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Portlanders in B.C. (Vancouver Edition)

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Hi folks -

My girlfriend and I are doing a little trip up to Canada next week, ending withthree nights and two days in Vancouver. This board has been a tremendous help, but I had a few questions ... these are the Vancouver ones. :)

Just as background, we're coming up from Portland, OR. What Portland does well: food trucks, Vietnamese, Thai, "this egg came from a chicken named Pam who we keep in the back, would you like to meet her before you order?". What Portland doesn't do well: Any Asian that isn't Vietnamese or Thai, very high end (not populous enough).

For us in particular: we're not big fans of long waits, we tend to prefer white cloth to vinyl, and authenticity is not a particularly big concern. We will have a car and metro passes.

This will be my girlfriend's first trip to Vancouver. I was in your lovely town most recently in 2004, so I'm guessing the places I have vague memories of have changed or gone out of business. Just in case, though, I remember enjoying (but not being overwhelmed by) a Malaysian place downtown that did a fried chicken dish that was pretty darn good. The place I wish I could remember was in Richmond. It was on the second floor of a little complex (you walked up steps outside the restaurant). White cloth but midscale (we went there after being frightened by the prices of a place close by). Had some very good chicken wings stuffed with glass noodles and veggies of some sort. The thing I most remember was an amazing salt and pepper cod (I think it was cod; possibly some other white fish), which the waiter went on and on about ("It's the specialty of the house! Our specialty!") until we ordered it. Any chance anyone knowswhat I'm talking about? I realize I'm giving very little information, but Ithought I'd try. It was on or just near the main drag in Richmond.

Anyways, given the weakness of the Chinese food market in Portland, we're pretty much planning on gorging ourselves on Chinese while we're there. Having now spent a couple days with the boards here and elsewhere I'm ... confused. :) Way too many choices!

Alvin Garden seems to get a lot of nods. I know very little about Hunanese, and can't find a menu online. Any "easy" suggestions to start us off?

Peaceful Restaurant has some things that look wonderful, but their menu also looks a little scarily Westernized ... should I ignore that reservation and just order us a bunch of noodle dishes?

Is Good Choice better for Dim Sum or dinner? Is there somewhere else weshould go? Jade Seafood also appears like its a Chowhound favorite for dim sum.

Moving outside Chinese into broader Asian: Any really good, non-traditional sushi places? (I.e., places that go beyond the same nigiri and roll menu everyone else has) Bonus points for oshizushi / hako-zushi? Skip the izakayas unless they meet the previous criteria. :) Any fantastic Malaysian places?

Assuming we need breaks from the pan-Asian festival we're both looking forward to:

Bella Gelataria: As good as it sounds? Very near our hotel, so much gelato may be had ...

Patisserie Le Beau: Piques my interest, but looks like a chain ... is it a really good chain, or should we skip it?

And if we really break ... what's the Chowhound view of Salt? Would it work as a lunch place?

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Alvin Garden
4850 Imperial St, Burnaby, BC V5J, CA

The Jade Seafood Restaurant
8511 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1C3, CA

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  1. Got back from Victoria a year ago...and still thinking of this one cafe. Relish on Pandora St.

    1. Hey, Portland! I like to think of Vancouver and Portland as spiritual twins. Lots in common (except for the atrocious city planning here but what can you do?). I'm going to be heading to your neck of the woods soon so you may see my trolling around the Metro Portland board.

      Your plan sounds great so far. The Jade is a great spot for dim sum but there are so many and so many of them are within easy walking distance of the Canada Line train.

      I would add HK Barbecue Master to your Richmond plans - delicious char siu, roasted pork, duck and chicken. If i worked closer to it, I would probably die of a heart attack within a few months.

      Peaceful Restaurant - yes, the noodle dishes are really good and they are nice folks.

      I would 100% recommend Miku Restaurant - they have some Osaka-style sushi and their specialty is aburi - soooo tasty. and, as luck would have, if Bella Gelateria is near your hotel, so is Miku. It's a common dinner and dessert combo for me and mine. (BG is very, very, very good btw).

      Patisserie Lebeau is not a chain but they do sell their waffles frozen to retailers so it looks like a bigger business than it is. I'm not a waffle expert but I've enjoyed their fruit-filled waffles in the past and would definitely go there before Medina (where I was recently served a stale waffle).

      Salt does have a limited lunch menu but I would personally choose Au Petit Chavignol over it for charcuterie, cheese and cheese-related goodness.

      Have a good time - hope the weather clears for you.

      -----
      Patisserie Lebeau
      1728 W 2nd Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J, CA

      Miku Restaurant
      1055 West Hastings, Vancouver, BC V6E 2E9, CA

      Bella Gelateria
      1001 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2G6, CA

      1. Okay, I'll have a bash for you!

        Alvin Garden is a great restaurant that does some standout dishes. I have driven a long way for their pork heart, and I am not an offal eater. There is also a dish with chopped green bean and pork that will blow your head off and change the way you look at long beans. With only two of you, you won't be able to go too crazy but my SO will go there for lunch and get one or two dishes. Pretty sure there isn't a menu online. I also like the Hunan Style Red-Braised Pork (whole garlics on top, and a break from the fiery dishes), Pan Fried Spicy Chicken, Double Cooked Pork with Garlic and Chili and Hunan bacon and garlic bolts. Hunan food should showcase smoke and chili as I understand it and the bacon here is the best I've tried in my sadly limited forays into Hunan dining.

        You have sussed out Peaceful. Navigating the giant menu is a challenge but it's not too hard to avoid the westernized stuff, and the stuff they do well seems like the real deal. I haven't been to the new shop on Davie but I do like the one on Broadway very much if you order well. It also has the advantage of slightly smaller dishes so works quite well for two.

        Here's my personal cheat sheet (acknowledging that there are still many dishes I haven't tried even after numerous visits). We've had good luck with all the noodles here except the cat ears which are not made in house but my favourite is the mushu ones listed below:

        A7 Mustard noodle salad

        A11 spicy herb salad with pressed tofu

        A 17 Mandarin wonton soup cilantro, spinach and dried seaweed

        C1. 1000 chili chicken

        D3 pan fried pork buns

        D6. potato roll (filled with the shredded potato listed below, better for two people and more reliable than the beef roll you might have read about which can be great or not so great)

        D7. cumin beef and flatbread

        D9 sesame flat bread (plain, see alos D7)

        D11 chive pockets (big, and only if you like chive pockets, which I do)

        D 12 Mandarin pork dumplings steamed garlic dipping sauce

        D14. Spicy and tangy dumplings in sour soup (not really spicy though)

        D21 red bean pastry (dessert)

        F1. mu shu stir-fried noodles (get with shredded ones: cutting)

        N12. Xi’an White Lamb Stew

        N15 Shan-Xi sauce noodles

        N21 Xi'an cold steamed noodles

        V4 tangy shredded potato

        on my list to try: black pepper fish soup with pickled veg (new in summer 2011), red rice wine chicken claypot

        things to avoid: D1. xlb, D2. steamed soft pork buns, D16. wonton in chili, corn buns, vegetable panfried/steamed dumplings (D19) (too grassy) chili garlic shredded pork (P6) too sweet, F11. cat ears (not house made), S1 water boiled fish just okay, N17 Xin Jiang

        I thought Good Choice was excellent for dinner (get the pepah tofu which I don't think is on the menu, the brisket appetizer, and the salt baked chicken which may be a preorder, we also really liked the steamed minced pork dish. Be sure to make reservations). I am planning to try their Dim Sum in October so can't comment on that but it does get a fair bit of love FWIW. I'm not really a fan of Jade Seafood but it does have its proponents.

        ETA: Jade is much nicer inside than Good Choice (just remembered your penchant for white tablecloths!) and the salt baked chicken is a preorder, $31.80 for a whole chicken, so prolly overkill for two people)

        My favourite Japanese at the moment is Miko (downtown) and Kimura (decidedly NOT downtown). Around here unusual is starting to mean traditional as we have so many sushi places serving "whacky" combos. That is why I like Miko so much. There are items on the menu that you don't see very many other places, the execution is top notch and the raw materials very fine. The room is nice and casual, though, belying the attention paid to the product. Kimura is for omakase, and the itamae rules the roost. You will try things you like and things you don't like. They will be different. You will be stuffed. And you will pay $30 to $50. Reservations a must, at least two days in advance, be sure to ask for the bar in front of Kimura-san. Can't help re oshi/hako-sushi except to say that when I've seen it on menus here it tends to be referred to as battera. I've tried it a couple times and it wasn't really my cup of tea but it's definitely out there. I believe Kibune has it.

        Izakayas are good here and fun, but not good for sushi. My favourite is Zakkushi as I am a fiend for things on sticks. I like the one on Main a lot for ambiance as well, though the 4th Ave outpost is nice for two people (two tops at the Main location tend to be a bit disconnected from the rest of the room which kind of defeats the purpose of an izakaya).

        I don't think we have fantastic Malaysian. The best is Seri on Hastings, and it is a true hole in the wall. No tablecloths at all, potentially strange service, and a proprietor who can be welcoming and lovely or owly depending on the day. Still the best game in town I think.

        Other Asian: Bo Laksa King is a favourite of mine, just up the street from Seri. He does pan Asian which gives me the willies generally. In Bo Han's hands, it works, by and large. I'm a big fan of any of his salads but particularly the pickled mango if he has it and the tea leaf salad, a Burmese specialty you can't get anywhere else in Vancouver. The squid dish is lovely as well, tender and succulent with a nice kick to it. I'm less of a fan of the meat dishes but do enjoy the pork belly curry. It is easy to make a full meal of the salads with a side of rice -- they are not really salads in the French cooking vein but more like hearty appetizers with lots of crunchy pulses and so on involved. If you add mohingar (a light fish stew, also Burmese and often sold out) or his rightfully famous laksa you will be content.

        Since it's so close you should try Bella. I find the prices high despite the quality, and it's out of the way for me but it is excellent gelato for sure, with some really intriguing flavours. They just go a spot on the 101 things to eat in Vancouver for their single malt gelato (!). I love the citrus and herb combos he does, such as lime and cilantro or lemon and basil.

        Patisserie Le Beau is not a chain, though they do sell their frozen product at certain grocery stores. I love their savoury waffles, most recently one with jalapeno, cheese and corn. Not everything is a slam dunk here but they do very well with the waffles and have breakfast specials that are quite decadent involving berries and whipped cream.

        IMO, Salt is overpriced, and particularly for lunch. You need to spend at least $40 each to be sort of full. The concept is rather fun though and the room is quite pretty. Some people are nonplussed by the address, however, and you do approach via a fairly dire-looking laneway but I've never felt unsafe there.

        -----
        Alvin Garden
        4850 Imperial St, Burnaby, BC V5J, CA

        The Jade Seafood Restaurant
        8511 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1C3, CA

        Bo Laksa King
        4910 Joyce St, Vancouver, BC V5R, CA

        2 Replies
        1. re: grayelf

          I've been to Good Choice for dim sum - in my opinion, they do a better job of dinner, and you'll have better dim sum at Jade Seafood (or at least a larger selection of dishes outside of the ordinary). There are plenty of other worthy choices (and many other threads about them).

          In my mind, Salt is really more worthwhile as a wine bar, with food as an aside.

          -----
          The Jade Seafood Restaurant
          8511 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1C3, CA

          1. re: clutterer

            Well put re Salt, clutterer, agree entirely. Their wine tasting flights are the thing to try.