Looking for Vancouver/Victoria recommendations
Foodies from the upper midwest finally getting to the NW meccas we have heard so much about. We know we want to gorge on wonderful asian fare, also looking for hidden treasures. Extremely adventurous and don't need fancy except for one night in Vancouver --- my fiftieth. We have only 2 nights in Vancouver, 3 in Victoria in June. What are the "musts?"
Breakfast: Blue Fox, Floyd's, Lady Marmalade, Willy's Bakery
Tea: The Pacific Restaurant @ the Hotel Grand Pacific - A wonderful take on Afternoon Tea. Reasonably priced and excellent flavour. Great choice of Tea's too!
- I'll 3rd the recommendations for Rosemeade - wonderful food, lovely room and service
- Brasserie l'Ecole (as already mentioned) is also very good: French bistro fare
- For tea, I've enjoyed White Heather Tea Room
- Choux Choux to buy some picnic fare - very good house-made pates and sausages
- For lunch (M-F only), Daidoco is one of my musts - it's a small family-run Japanese deli that serves daily specials based on what they have fresh (usually several salads, bowls, a roll and a hot dish)
- Other that that, save ALL other Asian dining (or most ethnic, for that matter) for Vancouver
Since you only have 2 nights in Vancouver, I would recommend mostly focusing on Asian cuisine.
- Japanese Izakaya: I would recommend Kingyo as it has some of the best food of restaurants in it's type, and the atmosphere is nice without being too loud. For something more lively (and possibly more authentic), Guu with Garlic or the original Guu are fantastic.
- Chinese (Cantonese): Kirin on Alberni or 12th/Cambie is good for both dinner and dim sum
- Chinese (Northern/Shanghainese): Most options are in Richmond. I quite like Shanghai River. I also went to Northern Dynasty last night for the first time and was quite happy with it. These both have somewhat nicer atmospheres and have English in their menus. Be sure to have the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings)
Other "musts" in Vancouver I take tourists:
- Go Fish! close to Granville Island for fish&chips in an outdoor setting by the water
- Salt (if you are a fan of cheese, charcuterie and wine)
- an outing for picnic items through Granville Island
Other good places in Vancouver include Cobre, Chambar, Bin 941/942
I am a lifelong Victorian and am not as enamoured with the Victoria restaurant scene as some others on this board. However, there is good food to be found at reasonable prices; just be aware that for some places you need to make reservations at least one month in advance. This is specifically the case with Brasserie L'Ecole, which is, in the opinion of many, the most consistent restaurant in Victoria and also one of the most reasonably priced.
Here is my general guide:
Best for Dinner:
1) Brasserie L'Ecole--rustic French dining; simple dishes made with the highest quality local ingredients, and at very reasonable prices (i.e. most entrees are around $20, with some specials up to $30). If they have the beef short rib special on the menu, do not miss it! Also, this place really knows how to cook duck, so any duck specials should not be overlooked. An excellent place for locally caught seafood, i.e. tuna, salmon, Sooke trout, sablefish. Also an excellent place to try out different wines as they offer a remarkable deal where you can buy wine by the glass for any bottle on the list as long as you buy at least two glasses. You can order a cheese plate when you arrive so that the cheeses have time to warm up to room temperature (the restaurant encourages this). Oh, and did I mention the excellent steak frites? (the steak often includes a blue cheese butter, i.e. roquefort butter, stilton butter; the aioli that comes with the Frites is superb).
2) Paprika. In Oak Bay, on Estevan. Another remarkably consistent place. Upscale compared to Brasserie, but this is still Victoria, so a jacket and tie are not required. Paprika is "West Coast fine dining", meaning that they use a lot of local ingredients (i.e. seafood, produce). The restaurant is also known for its house-made sausages; the owners are Hungarian, and there is a pervasive Eastern European influence in the cooking. The owners are neighbours of friends of mine, and I know that much of the produce served in the restaurant is grown in the owners' own back yard.
Paprika's owners also run a wine bar in town that I hear has very good food but I have not tried; it is called "Stage" and is in Fernwood, just a 15 minute walk from downtown Victoria.
3) Zambri's: Again, simple fare. The focus is on local, organic ingredients, which is something at which southern Vancouver Island excels. Expect very good sides, i.e. local chard sauteed with garlic and chilies, roasted red and yellow beets tossed with top-notch olive oil and balsamic and garnished with goat cheese and fresh herbs and/or toasted nuts. Pasta might be something like linguine with ultra-rich duck ragu. A typical main might be rock cod, or slow-roasted pork shoulder, or braised lamb shank. This is an Italian cousin to Brasserie L'Ecole; different ownership, but similar in spirit (we're talking reasonably priced rustic country fare using truly farm-fresh produce, meat, game, poultry).
4) Matisse: Classic French fine dining fare, enthusiastic service, and consistency. A bit pricier than the other restaurants listed here (actually, on par with Paprika), but not super expensive (entrees are high 20s to low 30s).
5) Chez Michel: An unassuming little French bistro in Oak Bay. Very flavourful classic French fare and at reasonable prices, too (i.e. entrees mostly around $30).
Best for Lunch:
1) Hernandez, in Sussex Plaza between Yates and View Streets (right downtown); authentic "Mayan" food, i.e. fresh hand-made, grilled corn tortillas topped with housemade salsa, beans, cilantro, and cheese.
2) Red Fish, Blue Fish (down in the harbour; a bit hard to find) : A cousin to Go Fish in Vancouver. Outdoor seating only. This place sells excellent fish 'n' chips and fresh fish sandwiches (i.e. delicious oyster sandwiches, tuna sandwiches). Great slaw, fantastic fries, expect long lines in summer.
3) Ferris's Oyster Bar: Nothing fancy here, nothing that you could not find in another city, but Ferris's makes (mostly) tasty, filling fare such as pastas, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, steaks. It has a cool ambience and an outdoor courtyard area in the back that is a fun place to eat in summer (if it is a warm day).
4) Blue Crab Bar and Grill (seafood restaurant): I am not a big fan of the Blue Crab for dinner; I think it is overpriced and I had a bad experience with service; but for lunch I find it to be an excellent choice, with very fairly priced and generously portioned lunch entrees. Wonderful views, too. (almost seems that the entrees that are $35 at dinner are $15-17 at lunch. Go figure).
5) Choux-Choux Charcuterie: As mentioned, Choux-Choux has wonderful deli items (housemade pates, excellent bread, a good selection of imported cheeses and top-quality meats). They also put on a daily lunch special for around $10. The special changes every day. These guys are serious foodies and have a love affair with the foods of rural France.
6) Octavio's (in Oak Bay): A great place to pick up picnic fare (you could take it down to Willow's Beach, or Uplands Park, or back downtown to Beacon Hill Park). The best cheese selection in Victoria, hands down. Good fresh Italian breads. Broad selection of olives and cured meats. Many Italian specialty bakery items, and fantastic house-made gelato. A fun place to explore (but not on a crowded Saturday!).
7) Estevan Fish 'n' Chips (aka Willow's Galley). A longstanding locals' favourite for fish 'n' chips. The halibut is top-notch.
1) Pagliacci's. Fresh house made pastas are weighted down with very heavy, meat- and cream-laden sauces. Wine list is poor. The extremely long line-ups are simply not warranted. This is not real Italian food; at best, you could call it "Italian American" fare, but it is a distant second to Zambri's.
2) Any Asian restaurants. Save these experiences for Vancouver. Victoria's Asian food scene is simply pathetic in comparison. (although you could do a lot worse than lunch at the pan-Asian fast food joint called "Noodle Box.")
3) Il Terrazo: Another way-overrated Italian joint. Overpriced, too. Anyone who has sampled the best Italian restaurants in large North American centres such as Chicago, Toronto, or New York would be sorely disappointed with the fare here.
4) Avoid most of the restaurants along Wharf Street; they are overpriced and offer mediocre food at fine-dining prices. The epitome of the term "tourist trap."
Good luck, and hope you enjoy your stay here. There are lots of interesting things to do off the beaten path (i.e. visit the gardens run by the Victoria Horticultural Society; hike in East Sooke Park (gorgeous!) or at Goldstream Provincial Park; tour the wineries in the Cowichan Valley or up on the Sannich Peninsula; etc...etc...)
Great post, anewton (just happens to mesh with my thoughts on Victoria FWIW from a Vancouverite). Is Red Fish Blue Fish still doing the recyclable/compostable thing with their serving vessels? I thought that was a pretty cool idea which might add to the dining experience for folks who are concerned with suchlike...
I'm glad to hear someone comment on Matisse. I've wondered about that place. I love going to Pagliacci's for lunch when I can get a pasta and salad for less money than the pasta only at dinnertime. But it's not Italian. It's Italian-ish.
Regarding Asian fare, I would say that Victoria has an inordinate number of decent Thai restaurants. My personal favourite is Sabhai Thai, but it's all the way in Sidney. I have never liked Noodle Box. I've tried. I just don't like it. Maybe because it's pan-asian, and when I want asian noodles, I want ASIAN noodles.
I would say you're spot-on about the restaurants on Wharf Street. I kind of want to raise you the restaurants on the perpendicular streets between Wharf and Government, too. Otherwise, it's nice to hear from someone else who lives in Victoria.
So, we arrived to Victoria harbour and were supposed to be picked up by another party to head to a weekend retreat in Brentwood Bay, but found out the were delays for the others arriving into Victoria airport...Lucky for us! We got to go to Hernandez (almost gave up on finding it...!). What an awesome recommendation and a great experience. We loved the food, and loved talking with the host. We will go back when we're there again!
for the "fancy" birthday dinner I would recommend Parkside or the Raincity Grill - both in the West End and reservations needed. The tasting menu at Raincity with the wine pairings is always a treat and Parkside is, well, Parkside. Neither will disappoint
as for other, more casual fare: Salt in Gastown, Lolitas on Davie for fun and authentic Mexican, Crave on Main Street for brunch ... there are so many
sorry, can't get links to work but all are easilly found
Nice recs, KathrynC. I will add the links and a couple of bits of hopefully helpful info, as well as one question: the last two times I went to Raincity (both within the past 6 months) we had some fairly serious problems with the food quality. Did we just have bad luck?
Salt is mostly one big shared table with a couple of smaller "private" tables down one side, if that is an issue. Lolita's is tons of fun but is very petite and fills up quickly most nights, so you might want to go early as they don't take resos. It can also be a might boisterous if you care about noise levels. I don't know what passes for authentic anything these days but I daresay Lolita's food, although delicious, has its own spin on Mexican. Crave is great but once again no resos so depending on the time and day of the week you go, prepare for line ups, especially if you are dining with more than one other person.
3941 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P3, CA
Lolita's Restaurant Ltd
1326 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E1N6, CA
L'Altro Buca Restaurant
1906 Haro Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 1H7, CA
1193 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 2N1, CA
Salt Tasting Room Ltd
45 Blood Alley, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4, CA
If I were going out for my special birthday in Vancouver I would drive out to White Rock and have the tasting menu with wine pairings at Pearl on the Rock. Oh wait...That is what I did! It was fabulous. Reserve and tell them you want a romantic, comfortable spot away from the door if it is cool or rainy. The only small drawback with Pearl is that the small restaurant is subject to drafts as there is no vestibule or double door. It is only a stone's throw to the ocean, with a beautiful promenade where you can stroll before or after dinner.
If that is too far out of the way, I would have previously considered going to Lumiere but with the recent shenanigans leading to (Iron Chef) Rob Feenie's departure I don't know how it is any more. Maybe a recent diner can shed some light on that???
Cioppinos had been very lovely in the past. Speaking of Rob Feenie, I saw him eating there a while back.
If I was with a large group (10 people) I might try the special dinner for 10 at Kirin Seafood Restaurant ($500). I watched in envy the other night as a large group beside me feasted on some spectacular looking dishes that were brought tableside on large platters but then expertly served to each person so no one had to "dig in" to the large platters.
Finally, a place I have to try before I die (or so my very good, foodie friends tell me repeatedly) is called Villa del Lupo. Something has repeatedly interfered every time I was going to go but I am advised that the dinners there are exquisite.
As anilyn suggested Rosemeade is a nice option. Good food and service. Not too far away depending upon where one is staying. I know the front door staff at the Delta Ocean Pointe were happy to drive us out that way and even pick us up but that was off season in February.
For us no visit to Victoria is complete without one or two visits to Brasserie L'Ecole and/or Cafe Brio. In our case it usually is several. Would be "worse" if they were open for lunch.
Zambri's is a good option for very well prepared rustic Italian. I am not a fan of Il Terrazzo but the last lunch we had there was excellent.
Thumbs up for Cioppino's, never had a bad bite there, and if you happen to get a table near the kitchen, the floor show is included :-). Although it is relatively expensive, I don't really consider it high end (whatever that actually means!) because the atmosphere is so relaxed and the food so non-fussy in a terra-cotta-y but quite modern open room. Villa del Lupo is also great but totally different in feel as it is in an old house. Both are Italian in case that is not obvious from the handles.
Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill
1133 Hamilton St, Vancouver, BC V6B5P6, CA
Villa Del Lupo Restaurant Ltd
869 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2R7, CA
All recommendations below are for Victoria:
Breakfast: The Blue Fox on Fort Street (near corner of Quadra St). Locals love this place so there may be a 15 minute wait. Worth it. Very good (cheap, bottomless) coffee. Great food. Eggs Benny, French Toast, Huevos Rancheros Mmm Mmm Mmm.
Lunch: Pagliacci's on Broad Street (near corner of Fort) has fabulous pasta and is another haunt of locals. My fave there is full order of Bicycle Thief II with tomato sauce. They have a non-alcoholic drink that is not on the menu but I love it - tastes like Creamsicle. It is called Capezzio (sp?). Desserts there are also yummy if you go in the evening. If waiting in the evening and they offer you a mug, take it. It is not coffee.
Dim Sum? Don Mee's in Chinatown. Cart service. Deelish.
Afternoon tea? Fairmont Empress is extremely pricey. Go there only for bragging rights, not yummy tea service. Locals go to the Blethering Place in Oak Bay area.
For a fabulous ($150ish for 2) dinner I would recommend Rosemeade. It is a bit out of the way in a gorgeous old renovated mansion. I don't love dessert there, though... I also quite enjoy Il Terrazzo, Wild Saffron (although recent reports say chef I liked is gone), Oak Bay Marina Restaurant, Blue Crab, Pescatore's, Chandler's, Fireside Grill - or for THE funky, Victoria vegetarian mecca: Rebar in Bastian Square. I could go on and on. Victoria has an exceptional restaurant scene.
Live Jazz, drinks and appies? Bengal Lounge at the Empress. Thursday evening. Their lunchtime curry buffet is also lovely and the room is gorgeous.
I'm not hep to the higher end places but here are a couple of suggestions for the non-birthday meals. If you're feeling bistro-y, try Jules in Gastown. Great value, tasty food, nice atmo in a somewhat dodgy but up-and-coming nabe. Or if you'd rather go Italian, how about La Buca on MacDonald? You can try some of Chef Durbach's food trattoria-style at bargain prices (cf Parkside). It's a bit out of the way but worth the trip. Both require resos so be sure to call ahead if you go. And for Asian, get thee to Peaceful Restaurant on Broadway for the beef roll and other interesting and not-so-usual offerings (hot and sour potato, anyone?). Also super budget so good for lunch or dinner, and they take resos if you are so inclined.
I'm going to try to link these places (technospazz so no guarantees!)
Edited to add: woohoo, I linked! but drat I deleted Jules and can't figure out how to add it after the fact so here's the URL julesbistro.ca
La Buca Restaurant
4025 MacDonald St, Vancouver, BC V6L2N8, CA
532 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z1E9, CA