotch Whisky, Chinese baijiu, lime, honey ginger, wintermelon tea, cinnamon, and Bittered Sling Clingstone Peach bitters. I couldn’t make out any one ingredient; instead, this was a bevy of ingredients coming together for a smokey, cinnamon-y concoction that paired well with all our rich and savoury mains to come.
The highlight of their Taiwanese themed lunch menu is definitely their take on “Beef noodle soup”, a classic so good that it sells out every day. And the reason that they don’t simply make more is that the chefs don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so they keep the amount of perfect bowls limited. After all it does take 72 hours to make the broth alone, and honestly you can tell the difference. Not overly seasoned, not lacking on any flavour, just delicious. Thus, making it my new favourite place for beef noodle soup. I highly recommend coming down for one of these comforting bowls.
Good as is, but for those who want a little more decadence to their beef noodle, they have a jar of beef fat to mix into your soup like a condiment. It is not readily available, but for those who make a special request for it. They also make their own sauerkraut and have extra on hand by special request, as well.
And for those who are familiar with “Le Tigre”, their rice bowls are as they describe it, “awesomeness in a bowl”. They were what I always gravitated towards when I visited the truck. Each bowl features their accurately named “kick-ass rice”, cooked in sake, butter and dashi; with pickled cabbage and mixed herbs, and topped with a perfectly poached egg. When you mix the latter in with its runny yolk, it is pure gooey deliciousness. Enjoy it as is, or have it even more sumptuous by adding fried chicken or pork belly to it. And for the vegetarians, you can add on a helping of their “crack salad” over the rice. (more on that below).
Between the two meat options I prefer the fried chicken, for its crispy crunchy texture. Made creamy and spicy with a chilli mayo, just like with the “kakuni style pork belly” had. The pork belly is tender and chewy, but a little too rich for my tastes. With either one the rice is so flavourful that you don’t need any of the meat that tops it. Case in point is me taking what was left in both rice bowls home and having it for dinner. happily on the same day.
And despite not liking salad, and never wanting to order any at a restaurant, I would make the exception for their “crack salad”. Once again the name hits the nail on the head. So good that you can’t stop at one bite. And when paired with the rice, it offers the carbs a nice break in freshness. And with crispy leaves and a cheesy Parmesan forward flavour lightened with lemon, this makes a great way for you to get your daily dose of greens in. Kale, purple cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts galore.
Similarly, I highly recommend making any of the aforementioned a combo for the above mentioned price. The following are all of their available sides. You can also get them 3 for $10 or all 5 for $16. Each tasty, each unique on to itself.
The tomato side offered a whole new flavour combination. Sweet cherry tomato and zesty raw red onion is amplified with the generous drizzle of their yuzu and plum marinade. It is then accented with the one of a kind herbal flavour of shiso. It had a dessert-like quality to it with its creaminess and sugary finish. A great option to balance out greasier dishes.
The king mushroom tempura was so meaty, that I took a bite not knowing what it was, and thinking it was battered cubes of beef. It reminded me of the deep fried popcorn chicken bites; the kind that you get from bubble tea house. Five spice forward and salty, not necessarily a bad thing.
The chilled, miso braised lotus root was the table’s favourite. The expected starchiness of lotus root, uniquely paired with a miso seasoned cheese spread and fresh green onion. You used the chunky root as a “chip” to scoop up ample amounts of the cheese hidden at the bottom. Another one where I have never had anything like it, and one you have to try for yourself.
The chilled eggplant was marinaded Szechwan style with peanut oil. Mushy eggplant in a tangy sauce with a crunch from the puffed rice it was topped with.
The cucumber side was very familiar with its pickled tang. Crunchy and briny cucumber served with gelatinous agar agar, and woodear mushroom for some chew; all drenched in “Kuan Mama’s” vinaigrette.
Not typical, but as an extra special treat, we got to try some Taiwanese style pineapple cake made by neighbouring bakery “Buttermere”, who rents out “Torafuku’s” kitchen from time to time. The small cube was a tease. Plenty of buttery and crumbly crust, hiding a centre of sweet and fibrous pineapple. Good, but it would have been better larger, for a more even pineapple to crust ratio.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In short, I highly recommend visiting “Torafuku” for lunch. Good food, fast, at affordable prices. Just writing about it now I want more of everything. Don’t deny your cravings.
958 Main Street, Vancouver BC