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Dine out.... Good, bad or indifferent?

vancouvermatt Jan 25, 2012 05:26 PM

Right now i am not very impressed with dine out. I'll admit this is the first year ive ever tried it and well it's not as wonderfull as I've heard.

So far I've been to two dine out restaurants, Diamond and Save on Meats. Diamond we ended up leaving because not one thing on the menu was for us. Save on Meats i just ordered off their regular menu. I;ve heard

I think the concept is great but i have not seen the execution i had desired. Does anyone have any recomendations for this years dine out? Any places you've already been to and been impressed?

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  1. peter.v RE: vancouvermatt Jan 25, 2012 05:57 PM

    Though I'm one of the least likely Dine Out defenders, you've chosen the wrong restaurants. The Diamond is a cocktail bar and doesn't have a full kitchen whereas Save On Meats is an inexpensive diner.

    Dine Out at its best is an opportunity to try restaurants that exist outside of your normal budget. Places like L'Abattoir, Hawksworth, West are all relatively good value during Dine Out (if you can get reservations). You can also unearth some gems at the lower price point menus too. Campagnolo, for example, is offering some of their better dishes on the Dine Out menu for $28. Browsing the restaurant list for the right fit is essential.

    3 Replies
    1. re: peter.v
      KarenDW RE: peter.v Jan 25, 2012 07:13 PM

      I concur re: ensuring the restaurant is a good fit. The menus are all posted on-line at the Tourism Vancouver site. For me, the promo is a reminder of some of the restaurants on my "do try" list. I happen to like Yew at the Four Seasons, but no seats available at the time I wanted to dine.
      It's only good value if one would typically order three courses. Otherwise, just ordering off the menu works better. YMMV.

      1. re: peter.v
        peter.v RE: peter.v Feb 3, 2012 01:15 AM

        As a bit of a confirmation of an awesome Dine Out experience, I should report on my meal at Campagnolo tonight. Walked in at 10:30 PM after a long day at work and was happily greeted. Full menu still available. Decided to go with the Dine Out menu as I hadn't eaten much all day. Went with the crispy ceci, bollito misto and the chocolate cake. The ceci was the regular standout dish on their usual menu. No reduction in portion size and even more delicious than I remembered. Up next was the bollito misto. A massive piece of veal that didn't need a knife to pull it apart, as it was that tender. Topped with a crisped up duck wing and a rich sauce with some root veg and mushrooms. Outstanding and almost too big of a portion for me. The chocolate cake was moist and flavorful. I left feeling like I had been given a good portion of the meal for free. That is what Dine Out is about if you ask me.

        The restaurants that join in on the Dine Out marketing train only for the publicity are the ones that will fail to please. They don't put out the quality they usually do (or are not quality to begin with) and then fail to meet any expectations whatsoever.

        1. re: peter.v
          flowbee RE: peter.v Feb 3, 2012 07:01 PM

          If they can reproduce that experience at 7:00pm, I'll tip my hat to them and to DOV.

      2. j
        Jzone RE: vancouvermatt Jan 26, 2012 02:01 AM

        I found the first year it started was great, and every year after has gotten progressively worse. It was such a hit the first year that every rest. wanted to be in on it, but they offered lower point items for close to what it would be anyways making it not a deal, just a way to get people in the door.

        I typically don't eat dessert either so most of them are a waster for me now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jzone
          LotusRapper RE: Jzone Jan 28, 2012 10:19 AM

          I concur, at least by my own experience. We did it for the first 2-3 years when DOV was still a kind of niche event, much less "commercialized" than it is now. Gosh I don't even recall which restos we went to (I'm sure several of them have since closed or changed). But in those days, getting a $15 three-course at a resto that's a couple of price brackets higher was fun, in a sort of anti-establishment kind of way :-D I think over the years as we heard more and more stories of restaurants pre-making/prepping all their DOV offerings, less-than-normal quality service from the wait staff, long lines etc. just simply put us off for good.

        2. Quattrociocchi RE: vancouvermatt Jan 26, 2012 07:28 AM

          We are going out to Hamilton Street Grill tomorrow...not that I'm a big fan of Dine-out, but the other two couples thought it to be a fab idea. You've really got to do your research - i used to go to Parkside and it was great, but went to Cin Cin once and it was horrible. Restaurants shouldn't undertake dine-out unless they're prepared to wow everyone, every night (impossible, I know). The effects can be long lasting.....anyways, I thought HSG would be a pretty sure bet.

          1. j
            jerkstore RE: vancouvermatt Jan 26, 2012 09:42 AM

            The event in general has been pretty hit and miss for me over the years but the hits (Blue Water, Diva, Trafalgar's, Arms Reach, among others) have earned themselves repeat visits. We hit Edible Canada on the first night this year and it was pretty spot-on so we will likely be back sooner than later.

            I honestly think an event like this is a pretty good gauge of a restaurant. If they can pull off being hit with 1.5-2x as many covers as a normal night (disclaimer: I made this number up) and still put out quality food then you run a pretty good chance of getting a meal just as good or better on any given night of the year.

            On the other hand if they're willing to put out crap in order to satisfy the cheap menu requirements and increased traffic, why even bother? It definitely sets them back a few notches in my mind - in fact I don't think I've returned to any restaurants that have served me a bad meal during Dine Out.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jerkstore
              lunchslut RE: jerkstore Jan 28, 2012 08:06 AM

              We went to Mistral last night for a celebration dinner completely forgetting it was dine-out. (We had not been there before and we had a GC). We ended up ordering the prix fixe menu of DO and were horribly disappointed.. which brings me to the dine out question. Is the lack luster poorly executed meal a reflection of the food at this restaurant or a result of the fact the restaurant is slammed and that they have to produce a cheaper menu? With a few rare exceptions, we always find ourselves asking this question at DO.

              1. re: lunchslut
                grayelf RE: lunchslut Jan 28, 2012 08:28 AM

                Can't comment on Mistral but that happened to us a few years ago (ended up at Fish House during DO). We ordered our standbys off the regular menu and were very satisfied. I've given up on DO completely, though I'd be inclined to take peter.v's advice above if I were to consider it again.

                1. re: lunchslut
                  kinnickinnik RE: lunchslut Jan 28, 2012 09:51 AM

                  I've always been very pleased with Mistral's food when ordering of the regular menu (particularly their braised dishes - a superb braised pork shoulder on a snowy day won me over years ago). I've also attended wine dinners there and the food preparation was excellent. However, I was really disappointed with the meal I had at a large group dinner a while back where a limited prix-fixe menu was offered. Seems when they have to produce a cheaper menu, the execution suffers?

              2. fmed RE: vancouvermatt Jan 28, 2012 10:44 AM

                Rarely great, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and mostly indifferent. I haven't been in years after some disastrous picks on my part. I would prefer to support FeastVan (and other "spin-offs") - where part of the proceeds go to charity instead of OpenTable.

                13 Replies
                1. re: fmed
                  el_lobo_solo RE: fmed Jan 29, 2012 01:12 AM

                  FeastVan at Union Bar this evening was a great deal for a great cause. Hope to go back soon to try out other cocktails with lemongrass, lime leaves, thai basil, pandan, or rambutan.

                  1. re: el_lobo_solo
                    grayelf RE: el_lobo_solo Jan 29, 2012 12:35 PM

                    Cocktails with pandan leaves??? Drool.

                    1. re: grayelf
                      peter.v RE: grayelf Jan 29, 2012 12:42 PM

                      It's a pandan old fashioned. Pandan adds a lot of body and a bit of nuttiness. Arthur is doing some pretty cool things there with the drinks.

                      Union's Feast Van menu is a steal too - $20 for three courses.

                      1. re: peter.v
                        el_lobo_solo RE: peter.v Jan 29, 2012 12:52 PM

                        He's an interesting guy and got to chat before the place got slammed. Had to give him kudos for all the Filipino references on the drinks menu.

                        1. re: el_lobo_solo
                          grayelf RE: el_lobo_solo Jan 30, 2012 09:00 AM

                          Sorry for the dumb question but if I don't make it for dineout, I'd like to still try the cocktails. Do you have to dine to imbibe at Union?

                          1. re: grayelf
                            peter.v RE: grayelf Jan 30, 2012 09:49 AM

                            You can just drink if you so choose.

                        2. re: peter.v
                          twinkienic RE: peter.v Feb 1, 2012 10:25 PM

                          Sounds great! You had me at pandan.
                          I might check it out this week. Do I need reservations?
                          Did you have the prix fixe menu? Tasty, or should I go off-menu and just donate to the cause?

                          1. re: twinkienic
                            el_lobo_solo RE: twinkienic Feb 1, 2012 10:45 PM

                            Prix fixe was good (papaya salad, peanut noodle dish, hot and sour mango lychee crumble--all for $20 with other choices available too). FeastVan on until Feb 5 http://feastvan.com/. They don't take reservations.

                            1. re: el_lobo_solo
                              grayelf RE: el_lobo_solo Feb 2, 2012 10:28 AM

                              "They don't take reservations" -- sigh.

                              1. re: grayelf
                                twinkienic RE: grayelf Feb 2, 2012 11:24 PM

                                hmm... no resos, eh? Are they pretty busy?

                                1. re: twinkienic
                                  el_lobo_solo RE: twinkienic Feb 2, 2012 11:48 PM

                                  I went on a Sat. night. Early eve shouldn't be a prob, but it got busy later on.

                        3. re: grayelf
                          fmed RE: grayelf Feb 16, 2012 11:18 PM

                          fyi http://www.gourmetfury.com/2012/02/co...

                          1. re: fmed
                            grayelf RE: fmed Feb 17, 2012 08:21 AM

                            Thanks, didn't realize it was affiliated with Latitude.

                    2. j
                      jmil RE: vancouvermatt Jan 30, 2012 08:49 AM

                      Had a terrible experience at the Boathouse Horseshoe Bay last night (not my choice, but I accepted the ivitation from a few friends).
                      Service from the start was dreadful. No water, no menus . when we finally got the menus the server could not explain why one of the dine-out options was actually $10 more than the original menu. (we figured out the appetizer options where a bit different ).
                      We all opted for the $28 menu - all served at different times, They forgot 3 of our appetizers, my steak was overcooked and chewy, the lobster was non-existent on a few of our dishes.
                      In all the experience was 4 HOURS !!
                      There are of course much better restaurants to choose from on Dine-Out.
                      But I will not be returning to The BoatHouse again !

                      1. t
                        Tinfoilhat RE: vancouvermatt Jan 31, 2012 09:25 PM

                        Had such a good time the first few years, and now I'm just not that into it. It gave us a chance to hit some wonderful restaurants that we would not have tried, usually out of our price range. My favourites were always the ones at the lowest price point that went above and beyond. "Hidden" was terrific, the chef had a great time putting the menu together. Bacon popsicles, deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chicken and waffles, root beer jelly, poutine with halibut cheeks. It rocked. This year it is a menu like any other; last year everyone was doing short ribs, this year cheeks seem to be in. I don't think Dine Out has completely jumped the shark, but the biggest buzz this year appears to have been about the food trucks at the Art Gallery.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Tinfoilhat
                          fmed RE: Tinfoilhat Jan 31, 2012 10:25 PM

                          Long waits at that food truck event. We stuck it out (it was a bit of a team-building exercise). Waited an hour and a half for tandoori chicken with made-fresh-to-order naan at Soho Road. It usually takes about 10 minutes on a regular day. Kudos to them for sticking to their guns and not using store-bought naan. They really need a second tandoor for next year.

                        2. v
                          vancityfoody RE: vancouvermatt Feb 19, 2012 04:00 PM

                          After years of working Dine Out you could put me in the category of vehemently against it. My boyfriend ( non industry) suggested we try one this year. Having wanted to try L'Abbatoir for some time, we gave it a go. It was incredible! The service, the room, the drinks and the food were all top notch. I barely even remembered that it was a dine out event. If everyone could pull it off the way these guys did, I would be impressed.

                          1. f
                            Florentine RE: vancouvermatt Feb 21, 2012 03:44 PM

                            I wasn't planning to do Dine Out, but ended up at Maenam and the Poor Italian and was blown away by both. I never once felt rushed, the service was impeccable, and the food was great. It definitely boosted the Dine Out reputation in my mind.

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