30th Birthday in Vancouver
I'm heading to Vancouver for my 30th. A few notes that might help illustrate where I'm coming from:
- Coming from LA, I love great artisanal cocktails. I've been to most of the good cocktail bars in LA, and love most of them. I'm looking for well-balanced, well-made cocktails, typically (though not exclusively) with dark spirits, like bourbon or whiskey.
- I'm a chef for a profession, so I tend to enjoy interesting food. That's not necessarily only the fancy food, but just really well made, delicious food. Obviously a couple "nice" meals would be great for my birthday, but that's far from all I'm looking for.
- I've heard about Vij's in Vancouver, but I'm not typically big into Indian food. Is it still worth it if the Indian I've had has not spoken to me? It's not necessarily that I hate it, but the flavors aren't typically in my wheelhouse, and I don't usually enjoy them.
- I'll be staying at the Fairmont Hotel downtown, and won't have a car. I'm not sure what the cab situation is, but certainly being close to that location is preferable, but nowhere near mandatory.
So you all don't feel like I'm asking you to do everything, I've done extensive research, including on Chowhound, and many other places. I've heard about and am considering C Restaurant, Hawksworth, West Restaurant, and quite a few others.
I'd love places that speak to Vancouver's specific culinary perspective, but in general I'd love just great food. To put it in perspective, I really have only limited interest in truly "sight-seeing," since my favorite things are enjoying food and good cocktails (and wine). If there are must-see locations, I'm completely game for them as well.
My vacation is going to be the 2nd week of November (from the 3rd to the 8th), and I can't wait to experience everything you guys have to offer. Any help making sure it's as special as possible would be helpful.
Vij's is great - but if you're not big on Indian I'd say skip it.
My choice for a 30th bday would be Chambar, L'abbatoir, or Blue Water Cafe.
C, Hawksworth and West are all very nice but a little too refined for a good party to be had.
Must see: Stanley Park, Granville Island
I think L'Abbatoir is a must given your criteria. Cocktails are quite good and food is simple and very well executed. (http://www.labattoir.ca/index.html)
Wildebeest is quite new so the verdict is not complete yet, some great some not so great reviews so far, but the menu and drink list is VERY intriguing to me personally. (http://wildebeest.ca/)
Hawkesworth is worthy, but I wouldn't go with C or West, that's just me personally though as some quite like them.
As for must see, Id recommend Grouse mountain for the view if the weather is good and clear. You can get there by transit, I just dont know how off the top of my head. Something like seabus, regular bus then the tram up the mountain.
Hope you have a great time and happy 30!!
I would definitely recommend Vijès but maybe not for your birthday, save it for next trip maybe. It is not your typical pakoras, curries, butter chicken etc., just really well balanced flavors and well executed food.
I'll weigh in for L'abbatoir also. Since you're turning 30 you may prefer the "scenier" (for me too loud) upstairs -- I prefer the glassed in area at the back. I've found their apps to be more intereresting/successful than mains, and the cocktails worthy if not as stellar as you might be used to. L'abb also benefits from being located in an area that has a number of bars with good cocktail programs and that is just generally a bit more happening than other downtown 'hoods.
Bring or buy an umbrella, and at least one fully waterproof jacket.
I would add a vote for Abattoir. The bartender there also should enliven your evening. Otherwise, consider consider grabbing a seat at the kitchen bar at La Brasserie on Davis. Very social and watching the kitchen staff do their wonders in the restaurant's tiny kitchen is a treat.
Those all look like great ideas, thanks for the suggestions! Since I'm going to be in Vancouver for five nights, and my wife is actually quite a fan of Indian food, Vij's is slowly making its way onto the "potential" list. I guess my question (if anyone can answer this), is the food better than the Indian we can get in Los Angeles? We have a pretty strong Indian community, and our previous residence was within one block of three Indian (as in few if any signs even written in English) markets, so we have "good" Indian food around.
I'll add something else as well, for at least part of my stay my in-laws will be along, so we'll have five people total, does that matter much at any of these locations? Preferable to make it a twosome? Or is five fine? Either is great, but preferences would help decide what days to go where (and the like).
Thanks again for all the suggestions so far!
Re Vij's, though I've never had the pleasure to sample Indian in LA, I daresay it will be different enough to be interesting. The room is also quite lovely and elegant if that is at all important. With five you will be waiting longer at most busy restos than with two, but especially at Vij's so if you are lineup averse either go 1/2 hour before opening (maybe earlier on a weekend night) or be prepared to wait. West nearby does rather nice cocktails but I don't know about showing up with five people...
I believe the other places mostly take reservations which is a good idea with a group of five, obviously. I'll reiterate my suggestion for the "back" room at L'abbatoir if you are going with a larger group that includes older rellies. My inlaws enjoyed it very much but would not have been happy in the other parts of the restaurant because of the noise level.
I've had Indian food all over the world (including various parts of India, north and south) and I will say that Vij's is definitely the most refined and among the better executed versions of the cuisine I've had. In particular the jackfruit curry with black cardamom was very surprising and utterly delicious.
It's a fancy-pants version of the real thing, and if Indian food is a priority I'd consider including it on your list - especially since you have 5 days here.
RE Hawksworth - if you don't want to bother with a whole meal here (pricy, and potentially overrated, though I have rarely been disappointed there) you should still absolutely go to the bar there and try the cocktails.
It's easy to get a place at the bar, especially if you just stop in early afternoon. Comfy loveseats, lovely room, very central. A good 1 hour break. At least one "Hotel Georgia" cocktail must be ordered, it's an absolute killer. All their other cocktails are very well done. I wouldn't miss it!
With a group of five you might enjoy somewhere larger like Bluewater or Chambar. L'Abbatoir is a great one too, loved my last experience there. I'd say Vijs is worth it as its not your typical "Indian" food perse. Be sure to make reservations where you can, of course.
Cocktails: check out Market at Shangri La. Jay Jones makes the best Manhattan I've ever had and if you like darker spirits you won't be disappointed.
Great options all, here's what I've got going on tentatively. Please let me know if any of these are worth skipping, or perhaps just something that I've missed that I should really look again. I'm also still looking for one more casual restaurant for my last day in Vancouver. My mom and step dad are coming into town, and they're NOT foodies. They recently ate at a bistro-style restaurant and thought it was fancy. Not to say I can't convince them to do something tasty, but anything with much complexity is probably out.
Anyway, here's what I've got for dinners:
Does that sound about right? I'm planning on L'Abbatoir for my "actual" birthday, since it sounds like a slightly more relaxed atmosphere so we can let ourselves go a bit! Any help would be appreciated!
For the parental figures I'd reiterate Grouse mountain if it is a clear day or night. (they have a few dining options up there) Or you could hit cloud 9 for the view as well. food is average at best but rotating restaurants usually impress the parent types. Otherwise I'd say find an area they would like to see (UBC grounds and beaches, any museums, parks, etc. and then just pop into somewhere and check it out. I;d say you have a better than 80% chance of it working out. There is always pho everywhere and most are just fine. I haven't found much bad pho in the Van area.
Other than that I agree with grayelf and hope you have a great time.
Since you are going to WildeBeest, I highly recommend the horseradish cocktail - I can't remember the exact name, but it was the most original cocktail I have had all year.
Another recommendation for a decent touristy dinner with parents is the Teahouse at Stanley Park, the food is fine, not too expensive and the restaurant has a nice sunset ocean view. It is also downtown, so much closer than Grouse Mountain.