Kibune Sushi is one of my three favourite restaurants in Vancouver. I would have promoted it more in the past, but like many others, I suspect, I’ve selfishly tried to save it for myself. However, on behalf of the lovely owners and staff of this restaurant—Endo-san and Yoko and all our other friends there—I wanted to give it the recognition it is due. I wanted to remind Vancouverites that older, perfect restaurants like this still exist in Vancouver despite our runaway development problem. Kibune has been in this Yew Street location for 31 years, owned and run by the same people, people who have never let the quality of the food drop and who have kept the beautiful interior virtually changed.
The place was a favourite of Bill Reid, who lived nearby—my aunt and I used to take him out for lunch there when he was ailing. It was his choice. I sometimes see David Suzuki there, and the walls are lined with messages from many illustrious types who’ve visited. Ask to see the lovely killer whale drawing Bill Reid made for Endo-san (it’s a copy, since the original was becoming threatened by theft or wear and tear).
I only expose this secret now because in Vancouver’s distorted real estate climate, I want to support smaller, non-franchise restaurants to make sure they survive and thrive. I really hope this place remains a beautiful refuge for decades more.
A few doors up Yew Street is Hapa Izakaya, full of giant TV screens, hockey and the same clientele you’d see at a sports bar. It’s more busier than Kibune is, which seems a travesty. In any other city you wouldn’t even be able to get a seat at Kibune.
As far as the menu goes, the goma-ae spinach salad (actually closer to an ohitashi in style) is by far the best one in Vancouver. Even for those who shy from the idea of eel, the barbequed unagi is completely addictive. For those who love tuna, the tuna bowl (tekka donburi) contains some of the best sushi tuna you’ll ever find. Any of the sushi is good. Try the gobo (burdock root) salad too – faintly spicy in an interesting way. It’s worth trying the specials on the board or just ask what’s good.
Lastly, for a designer, the interior of Kibune Sushi is perfect in every detail. (I’ve written about it before, in the context of the poverty of most Vancouver restaurant design.) In particular, notice the joinery’d eaves and shingled roof over the sushi bar as well as the beautiful handmade booths with peeled log posts and ricepaper screens. One of the screens is missing its ricepaper, and I’m almost certain my nephews had something to do with that, for which we apologize.
If you know me and are wanting sushi, or are coming in from out of town and want to see it, contact me and I’ll join you there.
Kibune Sushi , 1508 Yew Street at Cornwall (next to the Starbucks), Vancouver. Ph: 604-731-4482