The Hana in Aburi Hana translates loosely to flower or beauty, the name of this one-of-a-kind, elegant restaurant serving modern Kyo-Kaiseki cuisine.
Two 15-course menus priced at $195 and $330 change nightly, created using Japanese ingredients from the land and sea as well as seasonal local produce. Two nightly seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. are available by reservation only.
Descending into the restaurant feels like visiting a very quiet, modern subterranean hotel, designed by Vancouver-based Ste. Marie Design. A collection of "Kakurega" (hidden gem) private rooms seating two to eight anchored around a 16-seat chef's counter.
Japanese floral arrangements are replaced every two days, and art on the walls is sourced from Japan.
Unlike almost any other restaurant, you're not presented with a menu upon arrival here. Instead, you receive one when you leave as a souvenir of a totally original evening.
It's only logical to start with O-toro Zuke Nigiri, a perfectly silky and fatty piece of bluefin tuna belly marinated in a dashi shoyu laden over compacted sushi rice.
Nigiri is intended to be eaten right away with the hands for etiquette and temperature reasons, the hands cleaned with a tiny pinched napkin that appears along with the dish.
Hokkaido Uni emphasizes the element of ceremony here, a two-part course consisting of an oyster dressed with a punchy beet vinaigrette and an uni dish served over rice in the shell.
First slurp the oyster, then use whatever is left in the shell to dress the salty, satiny uni.
Aburi Sawara translates to flame-seared mackerel, presented stacked atop a large leaf dried in house over a theatrically smoking bowl of dry ice. Ikura adds a fresh pop that makes this light dish as pleasing to eat as it is to look at.
Nova Scotia Lobster Tempura is fluffy and luxurious, plated with a rich and moistening saikyo miso and miso cream, plus fermented mushroom powder, yuba (tofu skin) and mizuna.
Owan presents a perfect little slice of crispy-skinned sea bass in a covered bowl with a katsuo dashi broth, salted plum, sansho leaf, and kabu (turnip).
Binchotan Grilled Miyazaki Wagyu Tenderloin presents a perfect matchstick of A5 Wagyu alongside spongy, earthy maitake mushroom and a roasted Fuji apple sauce of sorts that brightens the heavier ingredients.
Beverage pairings to complement menus are priced at $125 and $180, though wine, sake and non-alcoholic beverages are also available a la carte.