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Mar 26, 2008 10:46 AM

SF Hound's Midtrip Vancouver Report (long)

We're hounds from San Francisco. We have been in Vancouver since last Saturday and I thought I would post a mid-trip report. Although I didn't post anything asking for advice, the resources here were already enough for us to fill our entire trip with really good eating!

So far, we've been to:
Kintaro Ramen
Benkei Ramen
Sun Sui Wah (Main St.) for dim sum
Sophie's Cosmic Cafe for brunch
Chocolate Art
Granville Island Market
Osake Artisan Makers

We really loved the ramen here so far!! Coming from San Francisco and Los Angeles where an abundance of good ramen reside, we were quite satisfied with the ramen we got here. The service was good, the ambiance was nice, but the soup and ramen were spectacular. Now we're really looking forward to our last stop at Motomachi. I'm not really an expert on ramen (just love it a lot), just wondering what area the ramens here are representative of? (like Hakata or something else??) One more thing, I really do think the chashu here is superior to at least San Francisco's, succulent and flavorful.

Sun Sui Wah was pretty good, the service above par for dim sum restaurants, but I didn't think that the food itself was as outstanding as I expected it to be (although it was enjoyable). Perhaps it was because we went to the Main St. location?? We plan to hit Sun Sui Wah again this week for the king crab special, any suggestions as to which location (or another restaurant??) The $13.80/lb price is one of the main attractions!

Sophie's Cosmic Cafe has good atmosphere, but the food was mediocre at best. Perhaps I was just skeptical after waiting so long on a Monday morning for food?

Chambar was one of the highlights of our trip so far!! The vibe was great, the food just heavenly and the service very courteous and knowledgeable, as I think I remembered someone saying, our water glass never even got to half empty! We had the scallop appetizer along with the foie gras terrine. For our entree, we shared the Moule-Frites Congolaise. Everything tasted terrific, the foie gras matched perfectly with the frozen berries and fried bread, the complexity of textures really brought out the richness of foie gras. For dessert, we got the Cafe, Cafe, Cafe which was a trio of coffee/chocolate gelee, cheesecake and donut on ganache. It was reasonably good, but just a tad sweet for me. We were going to get the jasmine tea infused cocktail, but they didn't do it anymore, so we went with the earl grey infused cocktail called Remember Vesper Lynn. Now, I'm not an expert on cocktails, but this was GOOD.

Chocolate Art's truffles were good, I can't write too much about them because we just ate them all too fast after we got them. Granville Market is fun to walk through and look at all the things we couldn't buy (bummer), all the meats and produce!!! Osake is such a cute place hidden on Granville Island, their premium nigori was my favorite.

I am quite impressed with all the food options here in Vancouver, what a great city!! Now, I have to continue my trip and try to hit all the spots that I planned for: Motomachi Shokudo, Sun Sui Wah for King Crab, Izakayas (Hapa, Kingyo, Zakkushi, Guu, not sure we'll be able to do all of these, but we'll do them in order I guess), Go Fish and Thomas Haas desserts. Will try to post some pictures later... please let me know if I'm missing any really good food!! Thanks~~

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  1. Oh, forgot to mention that we're also coffee lovers. We've hit Caffe Artigiano (2 separate branches) as well as the 49th Parallel Roasters. We ordered lattes at all locations, and I really have to say that 49th Parallel Roasters is my favorite!

    On Robson St, we happened to drop by the Konbiniya Market which had a Bon Crepe stand. It reminded me a lot of the crepe stands I saw in Tokyo a few years ago, so I couldn't resist and ordered a special blueberry cheesecake crepe. To my surprise, it was truly a large piece of cheesecake, along with whipped cream and blueberry sauce wrapped in the crepe. It was also unexpectedly good, light and fluffy, not too sweet. Most of the time when I get crepe at a stand, it's usually made by part-time student workers, but the person who made it here had the moves of a professional pastry-chef (and was dressed like one too). Anyhow, I think I plan to drop by for another crepe!!

    5 Replies
    1. re: liujenny

      Here are pictures from Kintaro Ramen and Benkei Ramen. In order, we had Kintaro: Miso Ramen (rich soup, fat chashu), Shoyu Ramen (medium soup, lean chashu), Benkei, Miso Ramen and Shio Ramen.

      1. re: liujenny

        Some dim sum pictures from Sun Sui Wah (Main St): Siumai, beef tendons, cooking stand, har gow.

        1. re: liujenny

          More pics from sun sui wah: chashu pastry, fried scallop taro cake, chashu bow, scallop gow

          1. re: liujenny

            Here are the pictures from Chambar, first, the scallop appetizer, followed by foie gras terrine and then the moule frites congolais. The last is the dessert, cafe, cafe, cafe.

            1. re: liujenny

              This first picture is latte from Caffe Artigiano, the second is from 49th Parallel Roasters and the final picture is the cheesecake crepe from Bon Crepe!

          2. Lovely photos and report...keep 'em coming!

            >>We plan to hit Sun Sui Wah again this week for the king crab special, any suggestions as to which location (or another restaurant??) The $13.80/lb price is one of the main attractions!

            Just stick to the one on Main St. Note that SSW also specializes in squab....if you are into small boney birds. The King Crab is out of this world. I say order more seafood if you didn't find the dim sum special.

            >>...Izakayas (Hapa, Kingyo, Zakkushi, Guu, not sure we'll be able to do all of these, but we'll do them in order I guess).

            Depends on the size of your party....but with 3 or less you can easily do a crawl on a weeknight with this strategy: Book Hapa for 8:00 and Kingyo for 9:30. Start at Guu (original) at 6:30 then crawl down the hill hitting all the Japanese and Korean izakayas along the way until you end up at Hapa.

            >> Sophie's Cosmic Cafe has good atmosphere, but the food was mediocre at best. Perhaps I was just skeptical after waiting so long on a Monday morning for food?

            Sophie's is on my "don't bother 'cause it sucks" list. Sorry you had to endure that.

            >> please let me know if I'm missing any really good food!!

            I have not yet indulged to give you a first hand report, but Tequila Kitchen has a "soft opening" ( should be called a "soft re-opening") special until end of the month -- $25 gets a their tasting menu. "Modern Mexican" - I'm not sure if will be special enough for someone from California, though.

            You can also try Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine (in Richmond) - "The Greatest Chinese Restuarant Outside of China" (as described by Jenny 8 Lee in her new book - The Fortune Cookie Chronicles) just to say you've been...I think the current tasting menu is running at $48 . Reviews have been mixed...but I was there last year and the food was good.

            12 Replies
            1. re: fmed

              Great choices (except for Sophie's, doh) -- you obviously know what you're looking for so forgive me if the following suggestions are offbase.

              If you have another Saturday here and would like to wash the taste of Sophie's away, you might want to mosey over to Main and hit either Aurora or Crave for brunch. Aurora (deservedly IMHO) just got Urban Diner's 2008 Best Regional Resto award and Crave is always a good experience, with portions being quite generous and solid quality. Both are very "Vancouver" to me, and open for lunch all week, with Crave doing the brunch thing as well (brunch only on weekends at Aurora).

              I had the best dimsum I've ever had in San Francisco in 2003, so I can see where you might be hard to impress in that regard :-). If you're looking for a different Chinese food experience and you're around Cambie and Broadway, stop in to Peaceful Restaurant for a beef roll.

              Another dinner place you might consider is Cobre. It is "pan-Latin" so offers a bit more than just Mexican which I know from experience you have many and good in SF, and everything has a nice twist without losing the plot. The room is also rather alluring with various nooks and crannies, and it has a nice vibe for an evening out, complete with assorted tasty south-of-border cocktail offerings. It's in Gastown which as you may have heard is a hotbed of good and great restos at the moment eg I keep hearing great things about Boneta... so many restaurants, so little time

              Peaceful Restaurant
              532 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z1E9, CA

              Aurora Bistro
              2420 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T3E2, CA

              Crave Restaurant
              3941 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P3, CA

              Cobre Restaurants
              52 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1E7, CA

              1. re: grayelf

                Great recs greyelf. If there is one place liujenny should not miss is Aurora.

                Aurora has Localvore tendencies and definitely represents new British Columbia cuisine.

                1. re: fmed

                  And it's not just for brunch or lunch either!

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Two words about brunch at Aurora:

                    Duck Bacon

                    <swoons slightly>

                    1. re: starlady


                      And the Duck Confit Sandwich....<swoons just to fit in>

                      1. re: fmed

                        Are we all swooning or ducking? (Sorry, couldn't resist, I'll stop now.)

              2. re: fmed

                Great midtrip report and appreciate the photos, makes for good reading even for us locals. :) Interesting to hear your comments as well as fmed's on Sophie's Cosmic Cafe. I always drive past it usually on Saturday's around noon, and its always got a line out the door but have never tried. I've heard raves by others I know, so I guess I will have to go and see for myself one day, but I am in no rush...

                1. re: jay_kay

                  Not to get too far OT here but (as usual, it seems) I have to agree with FMed on Sophie's. I have never had a good meal there, to the extent that I only go when forced by circumstances eg out of town client desperate to dine there. The last time I went, the fries were cold and flaccid, and the humdrum burger had ROTTEN lettuce on it. Ugh.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    We should probably start a thread on "Lining up for Bad Food"....

                    1. re: fmed

                      I see you have but I just need to rant again for a moment here, because I forgot to mention the bored to surly service that I've always encountered at Sophie's. End of rant.

                2. re: fmed

                  Actually, Sophie's Cosmic Cafe wasn't on my list, we were just on our way into downtown and somehow just passed by and I suppose it's just one of those places that's popular, but perhaps for the vibe, not for the food.

                  Thank you all for your great suggestions, me and my boyfriend followed fmed's advice and went on a mini izakaya crawl, starting with Hapa, then Gyoza King and then Guu with Garlic. We were just so full by the end of the third one that we decided to head home afterwards. My full report of the izakaya is yet to come, but we enjoyed every single dish at all three places. They were so good that we plan to do another izakaya crawl probably on Friday night. It was pretty nice tonight that we didn't need reservations for any of the places since we started around 9pm.

                  For lunch today, we went to Go Fish, but that will have to wait until my final report as we're headed up to Whistler tomorrow.

                  We will definitely try the squab and the king crab at Sun Sui Wah. Aurora Bistro sounds like an interesting option, we'll see if we can fit it into our final lunch. Thanks again!!

                  1. re: liujenny

                    >> They were so good that we plan to do another izakaya crawl probably on Friday night. It was pretty nice tonight that we didn't need reservations for any of the places since we started around 9pm.

                    It's relatively easy to crawl on a Friday if there is just the two of you. Kingyo, Hapa and the Guu's will be busy. The other spots will have seats at the bar. Make a rez to be sure.

                3. I moved here from SF a couple months ago, and will be living in Vancouver 'til the rest of the year, more or less.

                  I went to Kintaro Ramen a few weeks ago, and I was not at all impressed. The ramen was fair. Quite surprising (and disappointing), since the Japanese food in Vancouver seems to generally be better than in California, not to mention the queue of people outside. I also went to Motomachi Shokudo down the block, and was also disappointed. I haven't tried Benkei Ramen yet, but wil probably give it a go sometime later. For now, I'm a bit turned off of the ramen up here.

                  To be fair, my opinion of ramen in SF isn't that great either (probably because I spend a few weeks in Japan every year). There are a couple of good ramen places in San Mateo, though. Back to Vancouver...

                  I recently went to Sun Sui Wah on Main for dim sum, and I share your opnion -- the food was just okay. The dim sum at Kirin in Richmond is far better (though the service sucked during our last visit). I've also had dim sum at Fisherman's Terrace in Aberdeen Centre a couple of times, which I felt fell somewhere between Kirin and Sun Sui Wah.

                  I've went to all of the Guu's multiple times, except the one in Richmond, and I've been quite happy with my meals there.

                  I went to Go Fish recently for an afternoon snack, and ordered a cod and chips. They have specials that look pretty good, but I was really craving something simple. The fish batter was very nice and crispy, as were the chips. The food tasted good, but not great. It's a nice place to grab a quick bite if the weather's good. I will definitely be going back and trying the specials.

                  I don't know if I'd go out of my way to go to Thomas Haas. SF has some pretty nice chocolatiers and desert shops. But if you're up there, it might be worth a visit. Make sure you get the chocolate sprinkles (in the fridgerated case). Take them home, bake them for 12 minutes, and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some fresh berries. It's like a cross between a two-bite brownie and a mini lava cake.

                  Thanks for the tip on the crepe at Konbiniya. I always get cheesecake crepes in Tokyo, but don't know why they don't offer that at some of the J-crepe places in SF.

                  I agree with you about the food here in Vancouver, and am enjoying my time here very much. The cheap to mid-range Asian food is excellent, better than the Bay Area in general.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: aburitoro

                    Welcome to the board aburitoro! Nice to have an out of towner's perspective...especially from a great foodie place as SF.

                    1. re: aburitoro

                      Btw, when I say ramen in San Francisco, I include the entire bay area as a unit. So, yes, I do think the best ramen in the area is in San Mateo!