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ABURI Restaurant Group Launches Japanese Grocery Store Concept Set for Expansion in Canada

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ABURI Restaurants Canada, the team behind award-winning restaurants Miku and Minami, have launched their first premium Japanese Washoku concept, an elevated grocery experience, in West Vancouver.

“The pandemic was a turning point for us, paving the way for new ideas in hospitality,” said Noriaki Okubo, Chief Operating Officer of ABURI Restaurants Canada. “With ABURI Market, our goal is to expand our company beyond restaurants, educate consumers on the values of ‘washoku’ within Japanese culture, and show shoppers how to use, enjoy, and incorporate our products into their everyday lives.”

The market has opened in a 4,000-square-foot space at 1350 Marine Drive, with specialty food counters, ready-to-eat seafood, tableware, and exclusive imported goods from Japan. It features high ceilings, educational how-to videos, and several stations to explore, including fresh sushi, made-to-order bowls, sliced-to-order Iwate A5 wagyu, and desserts. ABURI Market also has a section for grab-n-go items, frozen meal kits, imported Japanese sauces, snacks and candies, similar to its popular ABURI To-Go locations.

ABURI Market (Image: Leslie Seto)

“We’re trying to introduce Japanese culture along with unique Japanese food. What’s different from regular grocery stores, especially other Japanese grocery stores, is that, not to talk down our other competitors, but other Japanese grocery stores have been around for many years, and haven’t really evolved for the last 30-40 years, so our concept is completely new,” said Okubo.

Noriaki Okubo

“More than half of our sales are prep food … Different food concepts within the store as well as products we import directly from Japan that have never been in the Canadian market yet.”

The Market has a small patio area where people can also sit down and eat. He said the Market introduction was basically a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When COVID happened, there was a big shift in our industry. People stopped dining out. I think that’s starting to recover. But I think people now are more used to picking up food and just eating at home. Grab and go style,” added Okubo.

ABURI Market (Image: Leslie Seto)
Seigo Nakamura at ABURI Market Grand Opening (Image: Leslie Seto)

ABURI Market joins a vibrant retail mix at Grosvenor Ambleside.

“In 2008, I opened Miku in Vancouver, after falling in love with the city, and introducing Canada to Aburi Oshi Sushi and our contemporary Japanese cuisine,” said Seigo Nakamura, Founder and CEO of ABURI Restaurants Canada. “And now, I am excited to launch our first premium Japanese Washoku concept, ABURI Market, where people can experience authentic Japanese food and goods in a new way at home, on the beach, patio or with friends.”

Nakamura, owner of the Tora Corporation in Japan, is the visionary behind ABURI Restaurants’ Miku, Miku Toronto, Minami, Gyoza Bar, TORA, Hana, Minami Toronto, and grocerant ABURI To-Go, which is a smaller concept of the Market. The company has seven restaurants – three in Vancouver and four in Toronto.

“His unique concepts and business strategies have led to the creation and spread of Aburi style cuisine across Canada. A trendsetter in all aspects, Seigo is never satisfied with settling for the norm. His unique twist on Aburi cuisine was created over a decade ago by innovating the idea of traditional Japanese flame-searing with the decadent and creamy sauces of French cuisine,” says the company.

ABURI Market (Image: Leslie Seto)

“Driven by this unconventional concept, Seigo introduces this fresh and addictive Aburi cuisine to the world. Seigo also promotes the unique company philosophy of ‘Ningenmi.’ Literally translated as ‘the human flavour,’ Ningenmi is a Japanese term used to refer to a person with outstanding human qualities: sincerity, thoughtfulness, and passion. Seigo is a strong advocate of spreading ningenmi to his team, promoting a positive team dynamic within his restaurants.”

Okubo said the company does plan to expand its Market concept. 

“We plan to open, looking at different options in Toronto or somewhere else. But we’re also looking at smaller concepts. ABURI Market is our flagship and we would have smaller stores strategically located in areas that we feel it’s a good market for,” he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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