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Advice for the (not so) lonely tummy - one meal left in Vancouver - Chinese? Hoi Tong vs. Kelvin's vs. Chongqing Japanese?

juicefriend Dec 28, 2012 10:05 AM

Dearest Chowhounders,

We've been following the recommendation trails off this board on our food vacation (from the East Coast - NYC - avid Flushing goers, and also stay in SF quite a bit) - and have gone to:
- Alvin's
- Peaceful
- Jade Seafood
- a bunch of bakeries

We have on our list remaining
- dim sum at Dynesty
- dim sum or dinner at Kirin
- and we have a meal slot left!

Where should we go? What should we eat?

We found Alvin's to be good solid but perhaps not truly distinctive - just as the reviewers described. Peaceful had great beef roll and well cooked everything else - but again, tasty though not necessarily amazing. Jade Seafood, really interesting crab egg whites, the smoked chicken was subtly flavored. Nothing has been a disappointment, but equally, nothing has been mindblowing either--something we'd bring our parents back for.

As a reference (and so as not to inadvertently offend on above - maybe we ordered the wrong things) - last time we came, we had dim sum at Shiang Garden, and tried this egg roll with duck egg in it, and that was AMAZING.

So we're in search for the amazing. Is there any recommendation? Hoi Tong? Kelvin's Szechuan? We like everything (and I do mean everything) - from tripe to whatever. And price point isn't the issue - low price would be as awesome as expensive.

Also, totally random - is Tojo worth it? We've had the fortune of eating at some nice sushi places back East - and the reviews are a bit mixed. Advice welcome!

  1. q
    quddous Dec 28, 2012 02:42 PM

    I would change one or both of your dimsum to either Sea Harbour or Fisherman's Terrace. Those have always been the best two for me for dimsum. Kirin is good but it is more of a good standby than something amazing.

    I love Kalvin's and will probably have dinner there tonight. I don't know if it's something that would impress me as an out of towner but it is very, very good Chinese for an every day dinner.

    Tojo is a horrible tourist trap. Do NOT go there. I have dined their twice regretfully for me and my wallet. NYC definitely has better high end sushi. The choices are much wider and much better. I really am disappointed by sushi here lately. (also get the deep fried uni at Soto)

    I think the chicken wings at Phnom Penh are basically the star of Vancouver. I always get the Beef Luc Lac, the butter beef, the chicken wings and the cambodian stew. All pretty amazing and the entire meal will cost less than what it costs for one person at Tojo's (actually less than half of what it costs one person based on my experiences)

    3 Replies
    1. re: quddous
      grayelf Dec 28, 2012 04:14 PM

      quddous, have you been to Sea Harbour since it moved?

      I've enjoyed my dim sum experiences at Fisherman's Terrace but too inconsistent for my taste, with the only standouts being deep fried items. Also they are notoriously bad for not seating you on time. Even with reservations, the wait can be an hour. Plus the room is cacaphonous.

      I like the butter beef, bo luc lac and the chicken wings better at Hai Phong that at Phnom Penh, plus it is cheaper, cleaner and no waits, but I am in the minority.

      We only went to James Chinese (not to be remotely confused with James Snack, totally different) once for dinner on a whim. The food was fine to good but the service was uber obnoxious. The waiter insisted that we order some hideous sweet and sour thingy. We finally caved as he was so strident about it, and then left the dish untouched save for one bite. He did have the good grace to apologize eventually, and I still don't know what possessed me to actually order it but not a great experience.

      Just shows you how divisive "best" anything can be :-).

      A tip if you go to James Snacks: call a half hour ahead and place your order; your hot pot(s) will be ready for you when you arrive. This is a food court in a mall, so only during the day, closed on Sunday, and a rather utilitarian setting. I like the ostrich and the free range chicken best.

      1. re: grayelf
        juicefriend Dec 28, 2012 09:45 PM

        Thanks Quddous as well - dang!

        Ok, so we weren't able to get reservations at Miko, (and unfortunately, no internet when mobile,) so had to go to Tojo tonight. Got the omikase. And sadly, it was good, but Quddous was totally right--it was not anywhere near the quality of NYC. Especially frustrating given how pricey it is - for the price, it is comparable to Kyo-ya (1 Michelin star) for cooked/omikase, and Sushi of Gari for sushi in NYC, and both of those are in a different league.

        Ok, so we've cancelled Hawksworth as well, as assuming it will not match the NYC. So now we have a couple slots free.

        So, ahem, at the risk of being completely self-interested in posting this:
        1. Tmo lunch: dim sum at either Fisherman's or Kirin's on Cambie
        2. Tmo dinner: a random hodge-podge of Parker BBQ, James Snacks claypot, and phnom penh wings (assuming we can get some of this taken out - and yes, we'll have some of it on location)
        3. Day after: toss-up between Big Chef and James Chinese. We may go for a second dim sum, but probably will depend on how the first goes. If it's amazing, we'll skip seconds.

        We aren't missing anything too obvious, are we? Btw, our first night out, we had Yohan purple rice rolls, and man were they pretty good. Does any place in Richmond make "car wheel" biscuits/buns? They're sweet, often custard/red bean filled.

        We'll also try to stop by ACME for lemon meringue (we accidentally ordered Key Lime today, which wasn't bad, but wasn't amazing.) And in between, lots of running, LOTS of running.

        1. re: juicefriend
          juicefriend Dec 29, 2012 07:21 PM


          Hit Fisherman's Terrace today (because in Richmond) followed by James Snacks, Parker BBQ, and Phnom Penh takeout for claypot, crispy "bbq" pork, and wings.

          Amazing! Thank you guys! We have a few more places on your collective lists to try!

    2. p
      PH Rodgers Dec 28, 2012 12:40 PM

      Based upon recommendations here, we tried James Chinese on Hastings (near Nanaimo). We had the crab in curry, which may have been the best dungeness crab dish we have ever had at a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver (or anywhere). There is alos a House Special crab preparation, which won an award. Other dishes (the House Fried Noodles and dumpling soup) were also good, if not at the level of the crab.

      We also are big fans of Ho Yuen Kee on Frazer at 46th, where the must-order dishes are the dumpling soup, chow mein with barbequed pork and the fried chicken with soy sauce and sea salt. They make a good crab as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PH Rodgers
        juicefriend Dec 28, 2012 01:12 PM

        Thanks PH Rodgers,

        We'll add James Chinese as well. Man, this is going to be a challenge! I wonder how many of these are able to be taken out so we can assemble. I think I know the answer, but now that we have specific dishes from you and Grayelf, it makes it paradoxically harder to choose!

      2. grayelf Dec 28, 2012 10:52 AM

        Hard to find mind-blowing food anywhere here on a whole menu, rather one standout dish as you described -- eg the salmon aburi at Miku, the toroniku at Santouka, the duck confit at Argo, the pho ga at My Chau, clay pot rice at James Snacks, the steelhead and potato salad at L'abbatoir, the pork belly at Red Wagon, things on sticks at Zakkushi Denman, almost any pizza at Via Tevere, lavash and cheese pides at Anatolia's Gate, Green Lemon Grass on Kingsway for bot chien.

        If you're not tired of spicy food and want a unique experience, check out the writeups on Nine Dishes. Still the best water boiled fish I've ever et and very consistent on that point.

        Re Kirin, love the one at 12th and Cambie for dim sum. We've found it very reliable and quite reasonable. Dinner/non-dim sum dishes are expensive. I prefer it to Dynasty. Dynasty has some interesting dishes, but it can be uneven, the room is cold, service is odd at times and there are some full on duds (AVOID: truffle dumpling, chicken dumpling (actually wontons), beef meat ball (too soft), shrimp dumpling with foie gras and pineapple (bland), chicken feet (too scrawny, dry), seafood and pumpkin rice, steamed sticky rice roll with cashew nut (bao wrapping around rice, starchy and dull)

        For comforting but slightly elevated Canto fare, we've had good luck at Big Chef.

        For sushi, I'd suggest Miko Sushi on Robson (expensive but topnotch old school sushi place, casual atmo but serious about sushi, only order a la carte). It's smallish so get a reso. Ajisai in Kerrisdale is also excellent though a bit more limited menu, and I find the seats aside from the bar a tad uncomfortable. No resos, go early if you do.

        We also love La Buca especially if you can do the alla famiglia option for 6 or more people. Pretty great a la carte too though. Resos essential. But perhaps can't compete with East Coast US Italian?

        Have fun and happy new year!

        1 Reply
        1. re: grayelf
          juicefriend Dec 28, 2012 12:10 PM

          Dear Grayelf,

          Thank you for such a thoughtful response! And you read us right--a little spicied-out, but Nine Dishes looks amazing.

          So we are going to scratch Dynesty, though the truffle dumplings.... is it like Ding Tai Fong at all? And we'll go with Krin's on Cambie instead.

          I think we're staying largely with Asian cuisine as NYC has enough places we haven't gone to for French/Italian/etc that it would seem a shame to go here instead.

          We've added James Snacks, Nine Dishes, and Big Chef to our list and see if we can combine a couple take-outs. The Big Chef menu - preserved eggs with crab!!! OH MAN!

          Thanks again! And if we can switch out of Tojo, we will. I guess the question is, is Vancouver sushi better than NYC (or at least different enough to be worth a try? ) Or should we gorge ourselves on Chinese food!

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