The Vancouver Restaurant Scene
As is the case with virtually all our trips, we packed as many interesting restaurants—not to speak of local wines—as possible (at least within the context of our business obligations on this trip) into a short June 2011 trip to Vancouver.
How do we determine where to eat? It starts with some advanced pre-trip research. Once we get to a city, we ask knowledgeable locals for their favorite restaurants. Then we stop by to peruse the menus, atmosphere, and vibe of virtually every interesting restaurant we identified or that we passed by in our miles of walking.
We tend to favor places with locally sourced, sustainable seafood and interesting preparations. We had several meals and snacks while in Vancouver. Unfortunately, we misplaced ou notes on the food and wines. While we tried to reconstruct our meals from memory the following is the best we could do.
- Raincity Grill. This west side restaurant (with an integrated fish and chips stand) has a nice view of the English View Beach and the fun, people-friendly “A-Maze-Ing Laughter Artwork” public sculpture. We had a steamed Manila Clam appetizer, a very nice Halibut in a broth, an equally pleasing sautéed wild mushroom side and a very nice 2009 N’Knip B.C. pinot noir.
- Chambar is a very popular upper Yaletown restaurant that has three signature mussel dishes and a selection of fish, meat, and fowl entrees. We had the Moules Frites Congolaise in a tomato coconut cream broth, and a braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon & cilantro along with another B.C. pinot noir. Although both dishes were fine, we didn’t quite understand the fervor surrounding the restaurant. Blue Water Café is a large, very popular and expensive seafood restaurant in Yaletown. Although all people with whom we talked, spoke highly of the restaurant, they all cautioned us of the price. We had an imaginative and delicious Dungeness Crab + White Asparagus Panna Cotta, an equally good Sablefish with miso sake glaze, baby bok choy, edamame, quinoa, and shiitake mushrooms, accompanied by a B.C. pinot gris. It was well worth the price.
- Joe Fortes. This venerable (at least in the context of Vancouver), popular seafood house is located just off the Robson Street retail district. Our first impression was very off-putting. All of the tables were set with champagne glasses, The first time we saw our server, he suggested that we might like to begin with mimosas—implying (at least to us) that they were complementary. It was not until we specifically asked that he told us they were not. (In the restaurant and server’s defense, we did visit during Sunday brunch.) This being said, the service and the food were credible, if not particularly notable. The fried oysters, while a bit overdone for our taste, were serviceable. The cedar-plank grilled salmon with an edamame cabernet reduction sauce, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes was much more interesting. The lobster oil with balsamic served as an unusual and good accompaniment to the bread.
- Rodney’s Oyster House is a fun, informal food and drink bar with a selection of oysters (including $1.50 low tide “happy hour” oysters which pulled us in the door) and a limited menu of straightforward chowders, shellfish and fish dishes. We enjoyed a dozen Phantom Creek oysters and a bottle of Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris.
- Granville Island Public Market. Since we did not have time to both explore the shops and galleries area and enjoy a sit-down restaurant, we picked up several dishes from the Public Market. Although the market is certainly fun and has some very appetizing fresh meats, fish, and produce, prepared options were primarily fast food. We had a very credible and chicken-packed chicken noodle soup from a soup shop and an overly noodle-stuffed shrimp summer roll from an Asian stand.
Other Interesting Vancouver Restaurants
Unfortunately, every city has more interesting restaurants than even our appetites can accommodate. Some of the more interesting of these missed opportunities included:
- C Restaurant, (UPDATE: NOW CLOSED) a high-end seafood restaurant;
- L’abbitoire, French;
- Meat and Bread; fresh, local, sustainable meats on artisanal breads; and
- Café Medina; a breakfast/lunch sister restaurant to Chambar, whose only food is Belgian waffles, with a range of toppings.
Our Vancouver Hotel
Speaking of favorites, we were also very pleased with our hotel. The Georgian Court hotel was well appointed, had a pleasant, competent staff and comfortable beds. It is conveniently located between Yaletown and Gastown (not to speak—on Stanley Cup playoff weekend—of being even closer to the hockey arena). We totally enjoyed the hotel except for one thing—slow and spotty WiFi access. Even so, it is well worth considering. The cost was only about $150 per night, although this was with our convention discount.