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Calling all chowhounds!!!!Where would you take a James Beard nominated chef to eat in Vancouver?!?!

My husband and I will be in Vancouver for a week with our friends and know NOTHING about the food scene there. We are serious foodies (albeit not snooty ones... we enjoy the French Laundry and our beloved Quince in SF but we bestow as much admiration on a great San Francisco hole in the wall taco)
Anyhow....we do need help here.
I am currently in New Orleans (eating!!!!), the holidays will be right on us when we return home and I have NO time to research my options. I am relying on the wisdom of my fellow chowhounds.
I want a couple of REALLY GREAT, OVER THE TOP, SPECIAL OCCASION restaurants, a few GREAT but I don't want to get THAT dressed up places, and a few ethnic or local good eats.
If familiar with San Francisco, we'd say, Gary Danko or Michael Mina for cat 1, Boulevard and Quince for cat 2, and Slanted Door and Taylors refresher for Cat 3.
PLEASE Help!!!!!
We'll be there Jan 3rd and need to make reservations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  1. What a challenge. I'll take a stab:

    Vij's (Cat 3)
    Gastropod (Cat 2)
    Fuel (Cat 2)
    La Buca (Cat 2)
    Parkside (Cat 1)
    Boneta (Cat 2)
    Daniel Boulud's new restuarants (DB Bistro Moderne, and Lumiere) (Cat 1)
    Cibo/Uva (Cat 1)
    Bishop's (Cat 1)
    The Pear Tree (Cat 1)

    Vancouver and environs are famous for its Chinese food too if that is an option.

    5 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      You are a godsend fmed!!! We are not adverse to Chinese - in fact one of my favorite meals here in New Orleans was the Vietnamese lunch we had yesterday (and I thought I knew this town!!!).
      Love your taste... had time to do a quick look prior to my post and Vij's and Boulud rest. jumped out at me. Please tell me your thoughts (if any) on Aurora, Blue Water, "C" Restaurant and La Garroche?!?!

      1. re: ccmurieta

        Aurora would have been on the list...but it just shuttered, sadly. Blue Water is fantastic. C is excellent - but I haven't been in quite a while (and actually prefer Blue Water for its slightly more Japanese influenced menu and excellent wine and sake lists).

        I should add Cioppino's (Chef Pino Posteraro).

        The Chinese option is a bit overwhelming (we have many good Chinese places). Sea Harbour and Shanghai RIver would be my two "Vancouver Sampler" recs.

        Other members of the forum should come along with their recs.

        1. re: ccmurieta

          Aurora unfortunately is closed. Haven't been to the other 3 you're asking about, but I know Blue Water gets good reviews.

          1. re: peter.v

            Wow, that's too bad about Aurora! I found it on Food & Wines 2008 "Go To" List. This economy is just hitting everyone across the board.
            SF papers say that some restaurants are looking at a 40% drop in business (even worse than the dot com bus and that was UGLYt!)

        2. re: fmed

          I second Vij's ( go early or after 8 pm), Bishop's and La Buca
          I would add West, Blue Water and Tojo's Okamase
          and, why not, Go Fish

        3. I really enjoyed Vij's. Great place for the 'not so snooty'

          4 Replies
          1. re: sarah galvin

            For a (cat 1) experience, West has consistently been regarded by many locals as one of the city's finest restaurants. I have not been there since the new chef started, though.

            For more of a cat 2/3 experience, Chambar rarely disappoints. Great drinks at Chambar.

            Oh, I almost forgot! Bishop's is a local institution, kind of like what Chez Panisse is to the Bay Area. John Bishop championed the localvore movement in Vancouver more than two decades ago, and I understand that his standards remain high to this day. Nobody I know has ever talked about being disappointed after a meal at Bishop's.

            1. re: anewton

              Thanks so much - Bishop sounds spot on. I am going to forward my friend the list and we'll start booking. Will post reviews at he end of the trip.
              Thanks again for all who posted suggestions

              1. re: ccmurieta

                Not sure that anyone has mentioned, but Vij's, although fabulous food, does not take reservations so either go very early or plan on spending a lot of time waiting in the bar (if you are lucky) or in the rain (if you are not).

                1. re: J and V

                  No one has mentioned it. Yes ccmurieta - be forewarned. Get there early.

          2. For category 3 I suggest Phnom Penh. Anyone I've taken there who really loves food loves it.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Mawson Plan

              Cat 1: West (constantly rated Vancouver's top restaurant... although new chef hasn't been as consistent), Lumiere (WAS always one of the best.. Boulud just bought it, re-opens tonight!), Blue Water (always very, very good with a great raw bar), Bishops (already mentioned), Cioppinos (city's best Italian)

              Cat 2: Vij's (already mentioned, outstanding. Get there early), Fuel (outstanding, restaurant of the year last year),

              Cat 3: Go for something that we do really well. Regional Chinese, very good, well priced sushi (Lime), or somewhere 'casual' like Boneta (outstanding service and food, a lot more casual. This is where Jean Georges had (one of his) media events when he was in town), Phnom Penh (outstanding Cambodian) is another great recommendation.

              If it was me, I would go: Lumiere, Fuel, Boneta.

              1. re: Cancuk

                These are all great recs for you, cc -- not much to add except hope you enjoy. Will be looking forward to your reports (hint hint) as I spend a bit of time in your hometown and am interested to hear your thoughts on the Vancouver dining scene.

                1. re: grayelf

                  I appreciate all of the suggestions - they all sound great which makes choosing even more daunting!!
                  My friend and his wife will be in Vancouver for 6 lunches and 6 dinners we will be joining them for 3 each of those.
                  I am leaning toward Lumiere, Blue Water, Bishops, Fuel, Gastropod, Vij's, Lime & Boneta. Have been doing some reading on Connor Butler...what are your thoughts? Also, I had "C" and Chambar on my list.
                  Since you are familiar with the San Francisco restaurants I frequent I am curious as to which Vancouver restaurants you would pick for 3 lunches and 3 dinners (if cost was not a factor)?

                  1. re: ccmurieta

                    To say I am familiar with SF restos is a big stretch -- I only wish I were but with 4300 and counting that is a dream only :-). Since you ask though and FWIW, I think I'd do Blue Water, Bishop's, Vij's and/or Boneta for the dinners -- all because they all have very nice ambiance, you will get good food and they are somewhat "only in Vancouverish." I don't eat lunch out very often so I'm not much help there but ck1234 just posted a review of lunch at Conor Butler here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579704

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Thanks for the insight. Will be there from the 8th -12th & will post all my "reviews" shortly thereafter.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        I second the choices of Blue Water, Bishop's and Vij's as being representative of the Vancouver restaurant set. i have not been to Boneta.

                  2. re: Cancuk

                    Boneta is loved but overpriced and not amazing. Lime is hugely expensive and not nearly as good as Toshi on Main. Lumiere just reopened and is said to be quite good sans Rob Feenie.

                    1. re: Mawson Plan

                      "Lime is hugely expensive and not nearly as good as Toshi on Main."

                      No doubt Lime is more than most sushi places in town but it seems to me it is going for a different experience than Toshi. Not that I've actually eaten at Toshi -- the perma-lineups are 'way too daunting. It would be fun to do a back-to-back comparison of say, the tuna sashimi at both places...

                      1. re: Mawson Plan

                        Lime vs Toshi....sorry Mawson - I can't agree with you there.

                        I'll grant that Toshi's is a few notches better than the typical 'lunch grade' sushi, however. My own experiences at the two restaurants lead me to contrary opinion to yours.

                        1. re: Mawson Plan

                          Lime is an outstanding Japanese restaurant, solely quality considered, I would say top three in the city.

                          Toshi' s isn't even close to the same league. For what you get at Lime, the prices are very, very reasonable.

                          I think some dishes at Boneta, especially they're "cold plates", are over priced. But their mains are very reasonable and please go with three friends and order the 32 oz Steak and then tell me it's not amazing.

                          1. re: Mawson Plan

                            I also have to completely disagree on the Lime vs Toshi debate.
                            Lime has interesting offerings which are well executed and utilize extremely fresh fish. I've been disappointed twice (out of 2 visits) at Toshi's.

                        1. OK, I'm going to throw this out there.....what about Connor Butler? I've never been, but all reviews that I've read have been fantastic. And where else can you eat on Versace plates?? (A Cat. 1, by the way)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Quattrociocchi

                            Excellent question, Q. I was wondering the same thing, while I'm sure I need to experience Bishop's, CB lingers in the back of my mind. Perhaps some of the more savy locals can define the qualities that bring each to the table (apologies, pun intended).

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              ironically i remarked in a recent post about how incredibly little press or even mention on this board cb gets considering the little i have heard has been very possitive, no-one seemed to have a real grip on it especially considering its fairly central location

                              1. re: vandan

                                I eat at cb quite often and have asked chef b himself why I never see him advert. around town. He says he prefers word of mouth. It seems to be working for him. I did see him on youtube, though. Nice guy with a lot of charisma and love for food and wine.

                          2. Boneta, definitely...

                            1. Agree with fmed definitely for Vij's, Parkside, La Buca... also with earlier mention of Chambar. Aurora was great- we will miss it.
                              Try also Cassis, Cobre, Tapastree and Guu gastown location.

                              24 Replies
                              1. re: surfladyk

                                vij's, la buca, tapastree, campagnolo

                                1. re: bigeaterjustin

                                  Well we ended up getting to Vancouver about 8 hours late after being stuck in the Seattle airport ALL DAY so we missed lunch and arrived for dinner at about 10:00
                                  We dropped the bags at the hotel and met our friends who were dining at Guu. I enjoyed most everything we had except for the "pork belly" which was more like hunks of a very lean pork chop and the salmon and tomato (the salmon was lovely but the tomato was horrid - so, so cold.
                                  We did Phnom Penh the next day for lunch it was hands down the best meal I had that weekend.The butter beef, fried chicken wings with garlic sauce and the black pepper squid were a few highlights but EVERYTHING was superb.
                                  We went to Vij's for dinner. I was so looking forward to it due to all of the recommendations which made it even a bigger let down. We all agreed that we should have left after partaking in the appetizers served at the bar while waiting for our table. The bar appetizers were pretty good the dinner was not. We liked nothing. I thought we were going to Indian food, I have no idea what "fusion Indian" food is but I guess now I know that I don't like it. Even the chai tea was bland. I know it seems to be a Vancouver favorite but I do not understand the appeal.Sorry.
                                  Lunch the next day we did The Italian Kitchen. We had been out walking in the rain and (to us) bitter cold and wanted some comfort food and this did the trick. We shared several items - a couple of pizzas, a carpaccio, a couple of salads and a few desserts. I especially enjoyed the beets and the lamb sausage pizza, the carpaccio was not one of my favorites but all in all I enjoyed the meal.
                                  We looked at the menus for Gastropod and Fuel and they just did not grab us that day. I'm sure they are great, we just were in the mood for french. We were mulling over Lumiere and tried to get into Pied a Terre and ended up at Bistrot Bistro. The Beef Bourguignon was rich and hearty (and although I was surprised it did not come with butter noodles at $18 I am not complaining!!), the steak was tender and flavorful, the rabbit was moist and delicious and all of the starters were tasty. The only caveat was the lack of salt on all of the dishes. Although you can salt at the table the flavor is just not the same. Nice wine list and the markup on it is not bad at all. I would go back. (And when I do I really hope they have removed the Wine Spectators from the washroom. Do they REALLY want them to be read there?!?!?!
                                  Before heading to the airport the next day we went to the Pink Pearl for Dim Sum. We ate great there as well. I cannot believe the dining bargains in Vancouver!! I am from San Francisco and have never had Dim Sum that inexpensively before.
                                  We will be back to Vancouver in a couple of months and will try to get in as many of the recommendations I received from you all when I return. I do appreciate all of the suggestions and will definently put them to use when I return.

                                  1. re: ccmurieta

                                    Thanks for the report, ccm. I'm sorry the Vij's experience didn't make you happy. We've been going since they were in a tiny location on Broadway and have never had a bad meal there, but I am not a fan of everything on the menu. I think, for example, they do much better with veg offerings than meat by and large, though the lamb popsicles do get raves. I also prefer the apps to the mains typically. We have stopped going much because of the lineups (I don't do lineups) and usually opt for the little cafe next door. Also if no one warned you that it's a fusion resto that is our bad. It's definitely not traditional Indian as you discovered.

                                    I'm also intrigued by your comment on Pink Pearl being great. While it is indeed a stalwart, it doesn't seem to get a lot of love around here, and I wouldn't recommend it to someone from the Bay Area even for its relatively low prices. We had dimsum at Great Eastern in November and I thought it was much better in quality than PP and I thought the prices were pretty reasonable, but then again I had the most expensive dimsum of my life in SF back in 2003 (also the best ever though)...

                                    1. re: grayelf

                                      Grayelf, where's Great Eastern? I've been looking for an alternative to Pink Pearl!

                                      1. re: starlady

                                        It's a great alternative...but you need a plane ticket (it's in San Francisco!) :)

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          fmed is right -- sorry about the confusion. There are lots of places here that seem to be better than Pink Pearl to me, but it depends if you mean an alternative located nearby PP...

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            I would prefer to stay in Vancouver but it doesn't have to be super near PP... :)
                                            But I may be going to San Fran this summer, I'll keep it in mind!

                                            1. re: starlady

                                              So as not to get too far off topic, you might want to have a boo at this thread:


                                              My go-to for dim sum on carts in town is Golden Ocean in Kerrisdale. It is very reasonable (20% off before 11 too), takes resos and the offerings are high quality, fresh and hot. I suspect there are better places in Richmond but I am not familiar with them and besides they are in Richmond! Let us know if you try out any new places.

                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                Yes, my mom lives in Kerrisdale and so she always goes to Golden Ocean. I'd have to say that it's pretty good. Fav dish are the fish cakes with bitter melon. However, have to say that I was extremely disappointed in their beef tendon at dim sum. Not very flavorful at all. Win some, lose some.

                                              2. re: starlady

                                                When you go to SF try R&G lounge on Kearny. They are about as good as Yank Sing without the steep price

                                          2. re: starlady

                                            Have you tried the Pelican on Hastings and Victoria? It's "better" than PP.

                                            1. re: fmed

                                              Fmd- I wanted to extend a personal thanks for your assistance. We will be returning to Vancouver 2/19 (we loved it so much we are looking to buy a property there) and I will be trying the restaurants you and others recommended. Wehad a very good experience at Pink Pearl but have heard Sun Sui Wah is supposed to be great for dim sum. Any opinion?

                                              1. re: ccmurieta

                                                Pink Pearl is a popular spot, and it used to be a family favorite until a few years ago. I would recommend SSW over Pink Pearl, but there are many others that I would consider in the same league as SSW (and perhaps better). You may already know that the real dim sum hotbed is in the suburb of Richmond (30 mins from downtown Vancouver on a regular commute). There, you will find a mix of old-school and modern dim sum places. There are also places that lean more Northern than Southern. Lots of variety and so forth.

                                                My short list might be:

                                                Red Star (Van)
                                                Kirin (Van, Rmd)
                                                Sun Sui Wah (Rmd, Van - the Rmd location in better)
                                                Gingeri (Rmd)
                                                Shanghai River (Rmd)
                                                Sea Harbour (Rmd)
                                                Shiang Garden (Rmd)

                                                There are many more that are worthy, but that should get you started. Post again when you are about to fly up.

                                                1. re: fmed

                                                  Once again, I thank you! I will definently post when we head up again. Let me know if you ever need rec's for San Francisco, New Orleans, San Diego or the Caribbean. I eat at them all a lot :)

                                                  1. re: fmed

                                                    You are exactly right about Richmond. i worked for a Chinese company for five years where everyone was from Hong Kong. Most of the people thought the food in Richmond, at the best places was better than in Hong Kong. None of them liked Pink Pearl which is highly rated by so many. Apparently there are quite a few Chinese from Seattle that drive to Richmond on Sundays for Dim Sum.

                                          3. re: ccmurieta

                                            Wow..sorry you didn't love Vij's..it was sublime for us.

                                            'Vij's is easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world." -Mark Bittman, NEW YORK TIMES'

                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                              No matter how many people gush and coo over Vij's to me it's Indian food deracinated/emasculated and insipid.

                                              I have never had a good meal there and find it hard to imagine circumstances that would cause me to return-certainly I'd never recommend it to anyone I'd ever want to speak to again.

                                              1. re: Sam Salmon

                                                As someone of indian decent, I have mixed feelings about Vij's. I love that both Vij's and Rangoli deviate from the typical punjabi cuisine that one cant seem to get away from in this city and that its one of the only places that serves chapati (I get tired of filling up on naan and punjabi roti), but my experiences there have been hit and miss. Honestly, the city would be far worse off without Vij (and his very talented wife whose name escapes me at the moment) but I'd love to see more (and more varied) hindu cuisine our city. Any recommendations are welcome...

                                                1. re: wueric

                                                  I'm with you about Vij's...I reluctantly recommended it (and did so because it is a bit of a tourist destination like Japadog, and Tojo's) . It is good and the service is excellent, but I prefer traditional Indian fare.

                                                  Have you been to Prayag Raj (Gujarati)? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568123

                                                  1. re: fmed

                                                    Hello fmed!!
                                                    I am back in Vancouver and am DYING for raw oysters. I am staying at Howe and W. Georgia - I don't mind taking a long walk to get them. Any rec's?!?!
                                                    Ate at "C" and Pied a Terre this time and am supposed to be going to West so will report back on them
                                                    Thanks for the help!!!

                                                2. re: Sam Salmon

                                                  Thanks Sam - I did not want to be rude as everyone was so helpful but it was really a letdown

                                                3. re: Beach Chick

                                                  Can't resist the urge to pile on about Vij's. Ate there twice; both times merely so-so. I had a shrimp curry which was watery and insipid. Very disappointing and I have no idea why the raves.

                                                4. re: ccmurieta

                                                  I completely agree about Vij's. I think it is horribly overrated.

                                                  1. re: ccmurieta

                                                    despite spending a lot of time in Vancouver, i've always suspected that i would not like Vij's, so i've never gone there...your report confirms my worst fears...i'll continue to avoid it...

                                              2. I'm back in Vancouver for a quick trip and have had the pleasure of visiting a couple of the restaurants we were unable to get to last time (C, lumiere & Pied aTerre)
                                                Right now I am DYING for raw oysters. We are staying in downtown (Howe and W. Georgia) but don't mind walking up to a mile to get them. Can anyone help me?

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: ccmurieta

                                                  Blue Water and Rodney's in Yaletown. I'm not sure if they are still doing it, but So.cial (yes - spelled with a "dot" in the middle) used to have oyster specials. A number of the top end sushi places will also serve them. And Joe Fortes - a popular oyster joint.

                                                  1. re: fmed

                                                    We ended up at Rodneys and it was FANTASTIC!!!!
                                                    I started with manhattan clam chowder which I rarely see on menus anymore. It was great - full of clams and tomatos. I knew I was in for a treat. Then we had absolutely fresh and fabulous oysters (we had a dozen each of the kumomotos and fanny bays) and then finally a baked dungeness crab. This was on par with my favorite SF seafood spot, Swan Oyster Depot. The ONLY downside to me was the bread (I am a diehard sourdough with seafood)
                                                    Thanks for the reccomendation. this place was top notch!!!
                                                    We went to "C" and enjoyed it but not enough to return. Some standouts were the tuna belly and the crispy pork belly. The female server was standoffish to put it mildly although the gentleman was very personable. They only had 5 tables occupied on a Friday night. Curious.
                                                    On the other hand I would go back to Pied a Terre on Cambie in a heartbeat. It was exquisite from start to finish. We started with a 3 way duck appetizer. Rillettes, foie gras and prosciutto and a white and green asparagus salad. Main courses were dijon mustard rabbit and a pok belly they had on special. Both were divine. Fished with a tarte tatin that was a lovely end to a lovely meal.
                                                    We just put an offer in on a condo in Yaletown so we will be having many more meals in Vancouver. I am sure I will be contacting you again for suggestions as all of yours have been great. thanks again and happy eating!!

                                                    1. re: ccmurieta

                                                      Yaletown condo...nice! You are right in the thick of things then....no need for a kitchen there ;-)

                                                      1. re: ccmurieta

                                                        yeah, Rodney's is solid, although the vibe can get a bit loud and fratboy...i like the fried oysters and raw oysters and all the hot sauces...

                                                        1. re: Simon



                                                          When are you coming back to Vancouver?