Now that Yuzu Shokutei has had some time to settle into its new identity, after relaunching itself from its former incarnation as Touhenboku a few months ago, it's starting to flex its culinary creativity.
In an interview at the West End spot (854 Denman Street) in Vancouver's ramen district, owner Jay Liu told the Georgia Straight that each month, he plans to introduce a few new dishes that'll be off menu. They'll become permanent additions to the menu if they're popular enough with diners, and will allow him to keep things fresh and responsive to both demand and seasonal changes.
Since leaving the Touhenboku franchise, Liu and his chef Phong Vu have been expanding the menu to encompass far more than just ramen.
Liu and Vu toured Straight through some of the latest off-menu items, which are West Coast interpretations of classic Japanese dishes.
Three of them are great as sides or appetizers.
Umi salad (vegan $6, with tobiko $7) is draws upon wakame salad as its inspiration. This mixed seaweed salad factors in yuzu tobiko and apple slivers (to add some West Coast zest) with a light sesame oil and yuzu vinegar dressing.
Ebi shitake cap (two for $3) is made of deep-fried shiitake stuffed with Vietnamese tiger prawns with mayo and a teriyaki glaze.
Yaki gyu ($6 for two skewers) consists of skewers of grassfed tenderloin beef in a teriyaki glaze with mayo.
Liu said that as these items are sometimes hard to source, their availability may be limited.
For a main dish, the Chicken and the Egg ($15) is Vu's take on the yoshoku (Western-influenced Japanese food) dish omurisu, in which an omelette lies atop a mound of rice. In this version, an omelette is draped over a bed of rice, with stir-fried carrots, beans, and onions sandwiched between them. Perched on top are slices of free-range teriyaki chicken. As it's a set meal, it's accompanied by a dish of pickles, a salad with yuzu vinaigrette, and vegan miso soup (konbu and mushroom-based).
To finish things off, the wonderfully light sakura mille-crepe cake ($8) consists of several stacked layers of red-velvet crepes with whipping cream between them and cream cheese on the side. (The red and white colours are well-timed, in light of the fast-approaching Canada Day celebrations.)
There's plenty more to look forward to, as Liu and Vu note that they're developing pho satay ramen and sumo-style big bowl ramen, large enough for three people to consume.
Their ever-evolving menu is a wise move, as there's stiff competition from the mushrooming of ramen joints in the area, and it will accommodate for regulars on return visits who are seeking new dishes to explore.