If you're going to open a ramen restaurant in Vancouver, you've got to find your niche. The city is awash in fragrant, complex pork and chicken broths, chopsticks heaving strands of thick or thin noodles with perfect bounce, and bowls brimming with toppings galore - from fried chicken to silky tofu, sweet corn kernels and crispy garlic chips.
This spring, a new Vancouver-based ramen business called Zubu set up shop across the Metro area, taking over three existing spaces that had been dishing up steaming bowls of the crave-worthy Japanese noodle soup. Opening their doors in quick succession in Kerrisdale and Metrotown (and offering delivery out of their Olympic Village outpost), Zubu is now adding a brand-new location to their roster, having set up shop at Park Royal in West Vancouver.
Zubu is putting their defining point on their voice in the local ramen scene with a seasonal and local approach, rooted in Japanese tradition.
Most of what's on the menu at Zubu is made in-house, using local ingredients and suppliers as much as possible. Shifts to the menu, under the direction of Executive Chef Koichi Nishioka, will be made based on seasonal availability.
Diners will encounter these limited-time offerings chiefly in the form of chef specials at the restaurant. You'll also notice adjustments to regular menu features in order to showcase some seasonal items. Ramen is front and centre for Zubu, with their selection of bowls with bases like their earthy and surprisingly light pork tonkotsu, a fiery chicken option, and a vegan version - complete with kale-infused noodles. The restaurant is also offering the increasingly popular soup-less style of ramen, mazesoba, which sits atop a spicy sauce and is loaded with tender diced pork. Of course you'll want to have a bowl of ramen with your order, but what rounds out the menu at Zubu is worth saving room for.
Sizzling gyoza, shishito peppers, takoyaki, and a salmon ceviche brightened with yuzu are among the appetizer offerings, along with bowls of tender edamame with flavour boosts like wasabi with soy sauce, boiled wontons, and french fries boosted with some extra bite (like curry powder and grated parm, or a seaweed powder with truffle ketchup).
However, the standout in the non-noodle department is Zubu's DIY temaki platter, that puts your meal roundly in your hands. Build your own hand rolls using sheets of nori, spoons of sushi rice, and ingredients like plump ikura, spicy tuna, or blue crab. Load your roll with chunks of fresh raw tuna or salmon, or a deep fried prawn. The dish is interactive and lots of fun.
In addition to their mix of modern and more traditional Japanese dishes, Zubu also has an exciting selection of custom craft cocktails (check out the tequila-based Yuzu Cream which is topped with fresh swirl of 'cream' made of grand marnier, yuzu sake, oranges and egg whites). They're also showcasing local makers, like Port Coquitlam's Provincial Spirits by offering their Grapefruit Gin and Juice on tap; it's a locally crafted gin made with juniper berries, grapefruit juice, macerated orange and grapefruit peel.
Zubu's Park Royal location opens on Wednesday, July 15, in a bright, modern, minimalist space (all set up for COVID-19 distancing and safety). They are offering dine-in and take-out (for select menu items only).
As a way to give back to the community, 50% of sales from Zubu Park Royal's grand opening from July 15 to 19 will go to Canucks for Kids Fund.
Zubu is located at 788 Main Street in Park Royal in West Vancouver