Just minutes after opening its doors for the day on a breezy spring Saturday morning, the brand new Aburi Market in West Vancouver's Ambleside is already bustling.
An open kitchen lines nearly one whole side of the shop, starting with a jaw-dropping display of imported Japanese Wagyu beef. Aburi Restaurants Canada COO Noriaki Okubo says this is likely the only place in Metro Vancouver where you'll find this kind of range of products. Hard at work behind the pristine display cases is a butcher, brought in from Japan, who is familiar with not only western cuts but also specialty Japanese cuts, like tiny sections that typically are sold locally as part of larger cuts.
Instantly, shoppers are presented with the notion they can recreate an authentic, high-quality Japanese meal at home. After a brief break in the meat display for a showcase of Aburi's selection of meat-friendly sauces - including their own line of soy sauce - the counter displays beckon with visuals of full hot pot meals, like traditional sukiyaki or shabu shabu. In fact, should you want to have the full hot pot experience at home, Aburi has not just the specialty meats, but the soup base, vegetables, and even the pot for sale.
The whole meal, or even more broadly, the whole cultural experience of eating Japanese food, is at the heart of Aburi's new marketplace operation. This is why Aburi Market is hailed as "washoku," which is essentially the practice of preparing and eating food, according to Japanese tradition. Now Aburi Market is aiming to share that philosophy with customers in Vancouver, and likely elsewhere across the country.
The Canadian business started out as a pandemic-era branch of its Vancouver Aburi-owned restaurants Minami and Gyoza Bar, carving out space to set up mini-grocery stores featuring grab-and-go sushi, make-at-home ramen kits, frozen heat-and-serve items, and much more.
But here in Ambleside, Aburi Market is a standalone venture, and it's easy to see why it's a popular draw for locals and destination shoppers alike.
A tour of Aburi Market
The market is over 4,000 square feet and is set up into core sections, starting with the front shelves of pantry items and snack favourites, like Japanese Kit Kat bars and cookies, as well as condiments.
Adjacent to the open prep kitchen (where you might even see Aburi's owner forming ruby-red tuna nigiri to fill take-out trays) are the hot and cold grab-and-go shelves, loaded with options. The items are being added as fast as customers are scooping them up and popping them in their shopping baskets - chirashi bowls where the expertly cut pieces shimmer like jewels, jaunty onigiri triangles, rows of pristine torched aburi oshi sushi - the signature item from Aburi's Miku and Minami that rocketed those restaurants to acclaim.
The selection is almost dizzying: Fried scallops, rice bowls, bento boxes, hand rolls. There's a whole section of Aburi's line of plant-based options (they're all denoted with a green leaf logo), and a section of non-alcoholic Japanese drinks. In one area you'll find mix-and-match components for assembling ramen bowls at home, soup to nuts - or, specifically, broths to noodles, plus meats, eggs, and veggies.
The frozen section has more at-home meal options, from full kits to Aburi's other new label, their frozen seafood line, created through working closely with Japanese fishing operations and suppliers.
Japanese housewares and more
Around the final bend of the store is the housewares and other accessories section, where you'll see items like t-shirts and sturdy linen totes featuring Minami's eye-catching koi artwork (done by the same artist as at the restaurant). There are also knives, chopsticks, and dishware, as well as more imported packaged foods, like kits for making specialty rice dishes, as well as bottled dressings and sauces. These aren't like the pantry goods up front, which might be already known to local shoppers who frequent T&T or other Asian grocery stores, but rather carefully-chosen boutique label products, direct from Japan.
If you can't wait to get home to dish up a Japanese meal, Aburi Market has a small side patio with seating so you can dive immediately into your take-out sushi and snacks.
Aburi's plan is to continue to grow its market concept, with an aim to ideally open niche sibling shops - like a bakery with treats and sandwiches, or an all-sushi shop - with smaller square footage. Those smaller shops would produce items that would go to the bigger Aburi Market and there would be carefully-curated companion goods available at the niche shops to fit the theme.
In the meantime, Aburi Market is open in Ambleside and keen to show Metro Vancouverites a taste of washoku.
Aburi Market is located at 1350 Marine Dr. in West Vancouver
@vancouverisawesome Be right back I need more of that 🍣🍣🍣 #forkingawesome #vancouverbc #westvancouver #japanesefood #market ♬ Kiss Me More - Japanese Version - Rainych