Photos: Yui Japanese Bistro brings affordable flame-seared sushi to downtown Vancouver

    1 of 12 2 of 12

      For those who enjoy Japanese fare, then you’ll know about Vancouver’s prominent love for aburi (flame-seared) sushi.

      Made with compressed rice, raw seafood, and topped with varying styles of dressing-like sauces, aburi sushi melts in your mouth once you take a bite. This fusion-Japanese creation (first popularized by Miku and Minami restaurant group) is full of flavour and texture, and becomes addicting at an alarming rate.

      Yui Japanese Bistro (102-1185 West Georgia Street) is the newest restaurant to join the small number of establishments that offer this menu item.

      Chefs and co-owners Reginald Lai and Ping Ho are seasoned cooks with almost 20 years of experience shared between them, and both have had stints working at Yaletown’s Minami restaurant.

      The two of them felt the need to branch out and offer food that is fresh, tastes great, and is affordable for people living in the city.

      Chicken chashu being flame-seared.
      Tammy Kwan

      “We wanted to try out our own skills and see if people like it,” Lai told the Straight in an interview at the small but comfortable new eatery. “We wanted to start something of our own.”

      So they went and did it.

      The 570-square-foot space needed renovations after its previous tenants left, so the two partners refurbished everything (including painting the walls and decorating the interior) on their own.

      “We didn’t want to listen to anybody anymore, and we wanted to be our own boss,” explained Ho. “We wanted to create our own style, and not have to follow somebody else’s thing.”

      Yui’s concept is a combination of Japanese fusion fare and food items that are popular with the Vancouver crowd.

      “We aren’t Japanese, so we don’t offer authentic Japanese fare,” said Ho. “We kind of combine together everything that we’ve learned in the past, and we like to mix everything that’s hot in the market right now.”

      Ebi, saba, and salmon aburi oshi sushi.
      Tammy Kwan

      The two chefs wanted to be able to offer guests aburi sushi that didn’t empty their wallets. Yui’s menu currently features three different styles of charcoal flame-seared aburi sushi ($10.95 for six pieces), including salmon with a signature house-made sauce; ebi (shrimp) with ume (plum) sauce; and saba (mackerel) with miso sauce.

      In comparison, Miku and Minami offer the same type of aburi salmon oshi at $17 for six pieces. Of course, you’re also paying for its waterfront view and upscale interior.

      Besides aburi, other trendy food items offered at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant include a tender chicken chashu (Japanese version of Chinese braised pork); Yui house salad (organic green mix, avocado, quinoa, sweet potato chips); and various donburi (rice bowls).

      Its donburi options range from Hawaiian poké bowl (diced raw fish cubes, onion, mini tomato, sweet corn, chef special sauce) to Karai bowl (white tuna belly, spicy kimchi, cabbage) to veggie bowl (aburi red bell pepper, aburi shitake mushroom, aburi zucchini, black sesame seeds).

      Hawaiian poké bowl.
      Tammy Kwan

      Healthy salad bowls, poké bowls, and aburi—pretty much the current holy trinity of Vancouver must-eats.

      But don’t expect the same food items each time you visit this eatery.

      “Our menu will change seasonally,” said Ho. “The spot prawn season is coming up, so we will be using that as an ingredient in some of our dishes.”

      We asked the two chefs if their ultimate aim is to always keep up with food trends and excite guests with affordable creations in an increasingly unaffordable city.

      “Our goal is to just have people leave our restaurant with a big smile on their faces.”

      Scroll through the photos below for a look at Yui’s mouth-watering dishes.

      Putting on the special house sauce on the aburi sushi before charcoal flame-searing it.
      Tammy Kwan


      A selection of aburi oshi sushi.
      Tammy Kwan


      Yui house salad.
      Tammy Kwan


      Karai bowl.
      Tammy Kwan


      Flame-searing veggies.
      Tammy Kwan


      Aburi veggie bowl.
      Tammy Kwan


      Chicken chashu. 
      Tammy Kwan


      Future menu item: aburi salmon bowl with avocado and ikura.
      Tammy Kwan