Truth be told: I had never actually bothered to write about my visit last October since the experience had been flat-out depressing. Lighting was practically non-existent - it was all but tiny candles that cast a hideous glare on everything and anything that arrived on the table - and the "harbourfront" view was nothing more than a ground-level display of passerbys and the neighbouring buildings. Service was also found to be lacking on our server's part - did you think we couldn't tell you were rolling your eyes as you snatched the menus away? - and food was, generally speaking, unimpressive.
Having undergone such a subpar dining experience back home, I definitely had my doubts when Miku was suggested as the family lunch destination of choice. But one thing was definitely different: the restaurant was equipped with a proper, waterfront view.
In the meantime, crowds of customers of all ages and sizes began to pour into the reception area. Couples, young families, groups of friends, and 9-to-5-ers gradually filed in, some with reservations and some without. It was a startling sight to witness.
I suppose I should consider myself lucky, as I happened to seize the first table in the room; it provided the best view of Canada Place and the waterfront.
The decor itself is worth mentioning: intricately-painted fish swirled around the ceiling of the main dining area and along back wall of the smaller section of booths and tables. The latter also featured an intriguing light fixture reminiscent of a family of sea urchins.
Peace and quiet lasted for a total of two minutes. Then, other tables began being seated and creating noise pollution. The spacing of the tables along the window was rather tight, rendering the process of lifting our bodies from the seat and carrying ourselves to a different part of the restaurant quite a strenuous task once others were seated around us.
Boxed lunch sets were ruled out for the sake of trying their speciality items. An Aburi Sushi Lunch, Aburi Chirashi Tart, Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi, Miku Chopped Salad, and Miku Roll were requested to start.
The Aburi lunch included a few bowls of their Feature Miso Soup. I didn't end up tasting the soybean-based broth as I was saving space for the other components of our lunch, but had been informed of its decency.
A cheerful, experienced waitress was assigned to our table. While she took no part in the depiction of dishes, she was present at other times to promptly respond to any of our ordering concerns and requests. Other members of staff were assigned to clear plates and gently clean tables once the servings had been devoured. The system was incredibly organize, making for great efficiency despite the high volume of customers. Service was flawless, one could say.
Aburi Saba Oshi Sushi, which in more native terms can be described as (charcoal) blowtorched mackerel pressed sushi, arrived first. Each piece of nigiri was topped with a teaspoon of miso sauce, enhancing both the flavour and texture of the slightly charred mackerel.
The Aburi Sushi Lunch arrived shortly after, featuring torched BC wild sockeye salmon, scallop, and others which I cannot recall the name of. Salmon oshizushi was the first piece to be removed from the ribbed ceramic plate. Its silky smooth, buttery nature made for an indulgent treat only capable to be achieved through skillful blowtorching; the process had released the maximum amount of natural oils possible, and allowed them to gradually seep into the rectangular portion of rice below.
One of the sushi rolls was topped with a wasabi aioli - an element I thoroughly enjoyed and have found to be incredibly difficult to master. The degree of spiciness for this particular roll was just right.
The Aburi Chirashi Tart was stunning to look at: distinctive layers of avocado, spicy tuna, sockeye salmon, and more formed the colourful stack. Arranged on top were cucumber, lemon, tobiko, shrimp, and salmon roe. A drizzle of Miku Sauce lined the surface of the plate. There was no immediately clear method of consuming the dish in a graceful manner, so we simply sliced into the tart as if it was cake. This allowed all layers to be tasted at once, but also resulted in a satiating aftertaste due to the immense portion of rice.
By the time the Miku Chopped Salad arrived, my stomach had reached 80% capacity. Greens were crucial to offset the first few carb-heavy dishes, so I took to munching on a few leaves and a piece of deep fried tempeh. The vegetarian-friendly protein was firm and unexpectedly crunchy. Its addition to the salad was akin to nuts or dried berries, but the texture in an entire league of its own.
Quite the drastic contrast, the Green Tea Opera laid before my eyes was one with immense visual appeal and clearly distuinguishable layers of varying textures and aromas. The six levels of smooth green tea butter cream, rich chocolate ganache, crunchy hazelnut wafer, and green tea genoise were satisfying beyond comprehension.
Seemingly the only shared factor between the desserts was their name; the recipe and plating was wholly unalike.
My experience at the original West Coast Miku was nothing short of extraordinary. From this single visit, my faith has been restored in Aburi Restaurants as well the overall quality of their delivery. The execution of the Toronto location was poor, so I was especially glad that I had the chance to try out Miku's intended dining environment and selection properly.
The lineup was a tad longer than it had been previously, but the total wait time hadn't exceeded ten minutes. We planned to purchase three cones and one cappuccino, but only had three hands available for transporting the items back to the rest of the group.
We placed our order of two 2-flavour cones, a single 1-flavour cone, and a Milano cappuccino. It wasn't until we shifted down the aisle that we were informed Strawberry Fields had been sold out. I was dejected, but nothing else could be done. Instead, we opted for Black Sesame/Madagascar Vanilla, Roasted Pecan with Vancouver Island Sea Salt, and Organic Matcha/Stracciatella.
The scoops began melting at an alarming rate as we retraced our steps, which was odd given that the ribbed appearance witnessed before hadn't exhibited such extreme signs of melting before. Halfway back, I noticed that my cone had already began dripping intensely. It took immense determination to speed-eat the remainder of our award-winning gelato before they all dissolved into a puddle of milky stickiness.
And as many may have derived from previous ice cream posts, I detest icy desserts that are incapable of resisting deformation. Bella Gelateria may have won two awards, but if such inconsistency persists in future batches, I don't think I'll be making the trip downtown to visit.