Like beautiful knives? You’re going to love these two new stores

Ai & Om and Knifewear are upping Vancouver's knife scene

July 21, 2016

By Max Fawcett

Ladies and gentlemen, sharpen your edges. Vancouver’s knife trade has never been lacking for selection, but it’s about to get a whole lot more competitive with the arrival of two new players. Ai & Om will showcase the affection that owner Douglas Chang, a local chef who’s done stints at Bambudda and Sai Woo, has for Japanese knives. But his new shop is going to face competition from, fittingly enough, the east (the near east, anyway). After running a series of popular pop-up shops, Calgary’s Knifewear has finally set down roots in Vancouver, starting with a store on East Hastings next door to Les Amis du Fromage.

What’s the appeal of Japanese knives? For Knifewear owner Kevin Kent, it’s all about performance. “If you like cooking, the knives just make it easier because they go where you tell them to.” They’re becoming more common in kitchens across the city, too, a function of the fact that Japanese knives have some very powerful (and unpaid) celebrity spokespeople: local chefs.

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Knifewear, for example, counts Quang Dang, the executive chef at West, as one of its more loyal local customers. “They’re the ones who are most excited and kind of rabid about the whole thing,” Kent says. “But as we’re in a market longer, they become about 20 percent of the customer base, and the other 80 percent is people who have a kitchen at home. Which, by the way, is most people.”

The Cutting Edge

For those who are just starting their own knife collection (or who haven’t experienced the pleasures of working with knives made from Japanese steel), it’s probably best to start with a standard gyuto, or chef’s knife. “It’s your multi-purpose knife,” says Knifewear owner Kevin Kent, “the one you could do all of your jobs with.”

Higher end – “We can go crazy and get a knife that’s hand-made by Mr. Fujiwara, who’s one of the greatest blacksmiths in the world. A chef’s knife is about $800. But when you use it, you’ll say things like ‘Holy bananas!’ because it’s awesome.” 210 mm, $795
Lower end – “We’ve got a line called Kasumi Uchi, which is a factory-made knife but looks like it’s been hand-hammered. It has dimples all over the blade, a Western handle so it doesn’t feel too forward or weird, and it’s going to perform like crazy.” 210 mm, $185

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