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Dec 15, 2008 09:45 PM

Vancouver report - Nov 08

Russ and I spent two weeks in your beautiful city in November. We have been doing this for the last few years, so the food scene is not totally new to us. We were sadden by the closing of Aurora Cafe as it was one of our favorites and were planning to go back. Here are some of new restaurants we tried on this trip:

Pied-a-Terre: Nice french bistro, I was disappointed with the foie gras parfait as it was on the 100 things to eat before you die. I think it's a bit plain on flavor and light in texture, perhaps a sprinkle of sea salt could help. The entrees were better, Russ had the rib eye steak with Roquefort and mustard sauce, the meat and sauce were both great. I had the red snapper that was fresh and cooked perfectly with crispy skin on the outside and tender and moist inside. We will go back next year.

Copa?: Hong Kong style cafe on Cambie and King Edward, I was told it's run by the people who used to run Cafe Gloucester which we liked, so we decided to give it a try. What a mistake, my portugese chicken rice (my standard for HK style cafe) was tasteless, Russ had some steak and lobster special that was barely edible. The place was packed on Friday night.

49 Parallel Cafe: I had the legendary almond croissant, which I made an effort to wake up early for. The first time we went in the afternoon they were sold out. I liked the flaky texture but the flavor was a bit plain, I prefer my almond croissant with almond filling. The coffee was good though. BTW the almond croissant at Sweet Obsession was not good, it had an unpleasant liquor taste that was almost bitter, and it had no almond paste either.

Motomachi Shokudo: I had the bamboo charcoal ramen, I didn't like the burnt taste but I was glad I tried it. Russ had the house ramen that was better and the gyoza was good too.

La Bucca: This restaurant is walking distance from our house and I never realized it's there. Reservation is a must, we tried to go twice in the first week but couldn't get a table before 9pm. We finally made our reservation couple days ahead and went on monday night. The place was hopping, we left at 8:30pm and there were couple parties waiting. We had the scallop carpaccio appetizer that was served with bacon, radish and some kind of citrus. It was wonderful, both in terms of flavor and texture. The scallop was sweet, the bacon was tasty, the radish gave the little crunch to contrast the scallop and the citrus added just enough acidity to bring every bite together, overall a perfect combination. It was our favorite dish on this trip. For entrees, Russ had the osso buco with saffron risotto, the meat needed a little more cooking and a bit more salt, but the risotto was prefect. I had the special tagliatelle with pine mushroom, the tagliatelle was good, especially with the bone mallow from Russ' osso buco, but the pine mushroom didn't have as much flavor as I expected. We shared the tiramisu for dessert that was very good, not overly sweet and with nice texture.

SW restaurant: Not sure if it is the correct name, it's on 41st and Boulevard, right below Golden Ocean restaurant. This is the most surprising find on this trip, we ordered take out from them three times. It's a chinese restaurant serving Schezwan and Shanghai food. I liked the Dan Dan noodle the most, the noodle was a bit doughy but the sauce had the perfect tingly numbness with just a little bit of ground pork, and it did not have peanut paste which I dislike. We also had the Xiao Long Bao that was very juicy, the wrapper was a tad thick and chewy but overall very flavorful. They were running a special of $2.99 for 6, it's a great deal. The salt and pepper pork was very good as well. I hope to go back next year to try some of the special order dishes like eight treasure chicken. Please go and keep this place in business, this location had quite a few ownership changes as I recall and they weren't very busy the time we dined in.

Japadog: I love this hot dog stand, wish we had something like it in the bay area, maybe I will open one :) We had the Oroshi and Okonomi. We preferred the Oroshi with the daikon radish and scallions, the slight spiciness of the daikon worked really well with the mild flavor bratwurst. Russ didn't like the Okonomi, he thought the bonito flakes was too fishy, I was okay with the bonito but the berkshire pork wasn't very special and a bit too salty.

Moderne Burger: Meat was tasty but it should be for $10 burger. Will go back when I subject Russ to too much ethnic food and he needs his burger fix. The chocolate milkshake was very good though, I may go back just for the milkshake.

Social Le Magasin: Had the weekend brunch on Sun, Russ had a good egg benedict with bacon, the bacon was tasty and not overly salty. My lamb burger was just okay. We would not be driving all the way downtown for this but if we are in the area, we may stop to pickup some bacon from the butcher shop. They were advertising $11.99 prime rib dinner on Sunday.

Gastropod: I saved this last not because it's the best, rather I would like to forget. It was the most disappointing meal on this trip. We both had the 7 course tasting menu and Russ had the wine pairing. We asked if they could serve us different dishes for each course, they were very gracious to agree. Maybe that was the mistake we made but I didn't think so. I think they have problem sourcing their ingredients, especially the meat. At $80 per person, I would expect better quality meat but all the meat dishes (beef carpaccio, beef tenderloin, venison) were lack of flavor. Also I think the kitchen is too heavy handed with salt, and I am not one who is afraid of salt. Even the fish course was so salty that I could barely taste the fish. The only positive seemed to be with the vegetables, I had some very tasty baby cabbage. Maybe they had an off night, or maybe they were too busy entertaining the critic. There was a gentleman in the room dining alone armed with note pad and camera, he was taking pictures and making copious notes of each course, and he was giving a kitchen tour, I hope he had a better meal than us. We will not be going back.

A couple miscellaneous notes:
- Fuel is no longer serving fried chicken on Friday. They stopped in Sept, didn't ask if they would start again.
- Japadog will close for the entire month of January

Of course we had the usual favorites, Guu, Kingyo, Ajisai, Red Star, Wang's beef noodle, Phnom Penh ... and they were all as good as before.

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  1. Nice report, shu. Sorry you hit a couple of duds but it sounds like you did some great chowing. Would love to hear your thoughts on the other usual favourites you mentioned too as I see a few there I would put on that list also :-).

    BTW you said "49 Parallel Cafe: I had the legendary almond croissant" -- I'm wondering if you had the regular one. The best is the Thomas Hass double-baked almond croissant (which I assume they still have) which is covered with slivered almonds and most definitely stuffed with creamy almond filling -- I had one last weekend at the source in North Vancouver. So good. If that isn't what you had, I adjure you to try again next time you're up -- you won't regret it :-).

    11 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      >>The best is the Thomas Hass double-baked almond croissant (which I assume they still have) which is covered with slivered almonds and most definitely stuffed with creamy almond filling

      It looks like this:

      1. re: fmed

        I had the wrong one, mine was light in color like a normal croissant. I just asked for the almond croissant and they didn't tell me there are more than one kind. Yes it most definitely warrants another trip up north, perhaps I can wake up Russ and start driving. A good almond croissant is so hard to find ...

        1. re: shu0912

          You should attempt to visit Thomas Haas next time around too...

          Some pics here:

          1. re: fmed

            Doh, my bad for misspelling Thomas' name -- I so know it has two As! He is often in the house when we go on the weekends -- in October he was dressed in full-on lederhosen with a fake moustache. Last week just regular Thomas but carrying fresh baked chocolate sparkle cookies that were so ethereal and light they were hard to pick up. Deffo worth the schlep from Vancouver...

      2. re: grayelf

        Here are some of the favorites we always go back to:

        Guu, Kingyo: Izakaya yeah! We always go to Guu on Robson, the wait is long unfortunately. We tried the one in gastown once and didn't like it. We also tried Hapa across the street but it's too hip for us. However after this trip we felt we are too old for Guu, Kingyo has now become our default Izakaya spot. Kingyo is a little more upscale than Guu but not as pretentious as Hapa.

        Ajisai: small sushi bar in Kerrisdale. You must like raw fish to eat here, I don't think they have much in term of cooked food. The fish is always fresh and they always have specials from Japan. We always go because it's in the neighborhood but I don't think it's worth going across town for.

        Red Star Seafood Restaurant: We go to the one on Granville and 65th. They serve dim sum lunch. Their roast suckling pig and roast duck are the best, they are made in house and sell out early. And they don't let you order those two items for takeout as I found out ... but then that's how I came to discover SW restaurant, so not all is lost.

        Wang's beef noodle: authentic Taiwanese beef noodle house next to Red Star. The first time I went with friends from Taiwan, they said it was better than the most famous noodle house in Taiwan, they ended up eating here 3 times in 5 days. The place has its ups and downs, it was just okay last year but it seems to be back to its old glory these days. I always order the spicy beef noodle soup with thick noodle (you get a choice of thick or thin noodle, I think the thick noodle stands up better in the broth). I also like their fried tofu, crispy outside yet very creamy inside. I was told the most authentic is the garlic dipping sauce, you must like garlic and must not be in close proximity of any living being after eating it. Even my dog ran away from me, I kid you not. The weird thing is you can't have just a touch, you have to douse the entire tofu with the sauce to get the full effect.

        Phnom Penh: The famous Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. I always order the fried chicken wings and the dry noodle. Sometimes they have this stir fry lotus? spear that is great but it is seasonal. I always want to try other things on the menu but never get around to it.

        1. re: shu0912

          That is an very well researched list. You know the food in this city better than most locals.

          1. re: shu0912

            Great report, what dishes would you (and any local hounds) recommend at Kingyo? If I'm going to tear myself away from Guu w/ Garlic I really need to have the 4k-1-1. TIA

            1. re: PolarBear

              I'm a big fan of their pork cheeks. - I believe it is steam tenderized then grilled briefly. It is served with a black-pepper-vinegar-soy sauce. (See attached blurry cellphone photos from a while back). Another pork dish that I like there is their "barley-fed" pork shabu-shabu. Their cooked seafood is very good but their raw seafood is pretty ordinary.

              I also like

              1. re: fmed

                Agree with the pork cheeks. We also like the beef tongue, it comes raw with a hot stone and you grill it yourself. Their fried chicken is pretty good too. Their tako wasabi is not as good as Guu though.

                1. re: fmed

                  I don't know what happened to the rest of my post there. I was about to mention the beef tongue, actually.

              2. re: shu0912

                Thanks for the added info on your other favourites. I was wondering if they've stopped taking resos at Guu with Garlic? I haven't been in a while but they used to. My dad loves that place.

                Ajisai is my parents' local sushi bar, and they don't have a deep fryer which I think forces them to be more creative. Love their seafood salad, avopara roll and what I consider to be the tastiest sunomono in town.

                Must try Red Star as you are not the first to recommend it. We always seem to end up at Sun Sui Wah or Golden Ocean which as you mentioned is above S&W.

                Also love Wang's which though its name seems to change often maintains some fine quality. Intriguing to hear your Taiwanese friends' take on it...

                Phnom Penh is justifiably popular I think but I have the same problem as you. I've found a number of items I really enjoy and it's hard to get out of the comfort zone!

                I agree with fmed, you are one well-informed gastrotourist, shu! Looking forward to a return engagement :-).

            2. I'm surprised at the Gastropod report. I've had some great meals there in the past. You may have been right about the kitchen being distracted by the critic (or a post-critique photographer - a food critic worth their salt would dine anonymously and would send the photographer a couple of days later).

              ANd thanks for the JapaDog closure heads-up. And the SW restaurant tip. (Could it have been an "S&W Pepper Restaurant"?)

              5 Replies
              1. re: fmed

                I don't think it's the "S&W Pepper Restaurant", google resulted in location in Burnaby and Richmond but this one is in Kerrisdale. It is on the ground floor of a two story building on the south side of 41st ave between Boulevard and Maple. The upstairs housed the "Golden Ocean Seafood Restaurant" which is also quite good for this part of town. The restaurant is only opened for few months.

                1. re: shu0912

                  I haven't been in that area in months so that place is new to me. I thought perhaps the S&W Pepper chainlet expanded into Kerrisdale. Thanks! I will have to check it out.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Sorry I was wrong, it is the same chain. Here is the link to their page (bad site, change the size of your browser window, click at your own risk


                    It listed three locations: Burnaby, Richmond and 2044 West 41st Avenue.

                    1. re: shu0912

                      Ah great! S&W Pepper has some pretty authentic Sichuan food (I've been to both the Richmond and the Burnaby locations).

                      1. re: shu0912

                        I thought it was S&W. Awesome! I'm glad to have a report on this place as it's a two minute walk from my apartment. Thanks shu! I'm also in complete agreement on Ajisai. It's my favorite place to eat in Kerrisdale by far. Friday I had an amazing meal at the bar there.

                2. awesome, i love it when pretty much the highlight on a foodies list is a hotdog stall who employs a guy who wears a sign around his neck that says ' my english isn't too good but be patient and it will improve'. Love japagdog, total agreement - Oroshi is the best they do to the western pallete