Chicago chower in need of lunch and dinner rec (and possible brunch) in BC, please!
I'll be visiting Washington for my sisters for Thanksgiving, but my dad and I are making a drive to BC. We're leaving early Friday morning (at around 6:30) from Olympia and so may or may not need a breakfast spot, maybe some excellent coffee place on the way (we are obsessed with coffee). I am looking for recs on one lunch and one dinner with my dad. We'll probably leave early morning Sunday to get back in Seattle for a brunch, but just in case, might need a rec for a breakfast place as well.
So here are some criteria:
We would rather not do huge heavy meals (we don't eat pork, I personally very rarely eat beef, and at home tend to prepare foods from the farmers market), and am flexible on price, atmosphere... from the vegan/health/organic/local scene to casual to upscale, I do it all. We prefer seafood, but in general, I love most foods. I have a particular affinity for the Cal cuisine, Japanese (esp. sushi), Contemp/New American, globally influenced foods and combining foods in ways you cannot create yourself, I LOVE seafood and raw bars as mentioned, Mediterranean influenced food (which encompasses a lot... my parents are Israeli so I love Med fare, and all things Med influenced...African, Morroccan, French, Vietnamese, you name it.). But other suggestions are welcome, as we love to try different ethnic cuisines.
But a word on ethnic cuisine for this criteria... I know there is a large Asian population, but I tend to dislike Chinese food. Dim Sum is pretty good if it's done well, but otherwise I'm usually underwhelmed. I've had some wonderful shark fin steamed dumplings at a hole in the wall dim sum spot in SF, but I'm not sure if there's a place that replicates that experience :) I like Vietnamese, Thai, and Malaysian food much more, but again if done wrong/greasy I really dislike it... If there are great fusion restaurants, I would definitely be open to trying. Japanese food, though, I absolutely love as I mentioned above.
So far from searching the boards I've come across mentions of:
Salt Tasting Room
Ethopian restaurants (although specific names weren't mentioned)
Whether it be upscale, trendy, cozy, or a hole in the wall, my focus here is just on amazing food that is really just an experience and enjoyable.
Thanks so much in advance!
I know this isn't what you're exactly looking for, but for lunch on friday, try Vancouver's new darling restaurant, Boneta. They're only open one day a week for lunch, Friday. They call it FOF (fuck off fridays) and it's outstanding.
For dinner, all the following are outstanding:
Tojos (best sushi but very expensive. but unreal)
Also a quick question about sushi for lunch, which restaurants carry goeduck and/or abalone on their menu? Which have great omakse (preferably with goeduck and/or abalone, ha)? If Tojo is so expensive (and I've heard reports that it's overrated), are there any other recs? Though if it has the above qualifications I may do it anyway :)
I don't think Tojo's is overrated... yes, it is expensive, but it's also in a class by itself, especially when it comes to the Omakse.
I don't know if they have Geoduck and/or Abalone on their menu. I really don't know what restaurants carry that specifically. Try calling Tojo's.
I know Kirin (12th and Cambie, or in Richmond) and Top Gun (Richmond) both have geoduck and abalone. They're both somewhat more upscale Chinese restaurants. I really enjoy them both and I haven't found them too greasy. As a plus, Top Gun also has some sashimi items on the menu. Mmm... geoduck sashimi.
I'm sure there are other places that have geoduck and abalone. I know there's a Chinese place at the corner of 41st and Granville that specializes in the higher end items (e.g. sharks fin, abalone, etc) but not as high end atmosphere that's pretty good. Does anyone know the name?
Japanese restaurants... I've definitely seen geoduck, but not abalone. Yoshi (on Denman) offers a good kaiseki dinner. I think Octopus Garden (on Cornwall) does too.
For izakayas... Guu with Garlic (Robson near Denman) is my favourite, but there's often quite a line-up. Kingyo nearby is a bit more pricey but also pretty fun with the bonus that they take reservations.
Tojo's may not be overrated, but Tojo is a total tool and service could not be more horrible considering the tariff involved. If you are going to do sushi, PLEASE do it somewhere else.
As for West, even with the kiddies I would make it DO NOT MISS, especially with your emphasis on farm to fork. Request the booth in the very back (it's our favorite). You get a great view of the kitchen, and if the littlest one gets a bit rowdy who's to know but the staff, and they will take fabulous care of you in the process. Go for the early bird if budget is an issue.
So I'm back from my day and a half in Vancouver and here to report!
We got in and went to C Restaurant, as we wanted a regional contemporary seafood restaurant that had won awards, and this fit the bill. On Friday's they do half off dinner entrees for lunch. We both tried the tasting menu, though I had the wine pairings. I also asked them if it was possible to substitute the Lobster Bisque for Oysters (because I just love them and had to try them in Vancouver), and they gladly obliged. Very, very nice service and staff. Helpful not only with the entrees, but stayed to give us touristy information on where to go and how to get there. Anyway, back to the restuarant... Let me just say before I start on the description of my meal, that the wine pairings were some of the best pairings I have ever had. So perfect, in fact, that I had the waiter write them down after the meal! Ok, on to the meal. I started out with a smoked trout salad over walnut puree and caviar. Not too strong, the flavors were subtle yet pronounced enough at the same time. The combination of flavors worked together really well. Next was the bisque for my dad, and the oysters for me. The oysters came with a spicy red pepper jelly and some sort of delicious mignonette. The oysters were, hands down, the best oysters I have ever had. I could have eaten that for the whole meal. Next was crispy trout over creamy truffle Israeli couscous, with dungeness and grapefruit on top. Everything (especially the fish) was prefectly cooked, but my only complaint would be that the couscous was just too rich for me. I'm sure it was still perfectly well done, but I generally don't enjoy risotto too much, which is was very similar to. So it was just me. For dessert was an apple tartin with cinnamon ice cream. Obviously seafood is their strong point... dessert didn't do much for me. Wasn't bad, just very standard, and something I could get at any restaurant. Overall, very impressed, especially with the oysters and wine pairings.
Went to Granville Island and traveled around the Market, some shops (got a great cheese book from Books for Cooks!), etc.
For dinner: I didn't get to go to West or Vij's, unfortunately. Reservations and timing just didn't work out for us... so I decided that once again, fresh fish was a must. Sushi, it was. I've heard mixed things about Tojo's, so decided not to take the chance and regret spending so much money. Went to Toshi's instead, after I had heard about long lines and quality fresh fish. All I can say is that I will forever be yearning for fish like that. And very, very reasonable!! With sake, seaweed salad (some of the best seaweed salad), tuna tataki, baked oyster, assorted nirigi (we had sea urchin, red fin tuna and red tuna, toro, salmon, octopus, yellowtail, tai, another form of snapper, eel... probably more that I'm forgetting), and tea, it was only 55 dollars. I was seriously impressed by the level of freshness. That was when I decided that sushi was on the agenda for lunch before we left the next day.
Breakfast was at Cafe Artigiano, as my dad and I are HUGE coffee connisours and cherish the art of it. We were once again blown away by the coffee, and bought about 2 pounds of it to go.
Went to the Yaletown Brewery as well and had a flight of 7 beers for 12 dollars, an excellent value in Chicago. Only 2 of the beers I really didn't like, the others were really outstanding. Yaletown is also a cute little area. Afterwards, we went to a special coffee distribting store that sells coffee but also sells their handmade Italian machines to select stores (Cafe Artigiano told us about the store), so we investigated. Now my dad and I are going to try a major project of buying the equipment, taking barista classes, doing the cupping, and finally roasting our own beans. It was a religious coffee awakening, I'll tell you!
Lunch was at Shiro's, which was small and cute, very friendly once again and busy even though it was basically 2:30 and almost closing when we got there. My dad ordered a lunch special which included some cooked items-- not their strongest point, but not bad either. The fish, however, was insanely fresh and delicious. I ordered nigiri-- salmon, toro, red fin tuna, hamachi. Ordered oysters and Oshinko, as well. All of it was great, and the Pocky at the end of the meal with our bill was a nice touch.
And just a note about Vancouver: LOVED IT. I am just hoping to go back and experience the little restaurants and pleothora and culturally diverse places, as well as the huge names such as West and Vij's. It's also such a walking city, and I was really impressed with not only the food and restaurants, but the stores, vibe of the city, beauty of the city, and the community. The people were all just so NICE! All in all: great trip, and I will be back to try out more of your suggestions :) Thanks, all!
I'm glad you enjoyed our city.
Swing over to Commercial Drive for coffee next time. Prado, Continental, or (for the old-style stuff) Joe's and Calabria (make sure to ask about the back story there). JJ Bean can do custom roasts for you on their old-style roaster.
Since you have described yourself as a coffee connoisseur, then you might already know about Sweet Marias (www.sweetmarias.com) . And if you reeeaally serious about coffee, then you must learn about the La Marzocco GS3. It will turn those 2 pounds of Artigiano beans into cups of gold.
You know, many people point to Seattle when they think "coffee"...I dunno about that.
fmed-- good to know about those coffee shops for future reference, thanks! And I think we are reeeallly serious about coffee, because we're already on the waiting list for a La Marzocco machine :) I was suprised that the level of coffee was superior to Seattle's... even the common stuff was incredible. Job well done! Can't wait for my machine... after that: barista/cupping classes.
And alex8alot-- the kids ended up staying at my sister's in Olympia, Washington. I still think both Shiro's and Toshi's would be appropriate to bring, though. Enjoy!
We're also looking to buy the GS3... glad to know someone who has it and loves it! Makes me more excited. I think once we figure out everything there is to know about the machine, the art of the coffee, and learning the barista techniques, we'll launch into the roasting project and purchase a home roasted. From what I've heard, I don't quite know what I'm getting myself into. I'm eager to find out, though!
Thanks for the rec!
Right now it's either Vij or West on Friday night. I'm assuming I need reservations for these places? Also, there is a slight possibility I'll have to go with my sister and her kids (4 years and 6 mos old), I doubt West is child appropriate, but what about Vij?
Also for lunch:
I want really great sushi while I'm here that I can't get anywhere else. I've always wanted to go to a Japanese Ikayazu (sp?), do they offer sashimi as well? Any mention of specific Japanese restaurants would be much appreciated...
Also, would like some clarification about Chinese food and other asian food to help me make my decision... I've always wanted to try geoduck and abolone (can't find it in Chicago!), but it seems like these are generally found in Chinese food. I usually don't enjoy Chinese as I find it to be greasy, too heavy, or too heavy on the pork/beef, which I don't eat. Even with dim sum, I enjoy the steamed items only if the restaurant (or dive) is great. I love seafood though, and so if the Chinese food here is authentic and different from the Chinese I get, and are the only Asian cuisine that offer the above items, I'd be willing to try. My preference would be to find a Japanese restaurant or other ethnic restaurant that offers these items, though.
Any thoughts? Thanks so much!!
Edit- speaking of dim sum... are there any hidden gem vendors or hole in the walls where you can take a steamed shark fin dumpling, or something equally as authentic, to go? Just to sample a bit of the flavor on the go, not for lunch...
Unless they have changed their policy it is my understanding that Vij's does not take reservations. From what I have read you need to be there prior to the door opening as otherwise there will be a wait...how long depends upon the day. Friday I would expect will be busy.
The line-up, no reservations drives some people to distraction. Others have commented that they did not mind it as they were escorted to the lounge and provided with appetizers while waiting for a table to clear.
That might not be too bad if you look at the drinks and appetizers as part of the overall experience.
However, with a four year old and 6 month old in tow, not my idea of a "fun time" for both you and the children.
Good luck. I am not sure if Rangoli next door would work better.
Vij has been on our "must try" list for quite some time but we are usually preoccupied with family or friends so have not managed to get there.