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Vancouver questions

I find that I will be in Vancouver for one night, probably in June. I am a complete blank slate where this part of the world is concerned. I know absolutely nothing about it.

I will have one dinner, one breakfast, and maybe one lunch. (Dinner, at least, will be a party of 8.)

I dont really care for high end, dress-up-in-your-Sunday-go-to-meetin'-clothes, fine dining places, especially since I will be there for only one night and will be traveling very light. I much prefer casual, comfortable surroundings and local specialties.

So please help:

What do they do in Vancouver best? What do they do in Vancouver better that anyplace else? Where can I get these dishes?

I know that Vancouver has a Chinatown; Is anything particularly recommended for a guy coming from a city that doesnt have a Chinatown but has been to the ones in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and London?

Is there a good place to get poutine in Vancouver, or is this strictly an Eastern Canada thing?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

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  1. Don't go to Chinatown--go to Richmond, number 3 road. Sun Sui Wah or Kirin are good for dim sum and Chinese food.

    Tojos for japanese.

    Rodney's Oyster House.

    Blue Water for seafood.

    Hapa Izaka or Suri Bay or Guu for japanese izakaya.

    There are so many good restaurants, hard to name them all.

    1. I think what Vancouver does best is Chinese food, seafood and sushi.

      Stay away from Chinatown. It's merely a tourist photo-op at this point. The place to go is Richmond, where the airport is located. That's really where the Chinese community is based. Many times, you won't even see an English sign.

      Clost to No. 3 Rd, Fishermen's Terrace has great dim sum you order off a menu. It's on the third floor of Chinese mall Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way).

      Great for dinner is Shanghai River Restaurant. Serves Shanghai specialties like dumplings and fresh stretched noodles.
      110 - 7831 Westminster Hwy., Richmond Tel: 604-233-8885

      Both are casual. Service isn't high-end but is brisk and efficient.

      For sushi, try Shiru Bay Chopstick Cafe closer to downtown Vancouver, in Yaletown. Inventive, tasty and fresh! Casual and modern but not chi-chi at all.
      Shiru-Bay Chopstick Cafe, 1193 Hamilton St., Vancouver, B.C., (604) 408-9315.

      Poutine is best in Quebec but if you're dying to try it in Vancouver, there's a tiny place downtown called Fritz that does decent fresh fries with real cheese curds.
      Fritz European Fry House - 718 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada - (604) 684-0811

      Have fun!

      1. well firstly van's chinatown is just not like any other one (2nd biggest in n.a) and i don't believe a trip to richmond is neccesary are there are branches of sun sui wah and kirin in the city as well as guu, gyoza king and hapa as well

        1 Reply
        1. re: vandan

          IMO Vancouver's Chinatown IS like any other, esp when the Chinese community itself doesn't really even use it anymore. Tired old welcome gate, tired old photo-ops and run-down stores.

          Vancouver definitely has great Chinese restaurants but I think the ones in Richmond are under-rated, and most Chinese people in Van would agree the best (and most innovative) ones are now in that city.

        2. "the chinese community doesn't really even use it anymore", REALLY well i'm down there almost everyday and therefore would WHOLEHEARTEDLY disagree with you and just the scale of it means its not just like any other

          1 Reply
          1. re: vandan

            Hey Vandan, I apologize for generalizing. My own experience of having grown up on East Pender is that Van's Chinatown is just not as bustling as it used to be in the shadow of those huge malls in Richmond. And it's been sad to see the stores and restaurants getting older and less used.

            On the other hand, as awful as the strip malls are in Richmond, that's really where the new restaurants and new Chinese chefs are oepning up. That's all. Again, apologies if I offended.

          2. I was cycling through/shopping in Chinatown not 2 hours ago-streets were packed/shops restaurants were full per as usual.

            The idea that someone has to journey to the drear suburb of Richmond to eat well is nonsense.

            As to 'dressing up'-very little of that here.

              1. Thank you for all your suggestions so far, but let me put the question another way:

                If you had lived in Vancouver all your life and then moved away to...anywhere, what meal would you be craving the most three or four years later, and where would you have gotten it?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Fydeaux

                  Seared scallop in corn and basil veloutte at West
                  Sushi at any number of locales
                  Lamb Popsicles at Vij's

                  1. re: Fydeaux

                    Fydeaux - let me try to help. Born & raised in Vancouver but now live in the U.S. When I'm back in Vancouver, there are 3 restaurants I insist on hitting.
                    In terms of finding something casual, don't worry too much about how you're dressed - Vancouver dining is generally not too uptight compared to say NYC, especially if you're eating Asian, which is the local strength. Unless you're going to Bishop's or Le Crocodile or Lumiere or something like that, you'll be fine.
                    In no particular order, my 3 picks:
                    (1) Guu with Garlic, on Robson. (Guu has 3 Vancouver locations, all confusingly close to one another, w/ slightly varying menus. This is probably the best of them. Open late; be prepared to wait.) Izakaya dining is hard to find outside Vancouver. Nankotsu karaage (deep-fried chicken cartilage), kimchi udon are good. The annin tofu is to die for, and kills the idea that Asians can't do dessert. Relatively cheap & crowded, for Japanese food (caters somewhat to Japanese students in Vancouver to study English). If you can't endure the loooong wait, Hapa Izakaya (note correct spelling) is further up Robson on opposite side of street and has shorter waits and an arguably more sophisticated menu, but service there can be truly awful. Or Zukkushi Grill is just around the corner on Denman, also izakaya but specializing in skewers. Of these 3, only Hapa Izakaya has the room to easily accommodate 8 for dinner.
                    (2) Banana Leaf - the original Broadway location, between Oak and Cambie. Malaysian. Roti canai, lamb curry, the Malaysian iced tea are all strong, as is the seafood there generally. Wins awards.
                    (3) Shanghai River, inconveniently located in Richmond, on Westminster Hwy @ No. 3 Rd. They're known for their Shanghainese dumplings (the crab ones are unique), but also try the "dan dan" noodles (peanut sauce), the fried golden rolls (served w/ a sweet condensed milk dip), and the cold green bean paste appetizer. This is not a greasy hole-in-the-wall but has an open kitchen where you can watch the dumpling dough being tossed.
                    Hono[u]rable mention to Sun Sui Wah's original location, which is *not* in Richmond but is *much* more conveniently located on the second floor of a nondescript building on Main Street, not far from King Edward. They're Cantonese, which is Vancouver's main strength in Chinese food. Both dim sum (i.e., Cantonese lunch goodies served on wheeled carts) and dinner are great. If the Alaskan king crab is in season, it's worth the splurge, cooked in a light garlic sauce. Wins awards. Enormous room, but call ahead for an 8-person dinner.
                    I've also had good experience w/ Kirin (original location near City Hall) but have occasionally heard bad stories second-hand (involving overcharging - not about the food). Also Cantonese, and also wins awards.
                    Re: the suggestions/comments above:
                    People are right about one thing: you can pretty much forget Chinatown, EXCEPT for Phnom Penh, tucked away on a side street. Very good Cambodian/Vietnamese, cheap, super-casual. Used to have multiple locations, now just the original. The food didn't go downhill; perhaps people just got bored?
                    I also concur in the recommendation on Fritz for poutine, but that is only snack food. You can't have a full meal there.
                    Just tried Rodney's Oyster House tonight, as someone suggested above. OK but hardly "best of Vancouver" - very short/simple menu, well executed but not distinctive. Also, not a Vancouver original (they're from Toronto).
                    Vij's and the casual-concept spinoff Tamarind, both off W 4th, have been overrun by American tourists ever since the NY Times wrote them up. Food and service are fine, but you can and should do better w/ your very limited time. If you were in town for 5+ days, then I would say sure, put them on your itinerary.

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      I was in France last October and ate very well there. The first place I hit when I landed in YVR was Gain Wah in Chinatown. My regular fav is their unique Chinese curry (beef or chicken). Can't get it anywhere else. It is awesome.

                    2. The wild mushroom veloutte topped with truffle oil served as an amuse bouche in an espresso cup at West

                      1. Thanks for all the great suggestions (and davismaximus. special thanks for the great detail-exactly the type of feedback I was hoping for.) I will be looking into all of these and asking more questions as the time gets closer.

                        Does anyone have anything to say about a place called The Dockside? They seem to have some excellent sounding dishes on their menu, especially for a restaurant located in a hotel.

                        1. I've only been there once and for a small elegant wedding. I remember a squash soup and a bison entree being superb. I liked the atmosphere esp when the sun was setting and it doesn't feel or look like a "hotel" restaurant.

                          1. Whenever I'm in Vancouver I LOVE to go to Bin 941. Talk about great food in a very relaxed atmosphere. Local food & beverages abound. Did I mention open late as well?

                            1. Fydeaux - no clue about the Dockside. I think it really depends on how serious you are about doing something that Vancouver is unusually good at, which to my mind means some kind of Asian (but whether Asian means Cantonese, Shanghainese, Japanese-Izakaya, Malaysian ... that's harder to say). If you're going to do non-Asian but want a uniquely Vancouver setting, the kitchen at the Sequioa [sic?] Grill in the heart of Stanley Park is very strong and does have a West Coast flavor. And the view at sunset is terrific. The restaurant in Queen Elizabeth Park (can't remember what it's called) has similar strengths and not coincidentally is run by the same folks as the Sequioa Grill.
                              The Raincity Grill also does nice west coast cuisine and has a lovely location on English Bay - not much of a view from the restaurant itself.
                              Bin 941 is enjoyable but again, not what I'd pick for a "I have one day in Vancouver and want to make the most of it, foodwise" situation. People go there on casual dates. And it's very cramped. Forget about dinner for 8.
                              For your situation, I still stand by my 3 original suggestions (4 if you count Sun Sui Wah)..

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: davismaximus


                                I think the spot you are referring to in Queen Elizabeth Park is Seasons aka Seasons in the Park aka Seasons Hill Top Bisto...I see it referred to in a number of cominations.

                                It has been a spot we have intended to try during...at least of late... too infrequent visits to Vancouver but have not yet been.

                                I was interested to read your generally positive comments about the Sequuoia Grill. It became part of our "dining routine" whenever we crossed the Lions' Gate from the North Shore to have a lunch at what was then the Teahouse in Stanley Park which I think was changed into the Sequoia. The food was not outstanding but it was very good, consistent, nice wine list and a fabulous view on the right day. Nice place to stop into before or after a walk through the park or on the seawall.

                                We'll be out your way in late February or early March and are looking forward to it.

                                1. re: Bob Mac

                                  I'd call Sequoia Grill a big improvement over the Teahouse, which I wouldn't have recommended. I would agree that the food alone does *not* make it a "must-visit" for a short-time visitor to Vancouver. But add in the room/location/view, *and* the need for someplace that can comfortably do dinner for 8, *and* a hypothetical stipulation that Fydeaux decides not to go the (heavily recommended) Asian route, *then* it might work for his (polycentric) needs.

                                  But again, it definitely isn't the meal I'm itching to have when I get off the plane and step into the Vancouver rain. I want the nankotsu karaage and kimchi udon and annin tofu at Guu with Garlic, or the lamb curry and roti canai and coconut sticky rice at Banana Leaf, or the peanut noodles and crab dumplings and golden fried buns at Shanghai River.

                                  If it's lunchtime, I want dim sum at Sun Sui Wah. They do things there that I haven't seen anywhere else. I don't know what some of those things are called, in either English or Chinese. I just know them when I see them. And fortunately all I have to do is point.

                                  And if it's brunch, I want the French toast and lobster poutine at Feenie's, on West Broadway. (For poutine, it ain't cheap, but it's gourmet, and you get what you pay for. I think they might have it during the week too, in which case Fydeaux is *really* in luck if he wants to try poutine in Vancouver. Yes, they have a non-lobster version too. But if you're going to clog your arteries anyway, why not splurge and go all the way?) For brunch, I am also happy to eat at Provence (the one on the water) or the Raincity Grill, among other places. But ... no lobster poutine there, ha ha.

                                  God I miss Vancouver.