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Vancouver restaurants (Yeah, another thread....)


K.T.B.

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I'm sure there are threads out there asking tons of questions about what restaurants to visit, what's the best, etc. But I'm lazy and I'm not looking for them. :p

 

Anyway, in looking at some of the restaurants near the hotel I'm staying at (Ramada on Granville), I've got a few questions:

 

Has anyone been to The Elbow Room Café?? What are its hours? (None are listed in their website.) And most of all, how is the food?

Can anyone give me some reasonably priced options while in Vancouver based on where I'm staying??

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Local here with soem Restaurant ideas for you.

 

For eating in downtown Vancouver in upscale restaurants here are some of my favorites

 

* for seafood go to the Cannery on Commissioner Street - wonderful location right on the waterfront with great seafood

 

* for something different try the "Stone Grill" right at the foot of Granville Street on the shores of False Creek. You actually cook your own meal here on a hot rock that is brought to the table along with your dinner. Excellent!

 

* Japanese Steakhouse try "Kobe's" a chain

 

The above are expensive

 

For a little less money you can try "Milestones" or "Earl's"

 

For more of a family type restaurant try the local chain "Whitespot" a BC institution.

 

Hope the above helps.

 

Other wise just wonder down the street outside your hotel and read the menus posted outside of the restaurants - Vancouver is full of excellent eateries.

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Other wise just wonder down the street outside your hotel and read the menus posted outside of the restaurants - Vancouver is full of excellent eateries.

 

We did quite a bit of that, and there's a good restaurant on every corner! Here's a link to what we did (and where we ate) last year:

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=176472

 

Bellagio's on Hornby at Robson serves a nice breakfast and lunch.

Dinners: Cardero's on the waterfront near the Bayshore has good seafood and lots of noise, Ciao Bella on Denham doesn't look very impressive but has very good Italian food, Joe Forte's is a "landmark" steakhouse - pricey, but delicious, and Umberto's al Porto on Water St. in Gastown is great for lunch or dinner (can you tell I like Italian?) There's also a health food store on Robson called Capers that has killer muffins for your mornin coffee.

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the food is not bad and the service is horrible! But,the horrible service is why you go-to be abused and ignored and to told to get your own coffee.

 

For great food and service- Don Fransesco on Burrard

 

Cin Cin for Star sightings

Blue Water Cafe for great seafood

Sun Sui Wah for incredible Asian and seafood

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Where's the "chowhound" message board? I'm new to this board. I've spent the last 6 months on another board and just found you all :)

 

It's at www.chowhound.com - it can be a little confusing when you get in there; just go to the 2nd page (cut to the chow) and near the bottom, it lists the areas of the country they have dining reviews on, including canada.

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One thing I am finding is that it's damn difficult to find any reliable information about restaurants in Vancouver. Lots of blogs, etc., but no centralized website. There is a Vancouver restaurant website, but it only lists a few feature places. And Garvick has a list, but no information beyond a link or two and just the addresses. It's extremely frustrating....

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Foo’s Ho Ho, as the name might suggest, is a happy revelation—and the prices are heartwarming. Good won ton soup is $3.75, and Singapore-style, curry-enhanced rice noodles ($7.50) are double fun, too. But regulars drive to Foo’s to buy a platter of the special chicken. For two, it’s dinner, and at $19.95, very good value. A whole de-boned chicken is stuffed with slightly sweet sticky rice that combines Chinese sausage, chicken, mushrooms and pepper. It’s delicious, and the room reminds us of a different time, when this block of Pender vibrated with neon-signed rooms just like this. 102 East Pender St., 604-609-2889. —J.M.

 

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Italian businessmen are as serious about their food as they are about their business, and Dario’s is where they go for long lunches to explore or confirm their interest in one another. Bring a date and do the same. A big, open, softly green room, old fashioned waiters in white shirts and ties (a cross between Jacques Tati and Mr. Bean), slightly old-fashioned food (hand-made pastas, local fish, seasonal vegetables, polenta, and—when Claudio feels like it—a nonna dish like pasta fagioli). Lunch is always under $15; my favourite (a once-a-month essential in winter) is the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Smooth on the tongue, al dente on the teeth, good gnocchi is the ideal lunchtime talking food. And nobody makes better gnocchi than Claudio. 3075 Slocan, 604-430-2195. —J.B.

 

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All on his own, Bin 942’s rambunctious proprietor Gord Martin is worth the price of admission. Martin invented (or solved) this city’s craze for the graze: small platters meant for sharing he calls tapatisers. Two can be filling enough, three is ample. And two people can assemble a pre-theatre bite for less than $20. The $7 green papaya salad is, like the chef, a refreshing if restless assembly: papaya, carrot straw, fresh mint and coriander leaves, held in a cup of butter lettuce and dressed up in a borrowed pad thai-styled vinaigrette; you’ll taste lime, chilli and peanut flavours. Pair it with the $12 Beef Wellington, two hockey-puck-sized slices of fine rare beef wrapped in phyllo and served with a generous slump of roasted garlic potatoes whipped with lashings of chive. A grainy-Dijon and Marsala glacé heightens pleasure rather than dominating. 1521 W. Broadway, 604-734-9421. —J.M.

 

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It’s likely that some day the Ascencio family will be immortalized in a feature film. The story: immigrant family opens small window selling national dishes of home, gains loyal following in an inner-city neighbourhood and eventually makes the leap to a nearby restaurant. There’s even dramatic tension: pre-opening strife included floods, the death of a family patriarch and quadruple bypass surgery for father, José Arturo. The expanded The Mouse and The Bean Antojeria Mexicana restaurant opened last spring, in the basement of West Hastings Street’s Dominion Building. “It’s like a fable for us,” says daughter Rosanna about the name they invented, “We imagine this little mouse and he has a bean and he’s going to do something big with it.” The Ascenios make their own everything, including rojas and verdes (red and green) salsa, and refried beans. Enchiladas, $7, are a hefty meal, with layers of flavour in what looks like a simple package of tortilla (dipped, then smothered in salsa), grilled veggies or meats, cheese, sour cream and fried onions. Cheaper still: full-plate size quesadillas, $4; dobladitas, $2, and huaraches, $5. “The idea was that you could be anywhere in Mexico,” says Rosanna. Not yet licensed, the café is not open evenings. 207 West Hastings St., 604-633-1781. —EDS.

 

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Say you’re a group of four. A big crab at the Green Village costs around $20, which leaves another $20 or so for you all. Order the spicy crab, and maybe some pea tips, or ong choy, a big noodle dish or a bowl of soup. The Green Village is a most unlikely-looking place to be

the best Northern Chinese restaurant in town, but a reservation is essential on weekends, and it’s usually full of large three-generation Chinese families being very serious about their eating. Local crab is a much better deal than a jet-lagged lobster, and the Green Village crab is the best in town—a lovely, messy, finger-licking, socially-levelling, group-sex-ish experience. 2461 Nanaimo St., 604-258-9018. —J.B.

 

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At piccolo mondo, when nobody’s looking, I pull my napkin over my head (like a tennis player between sets) and breathe in the furious, complex aromas of Stephane Meyer’s fish soup. Soup is the restaurant critic’s friend—the first mouthful reveals if the kitchen is paying attention or merely going through the motions. Meyer’s version, from a family recipe belonging to proprietor Michelle Geris, is often imitated but never replicated. The two-hour reduction of white-fleshed fishes (halibut, turbot, sole, rock cod, red snapper and more) is pushed through a food mill and then a sieve. Its colour is turned sienna by good saffron, its flavour underwritten by garlic and then pulled forward by orange peel. 850 Thurlow St., 604-688-1633. —J.M.

 

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The Velvet Café is the most focussed restaurant in town, a half-sized storefront run by a diminutive and utterly charming young Korean woman, who cooks attractive and innovative Indian-style dishes and serves them with class and finesse at ridiculously low prices. If you’re walking too fast you can easily miss it—the first time I saw the little half-curtained window I thought it was a fortune teller’s. There’s nowhere more romantic for the money: an immaculate little shoestring restaurant run with obvious passion and commitment. Lunch is a bargain; a big bowl of the delicious chick pea curry with a grilled chicken skewer comes in at just under $10. Velvet Café, 1453

W. Broadway, 604-736-3312. —J.B.

 

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The chinese have an instant repair kit for any sadness of the spirit. It’s called congee, or jook, a sort of rice soup made flavourful with a variety of ingredients. The best place to start: Wild Rice, a combination of elegance and simplicity on Pender Street, just before Chinatown starts. Small tables with high stools, a bar almost as magnificent as Lumière, and a menu of traditional Chinese ingredients fine-tuned into West Coast fusion (with a good wine list), it’s popular with people a little scared of Chinese restaurants. Wild Rice’s congee is dense with halibut, ginger and citrus—and a big bowl of it is $6. Add a glass of Wild Goose Pinot Gris for $7 and for well under $15 you’ll have had a good supper, feel 10 years younger and ready to start again down another rocky road. If you’re adventurous, the best totally Chinese congee in Canada is at the Congee Noodle House on Broadway. Order a big bowl of congee (around $5), a Chinese doughnut (to dip in it), some extra peanuts (to sprinkle on top) and maybe a dish of gai lan or baby bok choy. Two of you will still have change from $15. My favourite is sliced-fish congee, with a little dish of foo yee. Beware: foo yee is very Chinese—a non-Chinese ordering it will usually cause the most imperturbable waiter to shoot up his eyebrows. Two little cubes of it come on a saucer; stir them in with chopsticks. It’s fermented tofu, with a taste something like mild gorgonzola dusted with cayenne. This is serious post-graduate level ethnic eating. Later you can advance to foo yee with green beans. Wild Rice, 117 W. Pender St., 604-642-2882. Congee Noodlehouse, 141 E. Broadway, 604-879-8221. —J.B.

 

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The best sandwiches in town. They’re called tortas—Mexican rolls filled with a variety of nicely spiced meats (we recommend the lomo, or pork), avocado, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers—and they’ll set you back a measly $3.25 a pop. Also a plus is the atmosphere—friendly working stiffs, and co-owner Paula Chhuon, who takes no sass and knows what you want before you do. 4898 Main St.,

604-879-5551. —EDS.

 

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Travel agents don’t offer Paris at $10 an hour, but you’ll find a reasonable facsimile at Salade de Fruits, the funky little 20-seat restaurant tucked in a corner of the lobby of Le Centre Culturel Francophone. It really is tucked in, the kitchen up in one corner with the menu chalk-boarded above it, the tables snuggled up almost as close as Air Canada seats. It’s very French: nice simples like moules frites, steak frites and saucisses de toulouse or duck confit, based on a table d’hote menu for $19.95. It changes weekly—but if you want to go completely native, order an omelette, which will, unless you specify, arrive baveuse, or cooked gently enough to be soft in the middle. With frites on the side there’s change out of $10, the coffee’s good, desserts are three for $10.99, there’s an art gallery next door, and it takes very little effort to imagine yourself across the Atlantic. 1545 W. Seventh Ave., 604-714-5987.—J.B.

 

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Just about every asian restaurant in town offers up some variation of a green bean dish, but there’s little doubt (in our minds at least) that the sambal green beans at Banana Leaf, in either of its two locations, are the best around. The beans ($9) are always ravishingly crisp, the sambal (a ubiquitous Indonesian condiment made with garlic, chili and dried shrimp paste) has infinite depth, and the shrimp and tomatoes wrap it all together. 820 W. Broadway, 604-731-6333; 1096 Denman St., 604-683-3333. —EDS.

 

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For many years I’ve made a friend of pho at Pho Hoang, where both broths and décor are bare bones. There’s only one standard for pho—it should be clearer and cleaner than a West Vancouverite. Good pho is a life- sustaining meal, and manages to combine most of the major food groups (with the exception of alcohol) in one bowl. The No. 15 beef bowl-pho tai nam at Pho Hoang ($6) is all that. Long-kettled beef bones produce the mother broth. That is clarified, then transferred to litre-sized service bowls. Sliced rare beef and braised brisket are added over rice noodles, whole stems of basil leaves and a dice of fresh chillies. A splash of lime juice to finish. 238 E. Georgia, 604-682-5666; 3388 Main St., 604-874-0832 —J.M.

 

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At Morton's (Egads, you might exclaim, the valet alone costs 10 bucks!), there’s a secret in the bar that provides solace to a hard day. It’s a petite filet in an egg-bread sandwich, licked with a mustard mayonnaise, served Monday to Friday, from five to seven. It’s very good. The price is even better: it’s free. And there are more where that came from, but please remember, it’s not polite to help yourself if you’re not drinking. And while on the topic of sandwiches, especially those that go well with drink, it would be impolite not to recommend the pulled pork version at Memphis Blues, now with a new location on The Drive. It’s barbecued pork, swathed in quality sauce and piled on an authentic foam-bun. It comes with coleslaw and barbecued baked beans. The small is $6.50, supersized $7.95. Morton’s, 750 W. Cordova St., 604-915-5105. Memphis Blues, 1342 Commercial Dr., 604-215-2599; 1465 W. Broadway, 604-738-6806. —J.M.

 

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The Forest Fire ramen—such an innocent name before the summer just past—is a weekend bestseller at Kintaro. The owner maintains that he can only serve this special ramen ($6.95) on Saturdays because he loses money on every bowl. That’s the conscience of a real chef speaking; it’s subsidized by other menu items with more profitable mark-ups: a five-piece gyoza set ($3.25) or thse sliced pork ($3). But the main event on Saturday mornings is the Forest Fire broth that envelops its twelve-spice seasoning and floats a sturdy raft of noodles and scallions. A cure for hangovers, to be sure. 788 Denman St., 604-682-7568. —J.M.

 

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Down on East Georgia, a more-wholesale-than-retail fringe of Chinatown, is the Phnom Penh, a Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant distinctly different from the run-of-the-mill pho shops everywhere in town. Cambodian food is gutsier than Vietnamese, more intense but somehow smoother. The Phnom Penh was one of the first ethnic restaurants in town to be lauded by the New York Times, which raved (justifiably) over the spicy garlic squid. The squid is still wonderful but there are other dishes even better, like the marinated beef— tissue-thin sliced, barely seared, marinated in cilantro, lime and fish sauce, then spread on a plate like the petals of a flower and sprinkled with crunchy deep fried garlic. It’s a lovely dish, delicate enough to be Japanese, and for two people one of the most sensuous things I’ve ever eaten. That’s $10.50, and with rice and a bowl of pho-style soup two of you will have eaten well for $20. —J.B.

 

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I must argue that the centrepiece, the signature, the ne plus ultra dish, and in fact the reason to drive halfway across town to Phnom Penh is for Helen Huynh’s way with reluctant squid. The recipe for her garlic squid ($13.50) may be a secret, but I can tell you what you will taste—omami. That’s the collusion of flavours that produce a mysterious fifth to go with the standard salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Cross-hatched and dry-marinated in a special compound overnight, then dressed in a gossamer-light batter of spiced rice flour and flash fried, the baby tubes are served with a simple dip of fresh lemon juice and finely ground black pepper. With rice and a platter of delicious Chinese broccoli, lunch for two will get you change back from a twenty. (If it seems strange that Mr. Barber and I both selected this Asian restaurant from a universe of more than a thousand, it’s not. The cooking at Phnom Penh remains stellar, the service embracing, and the prices downright, well, cheap.) 244 E. Georgia St., 604-682-5777. —J.M.

 

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Garlic is an essential element of good inexpensive food—despite its anti-social reputation, it’s still the most intimate and share-worthy flavour developer there is. At La Bodega they must use garlic by the ton. They have the most authentically Spanish tapas, cheap wine by the glass and more than half of the menu priced at less than $10 a dish. It’s a place for the brave, for customers happy with beans and patatas bravas, with little dishes of rabbit and blood sausage, very good chicken livers and kidneys (and occasionally sardines),

little fish dishes and squid. Choose something from the many small, flavourful and garlicky dishes; it will be served at tiny, knee-knocking tables where you can sit, sip, nibble and pretend you’re in Spain. 1277 Howe St., 604-684-8814. —J.B.

 

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The newer, more chic crêpe places around town have nothing on Crêpe La Bretonne, run by a husband and wife team who are actually from Brittany and sing the songs, have the spats (in fast French) and serve the apple and cheese or pear and vanilla ice cream crêpes to prove it. Maurice and Colette Sompayrac have run Crêpe La Bretonne since 1973, changing locations once and the Edith Piaf CD hundreds of times. Because no one thinks to look north off Robson (at Jervis), it’s a place tourists usually find by accident and locals must be reminded of. It deserves more presence considering such brunch or dinner entrées as the classic ham, egg and Swiss cheese crêpe ($6.25); we recommend the organic buckwheat option. Few of the meals are more than $9, savoury or sweet. Baked au gratin options come with a roll and butter. Pair your pick with a European specialty beer or a glass of wine from a short list. 795 Jervis St., 604-608-1266. —EDS.

 

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I lived cheap in Japan for some time, and found out quickly that I couldn’t afford sushi. The best bargain among Japanese soups was nabeyaki udon—a big bowl of seafood broth loaded with fat udon noodles, chunks of fresh fish, a bit of crab, chicken, spinach and a poached egg on top. Most importantly, I learned that there is really no such thing as a bad nabeyaki udon, although some are considerably better than others. It’s been a staple of my winter diet for more than 10 years, so I’ve tasted just about every one in Vancouver. For my money you won’t do better than Kakiemon, in the Waterfront Centre Hotel building. For just over $10 you’ll get unlimited tea, an giant bowl of soup and a wrapped mint to take home. If you go elsewhere, stay away from any restaurant using fake crab. #2-200 Burrard St., 604-688-6866—J.B.

 

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When this magazine first reviewed the Modern Club in 1998 we enthusiastically suggested trying Okonomui-Uaki. A month later we published a letter from a concerned reader explaining that the correct spelling for “savoury pancakes of egg, fried cabbage and scallions” was okonomiyaki, and that we’d erroneously advised readers to seek out an extra-marital affair. Well, five years later not much has changed. This family-style Japanese is still all about hearty food rather than illicit relationships, and for about $12 you can still enjoy a four-course meal that starts with miso soup, moves on to salad or sunomono, gathers speed with an appetizer choice that includes freshest sashimi and finishes with either a generous teriyaki plate or the aforementioned, less-sexy-than-we-initially-reported pancakes. One minor caveat: don’t everyone read this and decide to go at once, because service already slows down on busy evenings and, darn it, some of us have affairs to attend to. 3446 Dunbar St., 604-739-0170. —EDS.

 

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Nooru Mahal is known for its dosas, a South Asian variation on the crepe, stuffed and rolled but not folded. When served they can be two feet long, and arrive cantilevered over both sides of your metal tray. The ends are not filled: tear them off and use them to scoop up the accompanying coconut or green chili chutney. You’ve a choice of some 20 fillings, many vegetarian. A rightful favourite is chicken palak dosa ($7.95). You’ll also appreciate the included mild counterpoint: a cup of stewed vegetable soup in a lentil base. Prices stay low because everything is made from scratch, says Raj Aiyathurai, a former cook who went and bought the place more than a year ago. As boss, he made it his first order of business to improve the infamously slow service that deterred even the cheapest, most patient dosa devotee. Now dinner arrives in a reasonable 10 to 20 minutes (enough time to take in a few scenes from one of the ever-playing, handily subtitled, Bollywood movies), and is as delicious as ever since either Aiyathurai or longtime chef Ranka Rajan still work the kitchen. Word of the improved service is filtering out; reservations recommended for weekends. 4534 Fraser St.; 604-873-9263. —EDS.

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Go to Chinatown [it's not called Hongcouver for nothing], and find an upstairs dim sum place. The best dim sum in the world - all those displaced Hong Kong residents and the best seafood in the world make an incredible combination. And its cheap!

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Kevin,

 

We had the same problem finding where to eat before we went to Vancouver last year. Definately search Chowhound and egullet; http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?index.php I posted there before we went nad I got some good recommendations.

 

As for the Elbow Room - we went there 2 out of our three days for breakfast. It really is an experience - the guy who serves insults everyone and you will either love it or hate it. The first time we went I was a little 'scared' for want of a better word but on the second day we just laughed at him. We found the food very good with a great selection.

 

We also went to a place called Hon's Won Ton which is definately not fancy but the food is REALLY good and very cheap. We meant to try more restaurants but we actually went back to HOns on our second evening too.

 

Also, don't forget Granville Market. We had the most amazing strawberry & Rhubarb pie - ABSOLUTELY AMAZING - try it!

 

Have fun in Vancouver, it's is a fabulous city!

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Kevin,

Good to see a fellow Chicagoan on the boards.

Last summer we had a great meal in the revolving resturant on top of the Harbor building. (Right near the pier.) Not cheap - but good food and evern better views of Vancouver and the surrounding area. (Only negative was teh cheese cake for dessert - avoid that and everythin g else was top notch).

Have a great time.

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  • 4 weeks later...

And for desserts, try Death By Chocolate (several locations around town). The last time my wife and I were in Vancouver was in '98, and this year we're taking the family plus a couple of good friends who have never been to the Pacific Northwest with us on the NCL Star in June to Alaska.

 

I also recall a Japanese restaurant in a bank building in downtown, near the Hotel Vancouver (sorry, I don't remember the name), but it was wonderful.

 

Also, in general, lots of great (esp. ethnic) places on Davie, Denman and Robson streets. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

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