Kamei on Broadway is a longtime Japanese restaurant in a hidden location
When we talk about hidden restaurants and cafes, usually we’re talking about places that are tucked in weird places — places like lumber yards, industrial areas, or along quiet residential streets.
Rarely are we talking about those restaurants that are located at busy intersections and have been around for 30 years, but are still, somehow, hidden in plain sight.
Such is the case with Kamei on Broadway, a Japanese restaurant with some of the most breathtaking views in the city, but most people wouldn’t know it.
Established in 1988, this place should be easy to find, as it’s located on the corner of Broadway and Ash Street (just one block west of Cambie Street), but its location at the back of the Broadway Plaza Building means that it’s virtually impossible to see from the street – not to mention an unfortunate Google Maps snafu that incorrectly directs visitors to approach it from the back alley.
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Kamei is a family-owned-and-run restaurant offering both traditional Japanese fare as well as modern spins on the cuisine, and while its tucked-away location at the back of the plaza means it’s somewhat hard to find, it also means that the views here are seriously unparalleled.
We’re talking sweeping views of the city beyond and, if you’re lucky enough to dine here during golden hour, the most enchanting sunsets that wash the entire restaurant in a dreamy orange glow.
With unique Japanese Tatami rooms, as well as private booths, a central bar, hanging lanterns, and some definite ’90s nostalgia (we’re talking leather booths and neon signage), the environment here feels like an integral part of the experience.
Kamei is open daily for dinner but also offers lunch during weekdays – a great option for those working in the area.
During a recent visit to try its dinner menu, we got to sample a few of its standout dishes, including its fresh oysters (which are available for only $1.50 during happy hour!), sashimi platters, and a seriously life-changing Uni Cream Udon Carbonara.
Deon Taw, the restaurant’s director (and sometimes kitchen staff, depending on the day), tells us that he was only recently given permission to put a sandwich board for the restaurant out on the sidewalk where people can see it – a small thing to some, but huge for a small business that is invisible to folks walking by.
This place shouldn’t be passed up though, as it offers some of the best Japanese in the city, in our humble opinion.
It also may likely be the very first restaurant in Vancouver to offer Aburi-style sushi, according to Taw, who recalls that Kamei was offering this style long before Miku (who claims to have introduced it to the city in 2008) – they just hadn’t marketed it as heavily at the time.
The mix of traditional and modern Japanese dishes here is partly because of Kamei’s chef’s training in Europe, which has resulted in a slight fusion take on some of the dishes – the Uni Carbonara being a great example.
Kamei cures its own fish too, and while seafood is clearly the star of the menu (you only need to glance through the menu to see dishes like its Grand Chirashi, Alaskan Sablefish, and an entire page’s worth of sashimi offerings), there are a few other interesting sharable dishes on offer too.
Think Beef Carpaccio (served with garlic aioli), Brandy Beef Short Ribs, and a Twin Impact Meat Bowl, as well as noodle dishes, chicken karaage, and a wild prawn tempura tower that goes especially well with a few pints of Japanese beer.
On the sweet side of things, Kamei makes its own in-house cheesecake, with the Oreo Cheesecake being the most popular, but Taw says that they do also bring in Japanese-influenced cheesecakes from local suppliers in flavours like ube and black sesame.
Needless to say, we spent a bit of time here, and whether that was because of all the food or the sunset slowly dipping behind the buildings behind us or the fact that we got to eat while sitting cross-legged on low cushions, who’s to say – but one thing is for sure: this place fits solidly into Vancouver’s Japanese restaurant scene as the cool older uncle figure.
It’s humble while decadent, and cozy while offering a sleek date night setting, and if you don’t order the Uni Carbonara, you’ll regret it – you’ve been warned.
Kamei on Broadway
Address: 601 W Broadway Unit 12, Vancouver