Sherman's Food Adventures: Arike


Back when it first opened, I had hit up Arike out on Davie Street.  It was one of the rare African restaurants in the GVRD and even more unique, it had a Nigerian focus.  I came away quite satisfied with my meal, but apparently, this was confusing for people looking for Nigerian cuisine.  It was not the big share portions of home-style cooking normally associated with Nigerian cuisine.  So on this recent visit with Mijune, we discovered they feature only a tasting-menu that focuses on a variety of dishes that have African-influenced flavours and ingredients.  I guess they are doing something right as they have been recently graced with the Michelin-recommended status.

For $65.00, we felt this was a reasonable price for a tasting menu in a Downtown restaurant.  We began with the Herbed Foccacia with peanut hummus and chili oil.  Normally, I don't rave about bread, but I'm going to do it this time.  Crispy and nutty on the outside, the foccacia was soft and warm on the inside.  That peanut hummus was smooth with a spicy nuttiness that elevated the bread.  I could put spoonfuls of that in my mouth.

Up next, we had something I wouldn't have expected, but at the same time, shows the creativity of the chef.  Featuring a beautiful lightly torched Scallop atop jerk pork belly rice, this was a great interpretation of nigiri.  Beyond the buttery sweetness of the fresh scallop, the luxurious and richness of the rice underneath was a nice counterbalance.  Add in the sharpness of ginger and the tang of lemon, there was enough acidity to make the flavours pop.

Pretty with mandarin, mint and coconut ricotta, the red kuri Squash "tart" was perfectly-placed in the progression of dishes in the tasting menu.  The squash base was sweet, nutty and soft.  The addition of mandarin added some sweet and juicy tanginess to break up the heaviness of the squash.  Providing some crunch, we had some nuts and creamy aromatics was provided by the ricotta.  To top it off literally and figuratively, we had the herbaceous hit of the mint.

After this fairly rich course, we were treated to a Palette Cleanser in the form of lemon ginger granita.  Once again, the use of lemon and ginger provided a refreshing combination of acidity and sharpness.  This took away any of the flavours of the last dish.  The granita was fluffy, yet crunchy at the same time.  It did not melt and was consistent in texture.

Good thing we had the palette cleanser as it allowed us to enjoy the Duck ravioli to the fullest.  This was an overstuffed creation with perfectly thin and al dente pasta encasing a considerable amount of moist and tender duck (that also had a good rebound texture).  On top we found some grated cured egg yolk, pickled mustard seed and fermented iru bean.  I can't tell you how delicious this was where the duck was definitely the star.  I found the flavours of the other ingredients to be complimentary and in balance.

My favourite course was the Lamb shoulder sausage atop chermoula with pickled carrots and grilled yam pita.  That sausage was so juicy and well-spiced, I would've been happy with it alone on a plate.  However, the chermoula complimented the rich sausage with acidity and brightness.  The carrots added another layer of tanginess and a bit of crunch.  Loved the soft chewiness of the yam pita as it was a nice foil to the meat.  The trick here was to have everything in one bite.

For dessert, we were served the black Sesame cake with cappuccino panna cotta with cardamom and ginger.  Soft and warm, the sesame cake was nutty and only semi-sweet.  Digging into the panna cotta, it revealed a creaminess accented by spice and slight sharpness.  I enjoyed how this dessert was more about subtly rather than sweetness.  In the end, I was truly blown away with the tasting menu at Arike.  It was thoughtful and the progression of courses made sense.  I love the direction they have taken with the menu as it is creative and delicious.  I will be back 100%.

The Good:
- Just downright delicious
- Creative incorporation of African spices and influences
- Reasonable pricing

The Bad:
- Currently open everyday in December, but only on Friday and Saturdays in January, hence it will be difficult to get a reservation
- Location is a bit hidden, but IYKYK


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