Review: Aiyaohno Cafe

The husband wife duo are cooking up something unique in Gastown

You can’t have a cafe tour near Chinatown without an Asian-influenced spot. The neighbourhood, sadly, has fewer than you’d think. 

Luckily the newer kid on the block, Aiyaohno Cafe at 425 Carrall St., is here to fill the void.

Nestled inside the BC Electric Railway Building, the place can be hard to get into, requiring a code to enter. I say this because it can make for a weird first experience. I also lead with it because the tiny inconvenience is a small price to pay to discover what this husband and wife team is cooking up. 

Part cafe, part restaurant, part clothing shop, it’s trying to do many things, and succeeds at them all. With a steady stream of people visiting, the two of them managed the chaos of ordering, coffee creation, food preparation, clean-up and friendly hospitality in a way that would make a Michelin chef nod approvingly. It’s a frenzied, focused energy that has to come from a love of their work. 

One way Aiyaohno stands out is with its unique drinks, like Durian hot chocolate, hojicha chai and sakura latte. Bonus points for creativity. But how did they taste?

I tried the sakura latte. It was beautifully made, and creamy and rich, like a thick hot chocolate. The salt permeated the drink, amplifying the sweetness of the latte. Sakura, cherry blossoms, were sprinkled on the top, and you could taste a hint of them throughout. Well done. 

The drink wasn’t cheap, if I recall, it was around $6. But quality should be rewarded.

  • It took a little while to arrive, but I never hold it against cafes, especially one as busy as Aiyaohno.

Aiyaohno Cafe chocolate cookie

Aiyaohno Cafe chocolate cookie. Vancity Lookout/Geoff sharpe

I paired it with the chocolate and toasted pumpkin seed cookie. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft like a doughy brownie, it’s the texture you want in a cookie, but that you can never quite replicate at home. The chocolate flavour was strong throughout, but it was the toasted pumpkin seeds that broke through, a subtle taste that clung to your mouth, leaving a faint nutty aftertaste. I want the recipe. 

Aiyaohno Cafe uni butter udon

Aiyaohno Cafe uni butter udon. Vancity Lookout/Geoff Sharpe

Working away in the back of the tiny space, the team at Aiyaohno is whipping up some unique lunch dishes. Cold sesame chili ramen ($14.50), uni miso butter udon ($21.50) and vegan teriyaki chik’n ($14.50) along with sandwiches like the truffled ramen egg ($13), smoked wild local BC sockeye and wild BC uni sea urchin cheese melt ($18.50), offer an intriguing combination of flavours, focused on local seafood. 

  • Vegetarians, vegans and those of you gluten-free rejoice, this is the place for you. Almost half the menu items were vegetarian and if they were anything like my dish, you’ll be visiting often. 

Still full from my visit to Di Beppe, I opted for one dish, the uni miso butter udon, with a house miso blend. Butter enveloped each noodle, which had a nice bite, and an ocean water mouthful of uni. It was, all together, a marrying of flavours I’ve never had together. The chef knows what he’s doing.

Aiyaohno is the perfect place for a lunch stop, with dishes to satisfy all diets. Keep an eye on them. A small place like that cannot contain the creativity on display.