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Vancouver - What are your "Can't miss" dinning experiences?

LMelba Aug 14, 2009 07:27 PM

Hello, making a first trip out to Vancouver (from Los Angeles) for a week in September. We're adventurous eaters and open to anything. What "can't miss" dinning experiences do you recommend?

  1. h
    hsk Aug 14, 2009 07:50 PM

    I don't live in Vancouver but I absolutely LOVED the omakase at Tojo when I was there a few months ago. I had the $80 one, but the $60 one looked good, too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hsk
      CheapAppetite Aug 27, 2009 07:57 PM

      Wow, that's quite a dinner. I hardly spend over 10 bucks for any dinner. I'm jealous:)

      1. re: hsk
        Cancuk Aug 28, 2009 12:18 PM

        If you can spare the money, the omakase at Tojo's is, most of the time, hard to beat. I find that as long as Tojo doesn't go, "crazy fusion", the meal will be amazing. (Crazy fusion: I have had stuff like, "bread/sesame crusted halibut, topped with chipolte sauce". It was terrible).

        Anyway, I was treated to a meal there about a month ago and it was easily one of the best meals I've had this year. Can you say, zucchini flower stuffed with scallop tempura? Blew my mind.

        1. re: Cancuk
          moh Aug 28, 2009 01:29 PM

          Although it has its detractors, my experience with Tojo's omakase has been similar to yours - really excellent. Especially with a bottle of one of his nice sakes. Great quality fish, lovely mix of sushi/sashimi/maki, wonderful hot dishes. It is a twee pricy though, so I haven't done it often.

      2. fmed Aug 14, 2009 08:40 PM

        From LA - I would probably say Vij's.

        8 Replies
        1. re: fmed
          miss.foodie Aug 14, 2009 08:50 PM

          I'd definitely say Vij's. Do order the lamb popsicles (this probably accounts for a third to half of the orders at the restaurant nightly. It is one of his signature dishes) and for an appetizer the portobello mushrooms in a porcini curry. Those was definitely my favourite. Also, they don't take reservations. They open at 5:30 daily and usually there is already a line up. If you want to get in on the first seating, definitely be there by about 5:15. If you go for a later seating, be prepared for around 1 hour wait at least.. the upside is that they do have room for you to have a few drinks and they will come around with some complimentary snacks while you wait.

          1. re: miss.foodie
            grayelf Aug 14, 2009 09:13 PM

            I've heard you can also nip over to West for a drink while you wait at Vij's but I've never tried it...

            1. re: grayelf
              L.Orr Aug 20, 2009 11:39 PM

              Cocktails at West are a must, wait or not!

              1. re: L.Orr
                Cancuk Aug 21, 2009 04:08 PM


                David @ West is awesome.

            2. re: miss.foodie
              hsk Aug 14, 2009 09:32 PM

              "Also, they don't take reservations."
              Yes, that's why I've never been to Vij's. I've always wanted to go (I have their cookbook and it looks great) but I never line up for food if there are other options - there are lots of great places in Vancouver that do take reservations.

              1. re: miss.foodie
                LMelba Aug 15, 2009 08:04 AM

                Okay, Vij's and Tojo, got it. Japadog also sounds interesting. Anything else?

                1. re: miss.foodie
                  felix the hound Aug 15, 2009 08:07 AM

                  I understand that Vij's is unique in North America but don't let unrealistic expectations cloud your palate. I found that if you show up at Vi'js around 8 pm you don't have to wait too long, but they might sell out the popular items. If you are not prepared to wait, Vij's owned Rangoli next door will allow you a quick sample of their style.

                  I had a memorable Omakase experience at Tojo's a few years ago (sitting at the counter and being served by him, we were literally in his hands) , but be aware that there are mixed opinions about Tojo's on this board.

                  1. re: felix the hound
                    LMelba Aug 15, 2009 08:24 AM

                    Thanks for the tips

              2. felix the hound Aug 15, 2009 08:17 AM

                Would you also be interested in Dim Sum ( Cantoneses and Shanghai style)?

                4 Replies
                1. re: felix the hound
                  LMelba Aug 15, 2009 08:22 AM


                  1. re: felix the hound
                    LMelba Aug 16, 2009 08:03 AM

                    Felix, what do you suggest?

                    1. re: LMelba
                      felix the hound Aug 17, 2009 11:29 AM

                      Good , because Vancouver/Richmond has excellent Cantonese and Shanghai restaurants that serve Dim Sum. I would defer to fmed et al on this one

                      1. re: felix the hound
                        fmed Aug 17, 2009 10:26 PM

                        If you are able to venture out into Richmond - go to Sea Harbour for dinner or Shanghai River for dim sum.

                        If have to say near downtown then Kirin on Cambie, Sun Sui Wah on Main, are solid.

                        For smaller "holes in the wall" - Long's Noodle, Peaceful or Legendary.

                        If you would like Hunan go out to Burnaby to Alvin Garden.

                        If you need more details or recs (for Chinese, the choice is overwhelming here, as in LA and environs), feel free to ask.

                  2. m
                    moh Aug 16, 2009 08:23 AM

                    Hey LMelba! You are in for a lot of fun.

                    I have really loved Tojo's in the past, and I think it is worth the visit. But on my last trip, I went to Lime, which is a little further out from downtown, but so fabulous! If you can't get into Tojo, Lime is definitely worth a visit. I still dream of the sashimi there....

                    Japadog is very worth a visit. And to continue on the Japanese theme, a night or two of hopping through the Izakayas on Robson and Denman is time very well spent, especially if you are a fan of good sake.

                    Soup dumplings are always a good idea, and Chinese food in general, Vancouver has some of the best Chinese food in North America perhaps in the world.

                    If you are up for a long read, here is a summary of my last trip to Vancouver, with reviews and pics. The reviews are near the bottom of the thread.


                    18 Replies
                    1. re: moh
                      fmed Aug 16, 2009 11:13 AM

                      Great recs moh. I had thought of recommending the same.

                      LA has great izakaya - though well spread out and not concentrated like here. Doing a crawl there may be possible in Little Tokyo, but it is a relatively small sampling compared to here. (There were four or so more that opened since you last came!)

                      LA has some of the best sushi in the world, so I didn't recommend any sushi places. The suburbs around LA (though distant) also has some great Chinese food....and they have a Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for some good XLB. LA has almost everything which often makes it tough to recommend something here.

                      VIj's is unique and I don't think (afaik) LA has anything similar. Another angle is local seafood...a place like Blue Water Cafe will have access to very fresh local seafood that is not available in LA. Or a place like Fuel - which has a very Vancouver bent on dining.

                      1. re: fmed
                        PolarBear Aug 16, 2009 05:38 PM

                        fmed, can you provide any comparisons of the LA Izakayas with those of Vancouver, especially Guu w/Garlic and the two or three others in the Robson Denman area? Last year I did a lengthy search of the LA board and pretty much narrowed it down to two places, one around Newport Beach, iirc, which had to be 86'd due to an international surfing event. None of the reviews really inspired me enough to make the effort (other one may have been around Santa Monica, not sure). I think G w/G has me spoiled, although I do plan on trying your other recos in that area on my next visit.

                        I agree about Vij's, doubt that LA has anything even close, they do, however, have some great southern Indian places, curious if any similar have popped up in the GVA?

                        Cheers to all the great BC hounds, keep it coming.


                        1. re: PolarBear
                          fmed Aug 16, 2009 06:03 PM

                          The closest to Guu is probably Honda Ya, Musha or Izayoi. Most of the izakaya in LA seem to be closer to the Hapa/Kingyo variety ("fusiony")....and there are plenty of those in Torrance, etc. Furaibo is close to Zakkushi...there was another yakitori bar (Bincho?) that made a buzz that was supposed to be good...never made it there though. I haven't followed that scene lately so I am behind times.

                          Just follow Chowhound exilekiss around the boards - he knows his stuff.

                          We have a few Southern Indian places (or places that focus on South Indian) - Saravanaa Bhavan (granted it is a chain - but it is a good chain); Chutney Villa, Prayag Raj (not really Southern Indian - it is Gujarati), House of Dosas. The only one that I would consider "upsacel" is Chutney Villa.

                        2. re: fmed
                          LMelba Aug 16, 2009 11:20 PM

                          Thanks fmed. I checked out Vijs menu - I think I want to order 1 of everything. I"m interested in local seafood as well, so am adding Blue Water Cafe to the list.

                          1. re: LMelba
                            twinkienic Aug 17, 2009 08:13 AM

                            re: seafood... have we missed Go Fish! as a must-try experience? Outdoor casual eating with great fish&chips (and yummy coleslaw) and other fresh seafood items for lunch or early dinner by the Fisherman's Wharf.

                            1. re: LMelba
                              felix the hound Aug 17, 2009 11:32 AM

                              Excellent choice- At Blue Water Cafe you can also sample there some of the best sushi in Vancouver (e.g. as appetizers at the bar or at your table)

                            2. re: fmed
                              pear tart Feb 26, 2010 11:26 AM

                              I'd recommend C Restaurant over Blue Water any day - much more reasonably priced, less pretentious, and, in my experience, the food is simply better and more imaginative. Also, there's the view out over False Creek if you get a table downstairs.

                            3. re: moh
                              LMelba Aug 16, 2009 11:17 PM

                              Thanks Moh! I'm still getting through the whole posting, but a lot of great idas.

                              1. re: LMelba
                                GoaGirl Aug 17, 2009 08:23 PM

                                La Bluca is great for Italian.....Faux Bourgeois is great for French......Phnom Penh is great for Cambodian.....Fraiche is great for west coast cuisine and an amazing view of the city! Oh, and Au Petit Cafe on Main St. has amazing Vietnamese Sandwiches but get there before 1pm or they will be sold out.

                                1. re: GoaGirl
                                  mendogurl Aug 17, 2009 08:45 PM

                                  Legendary Noodle for wonderful handmade chines noodles and generally delicious Chinese.
                                  Kintaro for equally amazing handmade Ramen, cooked in this incredible broth. Be prepared to wait in line !
                                  Really good Dumplings on Robson st.
                                  I like Vij's okay, but it feels like Indian for white people, all the Indians are hidden in the back and the wait staff is Anglo. There's another awesome Indian on Broadway down by Tojo's, where Indian's eat.
                                  West used to be wonderful, but I hear it might have gone down a notch.
                                  Picnic on Granville is a nice place on Granville.
                                  DO NOT MISS GRANVILLE ISLAND !!!!

                                  1. re: GoaGirl
                                    mendogurl Aug 17, 2009 08:46 PM

                                    I tried to go to Faux Bougeois recently. Heard it's great. recently

                                    1. re: GoaGirl
                                      miss.foodie Aug 17, 2009 09:20 PM

                                      Faux Bourgeois is ok.. I went there back in Jan and was not impressed. Maybe I was there on an off night... but I did not enjoy any of the items that were ordered. It may be half decent French food for Vancouver.. it's definitely not as good as Au Pied du Cochon in Montreal. Au Petit Cafe has good vietnamese sandwiches though I'm sure there are similar places too in LA. Likewise, I'm sure LA has places similar to Legendary for handmade chinese noodles. Phnoem Pehn has phenomenal chicken wings... although I'm not sure whether you can get something similar in LA.

                                      I definitely agree with fmed that the places to check out are like Vij's or Blue Water. I think Vij's is great if you walk-in with the mindset that you are going for East Indian Fusion... a lot of their dishes have french influence because the owner himself was trained in Europe. You definitely shouldn't go in expecting to eat at a very traditional East Indian place. Blue Water does a good job presenting West coast cuisine.

                                      1. re: miss.foodie
                                        grayelf Aug 17, 2009 11:18 PM

                                        What are people thinking about C these days? I just saw an "At the Table" with Robert Clark and was thinking about (finally) checking it out. Hard to argue with the approach to sustainable (and local) fish use eg sardines...

                                        1. re: miss.foodie
                                          twinkienic Aug 18, 2009 08:05 AM

                                          That's too bad... I've been really wanting to make it to Les Faux Bourgeois. Then again, Au Pied de Cochon is a pretty high bar (it's also a different style/focus of food) and it'd be difficult for most places to stack up.

                                          I don't really understand the love for Legendary Noodle. I've also seen it praised as being really authentic. I've only been once... so maybe I ordered the wrong thing. I found it overly salty and sauce-y and thought the much-touted pea sprouts to be overpriced.

                                          1. re: twinkienic
                                            grayelf Aug 18, 2009 08:18 AM

                                            Me too re FB -- every time I've called they've been booked up when I wanted to go (not necessarily a bad thing I guess).

                                            We are Legendary lovers but only the one on Main and you have to know which dishes to order, like so many places. I do love the pea shoots which used to be about $4 (we haven't been for a while) and seemed worth it to me.

                                            1. re: grayelf
                                              miss.foodie Aug 18, 2009 08:01 PM

                                              Maybe I just had bad luck at FB or ordered all the wrong things. For appetizers we had the mussels and the escargot. The mussels were alright.. nothing really wrong with them.. I thought the ones from Chambar were better. I was really disappointed that the escargot were really bland.. ie. they have forgotten to season it at all.. to the point, it was actually awkward to consume. After adding a bunch of salt, I found they tasted better (just for a point of reference, I normally don't eat very salty food at all and almost never have reached for the salt shaker when I'm out at restaurants). Hence, I wasn't impressed that the kitchen didn't take enough care to season or taste the food before serving it (I don't know.. maybe I watch too much Hell's Kitchen on tv... so I'm too idealistic). In any case, the entrees weren't much better. We all thought that being a French restaurant, they would make good duck confit so that's what we all ordered. The duck confit was overly dry and stringy.. definitely not the best duck confit I've had in Vancouver (Of all places, I actually had good duck confit once at Nu). Hence, I'm rather baffled at why they are always booked up. I admit it takes a lot to "wow" me and I do have high standards... but what I got served was average at best.

                                          2. re: miss.foodie
                                            Cancuk Aug 21, 2009 04:16 PM

                                            While I'm not the biggest Les Faux Bourgeois fan (inconsistent food, but love the room/atmosphere), holding it up to Au Pied de Cochon isn't fair. APC is on most critics top restaurants in Canada list serving things like "duck in a can" and about a dozen different dishes featuring foie gras alone. Les Faux Bourgeois is a small, neighbourhood restaurant that does escargot and duck confit.

                                            1. re: miss.foodie
                                              lunchslut Feb 27, 2010 08:19 AM

                                              I wouldn't compare Faux Bourgeois to Au Pied du Cochon in Montreal...classic French bistro food in comparison to homage to local Quebec cuisine and all things pork and foie gras ...comparing apples to oranges. Have been to Faux twice now...first experience was very good but not memorable and the second visit was perfection. Every course was outstanding and amazingly delicious. Best meal I have had in years. As a bonus, a three course meal with wine for three was only $160. All that aside, other cities do classic French well and would not necessarily put Faux on a "must experience before I leave Vancouver'" list.

                                      2. h
                                        HungWeiLo Aug 18, 2009 08:18 AM

                                        Not strictly Hound-worthy, but a fun place to go is the Richmond Night Market (on 5th and Bridgeport by the water). Lots of Asian street food to try. Opens after 7pm or so.

                                        Outside of Richmond, you can sample a great variety of Asian food at the Yaohan shopping center food court in Richmond. Better quality can be found in Northern Delicacy in the Aberdeen Shopping Centre. Some of the absolute best Shanghai soup dumplings are found in the Crystal Mall food court in Burnaby next to Metrotown (a place called Wang's Shanghai Cuisine?)

                                        Granville Island has lots of good scenary, a good arts scene, and a farmer's market on Viagra. If you don't have access to a kitchen while you're there, you can at least buy lots of good pastries and fruits.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: HungWeiLo
                                          grayelf Aug 18, 2009 08:24 AM

                                          The Richmond Night Market is definitely fun and the food can be quite good -- if the OP is interested there are some good posts by fmed about it on here. There is also a smaller night market in downtown that's not bad and (for me, at least) has the advantage of actually being in a Chinatown as opposed to a parking lot. Are similar night markets popular in LA?

                                          1. re: grayelf
                                            LMelba Aug 19, 2009 08:57 PM

                                            Thanks, that sounds like fun, I'm adding it to my list and I'll do a search for fmed's other postings on the subject.

                                            1. re: LMelba
                                              grayelf Aug 20, 2009 09:54 PM

                                              Thought this might fit your criteria: I just heard that the Heather is extending it's Long Table Series for the forseeable future http://ltsmenu.blogspot.com/ *For reservations email sean@irishheather.com

                                              I missed the first round because of poor planning but won't let that happen again. I've heard from reliable CHers and others that this is a great value, tasty food and all around fun experience though it is comfort food rather than adventurous.

                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                miss.foodie Aug 20, 2009 10:14 PM

                                                Speaking of Irish Heather, you might also consider going to Salt Tasting Room for some drinks and charcuterie . Salt is owned by the same people as Irish Heather. While the concept of Salt may not be that unique coming from LA, they do serve a lot of local and artisinal products that are worth trying.


                                                1. re: miss.foodie
                                                  twinkienic Aug 20, 2009 11:59 PM

                                                  Along those lines, Au Petit Chavignol also has a focus on cheese and charcuterie. They have a great selection as they're affiliated with Les Amis du Fromage (local favourite cheese store). Their menu is also a bit more substantial and offers fondue and raclette and some salads amongst other items.

                                                  1. re: miss.foodie
                                                    alan Aug 24, 2009 08:22 AM

                                                    We LOVED Salt when we were there a year or so ago.

                                                    1. re: alan
                                                      grayelf Aug 24, 2009 09:09 AM

                                                      I haven't been to APC yet but have tried Salt and of these types of restos in the Van area, may I suggest Gudrun in Steveston to the OP. We went yesterday http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/556948 after a day spent "on the dike" at the Maritime Festival -- what a perfect way to wrap up a very westcoast afternoon. It's at 150-3500 Moncton down a little path; no signage till 5:30 when they open but look for a sandwich board thereafter.

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