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San Francisco Hound visiting Vancouver in Dec.

DezzerSF Oct 29, 2008 08:42 PM

It's our first time in Vancouver and we'll be visting for 2 days during the 2nd week of December. Where should we eat? We are interested in cheap ethnic eats, and maybe 1 splurge dinner. What does Vancouver do better than SF?

  1. Sam Salmon Oct 29, 2008 10:17 PM

    Dare I mention *z*k*y*?

    13 Replies
    1. re: Sam Salmon
      grayelf Oct 29, 2008 10:50 PM

      Hey Dezzer, nice to see you on this board! I am a long-time lurker and occasional poster on your home board, and have had many excellent meals in your town thanks to SF Bay Area hounds like you -- in fact we're heading there in one week's time.

      I think Sam is on the money with the izakaya recommendation. That trend doesn't seem to have hit hard in the Bay Area as yet, and it has come to stay here. You could do a search, or just head down to Denman and Robson-ish and start eating. I'm a big fan of Guu with Garlic in the West End and Zakkushi on 4th in Kits myself. Both take resos.

      For your other meals, you will find that Vancouver does well on the cheap ethnic eats, but you might want to give us an idea of where you'll be and what you like. I would think Vietnamese would be worth considering (best along Kingsway going east past about Fraser-ish) and also Chinese, especially if you're willing/able to head out to Richmond. There are others here who are far more qualified to give you such reccos so I will leave that to them.

      If you want to stay in town, there is a Mandarin place on Broadway near Cambie called Peaceful that has done me no wrong and much good in my many visits there. FWIW I took a friend last weekend and she said it was one of the best Chinese meals she had ever had. We had more than enough food and spent $40 for three.

      If you're feeling Middle Eastern, there are two outposts of Nuba that would be worth checking out for lunch.

      Here's a link to a thread that is a bit similar from this summer that might give you some other ideas:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/530513

      1. re: grayelf
        fmed Oct 30, 2008 03:30 AM

        I agree that Vietnamese and Chinese are your best bet for ethnic eats.

        grayelf's rec of driving east along Kingsway for cheap Vietnamese the way to go....specifically: Co Do for Hue food, Tung Hing and Ba Le for Bahn Mi, and quite a number of good (predominantly Southern Vietnamese) Pho of similar quality to what you can get down there.

        For the Chinese scene here - Richmond and Burnaby are the places to go. Specifically: Hunan - Alvin Garden in Burnaby (which used to be "The Xiang"); Sichuan - Sichuan House in Burnaby, Golden Springs in Richmond; Mandarin/Pan-Regional - Peaceful; Shanghai - Chen's in Richmond, Long's Noodle House in Vancouver. Of course - Richmond may be one of the best places anywhere to have dim sum. (There are a number of good ones in Vancouver, however).

        I notice you listed Sinigang - a Filipino dish - in your profile. You may want to try two non-cafeteria style Filipino restaurants: Rekado's which is a Filipino place that attempts to be upscale and Pin Pin which is a Filipino-Chinese restaurant that has good grilled and signature dishes (and is known for their Crispy Pata....not my fave, however).

        Also my all-time favorite cheap eats here is Hawker's Delight - a exceptionally valued Singapore/Malaysian hole-in-the wall.

        In Chinatown is Phnom Phen for Cambodian.

        Newly discovered for me are Saravanaa Bhavan for South Indian (they have a location in Sunnyvale) and Prayag Raj (Gujarati)...very inexpensive food...specially SB's all you can eat lunch buffet.

        Not sure how to classify Japadogs...but if your are a Bourdain fan, you might as well indulge. I'll mention izakaya on Robson and Denman streets again...it is a very Vancouver sort of scene.

        We don't have a Slanted Door/Le Colonial here like you do....hardly cheap, but still wishing we did have an upscale Vietnamese...nor do we have taco trucks. Don't bother with Mexican here.

        Splurges: Fuel, Gastropod, Octopus' Garden's omakase....what are your preferences?

        If anything piques your interest, post back and we can provide more details.

        1. re: fmed
          DezzerSF Oct 30, 2008 07:44 AM

          fmed, Thanks for the tips. For Chinese, Hunan and Sichuan are my favorites, so we might give those places a shot. Where's the best place for XLB?

          Filpino might be an option if my SO is up for it, she thinks the cuisine is on the greasy side. However we both love Hainan Chicken Rice, how is the dish at Hawker's Delight? How about the laksa? (I'm a big soup fan if you haven't noticed)

          Funny how you mention a Cambodian place in Chinatown.. seems similar to SF where we tell visitors to go elsewhere for chinese food. Are there any good places for jook and chinese doughnuts? Is it mostly Cantonese food in Chinatown?

          I need to watch Bourdain's Vancouver episode again.. I do remember him eating Japadogs though. Maybe we can share one for a light snack.

          As for splurges, I just remembered it will be crab season (is there a season up there?) Any noteable places up there? We're used to Vietnamese style preps, but I'm open for trying something new.

          1. re: DezzerSF
            fmed Oct 30, 2008 08:28 AM

            The HCR at Hawker's Delight is the best deal in town - I think it is $4.25 last time I had it. It's not the "best" in town - I think that Prima Taste's HCR is a better, albeit more expensive option. The Laksa is quite good, especially for the price.

            There are a number of places in Chinatown you can have jook - the most popular is Hon's (definitely not the best place - but a popular recommendation by hotel concierges it seems). There are few noodle shops there - the names escape me and they will all be better than Hon's. The best place for jook is Congee Noodle House on Broadway at Main (fairly close to Chinatown). It is closed (hopefully temporarily) for "renovations". It might be open when you arrive, though. And yes - Chinatown is mainly Cantonese.

            For King Crab - Sun Sui Wah on Main (or in Richmond) is my regular spot. Richmond is about a half-hour drive from downtown. The Skytrain construction has made for some crazy driving along No. Three Rd, however...so watch out for that. For upscale dim sum recommend Sea Harbour and Shanghai Wind to start....there are so many more, but I'll restrict it to two.

            1. re: DezzerSF
              fmed Oct 30, 2008 08:52 AM

              I almost forgot to answer this question:
              >>Where's the best place for XLB?

              Here is a survey I did:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532438

              1. re: fmed
                DezzerSF Oct 30, 2008 10:09 AM

                Wow, awesome XLB comparisons. Have you posted your Dan Dan Mien survey yet?

                1. re: DezzerSF
                  fmed Oct 30, 2008 10:57 AM

                  >>Have you posted your Dan Dan Mien survey yet?

                  Actually I haven't -- let me work on it tonight.

                  In a nutshell, there will be two general categories - "authentic" Chengdu-style Dan Dan (chile/sesame oil -based), and the more common (in North America/HK/etc) peanutty/sesame based Dan Dan.

                  1. re: DezzerSF
                    fmed Oct 30, 2008 07:45 PM

                    Here you go DezzerSF:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568606

              2. re: fmed
                t
                twinkienic Oct 30, 2008 10:03 PM

                re: upscale Vietnamese...
                I got the sense that that's the gap that Chau (Robson, near Denman) is trying to fill. I haven't been yet, though. Has anyone heard anything about it?

                1. re: twinkienic
                  fmed Oct 30, 2008 10:13 PM

                  That is what I had heard as well....no reports yet from anyone I know.

              3. re: grayelf
                DezzerSF Oct 30, 2008 07:26 AM

                grayelf, It's been a pleasure giving you tips on the SF board, thank you for returning the favor. We will be staying in the downtown area, but we'll have a car so we can travel a bit if necessary. Forgive my ignorance, but how far is Richmond anyway?

                I'm a big fan of Pho, so I'd definitely try a bowl to see how the recipes are up there. An izakaya sounds great, like you said, we don't have great examples in SF. Thanks for the link as well, lots of great tips in that thread!

                1. re: DezzerSF
                  grayelf Oct 30, 2008 12:06 PM

                  You're welcome! As fmed mentioned, Richmond's about a half hour drive not counting traffic chaos -- be sure to Google Map before you go. It's probably about as far as the Outer Richmond is from FiDi in San Francisco... and the parking is free, which is a big difference I'd say. In fact even downtown you will find parking is cheaper than at home, and it's free after 8 pm at meters.

                  For pho, I'll post the top four picks on Kingsway from our resident pho expert Knight: he maintains a major Excel spreadsheet on his samplings, and they are legion.

                  Hai Yen 646 Kingsway (39.5/40 pts)
                  Pho Thai Hoa 1625 Kingsway (39.5/40 pts)
                  Co Do 950 Kingsway (39.5/40 pts; as mentioned by fmed this place specializes in Hue cuisine but it is also my SO's favourite pho of the moment)
                  Lu Quan 1086 Kingsway (37/40 pts)

                  We don't do splurge all that often but FWIW I agree with fmed's recs and urge you to check out one of Andre Durbach's restos if you get a chance. I'm a big fan of La Buca and am coming to the conclusion it is the best Italian on offer in the city at that price range. And the nice thing is you feel like you're eating in the locals' favourite spot. I'm looking forward to a similar vibe at La Ciccia in SF where I am going with a Bay Area Hound next week -- woohoo!

              4. re: Sam Salmon
                fmed Oct 30, 2008 03:02 AM

                >>Dare I mention *z*k*y*?

                LOL. someone had to do it.

              5. DezzerSF Dec 16, 2008 07:56 PM

                Thank you for all the recommendations, we had a great time eating and sightseeing in Vancouver. It was definitely a chilly few days and we were glad the snow storm waited for our departure Friday morning, although it did follow us back to Seattle.

                Our first day we had dinner at Guu with Garlic after a long walk from downtown. We arrived quite early and snagged some bar seats. I'm not sure if this was the best bet since we were not quite prepared for the constant outbursts of orders and greetings in Japanese. Still, we enjoyed the tasty and very nicely cooked food.

                We had the kimchi hot pot which I found to be a very nice delicate broth, a soft Japanese touch on a classic Korean soup. Next came the sliced beef tongue, perfectly cooked with a good sear and medium rare in the middle. With a squeeze of lemon, this was very tasty and quite satisfying. Last came the deep fried chicken, perfectly fried, the pieces of chicken still moist. This went perfect with a squeeze of lemon, and dipped into the garlic aioli. I quite regret not ordering more since I wanted to try the unagi meshi, but my SO was rather flustered from all the noise. I guess a drink would have helped her in this case but she doesn't drink normally.

                Brunch the next morning was Pho at Hai Yen. We came right at opening but I'm not sure it was the best idea. I think the owner may not have had time to appropriately skim and strain the broth. I found impurities floating in the broth as well as quite a bit of fat on top. I thought the taste was lacking in complexity, even for northern style. No hint of ginger or fish sauce to balance the broth.

                Overall, I found it lacking relative to the "northern" choices we have in the Bay Area. No tenderized beef flank and no silky fresh noodles, but rather average beef and dried, packaged noodles.

                We drove around a bit the night before to scope out the scene and Pho Thai Hoa was the only one open, and quite busy inside. I wonder if it would have been a better option.

                Dinner at Lin's however, was much more successful, and I think the best XLBs I've had to date. The skin was perfectly thin and the broth nicely rich and tasty. We also had the shenjian bao, pan fried dumplings, which my SO loved, remarking that it was perfectly fried. I've had a better version here at home, where the skin was less doughy and the dumpling had more broth but I did enjoy it nevertheless. We also had the Szechuan beef noodle soup which was pretty a pretty average rendition, I don't think it was the best option here but we wanted soup to warm us up.

                Waking up to snow the next morning, we decided to get a head start on our drive back to Seattle and stopped quickly for dim sum at Sun Sui Wah in Richmond. We didn't have anything out of the ordinary and stuck with the basics. We liked the fact that you order off a checklist, so the steamed goodies don't get tepid before serving. We had:

                Siu Mai - Nice and compact, dense with good porky flavor and sweet shrimp. Very good.

                Har Gow - Sweet shrimp with very nice thin skin, best version I've had in a while.

                Rice noodle with dried shrimp and chives - This was okay, partly because it came out lukewarm. I did actually erase this from the checklist in favor of the Har Gow but they sent it out anyway.

                Pot stickers - Surprisingly good, served with a red vinegar dipping sauce, crispy on the outside and moist and meaty on the inside.

                Pork spareribs with black bean sauce - This along with the rice noodles were the only misses of our brunch. Not much of a black bean sauce and mostly oily, the thick cut ribs were on the fatty side.

                I liked how they served sauces with most everything, and especially liked the house sauce that was slightly spicy and smoky. Surprisingly inexpensive for the quality.

                I really loved the energy in Vancouver, and was quite surprised at how dense the city was. It looked like somewhere in China, when we first crossed the Granville St Bridge. Such a beautiful city, I hope I get a chance to use your recs for a future visit!

                4 Replies
                1. re: DezzerSF
                  fmed Dec 16, 2008 09:41 PM

                  I'm glad you hade a great time DezzerSF.

                  1. re: fmed
                    grayelf Dec 17, 2008 07:40 AM

                    You really went hard on the Asian, which is a good option here. I'm sorry Hai Yen didn't live up to expectations. I haven't tried it myself. I have to say I've noticed fluctuations in quality at every pho place I've been to here, though, with the exception of Pho Thang Long which is now gone. BTW Co Do is also gone now. Someone should have warned you about the yelling at Guu too -- I find it entertaining but can totally see how it could put you off after a long day of driving. I have also found Lin's to be very inconsistent; when they're on it's great.

                    Hope you will have a chance to come back soon and try some other places, now that we know a bit more about what you like.

                    1. re: grayelf
                      DezzerSF Dec 18, 2008 06:24 PM

                      Yes, I was especially surprised with the Asian scene in Richmond. There's literally nothing else there! Not that I'm complaining though, it was great to just drive around and have a look. A stroll through Yao Han and their intriguing shopping carts was very entertaining.

                      As for Guu, I would have had fun myself (I wanted to join them in the outbursts), so it's really best to go with a drinking partner.

                      As for pho, I wasn't too disappointed, since our friend's mother made us some truly amazing homemade pho back in Seattle.

                      I noticed a bunch of Korean places on Robson, Korean being another of my favorite cuisines. Are those places any good?

                      1. re: DezzerSF
                        fmed Dec 18, 2008 08:40 PM

                        Of the Korean places there, I would say Norboo for homestyle and Jang Mo Jib (a Korean BBQ chainlet) are pretty good. The real action is out in Coquitlam by Lougheed and North Road in what has become our Koreatown...it is accesible by Skytrain (there is a station right there).

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