Described as Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest, Arike is another one of those places that have been on my must try list for a long time and survived my transition to vegan. You have 2 dining options right now, the Fall Tasting Menu and the Vegan Fall Tasting Menu! Both have a wine pairing available, but we are water people. How boring we are!
Arike - Vegan Tasting Menu
Located at 1725 Davie, near Denman, don't blink. This somewhat dark, romantic room is located down a set of stairs and not signed very brightly. Of course, walk in service is not a thing at the moment. Open Friday and Saturday evenings, reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance!
Not surprisingly, we chose the Vegan Tasting Menu. I have no problem with the fact that both the vegan and omnivore menus are $65 per person although I couldn't comment on how the cost of ingredients or chef's time compares. For some reason, vegan menus seem to usually cost more.
They started us off with Carrot! Carrot noodles, carrot puree just a nice little peanut crunch with a hint of orange. Not having an audio recording device (or at least not wanting to drag out my phone and record), a lot of the details got by me, and believe me there are a lot of details to these complex plates. We trusted our capable server Joel (sorry...not sure if I'm spelling that right) that it was going to be delicious. We delighted in the micro herbs that just beautifully crowned most of the dishes.
Next up was squash, nicely crusted with herbs, seeds and sumac. The challenge of the evening would be to scoop up every drop of the sublime sauces. The curry was mild although some of the dishes surprised us with just a bit of heat which is probably the Nigerian influence. The lemon verbena stood out as the unique flavour of this particular presentation.
Always nice to include a taco or two in any meal but this one was quite amazing. The Plantain in the shell made it rich and substantial. Miso glazed (and I want to say maple syrup?) plantain was the main body of the thing with assorted roasted pumpkin seeds etc. that gave it a crispy top.
It's been a long time since anyone served us a palette cleanser but this date and something tea could easily be my morning drink. Very nice!
I really felt like I needed chopsticks for the dumplings, but I don't think that's a Nigerian thing. The peanut sauce here needed to be licked from the bowl (and we've eaten a lot of peanut sauce). Sunchoke and ginger made up the filling along with whatever other magical ingredients as the plates get better and better!
When gnocchi is made with African Yam then we can certainly consider it Nigerian. These little pillows were served with an impressive mushroom mix and Ate Din Din Sauce. There was some mild heat to the sauce, but I think that the original version might be a scorcher judging by recipes I visited. A very nice fusion of wonderful flavours!
And finally, there was dessert! Olive oil cake with a lime jelly (?) cashew crumble and a lovely quenelle of more cashew maybe? You can tell I won't be trying to steal any recipes.
It is amazing what can be accomplished with fusion (Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest for example) and chefs who clearly consider details and how elements that fit together. We feel like we were eating dishes that were greater than the sum of their parts. Some of these were playful and some homages to the head chef's father's Nigerian heritage. This is another win for the plant-based eating movement to my mind, as you can give up so little and eat brilliantly and cruelty free. Thanks so much, Arike. BTW, service was amazing and personable, and we loved the dining room music which was all Nigerian with a couple of Marvin Gaye tunes thrown in!
Food 5 out of 5
Vegan options 4 1/2 out of 5 (still the matter of that pesky omnivorous menu)
Comfort 5 out of 5
Service 5 out of 5
Value 5 out of 5
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