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Vancouver Report - CA hounds' attempt to eat the city Pt. III

PolarBear Jul 29, 2006 08:46 PM

Part III: Dining reviews of:

Nat’s NY Pizza
Vij’s
Big D’s (Squamish)
Banana Leaf
Café Crepe
Guu w/Garlic (3rd visit)

Tuesday morning had our now traditional Siegel’s bagels and decided we felt pretty lazy. Not wanting to walk very far for lunch, figured we’d give Nat’s NY Pizza a shot. We shared a small Caesar salad (3.95) that was decent, and a slice each of Meat Deluxe, Mushroom, and the Artichoke Pesto, the pizza was OK, noticed that the meats on the deluxe seemed to be of high quality. Total was about $14.

Rested up by evening, got in the car and headed to Richmond to check out the night market, unfortunately didn’t check my chownotes that would have reminded me that it is on weekends only, but at least now we know how to find it.

Looking back, I may have subconsciously suppressed knowledge of the market not being open since the route back took us right by Vij’s where I was able to sweet talk my lovely wife into stopping for dinner. The place was packed and finding no parking available, I dropped Lady PB off in front and went searching, which took only a few minutes, and returned to find her nowhere in sight. Peeked inside to find her already seated looking over the menu.

We knew from the reports on CH that the Wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry (24) were an absolute must, and they didn’t disappoint, possibly the best lamb and flavor combination we’ve ever had. We also shared an appetizer, Braised wild boar in black mustard seed and cream curry with spicy millet and sunflower seed pilaf (10.50). Perfectly charred edges on the rich and succulent meat with the sauce adding layers and depth of flavors, would return and have these two dishes over and over again. Warm tasty naan and a side of fried cassava with mint/cilantro sauce rounded out the meal. The wine list is short but with some interesting choices, one rarity was the Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner (Austria). The menu just states “Bottle $35 Glass $8.75” which appears to apply to the dozen or so selections. I had two glasses of a new arrival, Il Gufo Barbera that was reco’d by our waitress, perfect match with our two dishes, and ironically turned out to be from our neck of the woods up in Napa. Total pre t/t $63 CD. Two other entrees looked intriguing, Halibut, mussels, and crab in tomato-ginger cream curry with raw sugar dandied walnuts (25), and Grilled venison medallions with eggplant and date puree on ginger, lemon and cumin sautéed vegetables.

Vij’s, 1480 West 11th Avenue

Wednesday was road trip day, headed up to Squamish (about halfway to Whistler). Much construction all along the highway in preparation for the upcoming Olympics, still can’t imagine how that road is going to be able to handle all the traffic. Stopped at Big D’s café for lunch, unfortunately we figured the D must stand for Disappointment. Service was slow and erratic, and food lackluster as if they were just going through the motions. There was another café another few blocks north along the main drag that was doing a good business. Would highly recommend giving them a shot instead if in the area.

The drive was totally worth the effort since we stopped and hiked up to the base of this beautiful waterfall (Shannon Falls?) on the way back.

On one of our previous days menu sniffing on Denman, we’d stopped and met the owner of Banana Leaf, a Malaysian place that the lady we were renting the apartment from had recommended. We asked about his specialties and customers’ favorite dishes and were told everyone comes for the Black Cod. Walking in again that evening without reservations and groups of four being turned away, the two of use were seated almost immediately.

Started with the Roti Canai, a delicious flaky bread with curry dipping sauce (3), could easily get carried away and fill up on this. I had to have my mussel fix so had them as and appetizer, prepared in a cumin and ginger sauce, Lady PB, not a fan of these bivalves, nevertheless, would not relinquish the bowl until the last drop of sauce had been soaked up with bread. Mussels themselves were plump and perfectly cooked. We shared entrees, the Black Cod in carmelized ginger (20) that consisted of two very generous filets of the best melt in your mouth fish I’ve had in ages, full of flavor by but not overpowered by the ginger, that on its own was wonderful, and an order of the Char Kuey Teow (12), seafood noodles in sweet soy sauce & chili with egg, beansprouts, shrimp tofu fishcake, and squid. Yet another bursting with flavor taste treat. Didn’t really need a side dish but the Okra, eggplant, asparagus, tomato Sambal (8), chili fried in dried shrimp paste, sounded too good to pass up, so glad we didn’t miss it. With two glasses of J&H Selbach Riesling (Mosel) “The Fish Label” Qbf (7.5 ea) the total came to around $70 CD pre t/t, but keep in mind we had enough food to feed at least one more person. Ended up taking half the seafood pasta and vegetables home with us. This place also earned a high spot on our return must visit list.

Banana Leaf, 1096 Denman

Thursday morning with the realization this would be our last full day in this great city finally sinking in, we wanted to make the most of it. Lady PB didn’t want to leave without reliving the sights, sounds, and smells of Chinatown, especially since we had foregone plans to have dim sum and at least one of the market experiences in Richmond.

Headed down Robson and picked up a couple of Europa Ham & Swiss crepes from the sidewalk window at Café Crepe, the perfect fuel for some serious walking. Did the whole tourista thing, up and down every major street in Chinatown, checking out the exotic looking fruits and vegetables, dried mushrooms, crustaceans, and fish, etc. Walked by as one vendor was getting a fish delivery, they were still flopping around in the basket. We now know where to get really fresh fish next time we’re in town and wanting to cook our own dinner. Picked up a pork bun and a nice link of Chinese sausage to munch on as we headed back toward the West End.

Picked up a couple of nice BC Merlots for gifts in Yaletown, a Sand Hill from the Okanagan Valley and a bottle of the Township 7. Both were reco'd by fellow diners at Guu. Swung by Ganache Patisserie on Homer Street that was recommended by Mooshmouse. We had walked by at least three times previously only to find it closed, holiday weekend and all. It was well worth the wait, scored major points with my lady bear for coming up with this one. Arrived back at our digs tired and hungry so finished off the Pili Pili chicken from Samba’s and the seafood noodles from Banana Leaf for a relaxing lunch.

Walked over to Guu for our 7:00 pm reservations that evening, I’d noticed people congregating outside earlier a half hour or more before their opening time when I had visited the Internet access service next door. There were probably 15-20 waiting around outside. We were greeted warmly by Daisuke and seated at the bar within 5 minutes.

We kept our repeat orders trimmed back to just the Ebi-Mayo and the Almond Tofu. On advice from the folks we sat next to on our last visit we tried the Agedashi-Dofu (3.90), deep fried tofu in a soy based broth topped with spicy cod roe, green onions, and dried seaweed. We’ve never been big tofu fans, but Guu is turning us into converts. The dish was light and refreshing but with plenty of flavor. The Kaki-Mayo-Yaki (4.20), baked oysters (2) with spicy cod roe, corn, and mayonaisse served in the shell were fantastic! I must seem like a broken record but these are the best prepared oysters I’ve ever tasted, forget Rockefeller and all the others. Xinh’s in Shelton WA were damn good, but these satisfy on a whole other level, wished I’d known on our first visit. We also tried the Tako-Yaki (3.60), deep fried octopus balled in a batter dressed with tonkatsu sauce and wasabi mayonaisse, topped with dried seaweed. We thought this the least successful of all of Guu’s offerings that we tried, while there was really nothing wrong, it just seemed to pale in comparison to everything else. For my final Guu experience I chose the Kakuni (5.40) stewed pork belly in soya based kakuni sauce with boiled egg topped off with Japanese mustard and pepper. (I had wanted to try this our first visit but it wasn’t available that evening). My first experience with pork belly had been just the previous week at Paprika in Oak Bay, ouyside Victoria. There the smokiness of the meat was overpowering. Guu’s treatment was the opposite, the sauce was just deep flavored enough to enhance the richness of the tender pork belly. Three glasses of a local wine (Sauv. Blanc, iirc) and a total pre t/t of about $47 CD. Looking back I can’t help but notice how remarkable it is that, as hard as we tried to spend more, two people can eat this well for under $50. We left wishing Daisuke well with his assignment in Gastown and plotting the earliest date on our calendar that we might be able to return.

Guu w/Garlic, 1698 Robson at Bidwell, 604-685-8678

Link to Pt I
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/312746

Link to Pt II
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...