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Vancouver report (Long)

g
Gobstopper Oct 17, 2006 09:30 PM

DAY 1

We found Gyoza King and Guu to be closed, and settled for a busy Korean restaurant on Robson. Good food, all the standard side dishes, hot and spicy - Not remarkable, but compared to Calgary where you have to go out of your way for Korean, it was nice.

That night we endured a 80 minute wait (after being told 45 minutes) at Guu with Garlic. As our blood sugar levels dropped on a cold bench on Robson, we went through the usual emotional ride that accompanies starvation. Once we got seated and had a splash of Dan Dan vodka going through us, things started to look up.

Grilled Yellowtail cheek
- awesome and tender - the best part was definitely the buried jaw muscle between two bones.

Grilled Squid
- on a couple skewers and grilled for a long time. It had a density like clay, yielding and not chewy, but with a crisp outside. Served sliced with a garlicky mayo.

Prawn and Chili pizza
- basically Sambal with prawns on a fajita with cheese.

Deep fried Bacon and Avocado rolls
- breaded and deep fried bacon wrapped avocado slices. Maybe easy to eat because of the variety of fat. Would eat on every cold day if someone else would make them.

Tako Yaki
- The only dish that was the same as anything in Calgary - totally standard.

DAY 2

For breakfast we just grabbed a Latte (Delany of Denman) and a croissant at Granville Island (LeBaguette?). Good coffee. Baked goods done at sea level hold a magical charm for me so I was enjoying that.

For lunch we headed back to Robson to try on Gyoza King. Nice enough room, friendly staff. I've heard they get a bunch of the industry (restaurant) crowd as they are open until 2 am.

Shorya - Pork ramen, wicked, perfect clear chinese consomme broth.
Shrimp Gyoza - surpising and shrimpy and fresh in the mouth.
Spinach Gyoza - a bit wet in the mouth, but very good.
Ebi Mayo – Perfect, lightly breaded and more mayo. You could eat 3 lbs in about 5 minutes

This time for dinner, we thought to get ahead of the line up a bit. So we arrived at BIN 941 at 5:40 (they open at 5:30). Despite the early hour, we were only able to sit at the bar or on the line of the kitchen. We chose the kitchen seats, and watched two cooks and a dishwasher work clean, fast, and make very nice food.

Amuse – A grilled tomato soup in a wee cup, very nice (not sure if everyone gets one or just people who order a dinner size number of items).

Mussels – with coconut milk and garam masala. Nice and plump and a full pound for a mere 12 dollars. Excellent value and off to a great start.

Frites – For five dollars I was expecting a McDonalds size fries that were nicely done. What we got was a mountain of hickory stick size fries with a balsamic reduction. Very good but maybe less is more sometimes.

Crab Cakes – Burnt Orange sauce was good and teases the mouth nicely. Bok Choy and crab cakes were well executed but nothing special.

Duck Breast – The duck was delicious and served with a port and cranberry reduction. The killer was a warm potato and goatcheese salad topped with frisee and truffle oil. Like the burnt orange sauce they both played on the edge of bitterness and we loved having those dishes along side the big bad liberty school wine.

Coconut Cheesecake – Served with an a la minute banana caramel sauce. I loved how in a small Stunning (though considering how gorgeous their plating in general was, I was surprised to see a slice of cheesecake rather then a small round singular cheesecake.

BIN 941 was loud, upbeat and fast. Because we sat near the wall in at the kitchen beside each other, it ended up being a nice intimate dinner in a great setting. With a couple glasses of wine the bill wasn’t steep, but was a relatively serious amount of cash. By comparison, Guu was about half the price, though the food was not as complex.

DAY 3

Our first day of rain in Vancouver, which made for some misery getting around. Only one food stop worth noting – WEST. I made the reservation before we had arrived, as I didn’t want the opportunity to eat there to slip by. We planned to get the fixed price early bird menu, 3 courses for 45 dollars each. The nice thing about the cheaper menu is they still give you three choices per course, so we basically split the menu down the middle and went to. We started with cocktails and some Norwegian still water, and off we went:

Amuse – Seafood Bisque in a small cup. Frothy, light, hot, deep and a portent of what was to come, a very very expertly executed meal.

Duck Confit salad with candied walnuts – I admit I expected a few bits of duck to be in a salad, rather then what we received which was the whole duck leg. I’m curious if they candy the walnuts in house as they were remarkably thinly coated. The greens were phenomenal and the honey striped beets were perfect.

Curry and butternut squash risotto – Good, well executed, perfectly sliced chives etc. The toasted sage leaves were excellent and if there is a complaint, it was I would have wanted more of them. But I know many people get a bit sour about sage.

So at this point we were still in a relatively empty restaurant and had chatted with the waitress. She asked where we had heard of WEST and I told her my cooking background. The Maitre’D then showed up with a surprise from the kitchen which was awesome!

Pine mushroom, seared scallop and lobster soup - All the ingredients were in a nice pile in a big soup bowl, and the consommé (?) was poured overtop. It was awesome and the scallop was sweet and tender. Anytime you get something off the menu it always feels great, so that was delicious.

Pot roasted suckling pig, braised bacon, seared potato – very good. If you have never had braised bacon, you might not know that it is the most sublime thing on the planet. Served with thyme jus etc. FYI I believe they comped the bacon and it wouldn’t normally come on the early lower priced tasting menu.

Prosciutto and bread stuffed chicken with pomme puree – fantastic presentation. Spot on cooking. The potato puree was unbelievably light and rich. Also had a gravy foam.

Kiwi Taco with Corn ice cream – I’ve had corn ice cream before and it is a wonderful thing. The ‘Taco’ was actually one of those very thin French butter cookies with a bend in it, and the kiwi pineapple salsa was on top of a passionfruit foam. A refreshing contemporary dessert, but also one that references the classic fruit mousses of continental hotels.

Banana Chocolate cake – Served with a pomegranate ice (dirty sno-cone) and a vanilla anglaise with tapioca. The chocolate cake sold this dish by virtue of it’s deadly dark side almost bitter chocolate flavour.

We very happily finished on tap water and some petit fours that came from the kitchen – peanut butter squares and a lemon rose jelly. It was an excellent dinner, undoubtedly amongst the very best I have ever had. The dishes were precise and focused in their intent, the portions were small enough that we were able to get through the number of courses. Flawless seasoning. I know that in theory there are ‘supposedly’ better restaurants in the world, but I feel blessed to have done what can only be the best Vancouver has to offer.

  1. g
    Gobstopper Oct 20, 2006 09:41 PM

    I've never had a problem with the Eau Claire location either. The Foothills staff are friendly enough. However, they never grind their espresso to order, the lattes are half foam or worse. You are a great ambassador for coffee, but I just give up after three strikes.

    1. GroovinGourmet Oct 19, 2006 11:39 PM

      Great report...glad West was up to their usual extraordinary snuff.

      That lobster pine mushroom broth thing is amazing...part of our tasting menu last month.

      David Hawksworth and his staff kick total booty.

      1. g
        Gobstopper Oct 19, 2006 05:23 PM

        John -
        I'm working over at the Health sciences centre, so I suppose Good Earth at Foothills (blech) is the best we've got. We've taken to grinding, brewing our own to avoid the general dishwater. I'm still on the roster at the restaurant, but not actively picking up shifts.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gobstopper
          John Manzo Oct 20, 2006 02:17 AM

          Is there something wrong with that Good Earth? the one at ICT has been superb- in fact Jay (of the Eau Claire branch, with the dredlocks- he works at the ICT Good Earth on Tues and Thurs) ) made me a macchiato with beautiful latte art today (a rosette that was sort of along the edge of the foam, lovely) and their espresso is always good, sometimes perfect- compared to Coffee Company, in Mac Hall- the place without a tamper- and the superautomatica crap at the Bookstore, I am THRILLED to have Good Earth. In fact I'd say they're one of the best chains in the country.

          I don't know how their brewed is because I never drink brewed coffee, but when they have such a good product with well-trained baristas and students are lining up for Tim Horton's swill- it makes me sick.

        2. g
          Gobstopper Oct 18, 2006 01:17 PM

          We missed out on Artigiano - it entirely slipped my mind. Delaney was good but not mind blowing.

          Currently I'm nowhere near decent coffee at work, so my bar of quality is quite low.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gobstopper
            John Manzo Oct 18, 2006 09:46 PM

            Where are ya these days?

          2. John Manzo Oct 18, 2006 02:09 AM

            One thing: There is much MUCH better coffee than Delaney's in Vancouver- not so much in the west end sadly but I'd take the walk to Artigiano on Hornby by the art museum or Cafe 0 in Yaletown.

            1. j
              JWh Oct 18, 2006 01:06 AM

              Zakkushi Prices: very similar to Guu (I think a little better) The salads are HUGE and the Chicken Don is only $7-$8 and well worth it. The grilled skewers range in price but I think they start at about $2-3.

              The lunches are the BEST deal in town - one of my favorite places tp go. Nothing over $10 and the lunch selections are amazing - Katsu Curry, Chicken Karage Don, Udon Soup, Soba Noodles, Negi Toro, Teriyaki, just to name a few. Lunch is Tuesday - Saturday 11:45-3

              They just opened another location in Kits on W.4th. Very small, only about 4 tables and the wait for the food is very LONG (seeing as the grill is so much smaller)

              http://www.zakkushi.com/index.htm

              1. b
                Bob Mac Oct 17, 2006 10:29 PM

                Thanks for the review Gobstopper.

                Nice to see that West met and exceeded your expectations.

                Bin 941 sounded good as well.

                After reading some of the courses I am ravenous.

                Know what you mean about the sage leaves. Can be delicious in brown butter sage sauce with butternut squash ravioli. The amuse sounds good as well. Our last visit it was an espresso cup of just about the best wild mushroom soup veloutte I have ever had topped with white truffle oil.

                We head off for the coast en route to Tofino Saturday morning. Won't be visiting Vancouver this time except hightailing it across North and West Vancouver to make the 12:20 p.m. ferry to Nanaimo. Another trip. Perhaps in the Spring.

                1. g
                  Gobstopper Oct 17, 2006 10:08 PM

                  It did indeed look well worth it - Are the prices the same ballpark as Guu and company?

                  1. g
                    Gobstopper Oct 17, 2006 09:47 PM

                    I will just add two points -
                    We didn't go for sushi at all, that will have to be another trip.
                    Also, I don't know the name of it but we wanted to go to the skewers on the grill place of Denman and Robson; it was closed whenever we were able to go by.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Gobstopper
                      v
                      vandan Oct 17, 2006 09:57 PM

                      its called zakushi and its well worth it

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