Living in the Lower Mainland we are able to enjoy a vast amount of cultures. In particular the Asian influence has become a key part of our landscape. Focusing on the Japanese culture which has offered us some amazing markets, music, electronics’, and a dynamite flare for fashion, one item is by far the leader of all influences – the food! We Vancouverites can’t get enough of this delicious cuisine in all its forms, and are far more open than the rest of the country when it comes to embracing some of its, let’s say, riskier ingredients. If you are new to the area there are literally hundreds of great establishments to get your fix, but where do you start? First, let’s go over a quick breakdown a few of the kinds of restaurants the Japanese culture has introduced us to and then I will share a few gems that I haunt. Hopefully you to will have your own favorite little spot and reach out across the ocean and say Gochisosama!! (Thank you for the meal!)

Izakaya - Izakaya are essentially Japanese pubs. These are lively bustling places where the beer pours freely and Sake comes in many varieties. They serve a wide range of popular drinking foods such as Japanese fried chicken called Karaage, edamame, yakitori and sashimi. Expect to be greeted loudly by the staff all yelling “Irasshaimase” don’t be worried it means “come in!”

Sushi – “If you can’t find a Sushi Spot or Starbucks in Vancouver you’re not in Vancouver!” An extremely common quote by us locals. On some streets there can be upwards of four per block each selling their own “MOST FAMOUS” roles. Everyone I know has a favorite spot. No rhyme or reason either - most people will just say it’s because their place makes it best! As we all do! Sushi is perhaps more popular in Western countries such as the US and Canada than it is in Japan. Japanese sushi is very different from Western varieties. Basically Japanese sushi is lower in calories and fat. We Westerner’s like adding things such as mayo and avocado that punches up the flavour but does add to the waistline!

Ramen – Always counter service available and very casual, these are often small hole in the wall places and offer up the Japanese culture’s version of our Chicken Noodle Soup. Satisfying, wholesome, and quite simply, you just feel good eating it. Like it HAS to be good for you. Ramen is Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish broth. You usually get a choice or soy sauce or miso flavoring for the soup. Ramen is often topped with chashu (thin cut pork), negi and nori. Practically every region of Japan has its own unique variety of ramen. Vancouver offers its own take on the noodle houses. Often you will find that each house is a nod back home to the area the master noodle makers are from, allowing us to have a glimpse into their own families kitchens.

There a dozens more I am sure! I still have a list of places that I have heard about, read about and want to try. Seeking out different styles of restaurants can introduce you to a wide array of delicious cuisine and allow you to explore more of what the Japanese culture has to offer us all here in the lower mainland.

Below are a list of some spots that are well known by me and many others to be some of the very best. Hope to see you there, enjoying the amazing food, friendly welcoming culture and most of all embracing what is OUR VANCOUVER.

North Shore – Bella Sushi
52 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver
Phone: (604) 987-8633
Open: • 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

A twist on tradition, this Italian trained chef brings some new ideas to the world of sushi fusion. Incorporating traditional Italian ingredients with a host of Japanese ones makes this a very memorable spot. Try the Bella Tower, one of my favorites. Crab, Salmon, Portobello mushrooms sit in a tower with a glaze of olive oil and capers, YUM!

West Vancouver – Bene Sushi
1574 Marine Dr, West Vancouver
Phone: (604) 913-1112
Open: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm

Known for their Bene roll, Ambleside roll and Negitoro roll and a host of other dishes, this West Van hot spot has quickly become a favorite. It has a sleek and modern design, lovely staff and a great selection of all types of really fresh and well prepared items. Nestled in the heart of Ambleside Village, make sure to make this one of your spots to treat yourself.

Vancouver Proper – Hapa Izakaya
1479 Robson Street, Vancouver
Phone: 604-689-4272
Open: Everyday 5:30pm – late

A lively bar in the heart of the West End, just down from the cities hottest shopping district –  has basically become an institution. Bar fare as well as some exotic nightly dishes pour out of the open air kitchen. Expect fast service, a great loud atmosphere and many delicious bites. They have a great selection of beers, wine and sake. Make sure to ask the server for the recommendations for the night, they rarely disappoint.