Sandbar – Vancouver, BC


Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
1535 Johnston Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 669-9030

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.

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Shogun – Edmonton, AB


Shogun Japanese Restaurant
10125 – 121 Street NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 488-9757

With one of the oldest pedigrees when it comes to  serving Japanese cuisine in Edmonton  (in particular being home to the first real full-fledged sushi bar in the city) and still in the same location when it opened back in 1983, Shogun is one of the real classics that has survived the test of time.  Despite this longevity, I have a sense its not really well known by local bloggers as I don’t really hear much about it through other sources.  If you’ve been around as long as yours truly has and are as familiar with the Alberta capital, you might recall the current major longtime stalwart in the Japanese food genre in Edmonton, Mikado, did have a much smaller location on the north side (not the present flagship spot near Grant MacEwan),  also in the Eighties.  But it was Shogun who really brought to Edmonton a full scale Japanese restaurant complete with the culture-crossing phenomenon better known as teppanyaki.

Inside some of the display cases lining the restaurant floor, you’ll find some of the artifacts of yesteryear; Polaroids of some of the local celebrities that frequented the place back in the day.  Personally, I still have some autographs direct from the hands of the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe from the early- Eighties that I collected from them when they were spotted dining here numerous times during those Oiler glory days (including one from their night of dining on New Year’s Eve 1984!).  The decor hadn’t really changed much from its early days – the dark wood beams, the noren, the general layout of the tables and tatami rooms.  Though I did note that in the ten years since I last came here, the sushi bar is now at the front of the house, where the former bar/lounge used to be.

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Sushi Bar Zipang – Calgary, AB


Sushi Bar Zipang
1010 1 Ave NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-1888

Its unfortunate, but even those places that were once held in good regard – and for sushi in a place like Calgary – for me, it was Zipang out in Bridgeland – times can change.  It used to be the best of a mediocre lot.  ‘Big fish in a small pond’ for sushi kind of thing.  On a recent return to the southern Alberta city, I made my way down to their sushi bar again for a quick early dinner, hoping that I could get an acceptable showing from them as in previous years…

Inside it was pretty packed, busier than I usually remembered it being.  I guess word has gotten out that it (was) decent.   I did notice that the guys behind the counter were different from the fellows who served me in the past – younger and seemingly less experienced.  Families and groups of friends seemed to be the general clientele on this weekday dinner session and there was a good buzz in the room of conversation.  However, once some folks departed the lack of any kind of soft toned music playing in the background reduced the place to an almost eerie environment, which could probably use some improvement.

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