Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Perfect Food-Filled Weekend in Vancouver

We are ALWAYS thrilled to visit Vancouver - not only do we get to see our friends and enjoy the ocean/mountains/fresh air but also because there is SOOOOO much good food! We have loved eating around Toronto, but the seafood and sushi on the coast just can't be beat. I also think Vancouver has the best foodie value, we were always surprised how inexpensive our meals were. So here was our eating extravaganza!!

We had a simple sushi lunch at Tokyo John on Cambie with our friends and their new baby. I had never been there before but it was delicious. Highlight: brown rice sushi! The sashimi lunch was not quite enough for Tony, so we made our way to Richmond for some afternoon munchies. First, Excellent Tofu, run by an adorable Chinese couple who make all the tofu FRESH - if you haven't been you must! There is always a steady stream of people in this little hole in the wall, young and old, a testament to the delicious food. Not bad for a restaurant that primarily just serves tofu! Next, Aberdeen Mall for mango shaved ice and "egg balls" (gai dan jai). Shaved ice is an amazing dessert, literally made by finely shaving a block of flavoured ice - it is light, fluffy, and refreshing. The food court at Aberdeen has plenty of good food to be found if you ever need to pit stop for a quick meal.

We took our friend and gracious host, Cassandra, to Market by Jean-Georges at the new Shangri-la for dinner. The restaurant has an "old school" crowd and feel, fitting of the Shangri-la. It was hopping on a Thursday night; however, I found it a bit noisy for chatting over dinner - I had trouble listening to Cass sitting right next to me. To start, we had seared scallops, bacon wrapped shrimp, and foie gras brulee. Sable fish in sweet & sour broth, lobster & potato gnocchi, and halibut in almond broth were our mains. We enjoyed our meals, but overall, it was only satisfactory. The food is VERY reasonably price, and delicious, but not spectacular or exceptionally unique. It is my humble opinion that there is better food to be had in Vancouver, a disappointment for Jean-Georges.

We met our friends for a ramen lunch at Motomachi Shokudo on Denman (owned by Kintaro). This place was UNBELIEVEABLE. We had abandoned Kintaro as a regular Vancouver foodie stop because we always felt like our heart stopped after inhaling the delicious ramen (don't get me wrong, it is still really really tasty), but our friends introduced us to this amazing place just a couple doors down. It is a healthy alternative to Kintaro's pork based broth, made instead with organic chicken, and features unique ramen like bamboo-charcoal, said to be healthy for the digestive system, and spicy miso ramen. And all ramen is not the same, different "thickness" is served with each variety of soup. We also had delicious gyozas here - some of the best I have had. Authentic, healthy, inexpensive and delicious! We couldn't resist going back for a 2nd meal before we flew back to Toronto.

Most of my friends already know Hapa Izakaya is one of my favourite spots in Vancouver, and we were thrilled to meet our friends Sam and Surina there for a night of good food and drinks. Highlights (and favourites): pork belly, ebi mayo, and spicy cod roe udon. I could eat that udon everyday! Did I mention Hapa also has the most amazing saketinis? While these tapa restaurants now flood Vancouver, they cannot be found anywhere else. What a great night this was, topped off with casual drinks at Lobby at Shangri-la, a quieter alternative to Market.

Although most of our day was filled with wedding festivities, we managed to squeak in brunch with Lorena at Crepe Bretagne. We stuffed ourselves with savoury crepes: I had breakfast eggs, cheese and sausage; Lorena had ratatouille; Tony had mushrooms, asparagus, and chicken au gratin. This is a more authentic and cozier experience than the popular Cafe Crepe. An honourable mention for food was the delicious lasanga we had at the wedding reception, at Famee Furlane. The lasanga, the 2nd course, was surely handmade by the little Italian ladies we saw in the kitchen, because it was amazing! There were many many layers and it was incredibly light.

By now, I was sure I had already gained 5 pds! But that didn't stop us from having lunch with our friends at Guu with Garlic. Tony and I were thrilled to see Loco Moco on the menu - something we discovered in Hawaii (rice topped with a burger patti, egg, mushroom and gravy!). We had two pizzas (the spicy cod roe version was better than the spicy prawn), and 2 loco moco's (minced pork was better than garlic steak).

And perhaps the highlight of the weekend, we found ourselves at The Cannery on Sunday night. I was sad to learn that it is their last year of business in the current location, on the East Side on Port land. Ever since 9/11, security has been exceptionally tight at the Port and it has been difficult to access the restaurant (you have to clear security first!). They are finally kicking them out - how will Cannery ever find another location with such charm? The view is irreplaceable, set uniquely against the rail yard and really...in the middle of nowhere. Where-ever they may move, it will not be the same. The Cannery's lobster oil is to die for - we devoured the bread instantly, in a race to dip/absorb the most lobster oil - you can taste the lobster! We also started with lobster bisque, which I believe is the best in the world, and a unique oyster motoyaki flavoured with mild wasabi. Tony and I had the seafood platter as mains - why not take advantage of being on the coast, right? It included a lobster, crab, mussels, shrimp, wild salmon and smoked black cod. Needless to say, we were fully satisfied and stuffed by the time we left. The food was fresh and tasty - the crab and lobster fell out of its shells, and the fish was flavourful and filling. Not only do I love the food and the view, but also the exceptional service. We never filled our own wine glasses (I don't even know when we finished!) and our waiter was both personal and professional. For anyone who lives in Vancouver, or will be in Vancouver this year, you MUST make your way to experience the Cannery before they are gone! It truly is an institution and it will be a sad day when the doors close.

We left Vancouver full and happy - I miss the little tapa places, the fresh seafood and sushi, and the great friends we have. Thanks to everyone who made time for us and joining us on our eating adventure!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eating at the AGO: FRANK

FRANK opened at the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario (a Frank Gehry building!) many months ago, but despite being only a couple blocks away, we have not made our way there - largely because of mixed reviews and my bias against restaurants in hotels/museums/towers etc...I figure the novelty is always inversely related to the quality of the food since it is not their primary raison d'etre. We decided to give it a try anyways and had brunch there last week with our friend and realtor, Holly.

Our food:
- we started by munching on some fries and mushroom perogies. Although the fries were not spectacular, I did like the apple mayo it was served with!
- trout potato hash with poached egg: this was voted the winner all around - the dish was a delicious mix of smoked trout, potato, hollandaise and an expertly poached egg.
- truffled eggs: this was my original item of choice, but it turned out to be fairly disappointing despite my love of ANYTHING with truffle oil. It wasn't quite enough, and there was nothing but egg and a bit of mushrooms.
- seafood pot pie: I enjoyed this comfort dish and it was a nice change from "chicken."

Overall, I thought the brunch was good, there are a couple items I'd like to go back and try. It's a chic place to hang out on a late Sunday afternoon with friends to catch up; but, it was relatively pricey for a casual brunch. The restaurant also did not demonstrate any unique aspects relating it to the AGO or Frank Gehry other than simply being in the same building and sporting his name - it could have been a restaurant anywhere, which was a pity and waste of the space. And randomly, I loved the tea pot and cup I was served with - too bad they didn't sell it in the museum shop, I definitely would have taken it home!