2017 Foodies of the Year: Minoru Tamaru
The restaurant owner’s newest Japanese izakaya, Raisu, has just as much personality as its predecessors.
Owner, Group Restaurants, Vancouver
In 2006, when Minoru Tamaru opened Kingyo (Japanese for “goldfish,” though that particular sea creature doesn’t appear anywhere on the menu), it was not necessarily immediately obvious that the quirky izakaya was the catalyst for an empire. Yes, it was an immediate hit, wowing critics and locals with its playful take on the Japanese pub format, serving up inventive small plates and fusion-forward bento boxes in a cozy wood-lined room in Vancouver’s West End. But even its biggest fans likely couldn’t have predicted that a decade later Tamaru would have an international stable of restaurants to his name.
South Granville’s Suika (“watermelon”) opened in 2011, bringing the same boisterous atmosphere and Japanese bites to the west-side set; Rajio (“radio”) followed in 2012, specializing in Osaka-style kushikatsu—shareable platters of battered-and-fried snacks on skewers. His then business partner Makoto Kimoto took the concept south the next year, opening up a Suika outpost in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, while Tamaru continued eastward to Toronto the year after that, launching a new Kingyo in 2012.
But with Tamaru’s latest project, the dark-and-buzzy year-old Raisu (“rice,” but you probably guessed that one) in Kitsilano, he returned back home to Vancouver—which makes it feel like an appropriate time to fete the man behind this least chainlike of chains. Just over a decade of spreading the gospel of Japanese pub culture, serving up crispy prawn heads and corn karaage, of encouraging us to share every once in a while—that’s worth raising a glass to. Kanpai!