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Your top splurges in Vancouver?

A little game for you today: the fantasy prize is $100 gift certificates to your favourite "nice" restaurants in Vancouver. I'm actually doing research for an anniversary present so your answers will be utilized for a real project. What are your go-to restos when someone else is footing all or part of the bill? I'm not necessarily talking about the most expensive spots but rather places where the food is great and the ambiance makes it a bit of a special occasion -- all cuisines welcome. Feel free to include places that you haven't been to but think would be worthy or that haven't opened yet but that you think would fit the criteria...

I'll play first (in no particular order, not exhaustively, and please let me know if you think any of these should be dropped):

Bishop's
Parkside
West
Blue Water
C
Boneta
Tojo's
Five Sails
Fuel
Gastropod
Conor Butler
Le Crocodile
Voya
Lumiere/DB Bistro Moderne

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  1. That list is great. I would add

    Lime
    Octopus' Garden
    Bearfoot Bistro (Whistler is a Vancouver suburb is it not?)

    1 Reply
    1. re: fmed

      Good call on Lime, fmed (I think that would displace Tojo's for me, actually). OG and Bearfoot now also in the running...

    2. Cioppino's
      Gotham
      Joe Fortes
      The Cannery
      Bacchus
      Chambar

      I'm pretty lucky as I have great reps at work & get to pick a place to splurge at each month. I've been to pretty much all on your list & mine at one time or another. It's always nicer when someone else pays!!!

      It's interesting as I'd NEVER pay that kind of money to eat at Tojo's. I've been. One of my lovely reps paid and I loved the meal! But I won't do that spending here in Vancouver. We went to New York & Boston for 2 weeks this summer. I studied Chow for 8 months before I picked my restaurants and spent $4000 on dining those two weeks! Talk about a splurge!

      4 Replies
      1. re: ck1234

        I thought of several of your suggestions, ck but didn't want to take the fun out of the game! Will add them all to the "big list" and colour me green with jealousy over your NY/Boston extravaganza. Confession time: I almost enjoy the research before trips more than the actual eating... almost.

        1. re: ck1234

          off topic but ck did you post about your New York trip? if so can you provide a link? We go every spring and I too spend lots of pre trip hours on chowhound I would love to know what your top choices were.

          1. re: balini

            balini, is there a way to PM on this board? I did do a trip report but not on chowhound and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post the link here...

            1. re: ck1234

              thanks for your response ck no PM's on this board but if you're willing to send me a link to your post you can do that through my profile info

        2. Great game, greyelf! Here are some of my picks:

          Cioppino's
          Parkside
          La Buca (family style 6+ course chef's menu)
          Il Giardino
          Rodney's or Blue Water (oysters are pricey little suckers)
          Vij's
          Fuel
          Morton's (for a double porterhouse and football sized potato)

          I know the next suggestion doesn't fit the "restaurant" bill, but since we're playing make believe on someone else's tab...

          Cocktail party catered by Culinary Capers, followed by a dessert buffet made up of cakes, tarts and other goodies from Thomas Haas, Ganache, Sweet Obsessions and True Confections. Of course, this party would have an open bar, skillfully tended by the geniuses behind the bar at Cascade or George.

          3 Replies
          1. re: im_hungry

            Glad to brighten up your Saturday morning! Some more great additions, i_h, thanks. As some Hounds may have noticed, I'm practically a shill for La Buca as it is my favourite for unpretentious Italian (my best meal of all time was a 6-person dinner a la famiglia there in April of this year).

            1. re: grayelf

              I loooooove La Buca, too! It's high on my rotation of go-to places.

              Saw from another post that you're going to SF soon. Lucky! Have you tried A16? I've had great meals there and not so great. They're not as consistent as La Buca, but it's apparently Andrey Durbach's favourite Italian restaurant in SF.

              1. re: im_hungry

                BTW, when you have your fantasy catered party, I'm angling for an invite :-). And no, haven't tried A16 though it is on my 40-page (!) long list of Bay Area restos. I think we might have to hit Incanto which will fill the quota for Italian this time...

          2. Excellent question. Well, I think I would like a gift certificate to:

            1. West, because last time I was there I had a horrible cold and couldn't taste a thing. What a waste. Also spilled my water glass all over the place, so along with a runny nose was basically a horrible disgrace. Do over!
            2. Bishop's, because there really is no more welcoming, gracious host in this city than John Bishop. Once we were there (on a gift certificate in fact) very "pregnantly" and the evening ended with his promise to provide us dinner at the hospital after our baby was born. It happened! Another time he packaged up dessert for the baby sitter and offered his daughter's baby sitting services.
            3. Blue Water. never been, next on the list for a big night.
            4. One of the oft recommended dim sum places so I can take all my friends and try everything.
            5. Il Giardino because my mom really wants to go.

            I'm going to lie awake all night thinking of all the other choices....

            10 Replies
            1. re: waver

              >>1. West, because last time I was there I had a horrible cold and couldn't taste a thing. What a waste. Also spilled my water glass all over the place, so along with a runny nose was basically a horrible disgrace. Do over!

              LOL. This deserves it's own thread over at General Chowhounding Topics. Restaurant Do Overs.

              >>2. Bishop's, because there really is no more welcoming, gracious host in this city than John Bishop. Once we were there (on a gift certificate in fact) very "pregnantly" and the evening ended with his promise to provide us dinner at the hospital after our baby was born. It happened! Another time he packaged up dessert for the baby sitter and offered his daughter's baby sitting services.

              The guy is a class act. His attitude to the business has rubbed off on all his many now moving-and-shaking protege. It's not an exaggeration that he almost single handedly defined this city's restaurant scene. It's been ages for me...it's time to revisit.

              1. re: fmed

                Fmed, this fellow has somehow been under the (my) radar for too long, could you provide a little background for those of us who are clueless? TIA

                dave

                1. re: PolarBear

                  John Bishop is the godfather of the Vancouver culinary scene. He started off working with Umberto Menghi, a very influential chef and restauranteur (Umberto's, Il Giardino, Circolo, Trattoria) and arguably the father of Vancouver's fine dining scene.

                  John pioneered regional cuisine and "localvorism" here in the same way Alice Waters did down where you are. He is known to be an exceptionally hospitable and down-to-earth host. Many of Vancouver's star chefs mentored under John Bishop - Vikram Vij (Vij's), Jeff Van Geest (Aurora), Andrey Durbach & Chris Stewart (La Buca, Parkside, Pied-a-Terre), ....the list goes on.

                  Here is an excellent article on the man: http://www.vanmag.com/restaurants/07m...

                  1. re: fmed

                    Nice precis on John Bishop, fmed and thanks for the link -- I somehow missed that article. Confession #2: I have an enormous "chow crush" on M. Bishop. When I finally met him at last year's UBC Feast of Fields I (amazingly) managed not to stutter and stammer. When I made some starstruck reference to his place in the Vancouver food firmament, he actually blushed. I think that is what really did me in: living proof of his humility and self deprecation. He is like the Paul Newman of chefs, though lucky for us John B is still around ;-).

                    1. re: grayelf

                      To add to the list, Pear Tree in Burnaby and Pearl on the Rock in White Rock. For Whistler, Val D'Isere is a very good choice.

                      I've been meaning to try out La Belle Auberge in Ladner but haven't gotten around to. Hopefully next year ;-)

                      1. re: gourmet wife

                        I'll second (or 6th) the vote for John Bishop. When we lived in Vancouver, Bishop's was our go to place for special, and sometimes not so special, times. Once we were in, and it was very busy. We ended up chatting a bit with the couple at the table next to ours...they were visiting from California, and were looking for suggestions for things to do, places to eat etc. We gave a few suggestions, and had a lovely conversation with them. They left before we did, and as we were about to order dessert, John came over with a couple of glasses of port, sat down, thanked us for being such great Vancouver 'hosts' and stayed and chatted for a few minutes. He is such a great restauranter...in every way. Bishop's gets all of my votes!

                      2. re: grayelf

                        Ok I'm convinced that I've made a terrible mistake by never making it to Bishops, thanks for putting it context for me...next year that's where we'll go for our annual anniversary spurge.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          >> He is like the Paul Newman of chefs, though lucky for us John B is still around ;-).

                          LOL. I hope John is reading this.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            I had the pleasure of serving him along with some other local heavyweights. He was such a nice man, but It was a little intimidating serving him. You want to be so on your game with him as he is so great at his own craft. I have not served too many people who made me so anxious for all around me to shine.

                            1. re: jahvay

                              That would have freaked me out when I was a server -- I would have been trying to be so careful I would have gotten clumsier, I'm sure :-). But I'm jealous anyway!

                  2. With all this talk about John Bishop I have to add Aurora Bistro! CHef Jeff was John's sous chef before he opened Aurora 5 years ago (just in time for me to move to Vancouver).

                    I also want to add Pair Bistro - had my birthday dinner there a month ago and got treated like a queen, and the food was very good.

                    And I pretty much agree with everyone else :)

                    1. As an Edmontonian, I don't have the luxury of venturing out to these lovely sounding restaurants, so my fantasy trip/fantasy restaurant would have to be sushi of some sort (of course I hear about Tojo's all the time) or something along the lines of Fuel.

                      I find this thread even more attractive, because my SO and I do try to head out to the coast every year and could use the recommendations for a special night as well.

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: raidar

                        A year later and time for an update question: Are there any new places/places we missed that should be added to our splurge list, which I have scientifically excised from the above suggestions (deleting places that have closed) as follows:

                        Bishop's
                        West
                        Blue Water
                        C
                        Boneta
                        Tojo's
                        Five Sails
                        Fuel
                        Le Crocodile
                        Voya
                        Lumiere/DB Bistro Moderne
                        Lime
                        Octopus' Garden
                        Cioppino's
                        Gotham
                        Joe Fortes
                        Bacchus
                        Chambar
                        Rodney's
                        Vij's
                        Il Giardino
                        Pair Bistro
                        'Burbs:
                        Pear Tree (Burnaby)
                        Pearl on the Rock (White Rock)
                        Bearfoot Bistro (Whistler)
                        La Buca or L'Altro Buca (family style chef's menu)
                        La Belle Auberge (Delta)

                        1. re: grayelf

                          If you're including Bearfoot, you pretty much have to include Araxi.

                          Also (although I've never been to the new re-branded one): Q4 (formerly Quattro on 4th)

                          I don't see La Terrazza, definitely a splurge spot.
                          Le Gavroche is splurgy as well.
                          If you have Chambar on the list, I think you have to have Boneta.
                          Market
                          Coast

                          1. re: Cancuk

                            Awesome, thanks Cancuk. I think this thread is morphing into splurgy/higher end restos in Vancouver and environs, rather than favourites, but that is okay too. Anyone reading can do their research and then come back and ask for specific opinions, right?

                            1. re: grayelf

                              Well, being Chinese, I tend to think of splurging on an all out banquet. Sadly, it generally requires a table of 10 to actually make it through the entire dinner.

                              But if you've got a good gang of hungry people, I'd say Kirin, Red Star and Sun Sui Wah would make splurge worthy spots.

                              1. re: bdachow

                                Nice perspective, bdachow! Makes me think Sea Harbour should be on the list in that category too... in fact, it might be worth doing some sub-categories for the rest of the list too.

                          2. re: grayelf

                            CRU on Broadway has never disappointed and they have a great local wine list. Small restaurant and service is fantastic. There is one server that knows the wine list front to back and is just a great guy in general. Would be perfect to have the space for a private party or something like a rehearsal dinner.

                            1. re: charlieung

                              Nice one, charlie. Going on the list when I get a chance to redo it... keep the ideas coming, folks!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                No Problem. I was thinking about the list again this morning and I noticed that Cin Cin and Yew at the Four Seasons aren't on the list. I haven't dined at either but I've heard good things about both.

                                1. re: charlieung

                                  I would pass on Cin Cin, but Yew is on my list.

                            2. re: grayelf

                              I was just given $100 to spend on a nice meal for myself and my husband, so this thread has been very helpful. I'm much more of a 'foodie' than my husband, but we both enjoy a well-prepared meal served in a pleasant (but not stuffy) atmosphere. I'm trying to decide between Bishop's, Pied a Terre or DB Bistro (we like French food), Boneta, and someplace for seafood (Blue Water Cafe is perhaps a bit too high-end - perhaps C?) I'd love to try La Buca, but feel it's better suited to a larger party. Any advice?

                              1. re: KGill

                                Your instincts are saying "La Buca." $100 will go far there. (You don't need a large party to have a good time.)

                                1. re: fmed

                                  Fmed, you are SO right - my husband has been lobbying for a decent Italian meal (he's from Montreal, so although not a dedicated foodie, he knows good food when he encounters it). Thank you for saying that La Buca works for couples as well as groups - that was the message I was hoping to get!

                                  1. re: KGill

                                    Just chiming in to agree with fmed re La Buca, which happens (as everyone who hangs around here will be painfully aware) to be my fave semi-special occasion resto in Vancouver. While we have had several outstanding meals ala famiglia there in a group of six (which BTW is the largest group I would recommend going with if you all want to talk to each other easily), we mostly go as a couple. The level of service is what makes it feel special. Let us know what you decide and have fun!

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      Okay, guys - I'm sold on La Buca, but my husband was disappointed when he didn't see any form of Italian sausage (or can I use the word charcuterie) on the menu. I think the antipasto course is his favourite part of any Italian meal, and he wasn't overwhelmed with the choices. Would Campagnolo be a better match? FYI, La Buca is closed December 24 - 28.
                                      Thanks again.

                                      1. re: KGill

                                        Campagnolo is a good choice too. They have salumi made by The Cure (Campagnolo's house made salumi operation). I've attached a pic of one platter I had there a little while ago.

                                        Make sure to have the crispy cecci starter.

                                        (La Buca has only Bresaola as a cured meat starter)

                                         
                                        1. re: KGill

                                          I went to La Buca about a month ago and was a bit disappointed as well. It was good but not great for the price. For three people, we spent almost $180 not including tips. Considering how much possitive review it gets on Chow, I may have set my standards a bit high.

                                          1. re: gourmet wife

                                            I have had the cured meat platter twice in different configurations at Campag and have been underwhelmed with taste and (tiny) portion size. And you have to pay for bread separately which is a pet peeve of mine, like being served hummous without pita or salsa without chips. I do love certain dishes here but find it's more hit and miss than La Buca -- you have to know the menu and you have to be sure to ask if things have changed (I once ordered a risotto that came out completely different than what was listed -- no warning and no apology -- would have been okay if it had tasted better I guess). As you have likely read, avoid the pizza if you go.

                                            Worth a call to La Buca with this specific request, as we've had some excellent locally sourced charcuterie there during our "family style" dinners. It may be they can accommodate you with a wee bit of advance notice/interest.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              I'm going to come out and say I love the pizza at Campagnolo. After 9:30 it's a killer deal at $12.50 for a pizza and a pint of R&B. It's not your typical Neapolitan style super thin crust pie, but it's a rather soft, thin crust with quality toppings. I've never been disappointed. Then again, I'm not a pizza snob (nothing wrong with that though... you CH regulars know I'm one of the biggest beer and coffee snobs around!).

                                              1. re: peter.v

                                                The first time we had it right after opening it was excellent. Then twice more and it was not. Kind of a three strikes mentality I guess which maybe isn't fair. I should try it again...

                            3. This post has been very helpful to me. I'm a boston-transplanted Los Angeleno and am going up to Vancouver -- for my honeymoon. i've looked at every restaurant on this list! I'm trying to decide where we should go the night of our wedding (when we arrive on saturday). I'm still feeling a little undecided ... alot of good choices. does anybody have a specific recommendation? I like sophisticated, good combinations, but i really don't like "fancy" over the top plating. A smaller place is preferable. Thanks!

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: bunbun

                                  I think this is the first time that I've publicly admitted that Fuel is my favorite restaurant in the city, but I will gladly state that here. I think Fuel really presents true modern Vancouver cuisine. You should not be disappointed here.

                                  1. re: bunbun

                                    We went to Fuel and it was really wonderful! Thanks so much for the suggestion.