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May 27, 2008 01:26 PM

BC Advice Needed - the Irish are coming.

First trip to Canada, would appreciate some direction on matters food. Travelling mid-July, four nights Vancouver and a week on Vancouver Island.
1. Arriving after flight(long), staying Robson St (nr Denman), somewhere close and relaxing for dinner. The Fish House in Stanley Park?
2. Being quite partial to a pub crawl (being Irish), the Izakawa idea holds much promise as our aparment seems right in the zone. Question One; to max the number of venues, is it acceptable to share a single plate (no sharing of beer though) and move on? Or is there a min order policy? Question Two: Are queues/lines are regular feature or is there an optimum night where things are quieter (we stay Wed to Sat). Question Three: anybody brave enough to give their top 3/4 places with fave 3/4 menu choices (translated!)
3.Staying in cabin in the woods, Pacific Rim Natl Park. Man's gotta burn some food. Is bison truly edible or would my walking boots be tastier on the barbeque? Fish to barbeque - tuna (too dry?), halibut (fall apart?). Tuff question for Tuff City - SoBo or Rain Coast Cafe?
4.Victoria seems well provided with interesting spots. Any stand-outs at the moment?
5.One last night, staying in the Quality on Howe St. back in Vancouver. Not necessarily a budget-bustin, card-melting night out but one to remember would be nice.....
6.Flying on to Toronto, staying downtown (hotel on the Esplanade) so where do the Canucks chow down when they hit town?
7.Last question. Wine. Would like to sample the regional produce but am sadly ignorant.
Any recommendations for whites - our taste would be Sancerre/ Pouilly Fume French or the cheaper Falangina/Pinot Grigio Italian. Dry but not too tart a la Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and not the peaches/perfume of Australian Chardonnay.

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  1. SeeDee:

    Hope you enjoy your visit. I'll leave the Vancouver suggestions to others:

    3. Where the heck are you staying?

    Bison certainly is certainly more than edible on the fire/barbeque but marination may add some additional flavour and moisture and as it is very lean, pay attention and do not overcook. I like Bison strip loins on the barbeque but probably prefer it braised and slow cooked as in short ribs.

    All of the fish you mentioned will work. Lots of albacore fished off the coast along with halibut. As you indicated have to pay attention to not overcook or risk losing the fish to the fire.

    Trilogy Fish in Tofino usually has a good selection and even the Co-Op can surprise if you do not have a local source or recommendation.

    Two different options in SoBo and Raincoast Cafe.

    Lisa Aheir of SoBo should now be firmly in her new digs across from the liquor store in Tofino. "Killer' fish tacos, buckwheat noodle salads, etc. along with sandwiches, soups and pizzas. They were open for breakfast and lunch with dinner on week-ends. However, we were there for the opening week-end last October and I expect they will be open for longer more extended hours since you will be there during the prime tourist period.

    Raincoast Cafe has a very good reputation. However, we rarely get into Tofino at dinner [sun sets early in the fall rather than the summer and I can avoid the darkness and turns driving home to the spot we rent] time so I have not been there for quite a number of years. I think they are only open at dinner and will be busy. Lots of seafood taking advantage of the local crab and fish with an asian influence.

    Speaking of Tuff City...The Tough City Inn features decent sushi I am told...say hello to owner "Crazy Ron" for me, a "true character"....

    4. In Victoria personal favourites are Brasserie L'Ecole and Cafe Brio. Have heard and read good things about Zambri's, Paprika, Niche and Sanuk.

    7. BC produces some outstanding pinot gris.

    A couple of pretty distinctive styles. One virtually colourless and the second, almost "blush like" in colour only, as pink, to copper hued but vinted dry.

    In the case of the former I really enjoy Burrowing Owl, Blue Mountain and Sandhill.

    In the case of the latter, Kettle Valley and Alderlea from right on Vancouver Island.

    To a lesser extent and with a tad more residual sugar, Gehringer Bros. [may now be renamed], Lang and Gray Monk.

    In Ontario my personal favourite white is riesling. Look for Vineland Estates and Cave Springs especially the latter's CSV label.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mac

      Bob Mac
      Thanks a million for all the info. We're 3 nights near Florencia Bay. nearer to Ucluelet than Tofino, moving on to Victoria for four nights. Ukee seems short on dining out venues though is there somewhere that do killer pies?
      As a fan of meat rare, I reckon bison strips, 2/3 mins per side on the barbeque should the business. Will try as many of the wine recs as liver will allow!

      1. re: SeeDee


        If you are going to be at Florencia Bay then you are very close to the Interpretative Centre operated by Parks Canada at the Wickaninnish Beach [not where the Wickaninnish Inn is which is Chesterman Beach out of the National Park closer to Tofino]. Within the same complex is a beautiful spot which is usually run by the Canadian Princess people who run the boat permanently moored in Ucluelet harbour where we have gone for lunch and dinner in years gone by. Fabulous views of the ocean and the eagles which often reside in the near-by trees.

        Cannot vouch for the food of late because for the past number of years we do not get there until mid-October and I expect the centre and restaurant close by or shortly after Labour Day in September.

        Unfortunately do not have a recommendation for pies. Are you thinking meat and savoury or fruit or "pizza"? There are a number of bakeries in Tofino.

        If you do go to SoBo, check out their display case. Might be carrying the dessert variety at least.

        1. re: Bob Mac

          While we can probably source your wine recs while in Vancouver, where would you recommend to stock up on fresh produce en route Naniamo to Florencia (on a Sunday) or should we travel on to Tofino? My research suggests a place called Ukee Dogs for (savoury) pies.
          Even though the next parish west of Ucluelet is China, I hope the name has no connection with the consumption of a man's best friend.

          1. re: SeeDee

            LOL...I have not tried Ukee Dogs yet. If you do, I would appreciate a review. Not sure about the savoury pies. I had thought "hot dogs". A "local" recommended it either here or at some other foodie web-site but without a great deal of elaboration.

            I am assuming that Ucluelet like Tofino has a Co-op, and that is where we have bought our produce. The one in Tofino can be surprisingly good. I expect with all the international travellers they have expanded their stock.

            Otherwise I have frequented the Beaches Grocery just off the highway near the turn off into Chesterman Beach and the Wickaninnish Inn. I go there more for their wild mushrooms than anything else...mind you I am out there in the fall.

            We used to stock up in Port Alberni at their Sobeys en route to Pacific Rim but not any more. The Co-op in Tofino is now open on Sundays. I have never checked out the shops for food in Ucluelet. I will look forward to reading your impressions.

            1. re: Bob Mac

              Perhaps a little pedantic, but Port Alberni does not have a Sobey's, or a Thrifty's which is owned by Sobey's. I'm not sure if you Extra Foods or Buy-Low, both of which are on the "main drag" as you drive through town. Extra Foods is a giant store; Buy-Low is cheap groceries. Buy-Low has decent meat and mediocre produce, but its baked goods are not-so-good.

              I would, however, strongly recommend stopping at Naesgaard's Farm and Market in Port Alberni for their sweet English peas and farm-fresh berries (and maybe peaches and cream corn on the cob). It is just outside of town on River Road, which is a section of the Pacific Rim highway. There is a river (the Somass) on one side, and stores, motels and houses on the other side (right when headed out to the west coast). Naesgaard's always has sandwich boards out in the summer advertising their produce, which is grown on their farms in the valley.

              1. re: miss_bennet

                Sorry if I inadevertently mislead anyone. When I used the term, "used to" I meant but did not precisely state, years ago.

                In retrospect it may not have been a Sobeys, it could have been any of the big chains and was in one of the malls that you first encounter after the descent into the townsite,

                It has been gone to the best of my knowledge for some time but as indicated previously, we no longer stock up in Alberni as there is no need given what you can find in Tofino.

                Mind you, I have stopped from time to time to shop at McLean's in Nanaimo if out of truffle oil and the like...every "foodie" needs a few things even in "paradise"....

    2. You've done your homework!

      1. The Fish House is a well liked restaurant here on these boards. Good location, views, etc. I'm sure that would be a good first meal here.

      2 Some plates are small, but certainly sharable. You can order just one dish if you wish, but 2 (for 2 people) will get you a more complete experience, IMO. There is no minimum order policy at any of the places I regularly dine at.

      Queues are a regular feature at the Guus and at Hapa. Stage your reservations so yoiu hit these places early-ish (7 and 8). Thursday night is (IMO) the best night to do a will be just busy enough to be interesting, but not too busy that the lineups will be insane.

      Top 3 (actually - look back through my posts and you'll see my regular answers)...Guu (Garlic or Original), Hapa, Kingyo will give you a nice survey of the izakaya scene. Then look here for more advice on particular dishes and other tips, etc: . The writer of the article Lesley Anderssen and the photographer Chris Rochelle did a crawl with me last winter during the "research" for this article.

      3 Bison - I have never cooked bison, but a good butcher will set you straight on the most tender cut. Bob Mac gives great advice.

      Bob Mac - have you been to Shelter? (which I hear is a high-end brand that is part of the Cactus Club chain).

      I will be in Tofino next week for the Food and Wine hopefully I will have better recs.

      On Wine: I have nothing much to add to Bob Mac's excellent recs except perhaps that I'm a big fan of this winery:

      and this one:

      5 Replies
      1. re: fmed


        Yes, we went to Shelter the Fall of their first year during our annual visit. I would not have associated it with Cactus Club but I do not know who the "names" behind that chain are. The chef then was Jesse Blake, at least that is who I think it was. Long gone I understand.

        We usually rent a place out on Chesterman Beach and partly as a result, I do most of the evening cooking rather than venture into the town itself for dinner. We tend to eat lunch at one of the local spots and "cocoon" once the sun sets...light a fire, open another bottle of wine and forget about driving.

        Hope you enjoy the Food and Wine fest...should be a good time.

        Nothing wrong with Venturi-Schulze's wines We have had a few bottles over the years. The first time at Camille's off Bastion Square but with their limited production they can be a pretty hefty hit on the restaurant wine lists we have seen them [Camille's, Cafe Brio, the Aerie, Wick Inn, Jasper Park Lodge, etc.]...mind you so can their balsamic vinegar [smile]

        Joie is quite nice. Was really impressed by their pinot noir rose a couple of years ago and the unoaked chardonnay with that splash of pinot blanc or something similar added.

        Last vintage we tried to order from the winery but were told that they were not shipping out of BC due to a feared crackdown from the BC Liquor board, commission...whatever. Probably just as well as we were disappointed in the same wines we enjoyed the year previous. Did however really enjoy their Noble Blend last year. much wine, so little wine.

        Look forward to hearing about Tofino...we are not next out until after Thanksgiving.

        1. re: fmed

          thanks for the useful Izakawa for Dummies info - sounds like we might confine ourselves to two places......and do it all over again on a second night!
          Have got no recs for a final night(Sunday0 back in Vancouver, staying Howe St. Go Fish sounds a good bet for lunch. Evening meal...C or Blue Water for fish? Ciopinno's, Joe Forte's non-fish? Would Bin 941 be quiet on a Sunday night if we opted for a more casual meal?
          Converting from Euro to Canadian Dollar (1 to 1.50), menu prices in general look reasonable in Canada but am I being cynical in calculating that after taxes and tip that the end price will be closer to 1 to 1?
          Thanks again for your time in replying.

          1. re: SeeDee

            Hi again SeeDee...

            Bin 941 is totally hit or miss with respect to how long you'll wait for a table...but to answer your question about it being quiet on a Sunday night...I think it's safe to say that Bin 941 is never, ever quiet! You may have a BIT of a better chance on Sunday, but again, it's entirely up to the chance gods. If you're okay with chilling in the back (with about 1.32 feet of space on either side of you) and having some of their famous Bin-gria (their take on the classis Sangria made with Apricot Brandy ...then I wholeheartedly recommend you eat there. It's kind of busy on Sunday nights because it's full of the industry crowd - which in my opinion is always a great sign if they eat there! But for sure, without question, order the goat-cheese, house-dried tomato salsa with navajo fry bread. DO NOT SKIP THIS DISH!!! It's a smaller appy but you will need rehab afterwards and crave it for a very, very long time. Be prepared to deal with the addiction. I'm not kidding. My two other favorites are the Wentzel Duck dish and the phyllo-wrapped beef tenderloin choice. If you can handle the wait, the cramped quarters (it is VERY tiny) and the very loud music, by all means go. (And I personally recommend you do - it's VERY worth it!)

            C and Blue Water are both excellent choices for seafood - but they are two of the priciest restaurants in the city. My personal favorite place to eat seafood is Coast Restaurant. It's on Hamilton street in Yaletown across from Rodney's oyster bar. They have a new chef there who they brought in from Easy on the 5th in Toronto - Josh Wolfe. He's incredible and I haven't had a bad meal there yet. He's changed the menu significantly and given it a much more serious seafood focus - which I think is a brilliant idea considering the restaurant is named Coast. Coast is actually my favorite restaurant in the entire city. (Followed closely by Parkside and Boneta...but I digress...)

            He may not be there on a Sunday though...but you could call and see. They have a community chef's table that is a wonderful experience. The chef has his own elements built right into the table and cooks for you while you drink and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. The table seats up to I think 16 people. I don't know if you'll be able to sit at the chef's table on a Sunday, but it's definitely worth a call.


            Ciopinno's is another extremely pricey restaurant but is worth every last penny. Just be careful how many bottles of sparkling water they bring you - half my bill was water! :o) But I'll make the decision a little easier for you - they're closed on Sundays.

            Hope that helps!

            1. re: smartini

              That's some good intel on Coast, smartini. My SO hosted a corporate event there last Wednesday (which I missed, more's the pity). He was favourably impressed with both the room and the food served, which was not surprisingly hot and cold appies, so perhaps not the best yardstick. There was also a sushi bar upstairs (not sure if that is there normally) and he was VERY happy with the bartender's abilities, who apparently mixed a mean Gibson. I think it may be time to check the resto out as I am always on the lookout for good seafood places to take out of towners like the OP :-).

              1. re: grayelf

                Go and enjoy, grayelf! The sushi bar is not normally there - but they do some pretty cool things with the room and the space for functions. If I ever end up getting married - I'd definitely consider holding it there!

                However, for now, instead of a diamond...I'm more than happy with their halibut!! :o)

        2. We eat Bison about 4 times a month. Generally as burgers or meatloaf, but I got some bison short ribs from a butcher in Oak Bay a couple months ago and oh my were they ever good. Bison strip loins are nice too. The ones I have bought are smaller than a beef strip loin.

          You can do a wine/cider tour of the Cowichan Valley on your way to or from Tofino. I am not a wine connoisseur by any measure, but I do like Zanatta's Damasco. It is very refreshing, has a bit of fizz and no long finish.

          1. I've only a couple of things to add to the already comprehensive list.

            1. Another restaurant that's close to where you're staying is Parkside. They use a lot of ingredients from local producers.

            6. Food along the Esplanade in Toronto is very touristy. If you like beer, check out Bier Markt. They have a LOT of different types of beer. Food is overpriced and only ok at best, though. Harbour 60 near the Air Canada Centre has great steaks. St. Lawrence Market is really close to where you're staying and they have good food stands - great bagels and horseradish! You may be able to catch Summerlicious, where they have prix fixe promotions at a lot of nice restaurants for a 2-3 week period, but be sure to book in advance. And don't be surprised when you see both federal and provincial taxes on your bill.

            Have a great visit to Canada!

            2 Replies
            1. re: im_hungry

              SeeDee here. Got a rec from a Toronto native (Torontonian?) for Canoe which seems up on the high end of things - but maybe a good spot for a last night in Canada......?

              1. re: SeeDee

                Hey SeeDee,

                For Toronto, I'd recommend asking over on the Ontario Board (same column, up at the top). They will have more up to date, and accurate information for you.

                As for Canoe, i've eaten at two Bonacini restaurants (Auberge du Pommier and Canoe), and i have to say, i found them underwhelming. The view was really nice, but the food was overpriced. Consider yourself warned :)

              1. re: fmed

                That's funny, I posted a link to this recipe here earlier today and I guess it never "took" as I can't imagine why it would be deleted...

                1. re: grayelf

                  The boards have been flakey lately. Same thing has been happening to my posts (I would edit to correct spelling, add more info, etc and sometimes it just wouldn't take. Perhaps time to report this on SIte Talk?

                  1. re: grayelf

                    The boards have been acting funny all day - im not super surprised.