Seafood, Dim Sum, and great food neighborhoods (Vancouver)
- Professor Salt Jan 9, 2013 09:14 PM
I'm vising from the Los Angeles area in a couple of weeks for work in North Van.
1. I fly in to YVR around noon on a Sunday, and saving my appetite for a stellar dim sum experience in Richmond. Coming from L.A. where we have lots of excellent dim sum. I keep hearing Vancouver's Chinese scene exceeds what I have at home. Which places focus on innovative dim sum that you can't get anywhere else?
2. I head up to North Van in the afternoon to meet the client. Will spend a couple of days near Lonsdale Quay, so would like some advice for great lunch options in that area.
3. After work, will drive anywhere for dinner that highlights exceptional seafood. Can't be in Vancouver and miss out on amazing seafood. It can be any cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, whatever. When you think exceptional seafood, who's on your short list?
I have not booked my hotel yet. If I were to book it based on which neighborhoods can reliably dish out great food at any time of day, where would you recommend? Bear in mind I don't know the region at all, so a little orientation would be useful.
I would like a neighborhood where I can head out at 7 am and hit a great coffee shop or bakery for breakfast before driving over to North Van, then come back and eat a great dinner. As long as the drive to Lonsdale Quay is within say 30 minutes at 7am, any neighborhood is fair game.
Hi Prof. Salt,
I'll let the experts around here address #1-3.
As to hotel options, you might consider:
1) Granville Island Hotel - right on Granville Isld where there's a huge public market, restos, bars, artists studios, shops, etc. Can't go wrong.
2) And since you mentioned Lonsdale Quay, there's a hotel there too, aptly called [drum roll] ... Lonsdale Quay Hotel. Lonsdale Quay is directly connected to downtown Vancouver via the SeaBus (marine public transit ferry) you are able to quickly ferry back & forth with Vancouver with ease:
Otherwise, any hotel in or close to downtown Vancouver ought to keep you in close proximity to many worthy restaurants in accordance to your preferences. This is a slow time of year tourists-wise so you shouldn't have problems getting bookings.
where is your client's office? if it's near the Lonsdale Quay, i'd stay downtown and seabus it over each day (i assume you are at their office all day - no site visits?) - i wouldn't be driving their each day - this is NOT LA (and i know greater LA and OC and Riverside county too) - have fun and take our transit and see how it should (can?) be done in a great downtown. When you let us know more about your work locale - then we can help you more.
i'm sure you belong to one of the major nice hotel loyalty clubs - there are THREE 3 fairmonts downtown, a couple of Westins, 1 hyatt, 1 four seasons, 1 Delta, 1 Meridian, and i can't remember what the Hotel Georgia is affiliated with at this point in its reincarnation. I think there is a Marriot --- and in addition to Lotus' suggestion, there is a new hotel over on the North Van side called Pinnacle - make sure you look up the one that is in NORTH VANCOUVER (there is also a pinnacle on burrard st, isn't there?)
in lonsdale quay (the north van side) there is a COBS bakery - it's acceptable, friendly, tempting carb treat.
look up the recent thread about FUNNY name Persion donair in north van - it was on this board a few days ago - *here it is http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885139 - that's pretty close to lonsdale - ask your client.
on upper lonsdale, there is "new canada" in terms of recent 15 yr immigration where many persian people have come over here - Ayoub is an interesting stop for bulk foods incl their famous lemon roasted almonds etc. and many persian bakeries where you buy the treats by the pound.
on the downtown Vanc side of Seabus, there is Anatolia Express which i often rave about on here - it's on the NORTH side of the newest convention center, the one w/ grass roof and near the seaplane airport terminal - great view, nice people who own it, great hummous, fresh peda, very budget friendly and casual
and then there is the famous gelato place nearby (close to the Fairmont)
and then you're downtown -
from downtown you can explore our original chinatown (New town bakery on keefer st - steamed pork buns) and you can also hop on the Canada Line (a light rail subway to Richmond and YVR airport) - Aberdeen Mall is an interesting food court - and you get a cheesy dancing fountain show thrown in too - which is my young family members' big hilite
ps - what is the nice resto in West Van that people on this board were talking about during the summer 2012 - the one you have to drive car - great views - seems to me it was perhaps near the old Salmon House
for practical purposes, there are several proper supermarkets downtown, including Nesters (at the old Woodwards, kind of edgy gentrified neighborhood) - plus a couple of IGA's and an urban Costco (near the hockey arena, whatever it is called today) and then an Urban Fare which is quite popular over on Alberni St (parallel to Robson St, just west of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and adjacent to the new Shangri La hotel.
if you choose to stay on the North Van side (at the foot of Lonsdale, ie the quay which we pronounce like key) ... there are several spots in the public market that will be helpful for an easy supper - including the SOUP place (can't think of name right now, just google Lonsdale Quay market") and there is a fresh veg/fruit vendor - Kin's? i think - then across the st on esplanade is the proper IGA market plus a BC LCB store (our wine, beer etc is sold by the gov't with some exceptions which tend to be open later and possibly higher priced - no two buck chuckles up here in Canada.
THERE IS ALSO a well known european bakery called thomas haas - https://www.thomashaas.com/ on the north van side - it's in the industrial area maybe at the foot of McKay - near a private school - i know it's been talked about on here -
hope this helps you make some plans
bring your rain jacket - or head to the mtn equipment co-op when you get here (kind of like REI) - there is one in North Van (new location) and one sort of close to downtown - the south side of Cambie Bridge, easy transit trip) www.mec.ca
My current favourite dim sum joints: Golden Paramount, Dynasty Seafood. Dynasty is perhaps a bit more innovative. Red Star in Richmond too.
Sea Harbour (which is the parent restaurant of your own Sea Harbour in Rosemead) is pretty innovative but has really declined in quality as of late. I can't recommend this place right now.
Seafood is surprisingly hard to find here. The Yew has a good seafood-first menu (the meat and poultry are listed as "Not Fish" on the menu). That would be my top rec for seafood here.
As others have mentioned, North Van is Persian Central. The food is nearly as good as the Iranian in LA (where you guys are blessed in that regard). Just drive uphill on Lonsdale and you will see many worthy places. My fave is actually off the beaten path - Hakhamanesh on Pemberton Rd...but Cazba, Yaas Grill and the others are pretty good too.
Just stay near the waterfront downtown and you can Seabus to your appointment. Lots of good coffee in that zone.
Agree that seafood isn't awesome here - you're better off going to a good restaurant, with a good chef, and choosing a fish option from the menu.
YEW is an exception, and an exceptional one, but it's in a hotel (Four Seasons) so the hotel prices come with it, particularly on booze.
You don't mention when your trip is: if in January it might coincide with Dine Out. This could be a bad thing (hard to get into some restaurants, forced into a mass-produced set menu) or a good thing (special price set menus at pricey restaurants) depending on your perspective.
The dim sum is pretty traditional. Most dishes are good and taste clean with hardly a hint of MSG (though some dishes are more heady than others in this regard. Dumplings are reasonable sized - not the baseballs you often get these days. The fan guo are particularly nice. All dishes are pretty simple and hand-made.
Thanks, everyone for all the great responses.
Surprised that Vancouver is not a hub for seafood as Seattle is. If the consensus is meh, then maybe I'll seek out other options.
We are also heavy on Persian food where I call home, so unless the restaurant rises far above the usual greatest-hits menu, I'm going to veto it.
Let me keep looking into your suggestions! Thanks, all!
2. I have heard from a few people that the Pinnacle Hotel across from the Quay is not bad. I haven't been to the restaurant, but also heard it has 'decent' food. In the area is The District and around the corner is a small tapas place calles El Matador. As mentioned, the persian places on upper Londale could be worthwhile for a quick lunch.
If you have a car I would recomment Le Regelade (French) in West Vancouver or Fraiche (excellent view and the food it quite good). Both are maybe a 15minute drive from the seabus.
The seabus is about a 10 min sailing. There is a plethora of good restaurants in gastown, all walking distance from waterfront station (downtown seabus terminal).
Cafe Medina (a few minutes walk form stadium station does a great brunch.
Did you find somewhere to stay? Recent family visitors chose Rosedale Suites on Robson & Hamilton (10 minute walk to Seabus) and really appreciated having a kitchen for breakfast and late snacks :) But they are a family of 2 adults and a teen. A past client used to stay at Level Living... higher end of the price point, but nice for a longer stay. Delta Suites on West Hastings is super close to the Seabus and regional transit, as well as close to potentially interesting Gastown food and drink.
Welcome to Vancouver!
Being from North Van, I can offer a few suggestions. Staying in North Van and sea-bussing back and forth might be the wiser option; you can then have a few drinks at dinner and not worry about driving back over the bridge/hitting a road block etc. The Pinnacle is a really nice hotel; I would stay there over the Quay, it's getting a bit dated. If you stay downtown it's easy to get anywhere, and any of the hotels previously mentioned above are great; Fairmont, Westin etc.
There are lots of lunch options around lower Lonsdale. I recently discovered Sushi Bella at 152 Lonsdale Ave; loved it, great quality, great service, and my #1 judge of a good sushi restaurant: white ginger, not pink. Fishworks is another restaurant in the lower Lonsdale area, it's been open about 2 years now and is doing quite well. Burgoo is a wonderful soup/stew/sandwich place, right across the street from the Pinnacle. I had brunch at the Pinnacle restaurant two years ago and didn't love it, but haven't been back since so can't say if it's improved.
In terms of seafood I, unlike others on the forum apparently, think Vancouver does have great seafood. Bluewater and Yew are top choices. L'Abbatoir or Cork and Fin in Gastown have nice options. Miku sushi on Robson is great. If you want something fun and different, Hapa Izakaya for Japanese tapas.
Van City Foody - i'm with you about the seafood - i am not sure if the concerns are from people who are specific about a certain location or ... maybe another aspect is of concern to them - i noticed someone above who said that seattle has better s/f (or similar comment) - i don't know all the details about Seattle but downtown and the pike market is just the same as Vcvr as far as i know. and we don't throw the fish around before eating it ; )
maybe we need to have a diff thread for this specific topic - or reinvgorate an old one - i would be interested in learning more about what people think is not top notch - maybe in diff cultural cuisines, there are diff materials (products) expected - that we don't have locally avail? or ... ?
where i go to get seafood, it is off the boat of the person who owns the retail shop. Her boat/s fish up near enbridge route, if that matters to food consumers here. It is interesting to hear her POV on the debate.
re: Georgia Strait
As someone who grew up in a landlocked area but has lived in a few different oceanside places around the world, I'll start with my take on it - and no doubt this should probably be a separate thread so apologies to the OP for the hijack.
I think the seafood in YVR isn't great based on peoples' expectations that it would be, given its proximity to the ocean.
It's better than, say, St Louis, sure. There are very few restaurants that celebrate and specialize in seafood - Blue Water Cafe and YEW being exceptions, of course - which is generally what people think of when they are looking for a "seafood restaurant."
YVR doesn't have the crab-smashing, fish-throwing, live-crawly-things enthusiasm and pride for sea creatures that you see in Maryland, Maine, Seattle, Sydney, Tokyo, Mediterranean Europe, etc.
Most fish available at most grocery stores is no better than you'd find in any major metro area around North America, and is often worse.
Granville Island is an overpriced drag for anyone but tourists to shop in, and just out of the way enough for most to not bother for a regular visit. (Versus Pike Market, which I've found to be an absolute treasure trove of new discoveries every trip, and a place many locals frequent at least a few times a month.)
Fish markets in other countries always prompt me to think "I didn't even know something that looked like that existed, and what the heck do I do with it?". Vancouver? Eh, more salmon.
It's not to say you can't get good seafood in YVR restaurants, or buy good seafood anywhere in the area. It's just that, in my experience, enthusiasm, access, variety and knowledge are underwhelming compared with expectations.
Reiney said: "YVR doesn't have the crab-smashing, fish-throwing, live-crawly-things enthusiasm and pride for sea creatures that you see in Maryland, Maine, Seattle, Sydney, Tokyo, Mediterranean Europe, etc."
Agree. Having said that, IMHO only in Chinese (particularly Cantonese) restaurants would you typically find live seafood "waiting" to meet their Maker. And the audience (diners) are a finicky lot, expecting their "catch" (fish, crab, lobster, etc) to be brought to their table to be shown before giving the greenlight for their catch to officially become part of their dinner ;-)
So on that, I'd argue the best genre of restaurants to get the best-possible, live fresh seafood (to be cooked) dining experience would be the Chinese genre. And don't waste your time at the smaller venues ..... go to the known, well-reputed venues where the creatures look as lively in their tanks as the boisterous patron diners in the room :-)
Miko Sushi is on Robson and has very good traditional a la carte sushi and sashimi, plus some interesting hot food -- gingko nuts, anyone? It should not be confused with Miku on Hastings, which has tasty aburi sushi but nothing else really outstanding that I've tried and is kind of cold.
I love the warm steelhead and crunchy potato salad at L'Abbatoir but haven't been blown away by other dishes there, and there is only one fish dish under mains, though they do have dungeness crab toast and smoked sturgeon carpaccio as apps.
Bears repeating what reiney said above: All restos should be vetted as to whether they are participating in Dine Out which will be on while the OP is here. Some places only offer the DOV menu or (as at Wildebeest) a limited number of their regular plates.
Overall agree with reiney's assessment above (though there is one fish store at GIsle, Seafood City, that I really like, with lower prices, fresher and more interesting fish, and truly helpful staff -- but I still usually end up at Seven Seas on 4th for sea creatures as it is closer and easier to park there).
Also agree with lotus about some of the best seafood coming out of the Cantonese places in town. I think the issue for the OP is, as fmed points out, the size of the dishes in these places which will be too large for him.