Aburi Restaurants Launching WA-BAGEL Retail Concept in Canada with Vancouver Launch [Interview]

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Aburi Restaurants Canada is opening its brand new WA-BAGEL concept in the heart of downtown Vancouver in late-spring bringing a unique Japanese-style bagel to the market with plans for expansion.

The concept will open in 1,887 square feet at 666 Burrard Street.

Huy Tran, National Director, Marketing, Aburi Restaurants Canada, said the location is anticipated to open in June or July.

Seigo Nakamura

He said WA-BAGEL follows in the footsteps of its sister restaurant, WA! CURRY, as a counter service spot to start, offering take-out and delivery options. Guests can also order and dine across the hallway in the building’s spacious communal concourse.

“Japanese-style bagels are my favourite type of bagel because they are more light and smaller in-size, often with a filling, similar to another Japanese snack-favourite, the onigiri,” said Seigo Nakamura, founder and CEO of ABURI Restaurants Canada. “They are becoming more and more popular in Japan, and there is really nothing like it in Canada yet. I thought it would be a great idea to introduce something new to the Canadian market. There are so many different kinds of flavours. Have you ever had a mochi cheese bagel or a lemon peel and azuki bean bagel? They are delicious!”

Image: WA-BAGEL
WA-BAGEL by Aburi

WA-BAGEL’s bagels are made with Canadian flour and a koji-based yeast. When it opens, WA-BAGEL will have 14 flavours of bagels and bagel sandwiches to start, including red bean paste and cream cheese, sweet potato and black sesame, Aburi Market’s fresh cut salmon lox & scallion cream cheese sandwich, and eggplant and bacon with miso and cheese. There will also be a variety of drinks, such as coffee and tea.

Yukiko Iikura, Head Baker, WA-BAGEL, founded her own popular bagel shop in Japan called Kepo Bagels for the past 15 years.

“I love baking and I also love chewy-textured things and WA-BAGEL’s dough features the texture and aroma of mochi,” she said. “In Japan, we use many different types of flavours and fillings for our bagels, and we’ll definitely be using some very Canadian-inspired ingredients in some of our options. I’m very excited as Canada has some of the best flour in the world, and we’ll get to use it in our bagels.

“Instead of mixing the ingredients in the dough, I roll the ingredients into the dough . . . For me, the texture is most important. I’m using Canadian flour. I think Canadian flour is the best for me in the world. I love Vancouver’s water. I’m so excited I can make bagels here in Vancouver.”

Image: WA-BAGEL
Image: WA-BAGEL

Tran said when Iikura creates her bagels, and the reason why it’s very unique, is because she actually puts the ingredients inside the dough and rolls the dough over it.

Huy Tran

“And the reason for that is that it doesn’t compromise the dough itself and it preserves the taste,” he said.

“Vancouver is a very, very rich cultural hub. It’s very diverse. Aburi has been known for being innovators. Thirteen years ago we opened the first Aburi concept in Vancouver and we also introduced Aburi cuisine to North America. So we always want to be that concept of first to market and we realize that Vancouver has a lot of audience especially people who crave diverse tastes and constantly trying to chase new trends.

“So that’s why we wanted to bring this concept to life with Yukiko to introduce to the audience there.”

Tran said the company does foresee more locations in the future.

“We have plans for Toronto and probably beyond Canada,” he said.

The Aburi Restaurants brand includes Miku, Miku Toronto, Minami, Minami Toronto, TORA, Hana, WA! CURRY, WA-BAGEL, grocerant ABURI To-Go, and ABURI Market.

Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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