Trip report - finally!
Thanks once again for your wonderful advice and suggestions. We had a wonderful vacation and were so sad to have to leave so soon (and of course to work today!).
Okay, so despite our horrendous experience at Market (which I assume anyone reading this will know about - and if not check out the "Sunday night. Sushi. Tell us where to go!" post and look on down the thread), we had a few incredible meals and dining experiences and a few so-so ones. I'll start with the best (but not in chronological order):
Chambar. Wow. So, so good. And what a unique restaurant and menu in general. We loved it. I wish I could attach some of the photos we took, but that might have to happen another time. My husband ordered a wonderful Belgian Ale (the Chambar Ale, I believe) and I ordered a glass of the Bodega Fontana "Mesta" per the sommelier's recommendation. It was perfect. We started our meal with an order of the mussels in white wine and butter sauce. The mussels were perfectly cooked and their were plenty to go around between the two of us. The frites that came with the order were crispy and delicious - perfect. The REAL treat came in the form of our entrees, however. I ordered a perfectly-executed pistachio-crusted halibut that came with lemon quinoa, sauteed kale, and a tomato-ginger broth. It was heaven. My husband ordered the chevreuil (venison) aux cerises with a cherry concasse on one piece and a champagne mustard on the other and it was to die for. A wonderful pasta with pesto and prosciutto came with the dish. He loved it. The meat was cooked to perfection and the whole dish just melted in your mouth. Mmmmm. We ended with a delicious espresso cheesecake with a belgian chocolate mousse. I was devastated when it was all gone... Needless to say, had we had more time in Vancouver (and had we had any foresight about some of our other, less-than-stellar meals), we would have gone back there in a heartbeat.
Next, Lupo. Possibly even better!! We absolutely loved the setting (what a beautiful building) and the service was spot-on perfect. It was pretty amazing. We loved our server, Chris - but I think he was the manager, too. Not entirely clear on that... Anyway, we started out with an order of the focaccia (with tomatoes and zuchini on top) and devoured that. Also had an order of the bufala mozarella salad and the tomatoes were perfectly ripe and wonderful and the whole thing seasoned perfectly. It was delicious and I wish I had ordered one for myself! We each got a pasta dish for our main course, but it was a very difficult decision as EVERYTHING on the menu sounded incredible. We shared them - I had a taglierini with wild mushrooms, garlic, and chili and he had the pappardelle with braised veal short ribs, sage, and mozarella. Again, I think I could have eaten both dishes myself. They were perfect. Both very different flavors (I thought the pappardelle was much richer for obvious reasons), but both so wonderful. Then we ended with the tiramisu, which was just heavenly. Heavenly! That was our last night in town and we couldn't have been happier.
The last of the best was Medina Cafe. We actually had breakfast here twice during the week - once on our first day and once on our last day. It's such a cute place and then menu, again, is really unique. We pretty much stuck with the same items on both visits: dark chocolate lattes (yum!), waffles (his with maple syrup, mine with berry compote the first time and orange-fig marmalade the second (preferred the latter)), and the skillet omelettes. Our first omelette was a lot better than the second time around, but it was just a matter of personal preference. The first had a bunch of mixed herbs and was topped with a tasty mixed greens/arugula salad. The next visit we had a roasted vegetable omelette, but felt it was too loaded with potatoes (probably to "take up space") and was a bit salty. But overall still very good! We are creatures of habit, what can I say - although I wished we had been a bit more adventurous with some of the other items on the menu. Overall a very great breakfast both times.
So now come some of the ho-hum places/experiences:
We did try Japadog upon arriving in the city and although they were very good, I can't say that I would necessarily ever want another one. We both got a terimayo dog and it was tasty and interesting and we felt glad to have tried them. Otherwise, it wouldn't be something I crave in the future, I don't think (but will keep you posted if that changes! ;) )...
We also had sushi one night at Kampei Royale which, to us, felt like a big tourist trap. My husband felt like it was pretty authentic Japanese-style dining (to some degree), but of course I had been looking for and hoping for a different (and better) sushi experience. The sushi and fish itself was perfectly okay, but just okay. I was very disappointed that we missed Ajisai.
We also tried Go Fish one afternoon for a late lunch. I had the fish and chips (just stuck with cod) and he had the salmon tacones. Both we thought were just so-so. I felt like my fish and chips could have been fried better (fried food isn't supposed to be greasy if it's cooked right!) and was a little disappointed with how heavy and greasy it was. But the line was crazy-long, and continued to be, so they must be doing something right! ;) Overall it was fine, but nothing to write home about IMHO.
Long's Noodle House was another dinner destination. And bracing myself for cool service, I was delightfully surprised at how warm and welcoming (and helpful) the woman was (was that Ms. Long?!). It was our first experience with XLB, and man, they were GOOD! And very fun to eat. I was just happy I had read the CH thread about how to eat them before we went! Of course I have nothing to compare them to, but I thought the skin was perfect, the broth flavorful, and the pork ball wonderful in texture and flavor. Again, had I had more foresight, I probably would have just made a meal out of these. I think the other dishes we ordered were just an issue of bad ordering on our part (green onion pancake, hot and sour soup, chicken chow mein). We did not love any of these dishes, and in fact, thought that the latter two were not good at all. But again, I think it's more of us not being adventurous with our ordering and not being huge fans of Chinese cuisine at the outset. I should have researched these dishes more carefully, as I believe we would have had a much better experience had we ordered alternate items. But the XLB were incredible!
Well that pretty much covers it! For our other lunches and breakfasts, we kind of just grabbed things as we could and the couple other places we ended up at aren't really worth mentioning (Bellagio cafe one morning for b'fast, Prospect Point Cafe for lunch during a bike trip through Stanley Park, etc...). We spent the majority of our time outside hiking (did the Grouse Grind one day, drove up to Whistler another) and biking/walking around and just had a fantastic time in your city. Such a shame about all of the forest fires, though.
Thanks again to all of you for your feedback and advice! Can't wait to come back... Whenever anyone is in Texas (Dallas or Austin specifically), let me know!
Long's Noodle House
4853 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3R9, CA
Great report, DKS1. And with such detailed recollection, you must have taken notes.
Hope your Vancouver experience was all (or more) that you had expected. It's incredible how far Vancouver has come in the past 25 years or so after our World Expo 86 in terms of the culinary landscape (which was also strongly influenced by changing local demographics since that time). So what if Vancouver can often be gray and soggy ...... what better time to find great local eating spots and enjoy all they have to offer.
PS: next time you're in town let us know, I'll make sure you get into Ajisai if I have to make a reservation myself !
Enjoyed reading your report. I hope your few good experiences cancelled out the ho-hum (and the awful) ones :-).
I think maybe you didn't quite order right at Long's -- XLB is the only thing that looks Shanghainese to me that you ordered.
LR, do you have an "in" at Ajisai? I didn't think they took resos :-).