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L.A. Hounds need help with his proposed itinerary in the Vancouver area (& Banff) in September

Hello Western Canadian Hounds!

In September, Mrs. J.L. & I will be visiting Vancouver for the first time! We'll spend 2 days in Vancouver (after a 3-day visit to Banff).

We're landing on a Saturday afternoon. Probably, we'll head out for dinner around 7PM, after checking into the Wedgewood & refreshing a bit.

I've been searching this board, and I think we're most likely gonna start by eating at either Vij's or Chambar. I know about Vij's notorious waits, but we are willing to be patient (10PM seating, no problem - IF the food is worth it). I'll admit, Indian food isn't really on the top of the ethnic food list for either one of us, BUT we love fusion of any sort (when done right)!

OR... Should I just head over to Chambar? (Are reservations tough?)

AND/OR... Should we do the Richmond night market on Saturday night?

If we do Sunday dim sum, should we head over to Sea Harbour? (we are San Gabriel Valley veterans here in L.A., if that helps you gauge our level of experience)

Also, we're looking for great local seafood (Chinese or otherwise). No sushi for us on this visit (we're all sushi'ed out in L.A./S.D. lately). I'm thinking Blue Water for dinner on Sunday night, and then Go Fish (Granville Island) for lunch on Monday for lunch (are they open for lunch?) before catching our flight back to L.A.

Any additional help with bites in Lake Louise would also be much appreciated! (We will have a car in Banff, but not Vancouver).

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I believe Go Fish is closed on Mondays (unless they have changed their hours recently). Hence, you might want to swap your itinerary and have Go Fish on Sunday instead. You should have no trouble going for dim sum on Monday.

    As for Vij's or Chambar, that's a tough choice. As a out-of-towner myself who frequents Vancouver, I enjoy both restaurants a lot and have been to both multiple times. Chambar is a Belgium bistro very well known for their moule frites. Their lamb tagine is very good as well. With Chambar, you can book well in advance online using www.opentable.com.

    Vij's, IMO, is the more unique one between the two. It is pretty rare to find East Indian fusion, especially a place that does it well. I'd be first to admit that not all dishes are equal at Vij's. They do some better than others. The lamb popsicles is one of their signature dishes. It is very popular and accounts for a good portion of their orders. I was also very impressed with their portobello mushroom in porcini curry appetizer.

    You can expect excellent service at both places. In order to decide on the place, you might want to consider whether you have access to any Belgium bistros in the LA area. If so, then Vij's would be a more "unique" dining experience.

    As for the Lake Louise area, there isn't a lot for dining options. However, there are some very good places. I'm not sure if you plan on doing an short hikes. Both the Lake Agnes tea house and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House hikes are very popular. They have very good quality baked goods and tea. If you want a more substantial meal, I would say the lounge/pub in either the Post Hotel or Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise has some pretty good food. If you want more formal dining, I'd definitely recommend the Post Hotel. They have an award winning wine list, etc.

    Hope this helps!

    1. I might get in trouble for this, but I think the food at Chambar is REALLY overrated (the cocktails are amazing, though!), so I would pick Vij's given a choice between the two. It is more interesting and definitely a must-do in Vancouver.

      Go Fish is open for lunch (in fact, it's usually only open til about 6) but, as miss.foodie pointed out, it's closed on Mondays. If you swapped Go Fish and dim sum, that might even make things easier for you since you could drop off your luggage and go for lunch in Richmond. If it's sunny and around a normal lunch hour, be prepared to wait in line. If you don't want to make the swap but still have a serious yin for fish n' chips, I suggest the takeout window at the Raincity Grill. I love Go Fish, but I think RG's chips are a notch better and, if it's a sunny day, it's an easy stroll from your hotel up to Denman.

      Raincity Grill
      1193 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 2N1, CA

      3 Replies
      1. re: NoMoreSnuggles

        Hey Snuggles -- no trouble from me :-). I haven't been to Chambar yet, partly because I can't eat mussels but I had a peek back at recent comments on it and I notice there aren't a lot of specifics other than "you should go" which might make it harder to decide. I saw that one recent visitor Felix the Hound raved about the char but wasn't thrilled with the wine list. Maybe we need a Chambar-specific thread...

        I'm really ambivalent about recommending the Rmd night market to visitors. It can be kinda hit and miss foodwise, and the product on offer that is not food is pretty junky IMO. It is fun to do once a year if you're a local, I'd say, but it's out of the way in an area that really doesn't offer much otherwise (maybe a walk on the dyke before?), and parking can be a major pain. With the OP only having 2 days here, I'd pass, unless the plan was to go way late after a nice dinner elsewhere.

        You haven't had feedback on your query about dimsum here vs SGV, but I seem to recall one of our resident dimsum experts saying that it might be coals to Newcastle for a Valley regular to do dimsum here. OTOH, I've been told numerous times to forget doing dimsum when in the SF Bay Area because I come from Vancouver, but I just really like trying new dimsum places, so I always enjoy taking a recommendation there. I also understand that while Sea Harbour does dimsum, it is not their forte, so you might like to try elsewhere. Are you looking for Canto style dim sum or would you be interested in Shanghai with XLB etc? Also note that many places in Richmond are super busy for dimsum even during the week so you might want to make a reso whereever you decide to go. There's Fisherman's Terrace, Kirin, Sun Sui Wah, Shiang Garden, Shanghai River, Rainflower, Gingeri, Red Star and tons more I've missed. There are numerous threads on this topic if you do a search...

        1. re: grayelf

          On GVA vs SGV - Richmond may have a slight edge on dim sum...but not much (though it has been a while for me). It is good impetus to do some comparative dining. If you do - please post your findings.

          On Chambar - Chambar does not have one of those "I want to try everything on this menu" menus - it is limited, and I have been there with some people who had a hard time deciding what to have. I often just have apps and cocktails there - both of which they excel.

        2. re: NoMoreSnuggles

          Snuggles, I do see why you feel Chambar is overrated. I thought it was just me but I feel the quality have slipped over the years. I was most impressed with my first experience at Chambar back in Jan 2006. Even more surprising was that this was during Dine Out Vancouver. Their poached pear salad was done beautifully and the flavour of the mussels was amazing. To top it off, the portions were huge and I could barely finish the mussels. Even their waffle for dessert was done perfectly. I went back the following year and I could see the standards had slipped and the mussels never quite tasted as good as on my previous visit. And on subsequent visits after that, it never improved. Don't get me wrong, their mussels are still very good by most standards (I've had a lot worse), but they are not quite as good as the ones on my first visit. On my most recent visit earlier this year, I really noticed the portions had shrunk significantly to the point, I was almost still hungry after the whole pot of mussels. The only recent I wanted to go again earlier this year when I was in town was because I had seen their fig martini featured in Vancouver Magazine's "101 things to eat" list. I was actually disappointed in the martini. The way it was described in terms of how they infuse the vodka with figs sounded really good. But in reality, I could barely taste the figs in the martini. I would still recommend Chambar to people who really want good mussels... but I don't feel they are a must dine at location for Vancouver.

        3. Thanks so much everyone! Lots of great advice so far... Thanks to your info, we've switched out the Monday restaurants accordingly.

          Regarding dim sum: Mrs. J.L. & I adore dim sum, and even though we're so privileged to have the SGV here in SoCal, we still love Yank Sing in SF for their inventive, non-traditional dim sum. So, yes, I think we'll try the Vancouver dim sum scene. We'd like to do the non-cart dim sum, like Elite here in the SGV & most of Hong Kong is now trending towards...

          Yes, we also love Shanghai dishes done right, like XLB, so any XLB/Shanghaiese recs. would be greatly welcome!

          As for Chambar, I think we'll skip it, since we go to Brussels with alarming regularity (family members there). Vij's sounds like a winner, BUT I don't usually like lamb! Is the popsicle "gamey"? Can one fully enjoy Vij's without having the popsicle?

          We're very interested in the raw bar (Oysters!) at Blue Water. Can anyone offer a "Plan B" or backup, should we need one?

          Thanks also for the heads-up on the Richmond night market - We've done the night markets in BKK, Taipei, Marrakesh, etc. so I just thought this would be on par foodwise, but after hearing this, I might skip it.

          You guys are great! Keep the recs coming!

          5 Replies
          1. re: J.L.

            For dim sum, you'll find about 100 recent threads with dozens of rec's. My personal favourites in Richmond at this moment are Gingeri, Fisherman's Terrace, Rainflower and Viva City but there are several worth going to. I've been to Yank Sing many, many times and I think that our city's XLB kicks the ass of their's any day - try Lin's if you want to stay in Vancouver or Chen's if you're in Richmond.

            Unless Blue Water is closed, you really shouldn't have a problem getting in (it's huge and they have private rooms for parties so it's almost never closed for that reason). If you are looking for a backup oyster plan, there's Rodney's across the street from Blue Water. Rodney's is super casual - it's definitely not on par with Blue Water but they have oysters and it's really, really close. I would maybe hike over to SoCial in Gastown or even Joe Fortes.

            Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House
            1537W Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V6J1W6, CA

            Chen's Shanghai Kitchen
            8095 Park Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y, CA

            Social At Le Magasin
            332 Water Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6, CA

            Joe Fortes Seafood Restaurant
            777 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E 3V5, CA

            1. re: J.L.

              yes, you can enjoy Vij's without having the popsicles as I don't eat lamb either and still had a great experience. A back up choice for oysters...how about Coast on Alberni. It's a pretty cool looking place and the food is really top notch too if you stick to "cleaner" items. What I mean by that is simple fish, oysters, (oyster bar is a beaut) items that are without cream sauce, cheese what have you as they overdo it a bit. I loved their fish and chips roll-lighter than you might think and I am going there again this Sat so will post if I taste any other gems.

              1. re: selena03

                Didn't have the oysters at Coast this Sat but observed a very full oyster bar and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves-I had the amazing king crab tempura roll, the fish and chips cones (excellent) and the lobster flatbread-also very very good. My friend had crab cake, lobster poutine, and the ahi tuna roll. She enjoyed the sushi most.

              2. re: J.L.

                JL.. I just went to Vancouver and had a great trip. Blue Water was just great. I would definitely do the oysters but not the towers. I would also probably not do the sushi there. It's good but nothing special for an LA sushiphile. I had an amazing sablefish dish there with quinoa in a gingery broth. That dish made me wish I had more of their cooked seafood dishes instead of the raw selection. Dimsum at Kirin was the best dim sum I've had. Better than all the LA places, though you may have a better chances getting access to the seasonal items if you have some Chinese speakers with you. Go fish was ok. Fish and chips were just ok, oyster po boy was a little better.

              3. I suggest a picnic in the Banff/Lake Louise area for lunch. Banff really is about being outdoors. If you are staying at a full service hotel, they can have picnic basket ready for you each morning. Or, I second the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Highly recommended if you are up for the 6km hike. It will be mostly about the hike and the view. The teahouse is just a fun bonus. For an after dark dinner I too suggest the Post Hotel in Lake Louise. It is in the townsite, not at the lake. In Banff, Buffalo Mountain Lodge is an annual favourite for dinner. A Wide selection of Game, if you are up for it, at both the Post and BML. September is shoulder season in Banff, but you may need a reservation at both the Post and BML depending on the day.

                The family and I just returned from Vancouver where we had an excellent dinner at Joe Fortes. It is only a few blocks along Robson from the Wedgewood. Five of us walked in and said "Feed us seafood please!" All was perfect except one bad fried oyster. That happens.

                Really enjoyed the takeout window fish and chips at the Raincity Grill on Denman at English Bay. Walked a block and ate on the beach. Went to Go Fish but the lineup was crazy, so instead ate at Granville market. Go Fish line up maybe not so bad in September.

                For fun share a Japadog with the Mrs! It is street vendor specialty hotdogs with Japanese toppings. Oroshi is my choice. I think it was a Berkshire pork dog topped with soy sauce, green onions and daikon slaw. True fusion. They have a few carts around Vancouver with the one in front of the Sutton Place hotel only a block from the Wedgewood. You may even see the line up for Japadog from your room at the Wedgewood if it faces west. Unlike Go Fish, I think the the line up for Japadog is time well spent.

                1. My last visit to Vancouver, we had dim sum at South Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Richmond--the dim sum was very good and fresh. The atmosphere is not as up-scale as Gingeri or SSW, etc. but if you're looking for good Cantonese-style eats, I recommend South Ocean.

                  On the same visit, I enjoyed my meals at Café Medina (Moroccan-influenced brunch and lunch foods), located just down the block from the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station. Also, if you don't have Malaysian food often, I would recommend Banana Leaf (the location on West Broadway--I think the B-Line bus stops close to the restaurant).

                  In Banff, I second the recommendation of Buffalo Mountain Bistro.

                  1. My recommendation for all tourists going to Banff is the Grizzly house. We go there at least once a year, or more if we have more visitors in Calgary. It's a fondue house, but the have the local game and exotic meals. I usually recommend getting the 3 course meal (min 2 people), and get the hot rock to cook it instead of the oil. Expect to pay $50++ /person without any drinks. It's a great atmosphere.

                    1. THANKS, all you Hounds! Our Canada trip was very impressive indeed!

                      Reporting back:

                      Banff / Lake Louise - We were all "hiked out" from the incredible national parks, so meal-wise, we didn't leave the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise much except to grab a few sandwiches & chips at Samson Mall in Lake Louise township. I think we ate at every food venue they had at our hotel.

                      I will say this much, though - The Fairview Dining Room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise was an excellent experience. The Alberta beef was perfectly cooked to order, and it really shined when compared with its U.S. (corn-fed) counterpart. The bison was also superb.. The Chef came out to greet each table at the end of the meal - always a classy touch. I'd highly recommend this venue to any visitor.

                      Vancouver - WOW what a world-class food town! Thanks to the 'hounds (and some wise advice from a distant auntie), we had a wonderful time in BC.

                      First night: Vij's - We asked our hotel to call first to see how long the wait was (this was at 7:30PM on a Saturday night) - The (cordial) reply: About 2.5 hours. Undaunted, we ventured forth towards South Granville. When we actually got to Vij's around 8PM, the wait was "only" 90 minutes! While we waited the owner was working the room, offering free appetizers to all the waiting devotees (including us). Vibes were good all-around - nobody got grouchy. The wine selection by the glass was impressive (Mrs. J.L. really liked the Perrin & fils Cote du Rhone Villages). I liked the non-alcoholic ginger-lemon drink & (later) the exquisite Mangalore. When we got seated, we had 90 minutes to acquaint ourselves with the menu already, so ordering was fast. Bottom line: The food blew us away. I usually avoid lamb, but the server was so nice & offered a half-serving of their famous lamb popsicles for us to share, just so we can say we had it. This was sooo good!! I dare say, my favorite lamb of all time. The beef ribs were great also (so tender!)! The savoury jackfruit appetizer was really interesting, and the portobello mushroom curry appetizer matched the hot naan really well. The mango+pistachio ice cream dessert and hot chai were perfect endings to the meal. It is definitely worth noting that the gracious and professional servers really make Vij's "work".

                      Next day: Dim sum at Kirin (my distant auntie took us to the New Westminster location and also ordered) - For us, this experience just about destroyed any other North American dim sum joint thus far. This was the best dim sum I've had in North America. The execution, the service, and quality of ingredients really were noticeably superior... Not a single misstep from the kitchen. This meal taught me that dim sum need not be greasy (nor contain MSG) in order to be excellent!

                      Before dinner that day, we enjoyed a pre-dinner aperatif at the Bacchus Bar & Lounge - Kudos to their mixologists! The "Mintfinique" & "Jammy Doughnut" were each phenomenal libations in their own right.

                      Dinner: Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar in Yaletown: Another exemplary meal. We reserved seats at the raw bar. The seafood tower was beautifully arranged. Swimmer scallops, mussels, local prawn, salmon, all fresh as can be. The chilled jellyfish was as good, if not better, than any Chinese version I've had in recent memory. The vast oyster selection was the highlight - all were fresh and briny. The 3 oyster stand-outs for us were the Fanny Bay, the Gorge Inlet, and the Malpeque. Impressive wine list as well. We also got some sushi, but the sushi was limited to stuff I couldn't get in L.A. often, like gindara (sablefish, which was very buttery and good), and gorgeously smooth uni sashimi from Saltspring Island. Dessert: Blueberry tart with lemongrass ice cream (it works!), and raspberry creme brulee. What a great meal....

                      Next morning: The Clover-brewed individual coffees at Caffe Artigiano woke us right up. I had a very nice cup of the Panama La Carleida #1, with a four-berry pastry. Whoa. Good stuff.

                      Lunch: Auntie took us to Come Along Chinese Restaurant on Kingsway, in Burnaby. Yes, they serve dim sum too, but we weren't there for dim sum. No sirree, we wanted their live dungeness crab, cooked Cantonese style with onions, scallions, and ginger, their live-tank steamed fish with cilantro (still writhing about 10 minutes ago), and perhaps the best balanced, least greasy, most tasty sweet & sour pork chops I've ever had. All this, with garlic infused bean sprouts and simple steamed white rice. Dessert was a hot ginger soup, with black sesame balls. Heavenly.

                      Mid-afternoon snack: Japadog at Coal Harbour! The kurobota terimayo Japadog lives up to the hype, especially when chased by a yuzu sorbet afterwards.

                      Off to the airport (YVR): Tim Hortons is a chain, I know, but dang! That Canadian maple custard-filled doughnut should be declared a national treasure! The piping hot hazelnut smoothie goes quite well with that doughnut when waiting for your (brief 3hr.) flight back to L.A.

                      Thanks again to all for a great time in Canada! We'll be back (probably during king crab season)!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: J.L.

                        Hey JL sounds like you did really well -- thanks for the report. I've never had sablefish sushi, though I love it cooked. I'm glad you loved Kirin so much -- I've not been to the one in New West. Do you ever had dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley -- I keep hearing that is the yum cha to compare to in North America...

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Hi grayelf, thanks for your input. Yes, we have tried all the "big names" & many hole in the walls for yum cha in SGV and Chinatown here in the greater L.A. area (Elite, Triumphal Palace, Ocean Star, NBC, Mission 261, Empress Pavilion, ABC, etc.). Honestly, from my conversations with locals in Vancouver, all the great chefs from HK & Macau seem to be in your neck of the woods, and not mine. My meals at Kirin & Come Along (a relative hole in the wall) helped confirm that statement.

                          My trip to Canada also solidified my previous suspicions (i.e. the notion that any hole in the wall could potentially harbor gems) to be especially true when it comes to Chinese food in heavily-populated expat areas like SGV & BC. I need to hit Richmond much more in depth next time I go.

                          1. re: J.L.

                            Oops I just noticed you mentioned SGV in your original post, my bad! Good to know that we are meeting or exceeding the high standards there :-).

                        2. re: J.L.

                          Someone at another forum mentioned Come Along a while back. The manager used to manage Pink Pearl (and his departure - according to many - was one of the reasons for Pink Pearl's decline.) I have yet to go...I should try it specifically for the live crab and fish.

                          Thanks for the report! It's great to hear the board favourites fulfill promises.