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Jul 3, 2008 02:39 AM

SF hound ISO high-end Vancouver date spot

My wife & I have come for our honeymoon w/o doing our chow homework. Biggest advice need: a no-holds-barred dinner to which we can wear a jacket and little black dress, respectively. We don't want the fanciest place for fanciness's sake: excellent food, preferably local-vorish & creative, is the top priority, but somewhere sexy/stylish/elegant that'll feel right for a dressed-up date. (In SF, if analogy is useful, say Gary Danko/La Folie/Myth or, more casual, Delfina/Range/Foreign Cinema.) We're excited to try Chambar and Boneta while here, but they sound a bit casual for this outing (or am I wrong?).
2nd biggest need: lunch spot in, or walking distance from, Stanley Park--any cuisine but sushi (one of the first sacrifices of pregnancy/impending parenthood). Thanks!

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  1. One of my favourite finer-dining restaurants is Diva at the Met. The food is superb, service is excellent, and I think it'll meet your stylish/ elegant expectations. I like that there is no pretension and the menu has a creative flair. I suggest asking to be seated at the lounge, which is essentially a separate table overlooking the bar with a good view of the open kitchen. It's the most romantic seat in the house.

    As for lunch, I'd suggest a little French restaurant called Le Gavroche. It's within walkable distance from the Park, it has an intimate setting (plus little patio) and the lunch menu is affordable but uncompromising in quality. Dinner there is nice too but it can get a bit busy in the small space.

    That's 2 off the top of my head. I hope you have a great trip :)

    1. Based on your analogies (Gary Danko/La Folie/Myth) - Metro, Diva (as smel suggested), Yew (at the Four Seasons), Bacchus (at the Wedgewood), the top of my head.

      Chambar and Boneta are best enjoyed casually....but can be enjoyed more formally. Add Fuel, Gastropod, Chow, to your list of Vancouver casual/semi-casual.

      Stanley Park lunch - over at Denman St are a slew of places....a couple of good ramen spots, a nice yoshoku style restaurant named...Yoshoku-ya, etc. At Coal Harbour are a bunch of "view" restaurants that serve decent (though not entirely memorable) food - The Mill, Cardero's, The Westin Bayshore's restaurants, etc.

      Congratulations, BTW!

      13 Replies
      1. re: fmed

        Thanks so much for quick replies! We're leaning toward West, but with a caveat/query: my superficial sense is that it was a (the?) pioneer in the high-end creative impeccable-technique locavore approach here, and is/was the temple and pinnacle thereof (like Chez Panisse or French Laundry, to return to hometown analogies) but I saw one recent negative post here and want to check if there's been slippage or laurel-resting? I've tried searches but can't avoid getting swamped with every post/thread containing the word "west" in any sense . . . Tips how to find a recent report/thread?

        1. re: readingstand

          The true pioneer for the localvore approach here is Bishop's - where John Bishop was been doing localvore for decades. He is our Alice Waters.

          There isn't really much on the boards about West and the new chef (Warren Geraghty). He received a blistering review from the Globe and Mail's restaurant critic recently. I thought the review wasn't entirely fair.

          Everyone goes to West with very very high expectations that are hard to fulfill.

        2. re: fmed

          Oh btw I was just at Chambar on Monday. It's a fun place for drinks and the food is great. However, the tables are quite close together but I'd recommend you visit it as a fun night out.

          As for initial post before my browser crashed actually wrote "I assume someone will recommend West". I found my experience to be underwhelming. Maybe it wouldn't have been so if there wasn't so much hype around it. I tried the tasting menu and found it to be inconsistent... hits and misses. They have a smug air about them but I felt was unjustified. I'm all for the whole experience. I like to feel classy, but comfortable and appreciated. I feel West is more a place to see and be seen. I will definitely go back and try the a la carte menu but I won't get my hopes up this time. Not sure if you got the same vibe, fmed...!?

          1. re: smel

            I went to West a few times a few years ago and it was definitely a good restaurant....and once last year sometime. I think the "smug air" could be coming from the discordance of a formal restaurant in a decidedly informal city (which is also why restaurants like Chambar and Boneta do very well). This is part of the reason why Warren Geraghty has yet to find his legs here IMO. Vancouver has different expectations.

            I probably wouldn't go back to West at this point...unless someone puts it on an expense account. I never went on my own coin either.

            Here's that review:

            1. re: fmed

              Don't get me wrong. I enjoy and even embrace fine-dining formalities but it must be merited through the food. It is inappropriate, in any setting, to make a diner feel less-than. I hope readingstand won't encounter the same type of service I did when he goes.

              Thanks for linking the review. Brutal!! I chuckled when the server corrects the diner about the butter. That's precisely what I'm talking about.

              I was going to recommend Rare as well but the website says it's under renos right now. I've thoroughly enjoyed every meal I've had there. They are really keen on delivering fresh, local ingredients to the fullest potential. I also enjoy the intimate setting, and the staff is always warm and welcoming. I anticipate its reopening.

              If Metro is anything like Rare, I'll have to try it!

              Rare and Metro:

              1. re: smel

                Rare is undergoing renos...and hopefully they will be back up and running. They lost their last chef (and all-female kitchen) in the meantime, though. Colleen McClean is now at the Irish Heather.

                1. re: fmed

                  Rare is/was fantastic. I was a bit disappointed with Metro (though I've only tried it once, and during DOV... so probably not reflective of their usual quality).

                  How about Parkside?

                  I wonder if anyone's tried Connor Butler? It's been getting great reviews on but I haven't seen many reviews elsewhere. A quick glance at their website suggests a prix fixe menu probably similar to Gary Danko?

                  1. re: twinkienic

                    Parkside is a good rec. I have only been once (a couple of years ago now). I always seem to forget about it.

                2. re: kwailan4

                  I remember that review. Gill just can't help herself.

                  1. re: smel

                    Thanks fmed & smel (and Ms. Gill) for the heads up on West; as clueless visitor, I hadn't even known of the chef change. Based on recs here and one other rec (see below), we've switched to Parkside. (Just changed on opentable and will call tom'w to try for a patio table.) The website says "casual dress"; will we actively stand out if dressed up? The other Parkside rec was from the very nice Neil Ingram of Boneta, where we had a great meal tonight, and who, when I recapped my OP and mentioned my doubts re West, considered carefully and then chose Parkside, deeming it his favorite fine dining in the city.
                    Not that you don't already know, but big thumbs up to Boneta--very creative & lively yet warm and relatable space, super friendly staff (maitre d' sat down with us to consult our map and tell us best route to walk back, late, to the hotel district), and we had a very fresh, beautifully but not preciously presented tomato & mozz salad, the excellent tastes-familiar-and-novel-at-once bison carpaccio I've seen raved here, and a great halibut with pork belly on peas, corn and morels--a classic spring/summery light bright fish presentation with the pork belly a rich, earthy, surprising yet harmonious contrast.
                    But then--sorry for rambling post, but must vent--a very disturbing experience at (or, rather, outside) CinCin. We wanted to visit on the strong rec of a friendly acquiantance who works in the industry in SF (and who specifically praised the service at CinCin), so planned dinner at Boneta then dessert at CC. We got to CC at 11:35 but, despite signs proclaiming "open 'til midnight," found their gate locked. I phoned from the sidewalk; he who answered said that they were doing some kind of kitchen cleaning and so closing "10 minutes early" (which, as it was 11:35, was so obvious a lie as to be hard to read as anything but open contempt), and that he didn't know of anywhere in the neighborhood that might be open--all with no trace of regret or apology. OK--things may arise to cause one to close early, and how could he know we'd planned our evening around their keeping their stated hours, but if I closed my business before I'd told people I would, then when I turned someone away, I'd apologize--maybe even take a moment to try to think of an alternative for them. I hope that this was an aberration, but CinCin is on my blackest list.

                    1. re: readingstand

                      Sorry about CinCin. I haven't been in a very long time - mainly because I have many other places on my list. I would say that the food and service there was merely OK. The place was filled Hollywood movie stars when I went. It's a popular place for the film industry here.

                      It's probably too late, but another place you can add to your fine-dining list is Il Giardino. It is a highly influential albeit old-school restaurant where some of the godfathers (and mothers) of the Vancouver food scene got their start (of note is John Bishop - who begat many of the current local star chefs from the kitchen at hos own restaurant, Bishop's).

                      On Boneta - that place is quintessential, exemplary Vancouver dining - casual, relaxed, fresh. I also really like the place because of their ethic - three of experienced industry guys (ex-Lumiere, ex-Chambar, etc) who struck out on their own. Friends and family chipped in on the renovation, etc. Jeremie Bastien is a very talented chef.

                      1. re: readingstand

                        I too, had a bad experience at Cincin. Went there for lunch once and I ordered a simple ink squid pasta w/ clams. There was a big clump of uncooked pasta that's stuck together. I told my server and he asked if I wanted him to bring me a little bit of pasta on a plate to add to mine after he picks out the clump.

                        umm... NO!! Don't touch my food! and don't insult me while you're at it. I swallowed my pride, finished my lunch, and said I'd never go back. (btw, the pasta was bland to begin with)

                        Well, I did go back because my friend convinced me they had changed owners/ management. I went for dinner and it was good... nothing memorable but definitely not worth the price. Many many many better restaurants in Van w/ better value. No thanks.

                        Re: gourmet wife below. I agree with Villa del Lupo. It is an intimate Italian restaurant situated in a "house". If you like carpaccio, this is the place for it. The food is wonderful, the staff is humorous and friendly, and the setting is elegant-cozy.

                        Sounds like you've made up your mind but never hurts to have more options :) Hope you have a great time.

                        1. re: readingstand

                          I don't think you'll stand out if you get dressed up to go to Parkside. Last time I went, I don't recall seeing people dressed in an overly casual style (most were smart-casual to dressy, I think). It's an elegant place, in a fresh, non-fussy way.

                3. If you want a "date spot" may I suggest Villa del Lupo or Il Giardino. Both have a very nice romantic feel to it. Plus you don't have to be all dressy or feel like it's "the scene place". I remember the first time I ever went to Villa del Lupo. My ex-bf lived by the restaurant and we didn't realize it was more high end. So we went in jeans and he even had a baseball cap but the staff was extremely friendly and didn't look us up and down or frown on our attire.

                  To reply to the poster regarding Conner Butler. I went there in January 2008. The food was good but I wouldn't say there was a "wow" factor to it. Service was good and bad, one of the servers were great, the other was just not there. Connor did come out but really didn't ask us what we liked or not like, just what are you in the mood for. We had the tasting menu and two of the dishes were goat cheese and lamb which I really detest. Oh well, my fault for not expressing my dislikes but like I said, he never asked. The restaurant moto is that they cater to what their guests like and each dinner is differ from others dining there. We noted that and all the guests having the tasting menu all had the same dishes so it's not truly 'tailor made'. The only difference was all the other tables received a souffle and we didn't. We did comment as to why and the good server told us and this is his exact words "what do you want me to do about it". We were so thrown off by his comment we didn't know what to say. We just wanted to know b/c we looked forward to the souffle as our dishes weren't "wowwing" us. We left there not hungry but we weren't exactly full either.

                  My grip with tasting menus, I understand each plate is small so you can try many others but seriously, one tiny bite??? Come on, I'm not a big eater but I'd like to be full if I'm paying $85 pp not including drinks, grat, taxes. Ggrrr...............okay, vent over.

                  Villa Del Lupo Restaurant Ltd
                  869 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2R7, CA

                  Giardino Il
                  1382 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6Z1W5, CA

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: gourmet wife

                    One more thing. The reason why we went to Connor Butler was b/c Conner used to work at Pearl on the Rock. Since we like Pearl so much we figure this is great, now we don't have to drive an hour from Bby to White Rock. Looks like we'll still be driving out to WR =)

                    1. re: gourmet wife

                      I haven't chimed in 'cause I don't feel well versed on the fine dining scene in Van -- we're casual bistro/cheap and cheerful types :-) but I would happily third the Il Giardino rep. It's been a couple of years but the last time we went it was for a corporate do and it was wonderful. They do a salmon carpaccio that is ridiculously good. The old-house/garden setting is beautiful (even for a work dinner!), the service is attentive without being obtrusive, it's all good. But do bring money ;-)

                  2. I am going to recommend Restaurant Connor Butler. I went to his place after reading his great reviews on another reviews site which is widely used. My partner and I really enjoyed our dinners. It is the only place I have ever been to where we made a reservation and the table was ours all night and no pressure to hurry up and free up a table for someone else. The atmosphere is comfortably elegant if that makes sense. The chairs are upholstered arm chairs and very comfortable. Plus the dinner courses come plated on Versace and we were amazed to see actual antique silverplate. Nice music, nice atmospher. Service was superb and friendly. There was more than enough food and we did not feel bad about the cost because after meeting Chef Butler and enjoying ourselves for nearly three liesurly hours, I know we'll be going back many more times. I would also recommend Savuer Restaurant. Great food in a casual setting. Good luck!