When the Michelin guide launched in Vancouver, there were a few places in the guide I had not heard of. One of the ones which interested me the most was Arike, which calls itself “modern African cuisine”, and more specifically, “herbs, spices and flavour combinations you find in Nigeria”. Now, since I have never been to Nigeria or had Nigerian food, I cannot comment on how well they interpret and incorporate this cuisince into their food, I can only comment on how much I enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy the meal.
The restaurant is darkly lit and it has the feel of an old tavern with wine or whisky barrels on the wall, softened by faux plant walls. On the day we dined, there was one gentleman serving the whole front of the house. He was the host, server, bar tender, expediter and everything else except kitchen duties. What was more incredible was that the service was flawless. There were no gaps in service between courses, drinks were filled promptly, cutlery was provided between courses, explanations were given for each course, and he was able to chat with each table. This was very impressive to see.
The meal started with a sweet bread with raisins and some sort of spiced butter. It was good. There was a golden crust on the outside and warm a fluffy inside. Texture was slightly dense. Overall, a good and interesting start to the meal.
The second course was a kiwi carpaccio with pickled veggies. It was interesting to see the kiwi served with the skin on, something I had not seem before, and did not know was ok to do.
Next, was gnocchi made with yam, which the server explained was a common ingredient in West Africa, made with black garlic in a savory gouda foam topped with shaved egg yolk which gave the dish a good amount of seasoning. The gouda foam was very savory.
Prior to the two main courses, a palate cleanser was provided.
The first main was a yam bun stuffed with minced prawn and served with chili butter. The aroma was wonderful and the tasted even better. The prawn reminded me of Chinese dim sum. It was delicious with a very unique blend of spices and heat. The dish was spicy but not in an overpowering way.
The main course was a braised ox tongue and jerk rosti (basically a Swiss hash brown). The tongue had a falling apart beef consistency which was wonderful, and well seasoned.
I should note that plating was beautiful and elegant without trying too hard. Really good job on that. Very refined with good use of colors.
For dessert, a brioche like bread filled with Kenyan chocolate, and vanilla foam on the side. The bread itself was not too sweet, and the chocolate was really good. The vanilla could of been stronger.
Lastly, some petit fours to end the meal.
Overall, this was a very unique and hidden gem experience in Vancouver (even though it was in the guide, I dont think a lot of people had gone, there were only 5 couples on a Friday night [and that was the capacity], they are only open on Fri and Sat, and I was able to score a table on Wed for Fri). The service was incredible with only one guy running the front of the house and the food was delicious and well presented. Apparently, they change the menu every 6-8 weeks and I will definitely be back..