Sherman's Food Adventures: Afuri Ramen + Dumpling (Main Street)

Afuri Ramen + Dumpling (Main Street)

If I had to be blunt, our first visit to Afuri Ramen + Dumpling in Richmond back in early 2020 (yah, just before the pandemic) was "okay".  However, that was then and this is now.  They've recently opened up their second location on Main Street at 12th in Vancouver offering up familiar items as well as new ones.  Jacqueline and I were invited to check out the new spot.  Ironically, it was myself and Jacqueline the last time we had visit Afuri in Richmond.

We started with a bunch of appies including a new one in the Yasai Mochi filled with daikon, edamame and kikurage mushroom.  On top we found pickled vegetable, green onion, sesame seeds, shichimi pepper and sweet soy.  I loved the soft texture of the mochi as it gave way to the earthiness of the mushroom.  The pickles on top provided tangy saltiness while the sweetness of the soy balanced things out.  Slight spice from the shichimi helped hit all the flavours.

Another new item was the Winged Ebi Shumai stuffed with pork, shrimp, ginger and cabbage.  On top, there was green onion, sesame oil and hazelnut ra-yu with sweet soy served on the side.  These resembled wontons more than shumai with thin and barely there dumpling skin.  They were nicely seared on the bottom and featured a juicy flavourful filling.  Loved the nutty spice from the ra-yu which was complimented by the sweet soy.

Back to the classics, we went for the Winged Buta Gyoza with a pork, ginger, cabbage and leek filling  This came with a light and crispy skirt that blended into the seared bottom of the gyoza.  From what I can remember, this was executed better than the last time.  The dumpling skin was fairly thin and tender with elasticity.  I found the filling to be moist with enough seasoning but of course I dunked it into the soy dipping sauce.

Now the best thing we had last time was the Softshell Crab Bao and we weren't getting out of there without it.  This did not disappoint with a large and meaty softshell crab inside.  It was delicately crispy with all of the crab custardy texture and flavour front and centre.  This was complimented by the spicy mayo and kimchi which added a creamy kick as well as a tangy crunch.  Some sliced cucumber provided even more texture.

For good measure, we ordered the 3rd and final new item which was the Tonkotsu Tsukemen.  This featured a plate of al dente thick noodles accompanied by kakuni pork, bamboo shoots, half ramen egg, nori and key lime.  Since this was a dipping noodle, we had on the side a bowl of tonkotsu shoyu tsuyu with yellow onion, green onion, bonito powder, sesame seeds and Sichuan pepper.  I thought the dipping broth was flavourful enough with inherent meatiness, silkiness and saltiness.  The addition of Sichuan pepper afforded spice while the bonito provided more umaminess.  The fatty braised pork melted-in-our-mouths and was plenty flavourful.

The Yuzu-Tsuyu was somewhat similar with a bowl of thick noodles, kakuni pork, bamboo shoots, frisee and kizami nori.  On the side, the dipping noodles were served with a yuzu shoyu tsuyu spiked with chili sesame and green onion.  As you can imagine, the flavour profile of this dish was very different than the last with tangy spice complimented by the nutty sesame.  This almost ate like a tan tan noodle.

On the topic of tan tan noodles, the Hazelnut Tan Tan was a complete surprise.  This vegan offering (yes, really) was absolutely delicious!  There was considerable nuttiness from the broth as well as the diced nuts on top.  However, the spicy miso tare added a fermented rich saltiness that also had a balanced kick.  Add in the chili oil and there was some added smokiness.  The noodles soaked up some of the broth and I just couldn't stop eating it.

Of course we had to get their signature ramen in the Yuzu Shio.  Personally, I'm more into the richer tonkotsu broths, so this wouldn't be my first choice.  However, I can see the attraction of this bowl of noodles though.  For those who do not want something heavy nor too salty, this checks all the boxes.  We dug into this where the chicken broth was lightly sweet and refreshing with an aromatic acidity.

Onto some rice dishes, we had both the Aburi Koro Chashu Don and the Spicy Karaage Don.  As you can see in the first picture, the kakuni pork was well-charred.  There was a caramelized smokiness that was complimented by the salty pickles and fresh grated daikon.  Some shoyu sauce helped add flavour to the chewy rice.  As for the spicy chicken karaage, it was full-impact from the spicy mayo on top.  Furthermore, the chicken was juicy with a crispy exterior.  This would be my pick between the two.

Onto dessert, we had the Yuzu Graham Cracker Cheesecake as well as the Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich.  I thought the cheesecake was quite good with prominent cheesiness complimented by the slightly sweet blueberries.  Emulating a graham cracker crust, the "tart shell" was soft and aromatic.  As for the ice cream sandwich, the cookies had an interesting depth of flavour from miso.  Hence, there was this richness and umaminess that was unexpected.  It was a nice foil to the sweet and creamy ice cream in the middle.  Some sesame seeds added nuttiness.  These 2 treats were a fine ending to a delicious meal.  Jacqueline and I agreed that this was significantly better than the first time we had Afuri.  Granted, we had many more items to try and they had 3 years in between to refine their food.  Would like to come back to have their Hazelnut Tan Tan again!

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well-executed eats
- That Hazelnut Tan Tan
- That Softshell Crab Bao

The Bad:
- The Yuzu Shio is not my thing, but others seem to like it


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