Gyu-Kaku – Vancouver, BC


Gyu-Kaku
888 Nelson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 558-3885

With shrinking domestic markets and consumption, combined with growing awareness and demands overseas, we’re seeing more new entrants in various industries reach our borders.  Rumors of Japan’s massive clothing retailer Uniqlo apparently coming soon to Vancouver is one.  American’s Target and Nordstrom are also prime examples.  And the focus of this piece, the 600+ strong (in Japan) yakiniku chain Gyu-Kaku has steadily made its way with outposts in Asia and the US.  Canada was chosen as their beachhead into Canada, specifically downtown Vancouver.

Having been to several of their locations in Japan over the years on lazy meal nights when I was craving meat, news of Gyu-Kaku’s arrival in Vancouver personally didn’t excite me a great deal.  Its like a Vancouverite getting excited about a Cactus Club visit I suppose.  When its around you and very ubiquitous, the allure is simply not as high. So my eventual visit was even a random, impromptu one just last week.  I came away from the dinner pleased overall and with no major complaints and with a clear understanding it can’t be 100% replicated overseas.  From the very full room on a rainy, mid-week evening, its clear they have established a solid clientele already.  Kudos!

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Maggiano’s Little Italy – Las Vegas, NV


Maggiano’s Little Italy
3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 732-2550

This gambling and entertainment mecca probably has the best and worst of what America has to offer from a culinary perspective.  From absurdly priced, high end celebrity chef fronted establishments to the ultra cheap diners and fast food stands, there is no shortage of food in Las Vegas.  It all depends on what you are wiling to pay, the level of your palate, and perhaps even the level of success (or lack of) you’ve had in the casinos.

Strangely enough, I’ve dined at Maggiano’s in an entirely different city – Orlando, FL, just last year.  By chance, I came across it again on a hurried trip to the Fashion Mall to pick up something before jumping in a taxi to head to the airport and leave town.  I had some mates in tow who were also in a rushed state to do some last minute shopping for the folks back home, and so we dipped in for a late lunch.  As I wasn’t feeling overly hungry and did not want to feel bloated while sitting in an airplane for the next few hours, I chose just from the appetizers list.

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Tacolicious – San Francisco, CA


Tacolicious
2031 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 346-1966

Sometimes just the name of a place gives you a sense of what you might expect.  At times this is good and at others, well not so.  I agree that setting yourself up for a meal like this isn’t the wisest thing to do, as its really just “judging a book by its cover”.  With no facts or proof to make a case either way.  But I suppose it builds the advice case for owners – pick a name, and research it well, before you plaster it on everything your restaurant will represent.  It could have inherent or unexpected nuances or meanings that you weren’t aware of and then its too late…

So being told by my dining mates that we’d be going to a place called Tacolicious after a long day of work, and the main chooser not someone I’ve really gone out to dinner with before this evening, I had my doubts before I even hopped into the taxi that would take me there from my hotel.  I wasn’t aware of the research or thought that went into this decision, and I had no time to do any checking of my own before rushing out to join them, so I couldn’t really complain.  From the sidewalk, it looked like nothing special.  A smallish-looking space in fact.  With just this one side with a window to glimpse inside.

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Hapa Izakaya – Vancouver, BC


Hapa Izakaya (Robson)
1479 Robson St Map
Vancouver, BC
(604) 689-4272

Clearly, with all of the attention this long standing location has received over the years in local publications as well as by online bloggers, it would perhaps seem strange to some that there has not been a post made here on foodosophy, despite our group’s well known love for the izakaya genre.

I cannot attest to the experience of the other contributors here, but personally, I must have passed by the front of this business 20~30 times over the last several years.  And among these, I can only recall stepping inside to check out the scene and/or consider dining inside, mainly out of curiosity, a handful of times.  Its just never really struck me as a place I need to check off my dining list.  For whatever reason.

Further, I can count on one hand the number of occasions when I made my mind up to really taste the food/sample the drinks here, but decided to turn around after some very spotty service – mainly the lack of attention from any of the staff upon stepping inside and vocally/visually making signs that I wanted to be seated.  I can clearly recall this happening at least three times now.  And on this last visit, it happened again.

But we stuck around trying to get someone to see us waiting, going beyond my usual patience level.  Even flagging down one of the wait staff and being told she’d be back, only to be ignored again.  After literally grabbing the next girl that came near us and demanding we get a table (there were several open), we were finally seated.

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Serious Pie – Seattle, WA


Serious Pie
316 Virginia Street
Seattle, WA
(206) 838-7388

There are definitely folks out there who take their pizza seriously.  It’s no joking matter to them.  From the in-depth discussions about the best kinds of flour to use, the optimal oven environments and of course the ideal toppings to make the perfect pie, the discussion will never result in everyone agreeing on one definitive pizza as the “best”.  At foodosophy, we’ve certainly not been shy about expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences at various pizzerias around North America as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Wow, that was a lot.  And not all of them either. :)

Now from the Tom Douglas empire comes a boldly named enterprise that would apparently be an apt gathering spot for interesting gourmands willing and able to discuss all things pizza.  Serious Pie.  Just adore that name.  On this visit to Seattle, we had this particular address programmed into our minds but by shear chance, we walked right past the other location in South Lake Union, after checking out the nearby Tesla car showroom.  But keeping with our agenda, we hoofed it back to Virginia Street as we weren’t quite hungry yet after our late morning meal back at Toulouse Petit.

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Guu With Garlic – Vancouver, BC


Guu With Garlic
1698 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 685-8678

It would seem I’m slowly making my way to checking out all those izakaya that I’ve heard about the past five years or so that I’ve subconsciously been avoiding deliberately since I perhaps harbor some  bias in that I will no doubt mentally compare them to all the great ones I’ve been to in Japan.  Alas, Guu seems to have won me over as I’ve now been to several of their stations and will perhaps make my rounds to them all one day.  This particular visit was the back end of a night out with an old friend visiting Vancouver for a short business trip.  In reality in keeping with true Japanese salaryman tradition, we should have reversed the order, but oh well.

Immediately after our hearty meal, I’m surprised we were able to down a short but steady stream of nama beeruAsahi was the pick on this evening.  A visit to an izakaya just wouldn’t be the same without some cold ones, so once again, glancing over the the folks seated at the counter bar with us who were just drinking water just made me shake my head.  Its like dressing up to go to the ball, but not engaging in any dancing, I just don’t understand.   :)

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Japadog (Waterfront Station) – Vancouver, BC


Japadog (Waterfront Station)
600 W Cordova St
Vancouver, BC

Much is already out there about the Japadog phenomenon.  Your truly has had his fair share of dogs at some of their outlets, but this one at the Waterfront Station was a first timer.  Melding in with the throngs of visiting tourists fresh off the cruise ship and wandering around Gastown was interesting to say the least, and I could do some casual observing of how they interacted with our fair city.  A few minutes near the Japadog cart was a key highlight.  I’m sure many of them had no clue what was going on or being offered here.

I haven’t bothered to keep up to date with the latest flavor combinations but this #6 on the menu board, the Gokudare, seemed something fresh.  I should have investigated further.  But alas, I got drawn to the classics.  This time the #2, Kurobuta.  I love how they have dubbed it the MVP – the Most Valuable Pork.  I’m torn if that’s the result of a clever play on words or some odd Engrish creation…

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