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Aug 4, 2008 12:22 AM

Desperation in

So like I'm going to Vancouver tomorrow.

I need food.

Any 'MUST SEE' restaurants? So far on my list are the Izakaya places on Robson, Chinatown, and some Indian places (Vij's, Main & 49th).

I really do appreciate your input.


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  1. Don't despair -- lotsa options here! Definitely do the izakaya thing. My personal faves are Guu with Garlic and Zakkushi on 4th but there are a number of commentaries here if you search; here's mine on a recent trip to GwG to start you off:

    Someone asked a similar question not too long ago so I'll give you a link to it -- my response is a few down, and of course others chimed in with their ideas as well:

    Have fun and tell us what you eat!

    1. The best Indian food in Vancouver isn't centered around Main and 49th, IMO. It is scattered throughout town and the 'burbs.

      Along with Vij's (and Rangoli), try Al Watan, Akbar's Own, Ashiana Tandoori. These places serve Indian in the Northern Punjabi/Muglai/Kashmiri/Pakstani vein.

      If you want South Indian - then try Saravanaa Bhavan, Chutney Villa, House of Dosa, Noor Mahal.

      22 Replies
      1. re: fmed

        Nice list, fmed (I just posted some very similar reccs in answer to BeeRich's Aug 3 request for Indian) -- I need to try Al Watan. Have you been to Chutney Villa lately? We went a while (year?) ago and weren't super excited, maybe a bad day...

        1. re: grayelf

          Chutney Villa - last time went was about a year ago as was between "meh" and "OK". Some people I know and trust like it a perhaps I somehow end up there on off days. It is pretty highly rated by the Vancouver food critics as well, FWIW.

          I really need to go out into the 'burbs - Surrey, Abbotsford(!) so I hear, etc. - to find the real deal Indian. I suspect the holes in the wall are the places to get it.

        2. re: fmed

          Hiya folks. Hey thanks for the replies.

          I wasn't even at my hotel when I decided to ask the cabbie from the airport where I should go. He didn't know, but he got on the horn to his cabbie mate. His mate said that All India Sweets & Restaurant was "The Best in Vancouver", so I got excited. There we went. It's on the SW corner of Main and 49th.

          The cabbie actually came in with me and we sat down at a booth. First time that has ever happened. He had not been there before, so he was interested as well. I kept an open mind, but that was a big challenge, given that the top end places were more reservation-type places. This restaurant was pretty big, and about 2/3 full at 2:30 in the afternoon. Kids were being kids, but that is expected. I was on the meter, and I knew I would continue my quest for great Vancouver food, so I quickly ordered the Lamb Biriyani...and a ginger ale. They had a typical buffet on.

          I give it a 6 out of 10. Good but not great. You could tell it wasn't a SHAN or NATIONAL masala mix tossed into prefab rice and meat. But the dish was uneven as if prepared hastily. I saw the buffet after I had ordered quickly, so I should have done that. But I was pleased as I was hungry.

          In instances like this you can't go wrong, as even a bad Indian experience beats most of the convenient places out there.

          So there you go. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it sufficed. The quest continues, and I hope to post more experiences.

          Thanks for the targets. I will try to get to them, however travel is limited...unless someone wants to come pick me up and we can go together. I'm game for that. Just let me know or send some kind of email through this system (don't know if they do that).

          I'm living near Chinatown while in Vancouver, so I'm off for some Chinese soon.


          1. re: BeeRich

            All India Sweets is certainly not the "Best in Vancouver" for Indian. It is certainly very well known. There, the buffet is the way to go...but it is cheap buffet food and expectations should be set accordingly.

            If you are in Chinatown then you must go to Phnom Penh (Cambodian with some Vietnamese). It is the best restaurant there IMO.

            The Chinese in Chinatown is not that great compared to elsewhere in the city and the suburbs. Newtown Bakery is a good place to get buns, etc. Floata is notable for its size (the biggest Chinese restaurant in Canada, etc.).

            1. re: fmed

              I hit the Golden Garden on Main, which is Vietnamese. Today being a holiday everything was closed, which was strange, so I had little choice in this. In Toronto, the Chinatowns run independent of all that. So nothing spectacular to report, as I just had some vermicelli. So two restaurants in one day, and both with 'expected' dishes. I'm not starving, so that's a great start.

              I have Chinatown close to me, so I will use that as a need to manage a local eat, cause I'm managing a client through my laptop. I have a day of writing software tomorrow, so I will want to get out of this place for a really decent meal. I don't care which one it is. I'm also trying to attract two friends, independently, so when we head out I'd like to have a bit of a choice. I think the Japanese options sound great, because (according to the article here within), we don't have them in Toronto! So that's a driving factor for me.

              I'm gonna leave this town content! Thanks for your help!

              1. re: BeeRich

                So if you're in/near Chinatown, I agree with fmed re Phnom Penh. Go early to avoid lineups, get the fried chicken and/or squid and the squash blossoms and one of their "moo" drinks if it's a hot day.

                For a lunch or dinner of snacky things, there is a great little dimsum takeout hole in the wall on Keefer just in from Gore on the southwest corner. I don't remember the name (we just go there!) but they do dumplings, potstickers, beef rolls etc on a grilling station at the front and have just few seats at the back. Very very basic but we've had good luck there and it's ridiculously cheap.

                For old school Cantonese-style food, I like Foo's Ho Ho. You can have the "classics" in a great retro-because-it's-been-like-this-forever room. Always good service, nice, best lemon chicken ever (a natural yellow not that weird nuclear orange-pink), Singapore style rice noodle that is very tasty. They have a whole chicken special that is really something if you go with friends. They also have an extensive list of rice-and ____ for the solo diner.

                There is a recent post on Park Lok for dimsum here on this board
                (go down to July 27 near the end of the thread) -- they have carts.

                Don't forget all the great places in Gastown either if you're looking for something a bit more upscale -- a short cab ride away: Boneta, Chill Winston, Cobre, Salt, Jules, I know I'm missing a bunch. Do a search on any of these names and you'll be on the trail...

                And a short cab/bus ride up Main will get you to eating central: Aurora Bistro, Habit, Cascade Room, Mitra Canteen (for Persian), Five Point, again I'm missing some. And you could continue up Main a bit further to get to Splitz Burgers, Sawasdee Thai, Legendary Noodle, Nyala Ethiopian, Locus, Rekados for higher end Philippean, the list goes on...

                Jules Bistro
                216 Abbott St, Vancouver, BC V6B2K8, CA

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

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

                Nyala African/Ethiopian Cuisine
                4148 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P7, CA

                Salt Tasting Room Ltd
                45 Blood Alley, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4, CA

                Sawasdee Thai Restaurant
                4250 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P9, CA

                4063 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P5, CA

                Legendary Noodle
                4191 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P6, CA

                Boneta Restaurant
                1 West Cordova, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C8, CA

                Splitz Grill Main Street Ltd
                4242 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P9, CA

                Phnom Penh Restaurant Ltd
                244E Georgia St E, Vancouver, BC V6A1Z7, CA

                Cascade Room
                2616 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T3E6, CA

                Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant
                102 Pender St E, Vancouver, BC V6A1T3, CA

                Park Lock Seafood Restaurant
                544 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A2T9, CA

                Chill Winston
                3 Alexander St, Vancouver, BC V6A1B2, CA

                2610 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T3E6, CA

                Mitra Canteen
                3034 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T3G5, CA

                Five Point
                3124 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T3G7, CA

                4121 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P6, CA

                1. re: grayelf

                  Along with Gastown, Commercial Dr is also in close proximity to Chinatown (perhaps a 5 minute drive or perhaps a $7 cab ride away.

                  1. re: fmed

                    I visited Commercial on my out here, at the beer place by the park. I've already had the beers they were serving, and they had a decent choice, but their fries were excellent. Sat on the patio.

                    I am off to Phnom Penh. I will report back.

                    1. re: BeeRich

                      You must mean Stella's - good choice.

                    2. re: fmed

                      OK, I'm back! Phnom Penh at 1:30 was 100% full. The menu was as thick as a phone book, and I watched several people leave and come in (not the same people).

                      I had the fried squid, of the recommendations. I forgot the other two. I bought a small pad to write recommendations down from now on. I saw the cold drink, and I was glad I stuck to tea. The squid was a decent portion. It came with some kind of sauce and some ground chilis, which I eventually added to the sauce. Quite nice. Could have been a little crispier. Johnny's in Toronto was where I first had this dish, and his was spicier and saltier, but a favorite in Toronto by many. They have either moved or closed, as I can't find them. I miss Johnny's, and it was good to see that this type of squid was available elsewhere. I bet they do some mean fish dishes.

                      I also got the pork fried rice. I brought some home as it was a huge plate, especially after that squid. Quite nice.

                      I give this place an 8 out of 10. Thanks for the recommendation. This is the type of place I'm looking for when traveling, or better. I'm a hard marker, so this place is doing well.

                      On that note, I can only suspect that success breeds success in places like this. The food remains fresh because of the amount they go through. Their amount of business supports a staff that can keep the place clean, including the kitchen. Also, high use items remain clean all the time. So once you reach this echelon, you can retain it by providing excellent meals. At least that's my theory. This place definitely has that going for them.

                      I walked through about 3 blocks of Chinatown to get there. PIcked up some ginseng then some supplies after I ate. The bulk stores remind me of Toronto, but the crowds aren't as bad here. I was quite impressed with the fish varieties here, but I guess that's to be expected. Toronto doesn't have as much, and I'm always interested in the live catch here. Halibut carcasses were a bit of an attraction, as I'm sure they make great broth.

                      Have I ever mentioned how oriental women are super attractive? OK sorry, wrong website. Heh.

                      1. re: BeeRich

                        Next time you are at Phnom Penh - you should know that their specialties are the garlic Chicken Wings with lime dipping sauce, Banh Xeo, Squash Flowers, Butter Beef, Cambodian Beef soup, Papaya Salad, the Deep Fried Garlic Squid and the Pan Fried Black Pepper Squid (my personal fave).

                        Too much to order all at once, of course.

                        1. re: fmed

                          Don't forget the rare butter beef. Mmmmm....

                          1. re: fmed

                            Oh damn it, you already had it listed there. Doh. Well, then consider it my vote!

                            1. re: alau2

                              No worries alau2...the Butter Beef is worth at least a second mention.

                            2. re: fmed

                              Oh...too late! Looks like I'll have to go back this week some time.

                        2. re: grayelf

                          Is the hole in the wall dim sum place on pender instead of keefer? They seemed to have closed down.

                          1. re: kwailan4

                            There was a "bun" place, or a bakery of some sort (meats inside bread) on the West side, just S of the lights, which is Gore.

                              1. re: fmed

                                Actually, while I am at it, anybody know good places to get some beer? Hopefully locally brewed, but imported is ok if there's a good menu to go with it. I'm a master brewer (hence BeeRich).

                                1. re: BeeRich


                                  Food has been ok for lunch the couple of times I've been, don't know about dinner. Beer should be what you're looking for though.

                                  1. re: BeeRich

                                    Chambar and Stella for Belgian. Steamworks (as ck1234 recommended), Yaletown Brewpub, Granville Island Brewing for local small-batch beers.

                                    Are you interested in having a look at a Sake brewing operation? If so, Osake on Granville Island is the only artisinal sake brewer in Canada. They serve flights of their sake.

                                    1. re: fmed

                                      Sake sounds good (my education is in malting, brewing & distilling, amongst some more biology, etc.). I should check it out. I will also check out Granville and Yaletown as well. Thanks for the leads.

                  2. OK, so I've had another "experience" here in town.

                    Tonight I went to the Alibi House. Great room. Right next to the railroad trax, which is super cool. Just before I left, a train went by. You can't get real estate in Toronto like that anymore.

                    What I had:

                    Edamame: Good dose for my first couple of beers. Very nice.

                    Longwood Imperial Stout: A strong start. Nice and chocolatey up front, but not overpowering through the end.

                    Cannery Brewing IPA: Deep hop notes as per expected for this style.

                    Yaletown India Brown Ale: A mix of two styles which don't quite meet too well. The India part of it brings a shove of hops that outdoes the Brown Ale part of it. Clean and unique, though.

                    Poseidon's Imperial Stout "Reel Ale" (BWAHAHAHAHA): This 8% bottled beer has a chocolately head, which shows the brewer was serious with his specialty malts and roasted barley. Too complex to see if Cascade hops were used, as that's normal for Western US breweries.

                    I had their Sirloin with onion rings, salad and fries as well. Small but nice piece of meat. This location usually has 19 taps, and a range between 20 to 40 bottled beer, depending on season and availability.

                    I give this place an 8 out of 10. Apparently this place kicks up on weekends and during lunch as well. Very nice.

                    1. OK last night I went out...for a change.

                      First I hit Vij's for dinner. Had the Storm Scottish Ale, then the Storm IPA. The Scottish was off style, too malty. Couldn't tell if they pushed with compressed air or CO2. The IPA was uneventful and didn't give the sharp palate cleaning an IPA should. They don't take reservations, but have a lounge in the back and a patio out front with goldfish. They put chicken wire in the ponds so that you don't eat them.

                      Onto the food. I had the Samosas and the Lamb Popsicles in a coconut curry sauce. The Samosas were beyond my expectations, and the lamb didn't make the mark. Two samosas filled with two types of meat and some potatoes/veg. They came with some chunky sauce in a bowl, so they weren't really finger food. Minced meat mixed with spices and small veg really got me going. Spice amount was just right, perhaps a bit much for samosas, and the average crowd in a place like this.

                      Next, the lamb popsicles. While I'm a massive fan of lamb, you usually don't get a lot. Thankfully, Indian places give you a great deal most times. Not this place. 6 medallions of lamb, and bones to chew on. Some sliced potatoes in a turmeric-coloured curry sauce left me asking where the flavour was, especially after those samosas. Not much more to say there.

                      While I am a true believer in that masalas and spices can go a long way with innovative foods, I can see that the history really backs up the traditional combinations such as the Biriyanis, Kormas, Madras', Vindaloo's, etc. I should say that I expect these specific masalas from either North or South India to have been created amongst availability of such other items as fish and coconut, or lack thereof. Vij's lamb didn't seem to fit the bill. While the flavours of lamb are subtle (I prefer much stronger mutton), lightening up the curry sauce companion didn't really do the dish any favours.

                      I am going to try an Indian in West Van called Handi (my fave in Toronto is New Haandi), that was recommended by my taxi driver.

                      Next to Steamworks for a couple pints.

                      Huge place (650 capacity with patio), very hip joint downtown by the white tent building. Started with Oatmeal Stout, which was nice, but could have used a bit more roasted/specialty malts. I am finding there's a lot of super dark beers out here, which have been a fave of mine for some time. I tried their raspberry wheat, which showed obvious use of professional brewing fruit extracts. I prefer the real stuff, having made Frambozenbier in my past with real fruit. Then the wit definitely had coriander and orange peel, and to my surprise, had more flavour than most wits out there. Keep your wits about you around this one.

                      Got tired, went home.

                      Lunch today was at Phnom Penh again. Again, wait 10 minutes at around Noon. Black Pepper Squid was nice, but I prefer the other deep fried squid's saltiness. Got the sausage rice again (I might have said pork rice before, but I was wrong). Gotta love that Chinatown.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: BeeRich

                        Thanks for the near real-time reports.

                        I found these lists of BC breweries and brewpubs:


                        1. re: fmed

                          Sorry you were disappointed in the lamb pops. I'm not a lamb person so have never tried them, and besides I'm partial to the apps and veg items Vij's does.

                          Intrigued to hear what you think of Handi. It is a friend of mine's "local" for Indian takeout -- I've only had it once that way so can't comment on the dine-in experience.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            They have a location in Dunbar that I have been intrigued about. I have heard good things about it.

                            I think of the lamb popsicles at Vij's more of a French dish done with Indian spices (French Indian Fusion?). I think one of the reasons that Vij's is popular becuase their spicing is more subtle than an 'authentic' Indian place.

                            1. re: fmed

                              Quite possible, but then it really leaves Indian fans left out in the cold. The samosas were impressive, so I thought it would follow suit. The lamb could have had some volatile aromatics like mint and cilantro, which could have had the earthy lamb come through as well, but no dosh.

                              An Indian with 2 locations is a good sign. I will report back.

                            2. re: grayelf

                              I reviewed their menu and wanted their mega lamb meal, which sounds fantastic, but they need 24 hours notice. Seeing as I can't wait, I'm going anyway. The rest of their menu sounds pretty fantastic, so I have high expectations. I hope this is the West Coast experience I've been waiting for.

                              1. re: BeeRich

                                OK so I went for a late lunch/early dinner. I hit the patio at Handi. Great view.

                                The cabbie there and the cabbie on the way back, both told me that I should go to "X, which is the best in the city". I am starting to see a pattern. Quite funny actually. Cab ride there cost me more than the meal without wine.

                                Onion Bhajis: I was hungry and they were pretty good. Like Indian onion rings. Two were intersected, and I have no clue how they did that. I took it as a lucky sign.

                                Garlic/Basil Naan: This was thin and quite dry, and I didn't taste either garlic nor basil.

                                Peas Pulao Rice: Nice version of something that I've always found to be very plain. It had a nice colour to it and I didn't ask what they did. Ghee probably, but some colouring as well, like turmeric.

                                Murgh Vindaloo (chicken): I ordered this hot, but it came medium hot. It was creamy and presented very well.

                                Lamb Methi: This was very nice. Big chunks of lamb in a wonderful gravy. Full of flavour, well presented.

                                Half litre of Italian Merlot.

                                This was well worth the trip. Expensive trip by cab, but it was a very enjoyable meal that I expected. I set my sights high on this one, and I hit that point where I was satiated and satisfied.

                                I highly recommend this place. I give it a 9 out of 10, better than Vij's.

                                1. re: BeeRich

                                  Hi guys. Thanks for the information. Made for an interesting trip out west. Back home in Toronto.