Best Restaurants of the Pacific Northwest?
My fiance and I are planning our honeymoon with a culinary tour of the pacfic northwest starting with in Vancouver, driving down to San Francisco for 2 weeks with 2-3 days for vancouver, seattle, portland, napa/sonoma + san fran. We love to eat just about anything and can do so in a dive or in a 5 star restuarant. Neither of us have ever been ...any suggestions if you only had 2-3 days to sample the best of your cities??
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If you can afford the high price ($98 for a three-course prix fixe, $135 for six courses, and $175 for nine courses), I’ve heard all sorts of good things about Lumière since it has come under the direction of Daniel Boulud. You can read the Vancouver Sun review of Lumière at http://www.vancouversun.com/Life/Lumi...
In the Seattle area, my top three places for dinner are (in order) Café Juanita in Kirkland, Harvest Vine for small plates of Spanish and Basque dishes, and Tamarind Tree for fabulous Vietnamese cuisine. Tamarind Tree is also open for lunch. For lunch, you and your new spouse should share a hot meat sampler and a cold meat sampler at Salumi, now being managed by Armandino Batali’s daughter, Gina. Make sure you get some culatello. Some morning, you should stop by Café Besalu in Ballard for some coffee and a croissant that is equal to the best in Paris. For a uniquely Pacific Northwest experience, I would suggest sampling the amazing variety of Pacific Northwest oysters (in my opinion, some of the best oysters in the world) available at Elliott’s Oyster Bar on the Seattle waterfront. At a recent visit to Elliott’s, there were 26 different kinds of oysters to choose from. The standouts, for my taste, were the Pacific oysters from Snow Creek (Port Angeles) and Kusshi (Deep Bay, Vancouver Island), and the Eastern oysters from Island Creek, Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts. Other good choices were the Pacific Oysters from Judd Cove (Orcas Island) and Mirada (Hood Canal).
Seattle has some great bartenders, and sampling their creations would be a great way to spend a late afternoon or start an evening. At the top of everybody’s list is Murray Stenson at The Zig Zag Café on the Pike Street Hill Climb behind the Pike Place Market. Ask him to prepare The Last Word and you will be forever in my debt. Duncan Chase, the bartender at Taste in the Seattle Art Museum (on 1st Ave. between Union and University) is another amazing bartender and cocktail historian. Ask him for a his wonderful creation, Art Pairing, or his Champagne cocktail with St. Germain elderberry liqueur, or join the absinthe revival by having him prepare some of the amazingly intense, complex, and herbal St. George Absinthe in the traditional way (placing a sugar cube on a specially designed slotted spoon and pouring ice-cold water slowly over the sugar cube to make the “louche”). Spur Gastropub (113 Blanchard Street) combines a great bartender in David Nelson with some very good small plates, including legendary pork belly sliders with orange marmalade. Ask David to prepare a Kentucky Tuxedo, which mixes bourbon, sherry, orange bitters, and lavender syrup. Another great bartender is Keith Waldbauer, currently at Barrio on Capitol Hill, where they make two kinds of housemade sangrita to pair with your shots of tequila.
In the Bay Area, I highly recommend either lunch or dinner at Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley. You have more choices than at the Chez Panisse Restaurant, and the atmosphere is more casual. It’s hard to top Alice Waters when it comes to selecting the finest available products and extracting pure, intense flavors. I recently had a desert at Chez Panisse Café consisting of a single tangerine and three dates that absolutely rocked my world. If you’re up in Napa Valley, have lunch at Bouchon in Yountville, part of Thomas Keller’s restaurant group. I had dinner recently at The French Laundry, but found the experience disappointing and overpriced. Lunch the next day at Bouchon, by contrast, was reasonably priced and delicious.
Sounds like a fun trip! My feeling is that in general, Vancouver is strongest in "ethnic" foods -- i.e., Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian (can we call that an ethnic cuisine?); while Seattle is strongest in Northwestern and seafood. Portland is kind of all over the place, although I can second the recs here for Biwa and Le Pigeon. So if it was me, I'd probably plan my restaurants accordingly...
I live in Vancouver so can only provide fair reviews for this area and will list some favorites by category:
Italian: Cioppino's, I have been many times and it has never dissapointed. Very reliable, fine Italian dining in yaletown. Dishes to order are the porcini mushroom soup and any pasta featuring lobster. (expensive)
Sushi: well recognized as the best in Vancouver is Tojo's (expensive) but we have a ton of good sushi places that are moderately priced as well including Honjin and Kishu in yaletown.
Indian: Vij's (expensive) and Rangoli (inexpensive) owned by Vikram Vij. The first is fine dining and the bistro next door is casual and both are excellent (love the curried cauliflower, thin rotis, eggplant curry) but I also love Himalaya (hole in the wall) on main street in little india (love paneer (cheese) filled naans) and Salaam Bombay (moderate for location) in the heart of downtown is really good and service is excellent (right above Hermes store).
Go Fish on Granville Island has the best and freshest fish and chips I have ever tasted and my faves are the cod tacones which are fish tacos filled with a crisp and spicy coleslaw, fish, and tomato in a flour tortilla. You can get them with salmon and ahi tuna as well-absolutley delish! Halibut and chips is great too. I love Granville Island for food in general. Some of my faves in the market: Lee's donuts-best you will ever have. For real butter croissants and fresh breads and pastries-La Baguette and L'Echalote.
In Vancouver we are well known for our Japanese Izakaya eateries which is Japanese pub food and there is a Guu restaurant in Gastown (inexpensive) which is excellent (they have 3 others around town). My faves there are deep fried brie, ebi mayo (deep fried prawns with a spicy mayo sauce), and the renkon chips which go great with cocktails. The fried banana tempura with coconut ice cream is excellent.
Anyhow those are my Vancouver faves (there are too many to list:)-hope you guys have a great honeymoon and enjoy all the restaurants you decide on! PS if you go to Victoria go to Pizzeria Primostrada-authentic neapolitan style pizza.
I like Guu well enough but really I'd put Portland's "big three" izakayas (Tanuki, Biwa, and Yuzu) head to head with any of them in Vancouver.
That being said, while in Vancouver I would definitely try out Tojo's and Vij's. Chinese food in general is quite strong there, too, if you feel like bookending your trip with Chinese in Vancouver and then San Francisco.
On the Guu's - their popularity exceeds their quality. Gastronomically speaking, there are much better izakaya here - but the boisterous Bladerunner-ish late-night atmosphere at the Guu's is a large part of the charm. It is in concentration of izakaya and izakaya-like places that Vancouver is known for....probably 2-3 dozen now in a small walkable section in Westend. It makes for a long tipsy evening.
I very much enjoyed my meals at Tanuki (which reminds me of our own Zakkushi for the kushiyaki) and Yuzu (which reminds me of our Gyoza King). Looking forward to my next visit to Portland...I love it there. (I have relatives in Lake Oswego).
I feel like I have all the detail I need. I can totally relate to your question. In Portland, I'd suggest you go to Le Pigeon and sit at the counter. If there's a long wait, you can put your name on the list and have a drink at Doug Fir one block away.
Another fun thing to do would be to go to Pok Pok for dinner and walk a few blocks up to Pix for a chocolate or two for dessert.
I know these are kind of Portland cliches, but this is what I might do if I only had two days!
For Seattle, 5 star would be The Herb Farm. Fantastic food, sourced at the farm. My wife and I almost had our wedding reception there. Can not recommend it enough.
Unsure of dives, but Salumi is another must eat at location in Seattle. Cured meats, etc. completely wonderful and a fave.
First, I'm jealous. Sounds like a fantastic trip. Since you said it was a culinary trip - you and your fiance must have some ideas as to what you'd like to try/experience. Have you read up on the PNW as far as the food scene goes - or are you starting here in your research? (not being snarky - just trying to get a better idea of where to point you.)
There are SO many places to suggest. Give us a little more detail and you'll be put on the right course.