vancouver trip report
just got home from a week in vancouver and figured i'd post my thoughts here, had a pretty solid eating schedule although i didn't quite cover EVERYTHING i wanted. missed out on any serious chinese stuff (although i live in toronto so i'm not exactly hurting for it) and heard of a few other places (bao bei, pidgin, some southern brunch joint in gastown) that i guess i'll save for next time. anyways...
korean truck outside of city centre station - i didn't eat a goddamn thing before i flew out and the plane was lacking in the edibles department. as soon as i got off the train this place was staring me in the face and i must say it was an excellent introduction to the city. it's cool to see the food truck culture in full swing, toronto has been dragging their heels (to say the least) on street food. i had a shortrib cheeseburger with kimchi, it was juicy, cheesy, and delicious. a little expensive at about $8 i believe, but i was in no place to complain. it could've used more kimchi as well, i thought that was a bit lost to the burger/cheese element but still, a better burger than many places serve.
kishimoto sushi - very solid spot. had some nigiri (very good fish for very cheap, something i could get used to about the west coast), an oshizushi with jalapeno and i forget what fish, maybe hamachi?, an i believe pork okonomiyaki, and a couple other rolls or something. either way, the fish was good, fresh, delicious, not overly fucked with. hands down better than anything i've eaten out here, and cheaper, although i haven't been to the temple of omakase (sushi kaji for any toronto heads reading this). i would recommend this place to friends heading to van for sure.
kintaro ramen - had miso ramen, medium broth with lean pork. i've been to santouka, sansotei, etc, and i thought this place made a totally reasonable bowl. it was a very barebones noodle bar which i appreciated and the staff seemed very focused on getting you your food and getting you out, which i also appreciated. i heard later that there are often lineups and i'm glad i didn't wait, because it was a very good bowl of noodles but nothing that i haven't had before. it really hit the spot after a long walk around stanley park though.
caffe brixton - pretty decent local bar. microbrew culture seems to be popping off in vancouver in a way that it's not in toronto and i sampled a couple things (four winds, stanley park, green flash) that i've never seen before. also had a mushroom pizza with arugula that was ok, not really worth going out of the way for but i was visiting with an old friend and we were a couple deep and didn't feel like moving. either way i wasn't mad at this spot, decent neighbourhood joint and very close to where i was staying
took a quick detour to seattle the next day...
gorditos healthy mexican - came as a recommendation. had a shrimp burrito that was massive but underwhelming. i don't associate burritos with needing a knife and fork but regardless of that i didn't find the flavour or textures to be particularly appealing, it was kind of just a lot of mush inside of a slightly crispy tortilla. i did, though, have the best watermelon agua fresca i've ever had, just a straight up slap in the face of pure watermelon flavour, and almost worth going for that alone.
the walrus and the carpenter - i guess properly located in ballard, wa, this place came as a recommendation from a chef friend in vancouver. we waited like an hour and a half for a table not quite realizing the hype behind this place, something i became attuned to when i looked it up after. the food would average out to pretty good - bread and butter, a dozen washington oysters, grilled sardines, curry cucumber salad (all great), smoked trout/lentil thing (this was only ok, the texture and flavour on the lentils didn't really work with the fish and it was served with big hunks of not-pickled-enough pickled red onion), a good beef tartare, a duck lardo with cantaloupe and pistachio that was good but lacking in duck flavour/somewhat lacking in portion size, and a disappointing strawberry shortcake desert (looked amazing, but the cake itself was dry/crispy [but thick, not in a good way] and the balance of strawberry/cream to overly dry cake was waaaaay out of whack). the service, though, was disappointing - i'm of the school of thought that regardless the appearance of your customers (me and two friends who had been travelling all day looked somewhat more rugged than some of the other patrons) you treat them well. the service at this place was, to put it lightly, brusque. the dickhead with a handlebar mustache at the door notwithstanding, when another server delivered a cocktail he slammed it on the table, announced the name, and walked away without looking at anyone. they also didn't change our plates or cutlery out at all between courses, something i've just come to expect from a restaurant of this (supposed) calibre. anyways, this place wasn't doing anything special enough foodwise to warrant me putting up with that kind of treatment, and i would tell anyone going to seattle that there is probably somewhere better to spend your money. we spent about $120 on the above dishes and one cocktail. oh we also had a sheeps milk cheese served with some kind of local honey, that for $8 was two meagre triangles and a little slap of honey. bite me
then i went back to vancouver.
revolver coffee - this place was tight. i'm not a crazy coffee head but i got a kick out of the selection of beans and the care put into preparation. i tried a couple varieties (i went back here more than once haha) and didn't have anything i didn't enjoy. i only drank drip coffee there but i brought back a couple bottles of the cold brew that i'm looking forward to trying. also had a muffin and a piece of coffee cake esque something that were both enjoyable. another recommend, for sure.
sushi mart on robson - this came as a recommendation from a friend who just came back from van. i thoroughly enjoyed it. they serve ocean wise certified stuff and make it very easy to eat good sustainable fish. i didn't go too buck, i had salmon sashimi (straight up the best salmon i've ever eaten, beautiful deep red colour and fantastic texture and flavour) and an uni and a toro nigiri, oh and an avocado roll. the uni was kind of brutal, i've just never really understood it, the toro was totally fine, and the avocado roll was an avocado roll. highlight was probably the funny gay guys being funny gay guys that i was sharing a section of the communal table with though the salmon was a damn close second
wildebeest - hoo boy this was a banger. the girl i went with ended up knowing one of the sous' and while it obviously didn't result in anything ultra crazy the man made sure we had a meal to remember. i had a very refreshing cocktail called a 'huckleberry smash' to lead off, my date had an old fashioned (it's 2013, forget gender biased drinking rules hah) that included a complimentary small glass of beer served while they were making the old fashioned (tho the $14 price tag on that kind of factored it in haha). we chose to go with the $45 omakase option, requesting only that it include the humboldt squid dish, a favourite of my dining companion. started with smoked olives (delicious, meaty) followed by a bison tartare with a bunch of other stuff (delicious, meaty). had the squid/beans, just perfectly cooked sous-vided then seared squid that melted. i could eat that every day. albacore belly with peaches and something else and a shiso granite, this dish was the highlight for me. it was so light and fresh and downright delicious, i could also eat this every day, gladly. i can't remember if there was something in between these and the meat course, which was just a big honkin plate of beef haha. it was great, perfectly cooked rare steak, i think there was some kind of sauce on it but i was a bit hazy by this point. the steak was served with a salad that included blueberries that were delicious and a nice counterpoint to the heaviness of a big ol plate of beef. desert started with a blackberry/meringue/ice cream (? there was something cold that wasn't ice cream but i don't know what it was) thing that was much more interesting and delicious than it sounds. the blackberries had to be wild picked, they were tiny and incredibly flavourful and went very well with the sweet meringue crumble. closing volley was tonka bean icecream with house nutella and peanut brittle, something that was very appealing to my companion, but left me wishing that the first desert had been served last as it was a bit heavy to go out on (i also don't care much for chocolate/rich/heavy deserts). this was, though, quite delicious, and i will not take anything away from the chef, this meal was a banger start to finish. total for two including three cocktails and a beer was around $160 and worth every god damn red cent. high recommend.
duffins donuts - THIS PLACE IS INCREDIBLE. so weird. open 24 hours and selling everything from tamales to honeydew donuts to fucking chinese food. i had a chorizo and egg torta and a watermelon bubble tea, fresh fruit no powder shit duh. i also took a tamale and a donut to go, and ate them during a movie while i was hungover that afternoon. the tamale was actually surprisingly great. better than a lot that i've had around here at the very least. if i could move one of these restaurants to toronto, this would probably be it, i couldn't believe my eyes when we got in there - people had been telling me this spot was a trip and they were not kidding. i wanna go back.
sushi california - i dunno, i was too hungover to eat. i had seafood udon and touched like, a quarter of it. it was mediocre and the rolls my friends had looked mediocre too. but my one homie loves it there and he was driving my sorry ass around so who was i to argue?
pizza garden - ordered this on a lazy/hungover sunday night. had the montebello, fior de latte, pepperoni and fennel sausage. it was pretty god damn good. neapolitan style thin crust, quick fire pizza, it wasn't quite on the level of some of the joints out here but for a delivery wheel i was really pleasantly surprised. would recommend.
phnom penh - my friend told me (possibly hyperbolically but he might have been serious, he's a weirdo) that this was the best place to get food in canada. i'm not convinced that's the case but my god those wings are out of bloody control. took them takeout (was staying v. close) and i polished off an order to the dome and thought about going back for more. the lime-pepper sauce really sets them off, probably the best non-buffalo style wings i've ever had. i wish i had been able to wrangle a group for this, because i really wanted to try a lot more of the menu, although i'm glad i got to squeeze in a visit regardless. i would definitely recommend this place to anyone going to van, and it seems like most people do as the lineup was out the door every time i walked by.
dunlevy snack bar - this came recommended by the same friend who rec'd sushi mart, and she nailed it again. funnily enough a guy i know is manning the kitchen, at least until the school year starts. really pleasant atmosphere, unpretentious vibe, very chill. small menu, we had a cucumber/puffed rice/cilantro salad dressed with some kind of... dressing (very tasty), a bowl of assorted preserves (kimchi, green beans, pickled lots of stuff) and spiced pumpkin seeds, and a bibimbap. to be completely honest, this was my first time having bibimbap not in a hot stone bowl and not having the crispy rice on the bottom really fucked my game up. it was delicious though, instead of trad. gochujang the sauce was a cross between that and bbq sauce and it was fantastic. plus, the bill for all of this and two coffees was like, $32. definitely support this spot, it may be a bit of a ripoff of the 416 snack bar but there's nothing wrong with spinning a winning formula as long as you make it your own, something this place definitely does.
meat and bread - for my last meal in van i grabbed two sandwiches, i think this was the first ever GUY FIERI approved spot i've ever been to. ate the grilled cheese immediately and was a bit let down - it was suuuper basic, i mean a grilled cheese is a grilled cheese and i wasn't mad, but for $7 i would've liked more than a couple perfunctory slices of red onion on this thing. i also got the daily special, a cajun turkey with a something or other slaw and paprika mayo or something, and saved that shit for the plane. it actually help up surprisingly well - despite leaking through the bag and onto my book, the bread maintained it's integrity the whole way through. a good portion of turkey but again, at $9, i just felt like it was lacking a bit of oomph. the porchetta looked underwhelming, especially compared to toronto's own (new york ripoff) porchetta-only joint, so i didn't bother, despite being told by staff that it was their specialty. this place is ok, definitely not bad, but i feel like you know... you can do better.
this has taken me so much longer than i thought it would to write up. anyways i ate really well for the last week in vancouver and am really glad i went on a bunch of super long walks and bike rides, and hiked up a fucking mountain, or i probably would have put on like 10 pounds. it's a weird city but you guys are doing alright out there. thanks for having me!
Thanks for your report. Love the style in which you wrote it too. :)
Glad you had a good time at Wildebeest. I had been nervous about going since the chef changed, but I recently went with a big group for a birthday omakase-style dinner and it was great. Their cocktails are wonderful.
I'm underwhelmed by Meat & Bread but I think I'm in the minority. Too bad La Ghianda is closed. They had great sandwiches.
I'll definitely have to check out Dunlevy Snack Bar. I assume 416 Snack Bar is in Toronto? I'll put it on my list!
Glad you had a good time!
Glad you had a fulFILLing trip ! And ya gotta love our seemingly record-breaking summer.
I read your amusing report about Duffin's. The place is a dive, cleanliness/hygiene is an ongoing issue. They've recently shut down their hot Chinese food section (not sure what they'll do with that space) not that I miss it. Service is indifferent. Bathroom is filth.
Yet I go there 2-3 times a month :-D
Great report! So glad Wildebeest worked out for you. We went with a group the day after the original chef left and it was uniformly underwhelming and overpriced, plus 'tude from staff didn't help.
The only thing I've had at Meat and Bread I'd go back for is the porchetta, but it is expensive.
I love Duffin's. Still miss the one on Main they tore down.