When $195 is on the line in Vancouver dining, few mistakes are tolerated. Miku takes this money and returns an elevated Japanese dining experience that combines the aburi artistry that put them on the map with seasonal ingredients and festive twists that leave you wondering the next time you'll be able to afford this kind of meal. Join me for an in-depth look at the 7 courses of this holiday 2023 dinner.
Kaiseki vs. Omakase:
If you're wondering why Miku does kaiseki and not omakase, it's because they follow the strict definition of providing a set meal that is created by the chef and inspired by the season's offerings. Omakase on the other hand is a chef-diner relationship where the chef serves up sushi/nigiri and watches for your reaction to plan the next piece until you ask them to stop.
You might be thinking now that you've never had an omakase in Vancouver where you had to tell a chef to stop nor did it look like you were getting anything different from any other diner, and therein lies, in my opinion, the branding trap of omakase in Vancouver. Let's proceed with Miku's execution.
Holiday 2023 Kaiseki Dinner ($195/person):
Team GlueCrew came here for a December dinner and I had a great taste of the following:
- Duck Consommé
- Wild Mushroom Mille Feuille
- Iwate Wagyu Tartare
- Pacific Halibut
- Aburi Prime
- Cranberry Kinako Bar
The duck consommé was the first to show up to the table, and this was exclusive to the kaiseki menu. The duck confit in the dumpling melted perfectly into the consommé and the tiny micro shiso gave tiny snaps of mint in each scoop.
Next up was the wild mushroom mille feuille, another exclusive to the kaiseki menu. This was art on the plate with a matsutake (fungi) mousse connecting a blob of Japanese mustard and a 3-tier mille feuille topped with Kristal caviar. I'm used to having mille feuille as a dessert so having mushroom and Atlantic lobster pushed into the pastry layers got my senses tingling and I did my best to scoop up as much matsutake mousse to clean off my plate.
Third up for the night was the sashimi. I'm pretty sure this is the same or a subset of the same sashimi platter you get from Miku's main menu, so while it is not exclusive to the kaiseki menu, you kind of need the signature fish on the tasting menu for a proper night at Miku. On tonight's sashimi platter were otoro (bluefin tuna belly), hotate (Hokkaido scallop), hamachi (yellowtail), and maguro (bluefin tuna).
If you want to ruin sashimi forever for yourself, then get the sashimi into your belly. Both the otoro and hotate were extremely fatty pieces of fish that I wasn't expecting. Just look at the marbling on the otoro – it looks more like butter than it does meat! The saba and maguro were meatier cuts but full of flavour without the brininess you might get with restaurants that can't buy this level of freshness.
Moving on to even meatier affairs, the Iwate wagyu tartare came up next, and this was another item exclusive to the kaiseki menu. The Japanese milk bread on the side was almost comical because there way more wagyu tartare to scoop up. And if the main wagyu wasn't already savoury, the whiskey shoyu marinade we were instructed to mix in took this wagyu to the next level.
Iwate is a prefecture in Japan that specializes in A5 wagyu which means the beef is extremely buttery and among the highest measurements of umami-per-cubic-metre, a unit I made up to describe just how savoury this dish was.
Things took a slow descent from heavy-body foods next with the Pacific halibut, another exclusive on the kaiseki menu. Featuring a yuzu kosho panko crust, this halibut had the best parts of flakey and crispy atop its bed of tomato dashi beurre blanc, which like so many other dishes in this kaiseki, made for the most elevated experience of halibut I've ever had.
The final savoury dish was a plate of aburi prime. Tonight's chef's selection was sawara (Japanese mackerel), kinmedai (splendid alfonsino), king salmon, crab leg, ika, and chutoro (bluefin tuna back). The mackerel and otoro made new appearances tonight and just like in the sashimi edition, they had the right amounts of meatiness and fattiness.
New in my mouth though were the sawara, crab, ika, and king salmon. The king salmon nigiri served with a piece of foie gras was the fullest-body nigiri I've ever had and I was basically finished after that piece. I also want to call attention to the ika nigiri because squid is typically served as a flat slice but the one at Miku was augmented like a car guy ricing out their Honda Civic. Individual tendrils of squid nigiri were seared and frilled upwards and sprinkled with two kinds of tobiko. The amount of attention to detail on these nigiri pieces was insane and nothing like I've experienced from other high-end Japanese restaurants in Vancouver.
Finally, we finished the meal with a cranberry kinako bar. This bar struck a fine balance of textures with the kinako white chocolate ice cream easily mixing into the cranberry consomme and soft white chocolate bar. Don't quote me on this but even the white chocolate bar had what looked like a flattened layer of freeze-dried cranberry just to remind you yet again that when Miku makes a dish, they integrate named ingredients into the very fabric of the plate they put in front of you.
Miku has all the waterfront vibes you want from a high-end Japanese restaurant. Situated next to Canada Place, window seats here offer a great view into the Burrard Inlet, but there's a lot to enjoy inside too. You can peruse the gigantic wine cellar, the central bar, or the hand-painted fish on the walls, but dare I say the experience starts before you get through the front door with this fantastic front door with a custom glass etching of the Miku parent restaurant group logo.
Inside though, the restaurant is spacious with seating for about 100 guests that you can undoubtedly book for some of the biggest days in your life. Lighting-wise, it's quite bright for a higher class of dining, which as a food blogger means better photos for my camera, especially during these dark winter nights.
Service at Miku was impeccable from start to finish. The staff took my coat, made sure our wine and water were constantly topped up, and most of all, made the kaiseki experience buttery smooth. Though the duck consommé took about 15 minutes to start rolling out, every dish after that was out within 5 minutes and sometimes within 30 seconds. These guys have the kaiseki experience down to a science and our server was always ready to describe an ingredient and justify why Miku's culinary development team exists.
We finished our kaiseki dinner in about 3 hours despite the original reservation saying we'd have a table for 2 hours. I'm guessing the 2 hours is for regular à la carte experiences.
One-liner: Vancouver's best Japanese and views all rolled into one restaurant that's hyper-conscious of the seasons and dialed in to what makes a fine dining experience in Vancouver worth the money
Highlight: Aburi Prime
Price per person: $240+ for kaiseki and drinks
Would I go back? Yes.