LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
Executive Chef Kazuya Matsuoka
LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
by Meryem Aksoy
Authentic Japanese cuisine has conquered every city in the world. Vancouver, which attracts attention with its cultural diversity, is one of those cities, and Miku is one of the representatives of Japanese culinary culture with its innovative cuisine. Miku, one of the three restaurants of Aburi Restaurants in Vancouver, offers its guests tastes that they have never experienced before by applying Aburi preparation technique in their meals. Combining traditional Japanese ingredients and techniques with local ingredients, Miku gives them a completely different form with innovative Aburi technique. Seigo Nakamura, founder and CEO of Aburi Restaurants, wants to introduce the innovative and impressive Aburi style to the world. The expert he trusts is Kazuya Matsuoka, corporate executive chef of Aburi Restaurants. Kazuya Matsuoka, who started his culinary career at the age of 18, has climbed the steps one by one, and since 2011 he has been creating traditional Japanese dishes with Aburi technique in innovative forms at Miku Vancouver and its sister restaurants. I talked with Kazuya Matsuoka, Corporate Executive Chef of Aburi Restaurants, about his career and Miku Vancouver.
Kazuya, before talking about Miku, I would like to learn more about you. Could you tell us about yourself and your journey to Miku?
I've always been interested in food and the way it can bring a smile to someone's face. I started my own culinary journey in Japan when I was 18 years old, training in authentic Italian cuisine. From there, I was first exposed to classical French and French-fusion cooking when I started at La Marée de CHAYA — a pioneer of French style Japanese cooking.
From 2004 to 2010, I lived in Los Angeles to continue refining my culinary repertoire at CHAYA Brasserie (sister restaurant to La Marée).
I met Aburi's CEO/Owner Seigo Nakamura and was so impressed by his passion and vision that I joined Miku Vancouver in 2011. It was an exciting change, to be able to immerse myself in an unconventional style of West Coast-infused Japanese cuisine. Together with the team, we developed our own innovative 'Aburi' cuisine, exclusively for Miku and its sister restaurants.
Miku is located beside the historic landmark, Canada Place. Please tell us about your location and the advantages of being there.
Miku overlooks Canada Place's iconic five sails and the amazing Vancouver waterfront. On clear sunny days, one can even look across the water and see our beautiful mountains in the distance. The cruise ships dock steps away from our entrance. Thanks to this location, we have the opportunity to host a truly international variety of clientele – from Vancouver locals, to travelers, to convention guests, to Downtown hotel stayers – the list goes on.
Could you tell us about Miku and the overall concept?
Miku is named after our Founder and CEO Seigo Nakamura's daughter. In Japanese, Miku translates to 'beautiful sky' – a fitting name for the beautiful view of the Vancouver waterfront from our location. Our restaurant design features murals from famed Kyoto artist and muralist Hideki Kimura.
Finally, our cuisine can be best described, succinctly, as 'Aburi Sushi and Seafood.' We were the first to bring Aburi (flame-seared) sushi to Canada, and since then, the popularity of AburiOshi sushi in Vancouver has put us on the map. We aren't happy to sit on our successes, so we're always pushing forward, creating beautiful new flavours, textures, and presentations. Our Aburi Prime is our signature dish- an omakase-style nigiri platter served on one dish, using the most premium ingredients, lightly flame searing, and pairing them with the perfect garnishes.
How could you define the gastronomic diversity of Vancouver? Which aspects of this diversity does Miku represent?
The multicultural climate of Vancouver really shines through in the local culinary scene. There are endless options for authentic cuisine – Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Italian – you name it. Thanks to our local farming and fishing scene, we also have access to fantastic ingredients for amazingly fresh West Coast and farm-to-table cuisine. In addition, the culinary talent here is amazing. New styles of cuisine are coming to light.
At Miku, our roots are in Japanese cuisine, but we are pushing forward to create a new, global style of cuisine - Aburi Cuisine. More than flame-seared, the flame evokes the creation of something new.
Could you tell us about your menu?
We serve our own brand of Aburi Cuisine. We take traditional Japanese techniques and recipe and incorporate local, fresh West Coast ingredients and flavours for a unique, innovative, yet authentic dining experience.
How often do you change up your menu? What are you paying attention to while selecting new drinks and dishes for your new menu?
We change our menus seasonally to reflect the best in local and seasonal ingredients. We pay attention to local trends but are always looking to stay a step ahead. I'm inspired by nature, like the beautiful cherry blossoms that are blooming in Vancouver right now.
Which dishes and drinks are your customer's favorites?
Definitely our Aburi Sushi – most notably our nine-piece deluxe nigiri selection, the Aburi Prime, as well as our pressed and flame-seared AburiOshi Sushi.
Vancouver has lots of restaurants. How does Miku differentiate itself from other restaurants in Vancouver?
While many people join us for our cuisine, we know the importance of the entire experience. They come for the food, but without the beautiful atmosphere, and excellent service, it's not a full rounded experience. Our company philosophy of ningenmi- finding joy in your life by bringing happiness to others- means we all work as a team to bring happiness to our guests and within our team. I think our guests can feel the difference this makes.
Could you tell us about private dining and events options that Miku offers?
Miku has one beautiful private dining room at the back of the restaurant. The Blue Sky room shows an unobstructed view of the Burrard Inlet, and features the mural 'Maple Trees Blowing in the Wind' by Kimura-san. The bright room seats 13-24 guests, and is perfect for any dining occasion.
How would you describe Vancouver in one sentence?
Three words: Beautiful, natural, global.
How can our readers find Miku when they visit Vancouver?
Look for the famed five sails at Canada Place – we're right across the street!
What do you think about the importance of social media for restaurants?
I think it's important for our guests to stay updated on what's going on with our restaurant – from seasonal menu promotions, to our community involvement, to even our team highlights, I think our social media allows us to keep in touch beyond just a visit at the restaurant.
How can our readers follow Miku?
We're on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) @mikurestaurant. We also have an email newsletter program, available on our website.
Anything you would like to add that I haven't asked?
We look forward to welcoming you to Miku someday! (laughs)
Thank you Kazuya for your time.