The New Aburi Market Brings the Best of Japan to West Van

"We’re creating something that’s new to the Canadian market"
Customers can purchase sliced-to-order Wagyu beef imported directly from Japan (photography: Grant Harder)

Seigo Nakamura lives his life by ningenmi—a Japanese philosophy he interprets as “self-betterment in service to one’s community.” Certainly, the experiences provided by the restaurateur’s Aburi Group—made up of four restaurants in Toronto and three in Vancouver, including the original, Miku, which opened in 2008—have enriched lives. Just ask anyone who has tried his empire’s signature flame-seared aburi oshi sushi.

This April, Nakamura is introducing a new concept: Aburi Market, a 375-square-metre paean to the best of Japanese culinary culture, located in West Van’s oceanfront Ambleside neighbourhood. “We’re creating something that’s new to the Canadian market,” says Nakamura, who was born in Miyazaki, Japan, and now lives on Vancouver’s North Shore. “It’s not a simple grocery store, nor is it a restaurant. It will sell restaurantquality products that can be brought home and enjoyed.”

The market also carries Japanese pantry staples and a curated collection of dishware and table accessories

The idea follows Aburi Group’s 2021 launch of two downtown Vancouver Aburi To-Go locations: restaurant-adjacent shops that offered takeout options when the pandemic shut down indoor dining. They helped bring in an additional 15 per cent in revenue for the company during a challenging year. The new market is something of a cross between the to-go concept and a gourmet food hall similar to Eataly.

Customers will find a wide selection of dry and fresh Japanese groceries, chef-created meal kits from an on-site kitchen, sliced-to-order Wagyu beef and sushi-grade flounder, mackerel and hamachi imported from Kagoshima Prefecture, just south of where Nakamura began his career by taking over his father’s sushi shop at age 22.

“In Japan, there’s a big emphasis on eating fish and vegetables that are in season; that’s part of our food culture, and we want to operate the same way by focusing on the best seasonal food,” says Nakamura. For vegans, the emporium will offer a line of plant-based products named after the traditional shojin ryori cuisine eaten by Japan’s Buddhist monks.

A photo of pressed sushi
Aburi Restaurants Canada, which has seven locations in Toronto and Vancouver, is beloved for its signature flame-seared pressed sushi

Aburi Group enlisted interior design firm Chad Schmuland Design to bring the elevated-grocery concept to life. Schmuland used a subdued palette of soft greys, browns and whites to evoke the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which embraces simplicity and natural imperfection.

The market will also be the base for the company’s new e-commerce strategy, which will see Aburi Market products available for rapid delivery throughout the Greater Vancouver area via a proprietary app, set to launch upon opening. It also represents a conceptual blueprint the group hopes to emulate elsewhere—likely Toronto next.

  • Straight from the source
    Aburi Group also owns Tokyo-based restaurant Aburi Tora Japan, where chefs source and experiment with diverse ingredients from across the country, selecting their favourites for export to Canadian locations.
  • Tech touch
    Taking a cue from Japanese grocery stores, Aburi Market features many small HDMI screens playing videos about how to prepare and personalize various dishes—such as ramen and shabu-shabu—and how to set a traditional Japanese table.
  • Well plated
    In addition to food, Aburi Market sells homeware and accessories designed by Kyoto-based artist Hideki Kimura as well as a selection of real arita-yaki porcelain, an often imitated kind of tableware that, notes Nakamura, the Dutch East India Company once valued as highly as gold.
  • Seaside bliss
    During the summer months, Aburi Market plans to take advantage of its beachside location with patio seating where guests can enjoy takeout treats alfresco.

Since publication, the opening date for Aburi Market has changed to May 2022.