Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
1535 Johnston Street
Much like an undercover agent infiltrating a tightly closed society, there are times when I deliberately jump right into the most touristy spots I can think of to try and get a sense of what drives non-locals to visit such eating establishments. More often than not, these kind of places are always touted and raved about by the native city’s mainstream media and publications, that surprisingly have far reaching audiences. Chalk it up to the incredibly connected and digital world we live in. In the past twelve years, I’ve had the pleasure of setting up a home base in four major cities now and in each one, I’ve conducted a similar exercise just for fun. Here in Vancouver, The Sandbar rated high on my list of tourist traps.
However this time, I had some out of town visitors in tow with me as I guided them around the markets at Granville Island and rather than bother with making a long stroll back to the vehicle we came in, I popped inside up and up the stairs to see if we could get a table on short notice. Being that it was a beautiful summer day, I had my doubts we could get one on the outdoor patio and that ended up being the case. Instead we were seated just inside, but the view of the water below was pretty much obscured. For visitors, provided you get a good stroll around the Island ahead of dinner, I think you can pretty much picture the view you could have if seated on the rail on the patio.
29th Avenue Cafe
4441 Boundary Road
Situated in a completely unexpected location is the reincarnation of the former Yoshoku-ya that lived along Denman Street downtown and was home to many fans of the homey Japanese-Western cuisine of the same name. I was surprised to spot the bold signage trumpeting its opening on a drive along busy Boundary Road and popped in for a dinner earlier this summer. With ample parking in a lot nearby (or on the street in front or behind in a residential area), visiting this place with a vehicle is much more easier on one’s sanity than it was back in its previous spot in Vancouver.
If you happen to walk by, the big glass windows can give you a clear sense of what to expect – a no nonsense, rather simple decor with ample spacing between tables so as not to feel overly close to strangers. I guess when you leave the downtown core, the cost per square foot for rent drops dramatically, thus allowing a proprietor to be more generous with the elbow room, which is certainly appreciated by some. Added to the welcoming tone is a big poster of the dishes you can find on the menu, including an array of photos of the actual plating as well. I imagine this can come in handy for those who have no idea what is meant by the advertised yoshoku cuisine.
#701 9th Street NW
As I am sure many of you are aware, the northeastern States have endured quite a few battles with Mother Nature this summer – including some blistering hot heat waves, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, and Hurricane Irene. Fortunate for me, I was only around for one of those events and managed to get safely in and out of the nation’s capital, and enjoyed some good eating along the way. While this will be a pictureless-post due to my not wanting to whip out my cell phone during this particular meal, I still wanted to put some thoughts down and share my experience at Zaytinya, which offers Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine.
Mediterranean cooking is not something I indulge in a great deal but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised by the boldness of flavors that can be captured by a talented kitchen. In the case of Zaytinya, their celebrated chef is José Andrés, recently named this past spring as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation at their annual awards gala in New York City. The restaurant is clearly on the popular destination list by locals and visitors alike. Without a proper reservation, we had to wait a little while at the bar (where you can still get food), before a table opened up for us later in the night.
Go Fish Ocean Emporium
1505 W 1st Avenue
“Thirty minute wait for anything fried and ten minutes for the grilled items”. That’s what was being hollered out to the still not fully depleted lineup as the last business hour of the day approached this fine sunny weekend day. With hungry bellies, our rat pack of five quickly huddled and decided we’d opt for the healthier and quicker grilled menu choices, and that was by no means a default as these creations as you’ll see here did not disappoint or a downgrade to the more popular deep fried dishes like their fish ‘n chips.
In reality, the wait was indeed longer than advertised, but I assumed their time clock began once they could actually begin cooking your order, and not from the point of time when the order was actually received and paid for at the til. But with the nearby bench seating providing a view like this, the clock moving slowly isn’t all bad…
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
601 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar. As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.
There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally. With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen. Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.
Dairy Lane Cafe
319 19 St NW
Nestled on a quiet street situated close to a residential neighborhood (from what I could see behind the parking lot of the building where the car I arrived in was parked), the Dairy Lane Cafe was our choice for an impromptu lunch just ahead of the madness which is the start of Stampede. As such, I was quite surprised to find a packed inside seating area, as well as all the available spots being taken up on the uncovered tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the building.
It didn’t seem like it was anywhere near any walk up traffic from the office worker crowd, but yet still busy at the noon hour. Scanning the relaxed attire of those eating already, it was clear to me that this was a casual, homey spot for clean honest grub for those who might more often than not, just live around the corner – some younger ladies who seemed to be out for a bite to eat with their girlfriends, to some guys who obviously fell into the hipster genre given their tight fitting attire and attitude, as well as strangely enough, some rougher dressed fellows who if I were to assume from the paint on their overalls, were some tradesmen on break for something to eat while on the day job.
The spot came recommended by locals and was described to me as a throwback to simpler times and with operators very keen on the whole “produced local” attitude, and knowing where their ingredients came from. The space was not very large inside and staffed seemingly by just two busy servers. Some large framed pictures hung on the wall reminded me of a by-gone era in rural Alberta, catching my eye enough to snap a photo myself. If I were to compare the looks and feel of this place to anywhere in Vancouver, I would say something like Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop in Kits comes to mind.
Burgers Etc. BBQ House
4091 Hastings Street
Summer is here on the west coast and its amazing so far! When this season comes around I believe that barbecuing and burgers for the most part, come front and center to many people’s eating patterns…
I hadn’t realized that this business along east Hastings was one that was so well covered already in the past by numerous other local bloggers, so I won’t delve too deeply into the history or general background in this post. The colorful exterior of this building is one that I’ve passed by many times on trips to the SFU area and I finally made a stopover after a morning spent out hiking in North Van. For a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to see a few customers already inside and a few more straggled in after me. Its not too large a dining area and tight fitting along the window perhaps. Simple and neat is how I’d sum it up. A typical burger shack.
With the single minded focus that I had to order a basic hamburger here, that is indeed what I called for when the portly waitress came to chat me up. I must admit though, I did flicker for a brief second when I saw the pulled pork as well as beef brisket sandwiches, considering I did see BBQ House on their front signage. Perhaps another day.
838 Thurlow Street
In the past, I’ve touched on various reasons why despite the surge of popularity (which is a good thing) and the burgeoning mainstream acceptance of this concept of Japanese drinking-dining in Vancouver that I don’t regularly frequent them, in particular the better known ones that have been exposed in major media outlets. I won’t rehash them all here for the sake of brevity and for not sounding like a broken record. And let me add that it is just my personal feel and thoughts on this topic, not to say they shouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone out there and I’d ask you continue to support the businesses out there that serve this transplanted, albeit North Americanized-style of going out on the town.
So when an old friend and his colleague visiting from the east coast (Washington, DC in fact) that I hadn’t seen in over 12 years let me know he’d be making a short business trip to our fair city on the other side of the continent and would be housed up in a hotel not far from Robson Street, he asked me to give him some ideas of where to eat while in town. Better yet, he wondered if there were any Japanese places that could help us relieve our brief time together spent in Tokyo oh those many years ago. That instantly brought back some flashbacks of too many crazy nights in the local izakaya around our flat, and the mad dashes to catch the last train home when we ventured a bit further out for some binge-focused evenings of drinking and eating. Ah, to be young again.
346-2 Ha-dong, Gyeongju City
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
After a morning spent outdoors in the sweltering summer heat taking in some live acrobatic performances and a long walk around the touristy Shilla Millenium Park, we headed back to the cooling comforts of our air conditioned car and sought out more places on my native host’s list of places to eat at. A simple search in the auto’s GPS device turned up another location that was not too far away and so off we went. Best known as a restaurant that specializes in dishes that contain beans (soybeans, peas, lentils, etc.), Kongerang was set just off the main road that passed by it. It was situated in an older looking, traditionally-built Korean country home.
An ample parking lot was situated right on its parcel of land and it was full of cars! A young man (who’s job I would never want) was sitting on a folding chair on the side of the road and as we approached, he came to our driver side window and explained their parking system. Essentially, there were no open spots available now (and thus no unoccupied tables inside), but he was soon on his headset conversing with someone inside and gave us an estimated wait time of thirty minutes. He allowed us to park on the shoulder of the street, and as one car left the lot, we were permitted to move the car onto the rocky stone-lined parkade. This however did not mean our table was ready yet, but this place was prepared as they had a large tented (and air conditioned) area towards the back where other waiting patrons were patiently sitting. Later on, a voice came out over the speaker inside noting our number and we then proceeded into the building housing the restaurant where our freshly set table was waiting. A swift and efficient system!
Hosoonyi Tofu Restaurant
23830 Highway 99
Diverting off the I-5 near Lake Ballinger and hitting the Pacific (or #99) Highway, passing by what seems to be an endless number of places that are in love with the flavour of teriyaki, you can discover a fairly well known Korean restaurant called Hosoonyi that specializes in sundubu jjigae. This spicy hot stew is a classic dish in Korea, eaten for lunch or dinner, alongside a bowl of steamed white rice and of course, the usual roundup of side dishes (banchan). So with the good things I’d heard about it, I was quite excited to have a meal here on a return trip from Seattle.
From the outside, it looks nothing particularly spectacular, nestled inside a secluded complex housing other eateries such as what I believe was either a Vietnamese pho place or a bubble tea shop. There is a decent sized parking lot surrounding the area for customers, as it seems a vehicle is required for getting here. At the dinner hour, the room was quite full of customers, young and old, singles and families. Usually a good and reliable sign that the food is good.
77 10th Street
New Westminster, BC
East side, West side? What does it all matter when we all live a thug’s life.
Foodosophy reader Tee and I often joke about the reputation that certain places in the GVRD hold and New West is sometimes the target of our remarks about the madness that occupies some young people’s lives in their quest to get rich quick, and how sadly they end up living that lifestyle for only a very short time before they are “eliminated”.
Overcoming any “fears” we have of traveling out to this place via the sometimes sketchy Skytrain, we ended up at this mecca for burgers, otherwise known as Burger Heaven. With a long tradition of serving up this North American classic – I recall our server saying they’ve been at it for 26 years – we knew that it was worth checking out. Open at 11am daily, it was the early afternoon when we stepped inside and several tables were occupied.
Quickly now, what comes to your mind when you hear the words French Cuisine?
For me, fine dining, regional, and an assortment of French translations for common ingredients that are clearly the fading remnants of my eight plus years of childhood education in the language come rushing out at me.
Now do the same for say, Italian or Chinese. I’m sure strong images pop into your mind, mainly of the favorable variety, including some great dishes or full meals you’ve had associated with the countries from which they came.
And how about British food?
Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Ave
One of the several pre-trip, researched spots on my food adventures in Hawaii was Waiola. It was also noted by someone I know who has a residence in Honolulu that it was along the same road as some others I’d asked him about, so as far as location went, it was perfect.
In a pretty run down looking building, complete with some garish plastic banners and graffiti, Waiola is mainly about the shave ice desserts. Nothing more refreshing on a hot summer Hawaiian day. A few other customers came in while we were there, along with a delivery guy who brought in huge cubes of solid ice.
Stepping inside does nothing to improve the sense of it having a dated and in need of a refresh design. But this is part of the appeal of the place, knowing that despite its popularity and well known name, they haven’t plugged the money into expensive furnishings or makeovers. At the same time, they’re not avert to plastering the joint with pages from various media publications that have reviewed or profiled the place.
With anywhere from thirty to forty toppings and flavors, Waiola can probably meet any craving you have for a tasty shave ice. With its distinct soft, fine shavings, I tell you they are addictive. And you get none of that dreaded “brain freeze” from say a more liquidly-ice concoction. We tried a trio of flavors. Pictured above, the adzuki (Japanese sweet bean) and mochi (Japanese rice cake balls) combination. Easily the version among the three we ordered with the most interesting textures with each bite, and the sweetness was not too strong.
In comparison, this pineapple-flavored very basic shave ice was cleaner in taste profile and probably more refreshing as there was less to have to chew. The fine shavings once again proved to be excellent – and I enjoyed this one more than the one I had at Island Freeze days earlier, thus confirming that Waiola is one of the best shave ice joints on the island.
Lastly, another Japanese-influenced flavoring in the matcha with mochi provided yet another twist. Almost like a blended coffee-like drink as the flavoring was “heavier” than just the pineapple syrup of the other dish above.
So as you can see, this was just a sample of a few varieties of shave ice to be had at Waiola. I’m sure there are many more interesting combinations to choose from, and perhaps if you make a visit, you can try them out for yourself. If there are any readers who have any recommendations, please do leave them in our comment box for this post!
1459 West Broadway
With my usual favorite special occasion Vancouver restaurant no longer around (Parkside), I opted to book a table at Cru after considering a few other options. With its deep list of accolades and press clippings, Cru has established itself as one of the city’s most popular destinations for Pacific Northwest and small plate cuisine. And the prominent wine bar makes for an interesting arrangement and use of the long narrow dining space.
Given its reputation and relative close access to shopping areas (Granville Street) and performance venues (the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage as an example), reservations are an almost must at Cru, even on weeknights. On this night, the place was full, with younger couples on dates, multi-generational family members out for a meal, and businessmen winding down after a long day at the office. To keep things easy and balanced between the two of us, we chose the Prix Fixe Menu ($42 pp), paired with some wines by the glass.
Unfortunately, the setting wasn’t feeling good for whipping out the pocket camera given the very close seating arrangements with the tables on both sides. Besides, this meal was less about a post for Foodosophy and more to enjoy the company and evening, so please forgive the missing first course photographs. Just as a footnote, the appetizers eaten were the Soup of the Day which was a mild tasting cucumber-based creation which was very smooth; and the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with caperberries, truffle aioli and shaved parmesan, which was pleasantly larger than I thought it would be and full of interesting flavors and textures.
A little later into our meal and the larger group to one side departed and by then I thought it would be okay to snap some images…
As one of the mains, the Smoked Pork Tenderloin with braised pork shoulder, baby squash and gnocchi was the heartiest of our shared dishes. The meat was well cooked and tender, with a good crust built up on the outside. The accompanying mix of veggies added to the “summery” feel of the dish, especially the grilled baby squash.
The Pan-seared Halibut coupled with morel mushrooms and roasted fingerling potatoes, drizzled with orange hazelnut brown butter, was again well cooked and had a firm crust on one side. Perhaps a touch on the salty side in seasoning though for some people. I enjoyed this dish perhaps more so than the pork, maybe for the fact that I usually don’t enjoy cooked halibut but they do it very well at Cru.
To close, the pair of desserts included the Classic Creme Brulee and…
… a trio selection of hand-turned Sorbets. I believe it was raspberry, lemon and lime(?). Both met the seal of approval from my dining companion who is more of a dessert fan than I will ever be.
After our dining experience, we quickly decided we’d add Cru to our list of staple restaurants. Perhaps not one to visit very frequently, but for a night when a relaxed, cozy, delicious dinner is required, this place certainly fits the bill.
933 Kapahulu Avenue
The story of this local Hawaiian icon weaves through a touching tale of immigration from far away lands in the late-19th century, family ties, hard work, and the origins of how this popular Portuguese confection came to the Islands. I always love hearing the background of ethnic foods/restaurants transplanted to other countries.
Leonard’s bake shop required a larger sized, modern facility in the late 1950′s, and has been in their current location on Kapahulu Avenue ever since. It clearly has that era’s old school feel to it, from the moment you see the overhanging rafter with a pair of benches to sit on to enjoy your purchases inside, if you’re lucky. The parking lot can get busy as well, and I even witnessed a fender bender between two cars that were jostling to use one spot.
The L-shaped counter where you place your order with the staff is filled with various baked goods, but I think most people are here for the Malasadas. These deep fried, doughy balls of goodness coated in sugar are obviously not for the health conscious among us.
In general, Malasadas don’t have that distinct hole in the middle like doughnuts do, but some do have fillings (at Leonard’s they had custard, chocolate and coconut). As pictured in one of the signs on the counter, this month’s special was Lilikoi (a tart-tasting grapefruit/passion fruit native to many parts of Latin America, areas in the Pacific and even Africa).
As they are freshly made in the back, once you give your order, they come out boxed and ready to go. I’d recommend you get a few of each type, those dusted with white sugar, cinnamon sugar, and some with the fillings, to get a taste of each type available.
I think this is a growing trend, mainly to increase revenues from other sources when a food brand establishes itself, and Leonard’s also had peripheral goods for sale, including t-shirts. There was one design my friend liked, but unfortunately they were out of his size.
Without a space to enjoy our bounty, our group walked down the street back towards Waikiki, and found the air conditioned comforts of a seating area within a Safeway store. The aroma emerging from the open boxes flooded the space and we got the attention of several neighbors, who no doubt knew what we had.
The light but slightly crispy exterior and the fluffy inside was still quite warm when I bit into my first plain Malasada. The texture was not as dense as I thought, which made for eating more than one in a single sitting quite easy. I found the custard-filled variety equally as pleasing, and the slight coolness of the filling provided a contrast to the warmth of the dough. Oh, and the Lilikoi one we sampled, was pretty good too. I think combined with my tasting of Lilikoi mustard at Puka Dog, I’ve become quite the fan of this exotic fruit.