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San Francisco/Oakland Hound's Report re Vancouver- very long!


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San Francisco/Oakland Hound's Report re Vancouver- very long!

jillyju | Jan 1, 2005 02:37 PM

Thanks to a lengthy study of the old posts on this site, as well as a query here about breakfasts, I just returned from a week of great eats and adventures in the gorgeous city of Vancouver.

Arriving Christmas Day, my first two meals in the city were a disappointment. The first, lunch, I had low expectations for, as I was eating in the hotel's bar/lounge (having just arrived, and being too tired to race right out into the pouring rain.) I stayed at The Georgia Hotel (Crowne Plaza), and while the tomato soup they served tasted homemade, the burger was terrible. It had a weird consistency that I still haven't figured out, and didn't quite taste as though it was made from actual beef. It was probably just as well that it was cooked to medium well, because that certainly killed off any stray organisms that might have been residing within. It wasn't possible to eat even half of it.

Dinner Christmas Eve was a bit difficult. Realizing that most places were closed, and that many others were booked up, I arranged for a late reservation at the Four Seasons for their Christmas buffet. It was $75 dollars, which doesn't hurt less if that's 75 Canadian dollars vs. U.S. dollars. There wasn't a single outstanding item on the buffet. The roast beef was serviceable, the turkey dry and tasteless. There was a seafood curry soup that was nice--the right mix of spice, which didn't overpower the crab. It was the only thing I actually enjoyed. The Asian influenced dishes all suffered from sitting out on steam tables and the like. An expensive bleh.

The rest of the visit provided more successful experiences. Based on enthusiasm from Chowhounders I had a buffet brunch one day at Heron's that was delicious. All the smoked fishes were the highlight-- in addition to salmon, there was mackerel and some sort of light/white fish. A prawn dish, slightly spicy, had perfectly cooked, large prawns--I ate more than a few of those. I recall some sort of chocolate, flourless cake that I tried which was delicious as well.

I ate twice at Hon's on Robson. The food both times was serviceable, but that was perfect under the circumstances. My vegetarian friend ordered a bean curd and vegetable dish, which I found a bit bland but that he was happy with, and an order of vegetarian pot stickers that I didn't try but that he also enjoyed. I had barbequed pork that was moist and tasty, pork pot stickers that I found average (not as flavorful as I would have liked--they could have used some ginger to enhance things), and a seafood and crispy noodle dish that was fine, though it needed more sauce in order to soften all the noodles.

I had breakfast at Paul's Omeletterie one day. I had an omelet with meat and cheese that I really enjoyed--I liked that the egg was very crêpe like, rather than thick and eggy. Another day my friend and I went to The Elbow Room. My friend ordered a 6-inch pancake, which arrived looking to be at least 12 inches. Naturally he couldn't finish it, so after being scolded by the waiter, my friend made a donation to an AIDS charity. I had eggs over easy with sausages--both of which were fine. The hash browns were horrible--I'm not sure how they were created, but let's just say I am working to block the memory from my mind.

Dinner at Bin 941 one night was mixed. I loved the food--I had mussels in a coconut curry, and the pommes frite. Both were tasty and enormous, way too much to eat by myself, and very reasonably priced. The downside of the experience was the crowd and the music. There was just too much of both, and I hadn't quite expected it. I arrived at about 8:30--you had to shout to be heard by the wait staff, and it was so crowded that it was hard to get from the front door to the back of the room where they had patrons waiting for tables. I waited about 30 minutes for a spot at the bar--and each of those thirty minutes I thought about leaving. I didn't only because I would have had to again run the gauntlet of chairs and people that I had tripped over on the way in.

The best meal by far was at West, where I had the early prix-fixe dinner. For $29.00, you get three courses, all of which are variations of items on the regular menu. They started off with an amuse bouche of a espresso cup full of soup that was warming, spicy, and sweet--it had apples and curry and sweet potato (I wish my memory was better--I'm slightly uncertain about the sweet potato. It might have been yam.) Then, for my first course I had a wild mushroom and truffle risotto that was the absolute highlight of the entire vacation. The Arborio rice was both creamy and still slightly al dente. It was splendid! The main course was slightly less successful. It was braised pork belly, served with creamy polenta and braising jus. Though I don't really care that much for polenta, it was just right for this dish, and bites of it that mixed with the braising jus were divine. The meat itself I found strangely uninteresting. It seemed to need something to liven the flavor a little, but I'm not sure what. Dessert was a dark chocolate mousse-like affair, with rasberry sorbet that was fantastic. There was a dark chocolate cookie on top that was just okay, but the rest was great. And with the bill were two little chocolate cookies and two dark chocolate truffles. I took them all back to the hotel room to be savored later. YUM!

I had dim sum at both Sun Sui Wah and at Imperial Chinese Seafood on Burrard. I enjoyed both, though the experiences suffered as a result of me traveling alone. I tried and enjoyed shrimp har gow (or ha gow) at both places, and couldn’t rate one over the other at this time. At both restaurants I also had a dumpling that I don’t know the proper name of—it’s got a glutinous rice casing, with minced meat inside, and it’s deep-fried. They’re shaped like little footballs, and I love them. I would say that I liked the ones at Imperial slightly more than the Sun Sui Wah ones. At Sun Sui Wah I also had steamed pork riblets with black bean sauce (good, not great) and sui mai that I thought were excellent. At Imperial I had a steamed dumpling that had crab and shrimp in it—I liked this a lot, though it didn’t send me into heaven, as I thought and hoped it might. I also had pan-fried radish cake there, which I found on the dry side, and somewhat tasteless. I’m sorry that I don’t know the Chinese names for most of these items.

For the sake of convenience, I had my only sushi meal at Kitto’s Japanese House on Granville. The hamachi and sockeye salmon nigiri were the standouts—both listed as specials that day. Lunch another day was at a Vietnamese place on Main Street. We were attempting to go to Sawasdee Thai, but it was mid-afternoon and it was closed. In a hunger induced fog, the group decided to go to this place instead, which was fine, though not memorable in any way. I also had a light lunch on Granville Island at Bridges, which I’d prefer to forget—terrible service and only marginally edible food. I should have stuck with the food stalls in the public market, which is what I did the other time I went to the Island.

Surprisingly, there was still time for lots of sightseeing, gallery and museum visiting, and the like. I loved my visit, and I’m forever grateful for the kindness of the Canadians, both on this board and in Vancouver, who made my visit such a success.


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