With the see-sawing of restrictions surrounding Covid, it has most definitely been a trial for the restaurant industry. For the ones who have diversified long ago, tapping into their ability to stay atop of trends and cater to an ever changing market, their flexibility has helped them remain open during these uncertain times. And one of the restaurants that has done this fairly well is Torafuku. One of my favourite spots to dine out and recommend with their take home menus, cook yourself set dinners, and family feasts. In totality, they have been serving up more than just their once “regular” offerings. And now with restaurants reopening and the desire for patrons to once again venture out to dine in and experience a quieter night life, Torafuku is introducing new menu items designed for two. And tonight I was down to enjoy one such menu, but first some drinks, cause it was a Friday night.
Torafuku should also be known for their drinks, if they aren’t already. With a healthy listing of classic cocktails and concoctions all their own, their drink menu is worth exploring. Majority of which features a twist or specific ingredient that speaks to their Asian fusion theme and cuisine.
Round one was ordered based on drink names. The “Green Lambo” features a cardamom infused calzadore blanco tequila, Cointreau, basil syrup, white pepper syrup, lime juice, and a salted plum powder rimmed. The latter is what takes this otherwise neon green margarita to the next level.
“Dr. Sun’s Penicillin” is named after Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and the Chinatown garden that has taken his name. It contains Ciroc Vodka, Johnny Walker 12 years Black Scotch Whisky, Chinese baijiu, lime, honey ginger, wintermelon tea, cinnamon, and Bittered Sling Clingstone Peach bitters. This cocktail has an added level of pageantry, thanks to the smoking piece of wood that tops it. You breathe in deep before you drinking. The woodsy smoke adding to the rich syrupy flavour of this cocktail made with the sweet and popular winter melon juice.
Round two of drinks featured more salted plum. These were visual cocktails as recommended by our server. “Catch Twenty Two” with Gosling rum, Punt e Mes, grapefruit, plum powder, quince, and lime juice. This was a refreshing cocktail that was heavier on the citrus, where I was searching for more sweet and salty plum.
The “Fuji Sunrise” is one I seem to always order when I visit. A white coloured cocktail with a red plum peaking past the murkiness of the martini. This makes for a nice homage to the Japanese flag, made with Japanese Suntory Haka vodka, daikon, yuzu, shisho, simple syrup, dry vermouth, and salted dry plum.
Round three of drinks saw us leaning towards dessert. The “Oriental Beauty” drank like a spiked green juice, it certainly looked like it. Refreshing and peppery, almost seasoned in spice-like flavours. It is a mix of Oriental Beauty tea infused with No. 3 London Dry Gin, sweet osmanthus, green chartreuse, and grape fruit juice.
And the “Matcha Madness” drank like milk tea with its matcha pocky finisher. Not as sweet or creamy as I had originally imagined, but a fun twist nonetheless. Brown butter washed gin, white chocolate syrup, cream, Creme De Violette, and green matcha tea.
Now finally on to the food. As I mentioned earlier, Torafuku has two new entrees and has created a set menu of four courses, around each. Between the roasted lamb or the roasted duck for two, we gravitated towards the latter; simply based on the protein being more often associated with Asian cuisine. Both sets comes with the same starter and ends with the same dessert. Where they differ is the Brussels sprouts with the lamb and you get calamari with the duck.
The first course was their “ Apple & Beets” salad, available on the a la carte menu. A lovely sweet and refreshing beginning to your meal. It wets your appetite literally with juicy honey crisp apple, soften pickled beets, a sweet house made ricotta, crunchy walnut bite, and a tangy peach vinegar coating it all. I would happily eat this everyday and feel good about myself in doing so.
Things got heavier with the strength of the five spice over the squid; even despite how the calamari almost melted in your mouth, as it was so tender. The same could be said for the sliced up king oyster mushroom that mingled with it. Both were served with tartar sauce, lime, thai basil, and cilantro. Both I found the saltier side. But the break from squid with mushroom helped to keep bites even, similarly a drink in between went a long way to dilute this otherwise salty dish.
The main was a show stopper, an interactive build your own bao station at your table. You grab a fluffy steamed bun from its bamboo steamer, and dress it with a smear from the decadently delicious foie gras parfait, then a thick slice of perfectly prepared Brome Lake duck breast, finished off with a topping with of watercress dressed in caramelized peanuts. Simply put, this was splendid. And I was sure to take the parfait home, to later add into regular rice; it was just so good.
For dessert it was the “Basque Cheesecake”, a two person round served in the parchment it was baked in. With its blackened top this cheesecake is easily recognizable. Creamy and rich, I was missing the graham cracker crumb you typical get from a similarly mixed New York cheesecake, but the yuzu compote was a nice refreshing twist that had me going back for more.
Out of curiosity we also ordered their grilled mackerel rice bowls. Being on a fishing kick as of late, the desire to try new and learn more about various types of fish has been strong. And this perfectly prepared crispy mackerel would later inspire a similar take on it at home, in a future meal. Of note, all their rice bowls are served with their “kickass rice” – cooked with sake, butter and dashi, finished off with a perfectly poached egg, mixed herbs and pickled cabbage that you stir up altogether. I found the fish a little mild for the richness of the rice below it. Therefore, I would actually recommend the fried chicken or pork belly as the protein instead.
In conclusion if you are looking for some great comfort Chinese cuisine in dressed up setting and space, look to Torafuku to hit the spot.
958 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W1