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First Time Visiting Vancouver -- Suggestions/Comments About Itinerary

Frommtron Jun 17, 2011 12:35 PM

My wife and I are excited to finally get a chance to visit Vancouver and will be in town for 4 nights, 3 full days, and until about lunch time on the fourth day.

I've done some research on the boards and using some Vancouver press and have come up with the following tentative plan. Am I missing a gem? Headed for an overhyped, mediocre place?

Night 1 -- Tojo's: Seems like a great place to end on a travel day. Bao Bei is another option for us if we aren't feeling like full-on omokase madness.

Night 2 -- Vij's: I'm hoping it's a revelation. We were happy, but a bit underwhelmed by Tantra in NYC. That was the last high-end, fusion Indian restaurant we tried.

Night 3 -- La Quercia OR L'Abattoir.

Night 4 -- Chambar OR Boneta

I'd LOVE to get out to Richmond for some top-end Cantonese. Unfortunately, my wife's one and only flaw is a general lack of enthusiasm for Chinese food. I know. It makes no sense at all. I love her anyway. I do think I could convince her to do dim sum one morning. Any suggestions?

We are also skipping the truly high-end stuff (other than maybe Tojo's). Should we squeeze Blue Water Cafe or West in at the expense of one of the more casual places?

Thanks for any help!

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

La Quercia
3689 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6R1P2, CA

  1. Frommtron Jul 7, 2011 03:50 PM

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to thank you guys again and follow up with you.

    Night 1 -- As I mentioned in the thread already, Bao Bei was our first stop. Great drinks. Solid food. All around it was the right choice over Tojo's. We do have excellent sushi in LA so I don't think we missed out on too much. The place reminded me a bit of Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC, which my wife and I made our first stop many years ago. We had a few dishes. Standouts included the Dck wontons in consomme and the octopus salad.

    Night 2 -- Vij's. I tempered expectations, but I needn't have worries. My only regret is that two people in a hotel can't reasonably try enough offerings. We had the chickpeas is star anise and date masala with grilled kale, jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin curry, and Rjasthani goat curry. All three dishes were quite elegant. After my first few bites, I thought I wanted the food to be more aggressive, but over the meal my palate started to pick up the subtle complexity to the food. The nod to Pacific Northwest ingredients was not overworked or forced as I've seen happen in high-end Indian restaurants. I think the place is a treasure.

    Night 3 -- I chose to stick with La Quercia for the third night. My wife spent several months in Italy learning the language and cuisine. I thought this kind of slow food restaurant would be right up her alley. We opted for the 7 course tasting menu. We were killed with food. But it was all very good and I do like that each table experiences the menu a bit differently. I won't bore with the details, but we loved the meticulous, yet ultimately rustic, food. Not every dish blew us away, but the overall meal was wonderful. I know I wouldn't come back as I didn't find it to be a destination restaurant, but I'd kill to have that place in my neighborhood back home.

    Night 4 -- On our last night, we just couldn't decide. We wanted izakaya, fine dining, maybe chinese, etc. It was our last night and our choices were too vast. We ended up deciding to limit our picks to where we had reservations already: Chambar and Boneta. We walked to Boneta because it seemed a little more adventurous to me, but upon seeing the room we decided it reminded us too much of another restaurant we were going to in Portland later in the trip. We canceled the reservations and walked to Chambar. Aside: Up until this point, we both thought Vancouver was exceedingly clean and polite. Maybe too clean. I kind of missed an urban edge to the place. Walking around Hastings and Pender at dusk as I got a bit lost certainly cured us of that notion. :)
    Chambar is usually not the kind of place that I get too excited about. I knew I'd like it fine, but there does seem to be an after work, office crowd. But after walking through a few blocks of junkies and dealers that promised us we could score as much smack as we'd want, my wife was more than happy to see the well-heeled clientele. They sat us right next to the bathroom. Which isn't really a problem, but I think any place that even has a table that close to the head is making a mistake. The menu wasn't grabbing me, but both our appetizers were just lovely and our entrees were quite good. I had a bouillabaisse that wasn't a bouillabaisse at all. My initial disappointment melted, though. Great dish, whatever it is. My wife had a halibut presented three ways. Again, I saw it come out and thought it would be terrible. That trio concept was played out nearly a decade ago. But, it was really delicious. Each preparation was there for a reason and they were all executed perfectly. Cocktails were on point and the beer selection was excellent, too. We opted for the cheese plate for dessert, which was nice enough. We ended with a whiskey and maple liqueur because why not. In the end, we liked it enough to check out Cafe Medina on our way out of town the next morning.

    Liquor stores were tough. We didn't have time to go to the better suggestions. I was able to score a bottle of Cinzano Orancio from the liquor store connected to our hotel. We don't have that down here and I'm looking forward to working up a couple of cocktails with it. There were a few other bottles that looked intriguing, but time was tight and luggage was already getting heavy. Besides, WOW liquor is expensive in Canada. I can't believe bars serve cocktails for less that $15 bucks at those costs.

    So thanks again for all the suggestions. LOVED our time up in your fair city and will be back to try many of your suggestions in the future.

    1. Frommtron Jun 21, 2011 06:00 PM

      Sorry for the post blitz, but I keep forgetting to ask about a great liquor store/bottle shop. You guys get some great stuff up here that isn't always available in the US.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Frommtron
        k
        kinnickinnik Jun 21, 2011 07:55 PM

        For the government stores, the 39th and Cambie location first and Alberni location 2nd have the best selections.

        Private stores are more likely to turn up something interesting.
        The newly opened Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic village has quite a number of things I haven't found elsewhere
        For BC Wine - Any of the VQA Village shops - nearest to downtown is on 1st off Burrard. Broadway Wine Shop @ Broadway and McDonald also does well for BC selection.
        For Beer - Brewery Creek on Main and 13th is great
        Downtown - Viti on Seymour St has a great beer selection (including some Quebec beers that I don't see elsewhere as much). Good wine too? I'm a bit of a hophead so haven't looked past the beer in there.

        1. re: kinnickinnik
          i
          islandgirl Jun 21, 2011 09:19 PM

          Surprisingly, the Liquor Depot at the corner of Blenheim and West Broadway (next to Macdonalds) has a great selection of beers, particularly Belgian imports

          1. re: islandgirl
            k
            kinnickinnik Jun 21, 2011 09:49 PM

            They inherited what they got when they took over the space (was run by the Kitsilano Wine Cellar folds initially as Pt Grey Wine & Beer). Since Liquor Depot took over - the selection, while sill OK has been reduced and the prices have gone up. Belgian selection is still good but US selection and BC Craft is down.

            Darby's Liquor Store is another good spot on the West side.

        2. re: Frommtron
          peter.v Jun 22, 2011 09:59 PM

          If you find yourself in West Van, 16th Street Liquor has the best selection of obscure Amaros, liqueurs, beers and whisk(e)ys in the city. Wine selection is not too bad either. Their prices are fantastic too (though not for you coming from the US). An example would be the availability of Carpano Antica vermouth. I've heard it's about $30 in the US, at Legacy Liquor here, it's about $85 and at 16th it is $68. Welcome to Canada!

        3. Frommtron Jun 21, 2011 05:32 PM

          UPDATE --

          Thanks for all the great replies.

          So, we just weren't feeling Tojo's last night. We thought it would be better to go someplace with great cocktails and a more lively scene. We decided on Bao Bei. Food was quite nice. Portion sizes made it feel a little like dim sum re-worked for dinner and I got a chance to get something remotely Chinese on this trip. We both really enjoyed ourselves. The space was great, the cocktails were expertly made (loved the Handsome Benny--basically a reworked Red Hook), and the food was pretty good. We chatted up the bartender and got some great recs for restaurants, cocktail bars, and stuff to do in town.

          Will be trying Vij's shortly . . .

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

          1. LotusRapper Jun 21, 2011 11:17 AM

            Hi Frommtron,

            A few to add to your options list (not high-end $, esp. if you're easy on the booze):

            - Pied-A-Terre (Cambie St, same owners as La Buca)
            - La Brasserie (Davie St)
            - Les Faux Bourgeois (Fraser St north of Kingsway)
            - La Regalade (Marine Dr, West Vancouver)

            If not Chinese, how about fusion-y Japanese in the form of izakayas ? LA has 'em, are they prevalent ? Growing list in town, but notable ones are:

            http://www.gourmet.com/restaurants/20...

            1. p
              Peter Rodgers Jun 21, 2011 08:16 AM

              I would have a long talk with your wife, as there truly are some extraordinary Chinese options in the Vancouver/Richmond area. Based upon comments here and my personal experience, interesting Cantonese options include Ho Yuen Key and the Good Choice, both on Fraser in the 47th Avenue area (if you don't mind traveling a bit). We have been especially pleased with the latter. For dim sum, the Sun Sui Wah on Main Street and the Fortune on Cambie and 41st Avenue are excellent.

              I like Cioppinos in Yaletown, but it is way overpriced. Both La Buca and La Quercia are excellent, casual and fairly priced. I would give a slight nod to La Quercia.

              I am still waiting to have a good meal at Chambar, despite many tries. Boneta is solid. For an upscale meal, you should consider Hawksworth, the new venue of David Hawksworth, West's former executive chef. David's cooking is without parallel in terms of West Coast cuisine in my judgment, although we thus far have had only one meal at his new venue..

              -----
              La Buca Restaurant
              4025 MacDonald St, Vancouver, BC V6L2N8, CA

              Ho Yuen Restaurant
              6236 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5W, CA

              La Quercia
              3689 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6R1P2, CA

              Main Street Cafe
              317 MacKenzie, Revelstoke, BC V0E2S1, CA

              West Coast Cafe
              5142 Cordova Bay Rd, Victoria, BC V8Y2K5, CA

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peter Rodgers
                Frommtron Jun 21, 2011 05:34 PM

                He he he! If all it took was talking then my wife would already be head over heels for the gamut of Chinese cuisine. She'll eat it, but she'd choose nearly anything else over it. She did enjoy Bao Bei at least.

              2. p
                Philx Jun 20, 2011 09:55 PM

                A couple of other suggestions for nights 3 and 4:

                http://www.ensemblerestaurant.com/team/dale-mackay-ensemble-restaurant-vancouver

                newly opened offering some interesting takes on French classic technigues

                http://lecrocodilerestaurant.com/

                some of the best traditional French food in the city

                http://www.bishopsonline.com/

                one of the first to concentrate on local ingrediants beautifully prepared.

                http://www.cioppinosyaletown.com/

                some of the best Italian food in the city but can be a bit expensive

                I would also second http://www.hawksworthrestaurant.com/

                Have a great time
                Phil

                2 Replies
                1. re: Philx
                  Frommtron Jun 21, 2011 05:49 PM

                  Hawksworth may need to happen for us. I really like the look of West and it seems like at one time Hawksworth (the chef) was what made that place special. Thanks waylman and philx.

                  1. re: Frommtron
                    p
                    Philx Jun 22, 2011 11:19 AM

                    You are right about Hawksworth and West - never been as good since he left INMO but better in the last year or so than we he first left.

                2. waylman Jun 20, 2011 08:56 PM

                  Some great choices!
                  Skip tojos. Go to octopus garden.
                  Go to blue water cafe...there is nothing generic about that room
                  go to vijs, la quercia and labbatoir! they edge out chambar and boneta.

                  Also consider Hawksworth...its the new hot spot in town.

                  1. Frommtron Jun 17, 2011 06:08 PM

                    Hi Grayelf: Yeah, I'm from LA. Should have mentioned that. We do have exemplary Chinese food, but I've heard the Cantonese restaurants of Vancouver in particular are not to be missed. Bao Bei was only begrudgingly added to our list because it wasn't the usual Sichuan dive I take her out to.

                    I did try to mix up the neighborhoods a bit so we can check out the town more. I'll definitely look into La Buca and thanks for fair warning on Blue Water Cafe. West seemed more my style if I'm going to splurge anyway.

                    Hi Sam: I'll take those suggestions for a better sushi restaurant, especially if Tojo's is regarded as average these days.

                    Hi Islandgirl: Thanks for the tip on Kirin for a more sane dim sum location. Did you not like Boneta or is Chambar just flat-out superior?

                    Thanks again, everyone.

                    -----
                    La Buca Restaurant
                    4025 MacDonald St, Vancouver, BC V6L2N8, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Frommtron
                      Sam Salmon Jun 20, 2011 08:16 PM

                      http://www.octopusgarden.ca/

                      1. re: Frommtron
                        i
                        islandgirl Jun 21, 2011 06:01 PM

                        Hi Frommtron

                        Hope this isn't too late:

                        RE: Kirin, this is my husbands favourite for Chinese and he isn't usually a fan (sounds like your wife)

                        RE: Chambar vs. Boneta, I've always been a fan of Chambar since they first opened. We've had many good meals there and the beer/cocktail list is definately a draw for us. I've read some not-so-pleased reviews lately . I will say that it's not as amazing as it was in the early days (the prices have all gone up significantly, service isn't quite as top-notch, etc) but we've always had a good time.

                        My one experience with Boneta was several years ago and I remember it was nice but just not special enough for us to ever go back. I can't remember specifically what we ate or drank (again, for me not a good sign as I usually remember good food) Chambar has always won-out if we're in that area of town.

                        That's my 2 cents for what it's worth.

                      2. i
                        islandgirl Jun 17, 2011 05:29 PM

                        For Dim Sum closer to town I would recommend Kirin on Alberni St as an alternate to trecking all the way to Richmond.

                        For my two cents, I would recommend Chambar over Boneta based on the many wonderful meals I've had at the first and only one visit to the second.

                        1. grayelf Jun 17, 2011 03:05 PM

                          Based on where the majority of your posts are, I'm guessing you're coming from LA/area? If so I've heard that there is some great Asian in the San Gabriel Valley so perhaps you needn't repine too much :-). There are so many options for dim sum if you do decide to head out to Richmond. Are you looking for fancy or plain? New fangled or old school?

                          The rest of your list looks solid, with the added attraction of being in different neighbourhoods, unless you go to both L'Abbatoir and Boneta. Nothing really overpriced (well, arguably, Tojo's, but only you can judge that). I'm sure you'll be aware that Bao Bei is essentially Chinese, albeit with a bit of a twist re your wife's "issue" :-).

                          Overhyped? Vij's, maybe. Hoping for a revelation may be setting the bar too high; if you manage your expectations you should have a good meal. I prefer the vegetarian preps there and avoid pork and chicken, because I've had disappointing dishes of both (overcooked).

                          For that kind of Italian restaurant (local/neighbourhood trattoria), I prefer La Buca over La Quercia but both have their strong supporters and both are a bit out of the way if that matters.

                          Not a fan of Blue Water based on a single meal there (pedestrian preps, generic room/service, one overdone fish entree and of course the well-documented high prices, though I wasn't paying), and I understand the star sushi chef has left recently, but there are many fans.

                          Have fun and pray to the rain gods before you come.

                          -----
                          La Buca Restaurant
                          4025 MacDonald St, Vancouver, BC V6L2N8, CA

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

                          La Quercia
                          3689 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6R1P2, CA

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: grayelf
                            Sam Salmon Jun 17, 2011 04:44 PM

                            If overpaying for average food and mediocre service is what you want then Tojo's is the place.

                            If not there are numerous other high end sushi places I'm sure you would like more.

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