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Vancouver Dining with only three nights!

Hello everyone,
We will be staying in Vancouver for 4 days (one day we will be going to Victoria). I am trying to narrow dine my three dinner meals in your fine city. I am looking for "the Vancouver experience" and things that I do not normally get at home ( my husband and I are from Los Angeles and I was born and raised in NYC).
Food quality is important, but so is atmosphere for me. I do not necessarily need "very high end places" or "fine dining" either. We love Italian food, but I have been reading that your Asian inspired restaurants are great. We usually spend about 100-120 USD for a meal for two people.
These are the places I am leaning towards:

CActus Club in Coal Harbor- I am not a fan of chains...but this place looks so great and I love the atmosphere and views. They do not take reservations which I am concerned about :(

Blue wAter CAfe- My hubs and I are healthy eaters and want to try out the great fish in your area

La queciera (sp) Looks fantastic...but I have many Italian places on our trip(we are going to seattle too) and we are also going to a tasting meal at the Herbfarm in Washington

Maenam or Bao Bei- These look unique and I love the Bao BEi menu and the space.

We plan to have dinner in Victoria one night....either il terrazo or cafe brio
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Please don't waste a meal at Cactus Club, even for the views. It's a chain and the food is really mediocre, it is very loud, and you will wait for a table, then overpay for what you get.

    Blue Water gets a lot of love here. I've only eaten there once on someone else's dime and even given that, I wouldn't return. You can get better sushi elsewhere for less, the atmosphere is too corporate for me, and we had one cooked sturgeon dish that was not good (I would have returned it immediately but my DC was loathe).

    La Quercia has some solid dishes, but it is small and cramped with bad HVAC, which means too hot both winter and summer. Many fans though so YMMV.

    Maenam did not impress but it's been ages since I went. Bao Bei is fun and had interesting (though not the best in town) cocktails but it is a riff on a certain type of Chinese food. Depends how interested you are in the A word (authenticity). Also be aware that it is very small and doesn't take reservations so you will wait at anything approaching a peak time. Also no A/C if that matters to you.

    Il Terrazzo has been there for more than 20 years, which doesn't make it bad -- I last went more than ten years ago so can't comment. There may be other options in town that are a bit more interesting though. We quite liked Ulla earlier this spring, for instance, and I think it might show off BC ingredients a bit better.

    Café Brio is another veteran that still gets a lot of good reports. It's been ages since I went but I recall it being pretty good. I must say the new menu looks enticing, and the option for half orders is something I would be all over.

    Good luck with your planning and let us know if you want any suggestions for other kinds of Chinese food, and whether you would consider heading to the suburb of Richmond for same.

    1 Reply
    1. re: grayelf

      thanks Greyelf! I figured the Cactus Club would be the equivalent to "the Cheesecake factory" in Ca..... :)
      Ive changed things around after reading all of these great comments.
      I made a reservation for Provence. I liked the menu and the location.
      I have swapped out blue water for FAble. I LOVED the menu...and I was concerned about the "corporate feel" as you mentioned ...and it seemed a bit too pricey

      I liked stage in Victoria
      and finally for our last night...I am thinking of Bao Bei. You mentioned authenticity. IT is very important to me in regards to ITalian food....however for chinese, I think my taste leans more towards the "western style" chinese with good cocktails"

    2. Skip Cactus

      Do hit Blue Water. It's the best in the city in my opinion. It's expensive though - you are looking at closer to $100/person.

      Bao Bei is a fun spot with good chow. I'd suggest it over Maenam.

      La Quercia is really good. You will have a hard time getting a reso there.

      Other Vancouver institutions include Chambar, Cioppinos & Le Crocodile...can't go wrong with any of those.

      1 Reply
      1. re: waylman

        thanks waylman! I want to check out Bao Bei...it looks fun!

      2. I would say the one thing you need to do while you are in Vancouver is EAT FISH!

        Coldwater or crab, the quality up there is so much better than LA, my husband and I were in heaven.

        We ate both high end and low and our fav surprise? Getting sushi from the second story food mart of a Korean grocery - and the crab roll was made with fresh, local crab. For $5. I swear, we fought for bites.

        In Victoria, I had the best halibut I've ever had. And my Dad was an incredible cook! But again, it is so fresh there, it's just better.

        For fast coffee/tea or pastries, Murchies is mighty handy.

        Enjoy your trip!

        1. I'd definitely skip Il Terrazo in Victoria.

          As greyelf suggested, Ulla is a better choice, but so is Stage (small plates and wine bar) or Cafe Brio or Padella Bistro or many other places.

          Re: Cactus Club, while I generally agree that the food there is generic and can be found in any city, the location on English Bay is unique and serves dishes that are not available anywhere else in the chain. I have not eaten there, but Alexandra Gill from the Globe and Mail gave it a strong review last summer, so my curiosity is piqued. Altogether though, there are dozens of better choices in Vancouver. Either Blue Water or Yew would be good places to try out local seafood (just be aware that not every item on those restaurants' menus are from local waters. I.e. Yew has lobster on their menu, which I find aggravating as there is no lobster anywhere close to the North Pacific).

          Have fun.

          1 Reply
          1. re: anewton

            thanks anewton! I loved the menu at stage...we will be visiting on our day in Victoria :)

          2. I will report back after our trip :)

            1. Do take a visit to Bao Bei. Our visiting students, from the Italian gastronomic university in Pollenza, loved it.
              Cactus Club might be worth having a drink and taking in the vista.
              I hope your booking for Provence is at Marinaside... waterviews!
              Agree with the recommendation for Yew.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KarenDW

                Sorry for the CC hate but are there any drinks you'd recommend there, Karen? I've had uniformly cough syrupy, awful ones at the Cactus Club on Broadway at Granville before I gave up completely. Or they're weird Slurpee-like concoctions that are far too sweet. Maybe better at this special flagship??

              2. I am a Bluewater fan but you will be more than $120 for the meal, it's pricey. I don't mind Cactus for what it is; might be good to check out for lunch or just a cocktail.

                If you like the idea of La Quercia you could also check out their sister restaurant La Pentola, it's in Yaletown so you don't have to hike half way across town. I had a great meal there in May.

                Bao Bei is excellent and I would choose it over Maenam. Plus it's in Chinatown which is fun.

                Your itinerary looks great :)