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Toronto vs. Vancouver

I have a question to all the the Torontonians who've visited Vancouver. I will be in Vancouver mid April and was wondering are there any restaurants that are unique to Vancouver that we don't have here in Toronto? I've searched a few sites and the Vancouver board and have a to-dine list. Other than Izakaya, Vij's and possibly more restaurants having fresher seafood is there any other restaurants unique to the Vancouver experience or have I got it covered?

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  1. I'm there in mid-late April also. And currently contacting friends to find out where to go.
    New chefs at Lumiere & West to potentially try out.
    Last time I visited my favourite was 'C' and my most disappointing Vij! (Actually Feenie's was the worst, but it's gone now).

    3 Replies
    1. re: estufarian

      Thanks! Yes I've heard about the changes ate Lumiere & West. Lumiere being supported by Boulud seems exciting but I'm not sure if they will be ready. Interesting that you were disappointed at Vij's, since you seem to enjoy a good plate of Indian food (or food with Indian spicing...lol).

      1. re: Apprentice

        To clarify (for other readers who might not make the connection, although you obviously know my opinion) - I don't consider Vij to be Indian food - it's food cooked using Indian spices. Sort of like the recently departed Xacutti in Toronto. The food at Vij (whatever you call it) is OK - and some is good. But I don't relish eating at 5:00 (so that I can avoid the lineup), or waiting until a vacancy occurs - just not worth it for OK food - will only line-up for superb food. And then I feel guilty for 'dining' when others are waiting to be seated. Just not an experience I'll travel 3000 miles for.
        But I may eat where Boulud ate (mysterious side comment about which I cannot answer questions as sworn to secrecy and I don't want to plug the place for other related reasons).

        1. re: estufarian

          >>But I may eat where Boulud ate (mysterious side comment about which I cannot answer questions as sworn to secrecy and I don't want to plug the place for other related reasons).

          I think I know.

    2. Tojo is quite the character, and I always enjoy the show he puts on for me. Many will argue that there is better sushi to be had in Vancouver, but the experience itself is unmatched. Let's not forget that this man invented the california roll. The experience is not AS personal these days, now that he's moved to a fancy spot with a 30 person omakase chef's bar, but you will not be disappointed. What I really like about Tojo, is how he adapts many traditional Japanese dishes with the use of local products.

      There is also GO FISH, a tiny fish and chip stand along the water, very close to Granville Island. The fish is fresh, the batter is light and crisp, and the fries aren't too bad either.

      Oh, and when you get back, and are looking for investors to open an Izakaya in Toronto, count me in!

      11 Replies
      1. re: dlw88

        I'm not sure that inventing the California roll is something I'd want on my resume. But having lived in Toronto and as somebody who visits both cities often, Vancouver completely and irrevocably blows Toronto out of the water for sushi and all things Japanese. Toronto does so much well- especially West Indian, best on the continent by far (NYC isn't even close), but sushi is not its strong suit.

        1. re: John Manzo

          >>I'm not sure that inventing the California roll is something I'd want on my resume.

          Tojo has been claiming this for years. I generally believe the references that indicate that the California Roll was invented in LA's Little Tokyo by Ichiro Manashita (Tokyo Kaikan)....but I digress....

        2. re: dlw88

          Thanks. Right now I'm debating between Octopus garden and Tojo's.

          Regarding opening up an Izakaya...noted!

          edit- I see this thread has been moved from the Toronto board. To all the "Vancouverites", I've already read your posts so please don't be offended by me addressing the Torontonians in this thread - I was looking for their opinions AFTER alrdeady extensively reading the WC Boards :-)

          1. re: Apprentice

            >>Right now I'm debating between Octopus garden and Tojo's.
            Stop the internal debate - Octopus' Garden for sure. ;)

            1. re: fmed

              And recent reviws of Tojo on other Boards suggest it's slipped.

              1. re: fmed

                One other reason to pick OG -- after dinner, walk out the door, go a couple blocks west and you are on the beach. Both of Tojo's locations (old and new) aren't well suited to an after-sushi stroll. You might as well revel in the April in Vancouver weather and ogle-worthy views while you're here Chow-ing :-).

                PS Still miss TO night life, to which Van cannot hold a candle IMHO.

              2. re: Apprentice

                >> edit- I see this thread has been moved from the Toronto board.

                I think this policy is very strange. Does it leave a pointer to this thread in the Toronto board?

                1. re: fmed

                  There is a pointer on the Ontario board, which reflects the OP's request for Torontonians to chime in with their Vancouver suggestions:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/504497

                  The policy ensures that, in the future, when other posters are looking for information that is posted on this thread, it will appear on the Western Canada board, where they are most likely to search. Posters looking for chow in Vancouver are unlikely to search the Ontario board for recommendations.

              3. re: dlw88

                I preferred the fish & chips at Harbord in Toronto. It's good at Go Fish but not fly 3000 miles better.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Mmm, Harbord F&C... but per my local-rah-rah post above, hard to beat the setting for Go Fish.

              4. Unique to Vancouver? JapaDog!

                In any case, you have already pointed out the izakaya void in TO...Vancouver has a couple of dozen izakaya of various grades of authenticity. I'm surprised that the izakaya tsunami has not even hit TO yet.

                Vancouver is good at dim sum...but since you have Lai Wah Heen (perhaps the best cantonese dim sum on the continent) you needn't bother.

                It's been few years since I've been to TO (I do have friends and former Vancouver denizens who report back). How is your regional Chinese (GTA and 'burbs - Markham, Richmond Hill, etc.)? I would imagine it is going through an explosion just like here - esp in Richmond BC). If not, then check that scene out.

                I would say that you must try the small-plates and localvorish restaurants. Wine bars disguised as charcuterie/cheese/tasting bars are also starting to flourish everywhere.

                10 Replies
                1. re: fmed

                  Izakaya landed here - but vanished into well-deserved obscurity. First, we have a DISASTROUS selection of sake here. The good stuff disappears immediately (some into my cellar) and the food quality wasn't that good. So no sake and bad food = no hope!
                  But kaiseki (IMO has a better prospect).
                  First, can you indicate where the best Sake selection can be found in Vancouver?
                  Secondly, what's the best Kaiseki available there?

                  1. re: estufarian

                    >> First, can you indicate where the best Sake selection can be found in Vancouver?

                    Blue Water, Kingyo, En, and Tojo have a great selection. (Nothing like the NYC izakaya, though, but generally good surveys).

                    >> Secondly, what's the best Kaiseki available there?

                    Yoshi.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Thanks for the prompt reply.
                      Am now exercising 'due diligence' but Yoshi has leaped into contention for me.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        I read somewhere that chef Yoshi left "Yoshi" and is now working at Blue Water. Does that impact your recommendation?

                        1. re: Apprentice

                          Yes, since summer of 2002!
                          He heads up the 'Raw Bar' - not exactly kaiseki!
                          So probably not significant.

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Yes...Yoshi is working the Raw Bar at Blue Water. I highly recommend Blue Water (which many locals don't realize serves some of the best sushi in Vancouver)

                            It doesn't impact my rec on the Kaiseki at Yoshi....it is still skillfully executed.

                            1. re: fmed

                              LOL okay so I was a bit late obtaining that piece of information. Thanks.

                    2. re: estufarian

                      One more uniquely Vancouver item for a sake aficionado is Osake on Granville Island...which is currently the only artisinal sake maker in Canada (AFAIK.)

                      They do flights of their sake there.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Don't dismiss Japanese izakaya because of the failures of the restaurant named Izakaya on Front. Bad food isn't a hallmark of izakaya, just of that restaurant.

                      2. re: fmed

                        For localvore-ish, check out our own Fmed's recent post on Aurora Bistro:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/504688

                        Brunch is also topnotch, and the room is to me very Vancouver although it has shades of Queen West out toward Roncesvalles too...

                      3. I am from Toronto and I second Go Fish. Check the hours first though. I think it's better than Harbord Fish and Chips, certainly better fish anyway, and there are non fish and chip dishes as well (e.g. tacos).

                        I also agree with the posters who have suggested sushi. I was in Whistler the day I ate sushi and the random place we ended up at had better fish than anywhere I've been in Toronto (although I have not been to the higher end places).

                        Another idea is Salt. I wanted to check it out when I was in Vancouver but ran out of time, so I can't actually recommend it. I don't think we have anything comparable in Toronto.

                        I had a mixed experience at Vij's. Our appetizers were phenomenal but I strongly disliked my main (a lamb dish in creamy curry). It tasted bland and too heavy to me, and was anti-climatic after the hours we waited for a table and our meal.

                        Most of the other places I ate at where either kind of disappointing (e.g. Raincity Grill) or good but not necessarily unavailable in Toronto (e.g. Malaysian food at Banana Leaf).

                        Edited to add: we visited Cafe Artigiano for breakfast most mornings. They have a whole grain (but still buttery) raspberry scone that I enjoyed and much better espresso beverages than the usual suspects in Toronto.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: basileater

                          >> I also agree with the posters who have suggested sushi. I was in Whistler the day I ate sushi and the random place we ended up at had better fish than anywhere I've been in Toronto (although I have not been to the higher end places).

                          For an orgasmic seafood experience (bring your wallet) Blue Water has great "proper" sushi and great seafood. Nothing like it in TO for the selection of fresh seafood.

                          1. re: basileater

                            I wouldn't say that Caffe Artigiano is any better than Manic is, espresso-wise. But there are certainly a lot more of them around, and it's nice that the beans are locally roasted.

                          2. Thanks for the posts everyone!

                            1. When I lived in Toronto, it really was not a great coffee town. Maybe that's changed in the 8 years since I left (it could only have improved) but I still think a trip to Cafe Artigiano is warranted. The downtown location across from the Vancouver Art Gallery can get unreasonably crowded, though. I like the location on W. 41st in Kerrisdale (is that the original?) Artigiano has changed hands in recent years, though, and while the quality is still generally excellent, it is not quite as consistent as it was.

                              I know that Toronto has good seafood, but a quintessential Vancouver experience is dinner at The Fish House in Stanley Park. C is more upscale and expensive but again has excellent seafood.

                              West is in a transitional phase, and although the emphasis on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients is admirable, I was a bit disappointed with my meal there in February.

                              Legendary Noodle House for great Chinese noodles at great prices.

                              As an aside comment, even if you go to fine dining and casual chic establishments in Vancouver (i.e. Chambar, Aurora Bistro, La Terrazza, C, Bin 941/942, etc...,etc...) you are going to have a different dining experience than you would in Toronto, simply because the local ingredients differ from what is available in Toronto at this time of year. Expect fresher seafood, a better selection of fresh local in-season produce (not in summer, but certainly at this time of year), and perhaps a more prevalent East Asian influence in the cooking.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: anewton

                                The 41st location of Artiggiano was a late entry; others please correct me but I think the very first one was actually on Pender in the bottom of a hotel whose name escapes me.

                                The guys who started Cafe Artiggiano did sell a couple (?) years ago but they then opened up a new place on 4th Avenue called 49th Parallel. So if you are into the source, head there. My husband is a big fan...

                                I also have a soft spot for the Fish House but do stick to the fish if you go... sablefish, mmmm. The service there is always friendly (or at least that's been my experience) and the setting is pretty great.

                                I like Legendary but have read that the Main Street location (which happens to be the one I go to) is the best. Their newish bench tables do make it a bit difficult if you have more than a party of four, though.

                                When we lived in Toronto fifteen years ago, we really focused on cheap and cheerful for financial reasons, so I can't compare between the two and besides it would be out of date :-). I still have very fond memories of Tai Pan, which had some of the best dim sum I've ever had, to where we would schlep out there every time we visited subsequent to our move to Van. I heard that it closed down though (moment of silence).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Thanks. This is all great stuff. I'm really looking forward to this trip. My only other time in Van city was a 1 day stopover before Hong Kong. I heard there's a CA right across from the Art Gallery, so I'll probably stop in then.

                                  Toronto has some excellent dim sum and regional Chinese restaurants. I've heard good things about Sun Sui Wah and Imperial Chinese. Anyone care to provide a recommendation?

                                  1. re: Apprentice

                                    If King Crab is still cheap (it's the tail end of the season now) then SSW. But if not...then I say save your money and spend it at Lai Wah Heen back in TO.

                                    1. re: Apprentice

                                      my vote for chinese is Kirin - alberni location or maybe the new one at the casino in new westminster - everything is made fresh and from scratch

                                2. I'm from Toronto recently moved out to BC, visiting Vancouver a couple times. I see lots of places mentioned that I would love to try myself, but if you want a great place for DESSERT, you have to go to Cheesecake Etc. I don't think they are open during the day, it's more of a late night cafe, and they have the most amazing cheesecake you will probably ever have. It took me 3 visits and reminders everytime to get there, but it was worth it in the end, especially to someone like me who doesn't even LIKE the usual cheesecake! It's right on Granville before the bridge.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sunnygee

                                    Southbound or North bound (mountain View)?

                                    1. re: starlady

                                      It's southbound side. Wow it's still around? The last time I went there was maybe 15 years ago. I was very good friends with someone who worked there.

                                  2. Thanks for everyone's help. A quick rundown:
                                    Highlights of the trip were OG (will be a Vancouver staple), Kingyo Izakaya and JapaDog. We were very disappointed with Vij's and Yoshi. West was okay, presentation and sauces were good, however Chef Geraghty's meat and fish could use some seasoning (i.e. salt)...there were salt and pepper shakers on the table, I guess I should have used them.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Apprentice

                                      Thanks for the report Apprentice. I'm not surprised you were disappointed by Vij's. I recommended Yoshi - can you expand on your experience? (Yoshi, AFAIK, is Vancouver's only true Kaiseki destination.)

                                      1. re: fmed

                                        Ok now I have more time so I can give a bit more detail to everyone.

                                        Octopus' Garden was an absolutely pleasurable experience. If you go, you must sit at the sushi bar. Despite his serious face Sadasan is very engaging. I've given up long ago trying to remember Japanese dishes especially ones from an omakase. We were served approximately 7-8 dishes the seafood (hamachi, salmon, tuna, geoduck etc) was extremely fresh. I particularly enjoyed the foie gras sushi. Sadasan is old school there's no fixed number of dishes for his Omakase he'll base it on how full you are - he'll ask.

                                        Vij's - Don't get me wrong there are some stellar dishes here. His palaak paneer was the best I've ever eaten. His BC spot prawns in coconut masala and grilled kale is a very well constructed dish. His Chapattis and Naan are very good. However everything else was either salty, bland, or overcooked. As Estufarian mentioned, the restaurant is not worth it for me to wait another 45mins or dine at 5pm.

                                        What disappointed us at Yoshi (we didn't order the kaisake) was the fish selection and freshness of the fish. We ordered a $53 omakase sashimi platter (the highest price offered) and probably received no more than 9 pieces of fish. Salmon, tuna (not toro), hamachi...nothing to me that would stand out for an Omakase - No geoduck, uni, toro...I might as well go to OG shell out $60 (granted we had the $100 Omakase) or perhaps Yoshi's $50 Kaisake is better?

                                        1. re: Apprentice

                                          I really don't have enough experience in kaiseki to be able to give you a fully informed opinion. I had it in Kyoto and Tokyo a few years ago when I visited and hung out with my brother who lived in Japan...once in NY at Kai...and I had it a few times at Yoshi and I was always impressed with the execution. Since kaiseki is more labour intensive than sushi, I would think that $60 omakase at Octopus' Garden will get you much more than $50 kaiseki at Yoshi.

                                          I also have to say that it has been a long time since I have been to Yoshi (few months) and have never had the omakase there. You may have experienced an inconsistency issue with Yoshi. When I am going for special sushi (not quick lunch sushi) I almost never stray from my favourites - OG, Blue Water, Lime - close to where I live - even then Lime had some inconsistency here and there, but I still go back.

                                          The Vancouver Magazine awards (take it or leave it) lists the top formal Japanese as: Tojo, Blue Water's Raw Bar (where Yoshi actually works now) then En. OG and Yoshi get a mention: http://vanmag.com/restaurants/08may/F...

                                          Next time you are in town (along with another visit to OG) try Blue Water, Okada, En and Zest....and Tojo's (you'll read many reports of decline there...but it is still top drawer really).

                                          On Vij's....I only go when it's on someone else's tab ;) ...same with West (and you walk in with extremely high expectations - so it's nearly impossible to be blown away

                                          )

                                          Again, thanks for the report.

                                          1. re: Apprentice

                                            I'm glad that you tried JapaDog, BTW.

                                            1. re: fmed

                                              We, too! We tried the terimayo and the misomayo. We both preferred the terimayo. Seaweed in a beef frank...brilliant!. If I ate pork I would have tried their kurobuta dog.

                                              Thanks for the tips.