From a food truck serving inventive Asian food that intrigued foodies across the city, to a brick-and-mortar eatery that continues to flourish in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, it is safe to say that co-founders Clement Chan and Steve Kwan’s creative execution of Asian cuisine have won the hearts of many.
The name “Torafuku” stands for “lucky tiger” in Japanese. A name not only represents prosperity but also draws a connection with their food truck, "Le Tigre”. Though both eateries are known to be palate pleasers, the two are quite different in personalities– “Le Tigre” is the energetic one who calls for fans with its bold colours, while Torafuku is more sophisticated, one who patiently awaits for admirers to step inside its sleek, open space.
As a restaurant serving Pan-Asian cuisine in Chinatown, Torafuku’s minimalistic interior isn’t what one might expect. There are no Asian elements to be found in its design. Instead, an understated approach is taken with its materials and ambiance by including a concrete communal table, wooden stools and tables, as well as leather couches, creating an overall warm muted hue that still feels inviting. As Steve had explained, they didn’t want Torafuku’s interior to feel pretentious. Its unobtrusive design is intended to make guests feel comfortable, allowing them to focus on enjoying their food and dining experience.
Clement recommended a few signature dishes to us, then began cooking away. As we watched the chefs prepare our food in the open kitchen, something caught our eyes – colourful menus that were stacked neatly on the counter; a contrasting design to their simple colour palate. Steve shared that the vibrant colours are meant to represent the bold flavours of their dishes. They wanted to add some fun to Torafuku using pops of colours and quirky menu names.
At Torafuku, the menu is designed with sharing in mind. The first dish to arrive was The Dirty Bird, a creamy chicken pate, traditionally seen as a French classic, tweaked to deliver an Asian flavour profile by serving with grilled furukake sourdough, topped with mustard seeds for an added kick, apricots and yuzu pickled Tokyo turnips for an additional layer of freshness. Did I mention they use local, seasonal ingredients from the farmers market, UBC Farms, and Sole Food Street Farms?
The impeccable presentation and unexpected flavours had us anticipating our next dishes. Our eyes glimmered as Clement brought us the next plate – 24 Carrot Gold, a beautiful medley of vegetables thoughtfully prepared to accentuate their natural sweetness. Drizzled over is the perfect amount of green goddess dressing, sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts for extra texture and nuttiness. Each bite is a mouthful of earthy goodness, even someone like me - who isn’t a fan of carrots - couldn’t help but eat bite after bite.
In between dishes, Steve prepared three summer cocktails that complimented our meal: a cool and refreshing People’s Cocktail made with Beefeater gin, cucumber, elderflower, ginger, and lemon; a floral and fruity Emarosa made with strawberry infused godernador pisco, lime, lemongrass jasmine tea, and egg white; and a tropical and tangy Funky Town Sling made with long table dry gin, Cointreau, baijiu, pineapple juice, lime, and hibiscus syrup.
Next dish served was Higher Steak, a tender adobo wagyu steak that is artistically arranged with braised turnips, local asparagus, and buttery potato pave, garnished with dainty drops of kabocha puree. Who doesn’t love a melt-in-your-mouth steak?
Our final dish Gone Fishing surprised us with its bold flavours - a crispy fish brushed with sweet and sour sauce and garnished with a blanket of toasted shrimp, crispy shallots, and soybeans crumble. This fragrant, delectable dish pairs well with their coconut rice - I guarantee it will make you lick your plate clean.
With an adventurous menu that is well thought out and well executed, it is no surprise that Torafuku's seats are quickly filled every night. After this satisfying meal, I know I will be returning for more.
958 Main St, Vancouver, BC
Text: Aretta Yeung
Photos: Wendy Qian