On this night it was cold and wet, and we were hungry coming out of our dance fitness class. We thought to seek out a hot meal and some warm shelter within Afuri’s second location, now on Main Street (the original is in Richmond).
We were seated at the bar to be able to take in the ramen crafting process and breathe in all the delicious scents of the kitchen as they deep fried and cooked.
Reading their drink menu I was surprised by the number of interesting cocktails they had. I would not have thought them so spirit forward, although they are known for having whiskey on tap.
The Matcha Horchata could not be missed as we were all fans of both of these drinks, so reason to stand that a combined version would be twice as good. A blend of green tea, cinnamon, and rice milk. It is exactly what you expect from a matcha flavoured horchata. Creamy and sweet, although not all hat complimentary to our dishes ahead.
Not premixed in house, but apparently a rarity within most liquor stores is the Choya Uji Green Tea Umeshu. I have had it before and can confirm that it is worth seeking out and purchasing as a sweet and tangy, easy going cold brewed product.
Reading the description of it, I knew I had to try the Zakuro. This was sweet potato soju, butter, pomegranate, and chai. Served hot and listed as low proof at 1oz, it reminded me of the equally soothing Hot Toddy, but with the addition of the chai spices and the fatty feel of melted butter, coupled with only a whisper of alcohol bite. I would have loved to have this during a cold weather outdoor market, as the perfect cozy hot beverage to help warm you up on.
The Tori karaage was fried to order, a fact I can confirm with my very own eyes. Japanese fried chicken, Yuzu kosho egg salad, shishito, and lemon. The breading was rough and thick, an even coating of jagged and crunchiness surrounding dry white meat. Given the meat it would have been nice to have a rich gravy to hide any and all of its imperfections. Instead, I accidentally used the chunky, more liquid in consistency egg salad, thinking it was a dip instead of the menu advertised egg salad that it really was. As a result, in writing this, I liked it much better in hindsight. It was the fresh element on the plate, to help balance out all the deep-fried grease with citrus and creamy mayo.
Similarly we had the Ikageso Karaage and here, the shishito pepper and lemon wedge helped to break apart the grease. Fried squid seasoned in soy sauce, with chilli sesame and chilli threads. I found the squid more appetizing despite being prepared the same way as the chicken. Here, the extra crunchy thick and jagged breading was a fine contrast to the chewy sinewy squid tentacles. The squid was not the best from frozen, but it had a nice char to it, when the pieces were not soggy from being pre-dressed in sauce to serve.
The Ringo kaiso salad became the best side for re-energizing the palate in between more flavourful bites. With chilled apple, seaweed, shio dressing, fried wonton skin, green onion, and sesame.
The Winged miso cashew gyoza was their vegan option for the popular dumplings served with a crispy crust that holds them all together. This is a visual treat that is as fun to pick off the plate as it is to eat. And a well-conceived vegan interpretation. Made with miso cashew, ginger, cabbage, scallion, and leeks; and served with a soy dipping sauce. It was gritty from the nut protein, and salty with one-tone from the available seasonings, but the filling was a great assembly of textures. Although, I still prefer the pork option, but recognize this is a great one for those who cannot enjoy the traditional method of preparation.
And you cannot leave Afuri without having a couple of their signature Soft shell crab buns. A full soft-shell crab is deep fried and placed between a soft white bun pocket alongside spicy mayo dressing, with cucumber and kimchi for freshness and tang. It is best eaten fresh to the table as the crispy crab serves as a great contrast to the spongy bao. I just could have used more sauce, cucumber, and kimchi to better round out each bite.
And we each ordered a bowl of their ramen. When in Rome they say.. I had to order their Yuzu Ratan. Afuri is known for and the only ones in the market adding a significant amount of yuzu to flavour their broths. This citrus aroma coupled with their chicken broth has their ramen eating a lot lighter than what I normally gravitate towards. Spicy shoyu tare, chicken broth, bamboo shoot, seasonal greens, chashu, egg, nori, leeks, chili sesame, Yuzu, and thin noodles. I went bold and added an additional seasoned egg plus fried garlic to the mix. The flavour profile does take some getting use to. As a whole there are plenty of ingredients to sort through and great textures to keep the mouth interested.
One of the other guests ordered the Nikku ramen, which turned out to be the heaviest and what I will steer towards in the future. It more closely resembled the thick and fatty ramen that I am use to. Shoyu tare, tonkotsu broth, chashu, green onion, kikurage mushroom, egg, garlic chips, chilli paste, black oil, chilli oil, and thin noodles.
The other got the Tonkotsu Shio ramen, which was also rich and creamy, but with a simpler salted flavour that does not wear you down. Shio tare, tobkotsu broth, green onion, kikurage mushroom, black garlic oil, chashu, pickled ginger, egg, sesame, and thin noodles.
Not that we could fit all of it in, but we ended our visit with dessert. Ice cream sandwiches with a brown sugar oatmeal-like cookie sandwiching a brick of either vanilla or matcha ice cream. Each had a lovely roasted flavour thanks to the simple, but innovative addition of sesame added.
In closing this was a great addition to the area and a great divergent for those who like ramen, but would like to try it a different way. I would definitely like to return to try more of their cocktail offerings, and to get a first had look at whiskey on tap; perhaps learning why out of all the available spirits they choose to feature whiskey.
Afuri ramen + dumpling Vancouver
2801 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G1, Canada