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Mar 21, 2011 04:24 PM

Asian Bender this Weekend in YVR and Richmond

My blessed wife has agreed to sponsor and accompany me on a Asian cuisine bender this weekend. Coming from SEA, our focal points will be Cantonese dim sum, ramen, izakaya/Japanese, and Shanghainese (to include XLB), and we seek the best on offer as of now.

We are also perhaps game to a visit to Vij's, assuming reservation is possible (we have never been!) or another wild card place of note, if time and situation allows it. I am also interested in craft cocktails, but had not seen anything that jumped out from my research in terms of cocktailian IQ or housemade/rare ingredients (e.g. on the level of Spur/Tavern Law, Zig Zag or Naga in SEA).

We have practical limitations in that we have a six-month old baby girl, and will arrive about 8-9 PM Friday and will depart by early evening Sunday. We will likely stay in the downtown core, but fully expect to visit Richmond, as we have before. Below are the most promising candidates based on research so far. I was hoping for comments regarding these and some input on whether hours or locations would be limiting, or would favor one choice over another.

Dim sum: Fisherman's Terrace, Kirin, Dynasty, Sea Harbour, The Jade

Ramen: Santouka, Kintaro, Benkei & Motomachi

Izakaya/Japanese: Guu with Garlic, Kingyo, Lime & Zakkushi

Shanghainese/XLB: Long's Noodle House, Wang's Chinese Cuisine

Am I overlooking anything of note? Any suggested itinerary? Thank you very much in advance for your help.

Vij's Restaurant
1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

838 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA

871 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G2L9, CA

Long's Noodle House
4853 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3R9, CA

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  1. No resos at Vij's -- expect a wait anytime, longer at prime time, might be dicey with the wee 'un.

    Your ds choices look solid, all will be busy at prime times so if you can go before 11 and make a reso, that will help but you still might wait, and some dishes aren't available till after 11 at some restos. Fisherman's Terrace is VERY loud which may be a good thing with baby (soothing, like a vacuum cleaner going??).

    I am not a fan of Benkei at all but your other choices are solid. Perhaps toss Sanpachi in instead? Consensus seems to be for Santouka...

    Guu with Garlic is my favourite Guu. I like Zakkushi the best of the izakaya I've tried (things on sticks make me happy). Kingyo, which I have yet to try, seems to get points for being a bit more refined and less boisterous. Lime is no more, alas. My top sushi choice right now is Kimura for the omakase ($30!?!) but it takes a couple of hours and might not be the right option to keep equinoise jr. happy :-).

    Chen's and Long's are both more rustic than many of the other Shanghainese places around. I like the seaweed fish at Long's (but I like it better at Ningtu FWIW) and the wine chicken in the little pot, but I've had several quite weak dishes there. Very small, fills up quickly, there'll be a line so I'd try for resos. Chen's is cash only, very basic looking, great "aunty" type wait staff who will warn you if you are ordering something "unusual" but just because they want you to like it. Neither have the best XLBs IMO. For those, I go to Lin's. But only for the XLB, really.

    How's the spicy scene in Seattle? We have a couple of decent Sichuan places here and one Hunan that I am fond of, if you're interested.

    Have a lovely visit and let us know where you go.

    Vij's Restaurant
    1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

    Ningtu Restaurant
    2130 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2T5, CA

    10 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      Wang's (Crystal Mall) is closed now and that stall has changed hands - now called Xu's. Early reports on the XLB there are postive.

      grayelf provides solid choices. I have nothing to add.

      1. re: fmed

        Overall, would an a la crate grazing of select items at the Crystal Mall be an experience worthy of a late morning/lunch? This would include, apparently, the new Xu's XLB. I'm trying to decide whether that would be preferable to a sit-down meal at a Shanghainese place such as Long's Noodle House, or maybe another Richmond (but would have to include XLB).

        To grayelf's question, Sichuan food is one of the strong points of Chinese in Seattle. Bamboo Garden, Spiced, and Szechwan 99 and a couple older joints all rate pretty favorably among the locals. No Hunan to speak of, but we cook from Dunlop very frequently so that is not a priority for this visit.

        Any favorite among the dim sum I've listed?

        Crystal Mall
        4500 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H2A9, CA

        Long's Noodle House
        4853 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3R9, CA

        1. re: equinoise

          My $0.25, with a little 'un in tow, your time maybe more efficiently spent in Vancouver & Richmond. I've not had the XLB at this new Xu's (but quite familiar with Wang's, the previous vendor there). On the weekend, Crystal Mall is hectic busy and parking is ridiculous, I'm not sure if it's worth your trip out there just for Xu's XLB.

          An alternative may be Top Shanghai (on Ackroyd Road) in Richmond:

          Just sayin', your options are so much more plentiful in Richmond.

          There's also Lin Chinese Cuisine on W. Broadway a few doors west of Granville St:

          And The Place on S. Granville at 64 Ave:

          1. re: equinoise

            Agree with everything lotus says about Crystal Mall (I will only go on a weekday!) and adding that it is hard to do a good survey of the options there with only two people. Another Hound and I tried that recently and had so many leftovers it's a good thing we took containers with us to tote 'em home. I wish there was a Shanghainese resto I could recommend to you that would deliver on great xlb and other cuisine but those seem to be mutually exclusive at least where I frequent. That is why I called out Lin's for xlb only. I don't think I am really helping, am I?

            1. re: grayelf

              On the contrary, you are most helpful and appreciated. I am now thinking

              Sat AM: The Jade, Sea Harbor or Fisherman's Terrace
              Sat other: ?
              Sat PM: Kingyo or Zakkushi
              Sun AM: ?
              Sun PM: Ramen

              With izakaya, cantonese dim sum, and ramen as givens, I am really looking at one, maybe two other meals slotted above. Logistics say this will probably be earlier rather than in the evening. I planned to take the train to Burnaby, but if Crystal mall is not worthwhile in any event, would you suggest a Shanghainese for non-XLB (we do have Din Tai Fung here now), OR some other wild card, e.g. Vij's (w or w/o baby), Japanese, regional Indian, or anything else that is superb and lacking in Seattle.

              Vij's Restaurant
              1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

              871 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G2L9, CA

              1. re: equinoise

                If you have the option for a brief baby-ectomy I would pick arrive before opening at Vij's to get the first seating as suggested below (maybe a half hour before it opens since we are talking Sat or Sun). If you can leave the small one again on the other night and you're keen on more sushi-centric Japanese, I would say splurge on a cab to Kimura and get the omakase ($30!!). Just be sure to book a few days in advance to get the full treatment and the all-important west-facing seats at the bar in front of the itamae.

                Back to which dim sum to pick, they all have their strengths and I don't think you will be disappointed in any of the three. I'm thinking The Jade but maybe others who've been more recently will have a better articulated reason :-).

                Re Kingyo or Zakkushi, they are not many short blocks apart -- perhaps you could hit both to get two very different izakaya under your belt? Denman is a nice street to walk along as well.

              2. re: grayelf

                I just read some 411 on the Wang's/Xu's situation. Apparently the owner of Chen's sold up recently and this is her new venture. So my comments on Chen's food are not current, though I understand it is still good and the wait staff remains :-). Here is where I read about these developments if you want more detail:

          2. re: grayelf

            I don't want to hijack the thread and get too far off-topic, but what might be the wait time at Vij's on a Thursday at around 5:30?

            Vij's Restaurant
            1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

            1. re: Dan G

              show up around 515 and you'll get in for sure on the first seating at 530 on a thursday

              1. re: Dan G

                Do bear in mind that you can put your name on the list at Vij's, get a time estimate and go for a walk over to Chapter's or for a beer in the 'hood while you wait - but don't be late! Then come back half an hour before "time" and have a drink in the lounge with the complimentary snackies. This is how I get my husband to "stand in line".

            2. So, this well-planned visit last spring was derailed by a most unfortunate border control/passport issue. NOW, finally, it is happening. Over a year having passed, I was wondering whether any developments since then should alter the much appreciated advice below. Thanks again.

              6 Replies
              1. re: equinoise

                Some updates:
                Wang's is gone unfortunately. So is Lime.
                For izakaya in a modern style try the new-ish Suika (which is outside the downtown core).
                Ramen: Santouka and Jinya - specifically Santouka's toroniku miso or ship ramen and Jinya's black ramen are my two top bowls right now.
                XLB: I haven't been to Long's in a while, but I hazard that it is still good. I also like the XLB at Suhang (Rmd) and Top Shanghai (Rmd).
                Your other choices in the original post look solid.

                1. re: fmed

                  I've not yet been, but the owner who used to operate Chen's Shanghai Kitchen on Park Rd. (Richmond) has just opened a new restaurant on Alexandra Rd (also Richmond) called SHANGHAI MORNING RESTAURANT:


                  I guess if I were to adapt a certain Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore's quote to this new resto, it'd be: "I love the smell of XLBs on a Shanghai Morning ........" :-D

                  1. re: fmed

                    Cocktails: Try the Pourhouse, or Diamond in Gastown.

                  2. re: equinoise

                    A word of warning: popular restaurants in Richmond tend to be VERY busy on the weekend. Best to pick your restaurant ahead and show up early (before opening), especially if you have a kid and don't want to wait. Also, parking can be horrendous.

                    One of the most western friendly Shanghainese places I've found is Dinesty, across from Top Shanghai on Acroyd. The English on the menu is good, the place is pretty nice inside and the food is good to my non-expert palate.

                    My wife is Chinese and her family always goes to Shiang Garden in Richmond for Dim Sum. I believe they give a 10% discount before 11am. Anyways I bring my coworkers there sometimes and they love it.

                    1. re: J_Bone

                      We had somewhat small family function dinner (9 people) back in late March. Called up Dinesty to make a 5:30pm reso. Gal on the other end said no problem, but it'll only allow us 90 mins seat time before the next reso @ 7pm. Wut ?!? I asked if that's their standard reso policy and she said yes. I asked if it'd make any difference (ie: no seat time limit) if we DIDN'T make a reso, she said "no". Obviously I didn't continue to make the reso, as I was not impressed. But I've eaten at Dinesty twice circa 2010 (w/o reso) and don't ever recall there being a time limit at all. And the gal I talked to seemed very fluent so I don't believe there was any mis-understanding on her part. But if anyone else can confirm this policy that would be great.

                      Just a caution in case you come across the same.

                      We ended up going to Shanghai Wonderful that night, but I personally like Dinesty's food better.

                    2. re: equinoise

                      So you now have an 18 mo old, right?

                      For dim sum with a toddler I really recommend Kings Chinese on Main. I have been with my 11 mo old and they are very family friendly, and the dim sum is excellent.

                      Kintaro is very small and I can't imagine having a high chair in there. Also you would need to bring food for the toddler as I don't think anything on their limited menu would be 18 mo old friendly.

                      Guu with Garlic might be overstimulating for a toddler. Even if you go right when they open, the waitstaff like to rev things up and get everything loud and pumped. I think Kingyo would be more toddler friendly.

                    3. Re; cocktail ?
                      I would suggest West for very good cocktails. Its a couple blocks from Vij's so you can always put your name on the 5;30 list and head to West for a drink or two. While not the same ambience as Spur ... IMO it has the best bar program in Van.
                      Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has some interesting drinks as does the Keefer Bar. (both on the same block in Chinatown)

                      1. Just completed the bender--sans daughter! We had dinner at a Korean BBQ joint north of SEA on the journey north and could not quite muster the energy for an izakaya run after arrival in Gastown.

                        Saturday morning, we had crossaints and single origin coffee at Revolver, which was much appreciated; interesting that they had more coffees from PDX and SF than Canada. On that visit (and another) I went with Phil and Sebastian selections and was impressed, both with the coffee, the digs, and the super-efficient line-up of the chemex set-ups.

                        We got distracted with boutique clothing shops and failed to recognize the afternoon was upon us. We hurried on the SkyTrain to Richmond. I literally ran from the Landsdowne station to Su Hang to avoid closing--I had a distinct moment of self-awareness and reflection when leaping over a parking bumper and thought to myself: you are an obsessive GEEK! We had two orders of XLB, and the crab were excellent. We both recognized that we can abide a thicker wrapper--our standard is the quite thin Din Tai Fung in Bellevue--provided it is backed with ample juice, and these did not disappoint, with a very briny, true crab flavor. I also liked a sesame cake with cured beef that had been recommended on a Yelp post. The waiter suggested also a pan-fried dumpling with a vegetable filling, but that was forgettable.

                        Later, we arrived at Vij's and were told to return in about 1.5 hours. At West, we had some very nice cocktails (a notably spicy rum-based "passage to India" and another with gin, plum wine and ginger?) a raw sockeye salmon/roe dish and some olives, together with a smoked trout flaked gougere and some sort of dessert ball they brought, gratis. All told, it was nearly a meal in and of itself.

                        Seated at Vij's around 10, but not before downing a few of the passed snacks/chaat (I was not aware that this happened before), we ordered two roast pork spoons, the sautéed samosas, a complex vegetarian dish with some type of pulse-based fritters, and the famous lamb popsicles. After it all, we were both near capacity, but I still nearly lapped the fenugreek cream sauce and finished all of the lamb. We remarked that the pork spoon could make filling for a supreme indian "taco." The samosas were the best we'd had anywhere. We did not sample too much of the vegetable dish but it too was wonderful. I thought the bright cumin tang of the standard rice was excellent--I've since located the recipe from Vij's cookbook. The only qualm we had was the naan--it tasted like pizza dough and had none of the yeast and fluffiness of better naan we've tried. Strange.

                        The following late morning I found that Revolver was closed (odd to me for a Sunday at 10) so I had a mediocre espresso at Bambo Coffee. Back down to Richmond for dim sum at The Jade. Probably our personal best--the century egg/ginger roll, pan-fried lamb dumpling, steamed pork neck with lemon zest and vegetable being the outstanding dishes.

                        Sad to say, just did not have the hunger to get a bowl of ramen as planned prior to departure. We will have to bag that bird on our next visit (for which we are already contemplating a more Japanese orientation). Did stop off at 49th Parallel for a very nice cup of Kenya on drip and a bag of beans to go.

                        Thanks to all for your thoughtful advice, which made our trip memorable.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: equinoise

                          Great detail in the report equinoise. Thanks! 'Till next time. Oh - on Vij's naan - as I recall, they don't have a tandoor which is why the naan is more like a deck oven pizza.