When Steve Kuan and Clement Chan launched the Le Tigre truck, it wasn’t exactly the business they had planned, and it ended up being nowhere near as easy as they imagined. With some time, a loyal following, their kick-ass food, and their spirited on-the-truck personalities, Le Tigre has been a rousing success. Now it’s time to make the team’s dream of opening a restaurant come true; their modern Asian eatery Torafuku is set to debut later this May.
Torafuku is taking shape inside a retail space on Main Street that sits south of Chinatown and just above Pacific Central Station and Science World. Following in the spirit of their truck’s name, the name Torafuku (lucky tiger) was chosen to align with their signature big cat theme, and the address, 958, happens to be a lucky number, too.
Fans of the truck need to not fear that their roaming eats are done for; in fact, it’s just the opposite. The Le Tigre Truck, besieged with repeated requests for dinnertime service, will keep all their lunchtime, farmers’ market, and festival stops, but will also park themselves outside Torafuku during dinner hours, giving their customers the chance to mix and match Torafuku cocktails with truck fare (seating up front in the restaurant will be open to truck customers), or the option to grab-and-go the more casual fare.
Inside the 2,200 square-foot, 50-seat Torafuku, Chan and Kuan are planning a menu of tapas-style share plates that reflects their pan-Asian influences and West Coast style. They’ll be doing dinner, and are thinking about how they might take on brunch, too. Chan explains that while they are heavily focused on Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines, at the end of the day, their unofficial motto is “we cook classic favourites done however we feel like.”
Sassy, to be certain, but it’s what diners have come to expect from the bespectacled Le Tigre crew (the glasses are part of the act), and that bit of showmanship is still slated to have a place at Torafuku. The vibe is going to be “super engaging,” the pair promise, noting that they are working on ideas for how to be more personal with the diners.
Kuan and Chan’s enthusiasm for both being and supporting local, creative, and artistic entrepreneurs led them to go with the award-winning Scott + Scott Architects for their restaurant design. Torafuku will also showcase custom locally-made ceramic dinnerware as vehicles for their vibrant, playful food. “The dish names are superfunky,” says Chan, hinting at more play-on-words kind of menu entries.
Things are going to be a bit higher-end at Torafuku, though, and completely different from what’s available from the truck. The average plate will cost about $16, and will be good for three diners to get a couple of bites each. Look for dishes like ramen, fried rice, gyoza, and chicken wings, to be paired with drinks they’re designing that will feature sake and spirits. Though they’ll have beer, Chan and Kuan say they’re not going to be serving wine.
As the Le Tigre story goes, it was a long road to get to where they are, and Torafuku has been a long time in the making, too. With much work left to do in the space, and a few more logistical hurdles to leap (including the enviable task of auditioning booze for inclusion at their bar), Kuan and Chan say they’re hoping to be open in the second half of May.
Address: 958 Main Street, Vancouver