Sherman's Food Adventures: Arike Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

Arike Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

We are pretty lucky living in Vancouver with the temperate climate (especially in Canada) and quality of life (some more than others, but that is another story altogether).  Sure, that has some impact on our house prices, which makes us less lucky (unless you are selling and leaving...).  Another huge plus about living in Vancity is the bounty of ethnic food which is generally reasonably-priced.  Sure, some are creeping up there, but compared to other parts of the world, it still isn't expensive.  One thing that is sorely missing is non-Asian ethnic eats.  So when I found out that Arike out on Davie Street was dishing out Western African-inspired cuisine, I rounded up Grace to help me try out their wares.

We began with the Fried Habanero Corn Fritters stuffed with confit garlic and salted tomato.  These fluffy little bites were pleasantly crispy (and not greasy).  Inside, the sweetness of the corn came through as well as a touch of spice.  Little bursts of tang were afforded by the tomato.  As much as the Cassava Fries looked plenty pale, they were actually uniformly crunchy on the outside.  They were lightly salted and were tasty on their own.  However, the hot and sweet tomato dip was in-your-face tasty.  It combined tang, sweetness and saltiness into one bite.  Not to be outdone, the creamy cashew garlic mayo brought balance.

Since it was super thin, we were initially afraid that the Grilled Suya Beef Strip Loin would be dry and chewy.  This was completely not the case as it was moist, buttery and tender.  The meat itself was seasoned enough that it was nutty and aromatic.  However, the caramelized yogurt didn't hurt either as it was sweet and creamy.  The hits kept coming with the Spiced Goat Dumplings with sweet chili oil, aerated herb yogurt and fried onion.  I thought the dumpling wrapper was excellent being both delicate and al dente at the same time.  Wonderful mouthfeel and chew that gave way to a smooth and spiced goat filling.  Yes, the sweet chili oil was not only the focal point of the dish, it added complexity.

The Pulled Oxtail and Cured Pork Belly Flat Bread took awhile to come out, but it was certainly worth the wait.  Crunchy and with even leoparding, the crust was nutty and aromatic.  On top, the combination of meats provided a robustness while the cured tomato added bursts of tanginess.  This was complimented by the intense sweetness of the caramelized onions and the heat from the pickled habaneros.  For dessert, we really enjoyed the fluffy Pof Pofs.  They resembled Chinese egg puffs in texture with a delicately crispy exterior.  These were dressed with ginger honey and cinnamon sugar.  Yes, they were sweet, but that was the point.  I'm pretty sure you can feel my enthusiasm about the place.  I thought the food was tasty and unique.  Not sure why it isn't any busier.  Probably the location isn't that obvious from street level.  I encourage you to try it though!

The Good:
- Unique dishes
- Defined layers of flavours (not muddled)
- Reasonable-pricing

The Bad:
- Location is hidden and dark
- Could go more hardcore with the African dishes


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