Day 5: Teahouse in Stanley Park, Japadog (Coal Harbour), Salt Tasting Room
Got an earlier start for once and left the condo at 10:30am for Stanley Park. Used our AAA card to purchase our discount Aquarium tickets at the entrance to the park. We were running late for our 11:30am reservations at the Tea House, so we caught a cab from the booth near the horse tour stand which proved to be a $13 mistake. However, we scored the best seats in the conservatory with a breath-taking view of English Bay on a gorgeous sunny day.
Again, had a very capable waiter who helped guide our ordering. (I don’t know if we’ve just been extremely fortunate, but both hubby and I agree that the wait staff in Vancouver are tons more helpful and friendly than their counterparts in San Francisco.)
Our waiter recommended the teahouse mushrooms stuffed with crab, shrimp and mascarpone served with a small fricaisse salad tossed in light citrus vinaigrette and the spicy wok fried squid with garlic, onions and cilantro served with a small pea shoot salad tossed in sesame vinaigrette. We waffled between the cioppino and panko crusted long line ling cod served with chips and house made tartar sauce, and decided on the cod to share.
We also ordered a half liter of BC Riesling and one cup of regular coffee. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised that hubby’s German Riesling at Chambar ($11/glass) was significantly better than the BC one we had at Teahouse. Coffee arrived piping hot, but wasn’t anything special. Total after tax and tip was $78, but $24 of that was for the Riesling.
The stuffed mushrooms (4) were very rich and I was glad it came with some greens. They weren’t bad, but I’ve had better homemade ones. The small cylindrical squid bodies were very tender, but I couldn’t help but compare them to the S&P squid we had at Kirin Mandarin the previous day. The squid at Teahouse were larger body pieces and more tender, but I enjoyed the seasoning and batter more at Kirin. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to order the squid (a fairly generous portion) again.
By the time our fried cod arrived (5 small pieces), I was stuffed, so could only manage one small piece of fish and a handful of fries. I wish we’d tried the fish and chips at Go Fish on Granville Island, so I could compare the two, but I thought the fish and chips we had at Teahouse was quite good!
The fish was well seasoned, well cooked and arrived at our table piping hot. French fries were also very well cooked. We liked the coarse kosher salt used to season the fries. No additional Maldon salt was needed. Would definitely recommend the cod, which also
happens to be the cheapest entrée on the lunch menu.
Hubby is big on atmosphere, ambiance and service. He really enjoyed our two visits to the Teahouse. The food at Teahouse is much better than Cliffhouse, Skate’s or Kincaid’s back home which also have gorgeous views. The food at Teahouse reminded us of the food served on the terrace at Pebble Beach Clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole with a view of the Pacific Ocean, but at a much more reasonable fare. As Balini mentioned previously, Teahouse should definitely be considered for first time visitors to Vancouver.
We wanted to maximize our time at the Aquarium, so we bit the bullet and spent another $8 on cab fare to travel from the Teahouse to the Aquarium. We’re members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so we wanted to see how the two compare. The Monterey exhibits are bigger, but we enjoyed our afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium. There were tons of people with strollers and lots and lots of screaming kids, so I can’t imagine what this place is like on weekends. Did I mention we’re not big on “crowds???” ;-)
We left the aquarium around 3:15 and headed back to our condo at Melville and Bute. This time, we decided to take the longer scenic route along the seawall. We saw a neat restaurant called Lift. Has anyone been? The place was packed (as was Cardero’s), even at that time of day. Valet at Lift was a pricey $8, while Cardero’s was a more reasonable $4.
As we walked towards Coal Harbour Community Center, I was thrilled to spot a Japadog cart! Looked like Japadog was moving into some empty retail space along the seawall. Hubby and I split the spicy cheese teriyamo which was advertised as the chef’s favorite. Basically a regular terimayo, but with a melted jalapeno cheese slice. They had sauerkraut, relish, cornichons and what appeared to be pickled jalapenos next to squeeze bottles of assorted sauces.
Hubby thought our Japadog tasted much better than it looked. It totally hit the spot and half a dog with extra cornichons was plenty for me. Again, wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one if we were hungry and in the vicinity, but I don’t think we’d make a special trip.
Made a quick stop at the condo to change, then hopped on a bus to Gastown for our 6pm Wines of Pares Balta event at Salt Tasting Room ($36/pp inclusive of all taxes and tip). We arrived about 15 minutes early, so hubby ordered a raspberry soda and I ordered a raspberry/lime soda at the bar. Both were delicious, refreshing and a reasonable $3.50 each.
The event was billed as an intimate evening with the winemakers, but after a brief 2 minute spiel, we never heard from the winemakers again. Additionally, no explanation was given as to which of the three wines served that evening to drink with which foods. Perhaps we’re spoiled from living in the Bay Area (we’ve attended many of these types of events), but we were expecting much more.
Food-wise, we were served a couple of glasses of inexpensive cava, a half glass of white and two half glasses of red. Accompanying the wine were two cheeses (Mahon and Manchego), sliced chorizo and three tiny slivers of date bread. Condiments included a small dishes of marinated basque olives and pickled piparras peppers, as well as a tiny square of quince paste about the size of ¼ a sugar cube. Anise tortas flat bread and Terra baguette slices were available in baskets and refilled continuously throughout the evening.
Hubby and I had fun meeting and speaking with some locals, but walked away unimpressed with our wine and food. Especially since I have more than half those food items in our fridge and pantry! Artisan charcuterie is big in the Bay Area and our local Costco has great Manchego for sale, so Salt wasn’t anything special. However, I could see going to Salt if they served something I wanted to try without committing to a blind, expensive purchase. Still hungry after the 1.5 hour event, we headed back to Robson for another banana sugar crepe to go from Café Crepe and ended our evening with an orange gin blossom (with hand chipped ice!) from Zin.
Thanks again for these great reports.
Too bad about the winemakers event. They are hit or miss depending on the producer or rep. I sure sounded good on paper.
Japadog moving into a retail space - I read that they are doing a big push to expand. I hadn't heard that it was at the seawall at Coal Harbour. Thanks for that intel.
They sold 40 tickets to the event at Salt, but it looked like only 38 people actually showed. The event was held downstairs in their cellar where everyone sat at a long communal table. Usually at these types of events, they're a bit more generous with the pours, but that wasn't the case the other night at Salt. Thanklfully, we were able to fill up on bread, since very little actual food was served.
Hubby really enjoyed the grilled taste of our Japadog and it's nice that they heat up the bun. It's not a place to go if you're in a hurry, as we had to wait quite a bit for them to cook our food. There wasn't anyone ahead of us when we ordered our dog, but about 4-5 people came up right after us, so I wonder how long they had to wait.
The way that event went seems emblematic of the approach at Salt -- I only went once and loved the room and service but was unimpressed by the selection even ordering off the full menu, and very unsatisfied by the value (guests should never leave hungry!).
I have commented on the wait at J-dog and the sometimes whacky service. One special order or anomaly in prep can create a logjam. Waits are inevitable, but I find it worth the time for my favourite dogs.
Your description of the food at the Teahouse is very much in line with my (mostly brunch) experiences there: sounds better than it tastes but it is a delightful setting, especially now that you can see out better -- one of the few benefits of the dreadful winter storm in the Park. Hope your day trip to Whistler is fun!