Vancouver has a large offering of diverse restaurants, representing the farm to table scene, haute cuisine, many ethnic options, and of course seafood. With only 36 hours to eat between sightseeing, I had a difficult time deciding how to allocate the room in my belly, but I did my best to sample as much as I could. I do wish I had time, and about 10 other people, to share a good Chinese meal with as the Chinese are by far the largest minority population in Vancouver. I heard the Chinese food is actually not very good in their Chinatown, even though it's one of the largest in North America. The best Chinese was supposed to be in Richmond, which was a train ride away, and gives me a good reason to return.
I started big and tried Vancouver magazine's winner of best upscale restaurant this year, Hawksworth. Hawksworth is located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The dining room was a bit lifeless and sterile to me, so I opted for eating in the more lively bar area.
The menu is interesting and luckily the servers are friendly so they helped steer me to the restaurant's high notes and unique dishes, like the "KFC" pan seared scallops that was much better than anything I ever picked up from the Colonel. It included crisp, fried cauliflower with coriander, a green apple puree and sesame. It was a really nice combination of textures and tastes.
This was just a warm up for the complex soy roasted sablefish which was sitting on a mound of pork dumplings and wilted pea tendrils, topped with their secret xo sauce. The fish with the sauce reminded me of a well-prepared miso cod. There was even a melange of corn and shiitake mushrooms in the mix. There was a lot going on, but I loved all the Asian flavors.
I had to skip dessert to prepare for the next day's marathon food fest. Breakfast started at the Granville Island Market, where I laid a good foundation of fresh fruit before kicking into gear.
I managed to hold out to eat oysters until I hit Rodney's in Yaletown.
I only wanted to eat local oysters, so the boys of Rodney's helped me pick 3 different kinds that were all from the area.
This is where I met the Bulgarian who has lived and traveled all over the world, but keeps coming back to Vancouver because nothing compares for him. I just hope he keeps all of his fingers from the oyster shucking. They also grate their own horseradish which you can smell before it hits your plate.
They have a half dozen homemade bottled sauces you can try with the oysters and their fresh, crusty, walnut bread. It was an interesting range of flavors, but I thought the quality of the oysters was so good that it didn't need anything but a little lemon.
The oysters were fabulous and all completely different from each other. Some were salty and some were rich and creamy. The shells and sizes were also ran the gamut.
The Shikgoku were my favorite, followed closely by the very local Stellar Bay.
Please note the light bites I've eaten so far, because I'm about to kick it up a notch, or down a notch, depending on your opinion of something called Japadog.
Japadog was started in Vancouver in 2005 by a Japanese couple who left their country to try and make it big in Canada with a hot dog stand. But these aren't just any kind of hot dogs. There are ingredients on the dog like seaweed, kimchee, Japanese noodles, and you can even get a deep fried bun filled with ice cream.
I went with the classic Beef Terimayo, which included fried onions, seaweed, terriyaki sauce and Japanese mayo. Yes, I was skeptical too, but when I saw the continuous lines outside of one of their stands, I had to check it out.
I'd like to say that I just had a few bites for research purposes, but this would not be true. There was barely a crumb of seaweed left when I finished. They now have 6 locations including one just opened in NY, so NYers, enjoy!
Where else do you go after that, but for some dessert. I had heard there was a fabulous spot for gelato in Vancouver, so after running for blocks to make room, I paid Bella Gelateria a visit.
Everything is made from scratch using the true Italian equipment, and you pay the price too. It ain't cheap and it was pretty crowded, but I needed time to digest anyway. I went for the different black sesame which I had heard was notable, along with salted caramel. I haven't stopped loving salted caramel since I left Paris.
The creamy texture was nice, but I found the flavor lacking. The salted caramel tasted very plain, and the sesame was more savory, but I really wasn't much of a fan. This I didn't finish. Yes, I preferred my Japadog to the authentic Italian gelato.
Luckily it stays light until almost 11pm, so there's still time for dinner. I chose the funky L'Abattoir in Gastown for my last supper in Vancouver. The restaurant is in a refurbished brick and beam building with French tile work. It actually used to be the site of the old jail.
I sat at the bar again and chatted with a nice gal, also a foodie, from Toronto. The bartender was friendly and an uber mixologist so I had to try his Clover Club Refashioned with fresh raspberries, mint, fresh lemon, sweet vermouth and gin. A well balanced, and refreshing drink.
I started with yet another unique dish that included BBQ octopus, lightly tempura fried jalapeño rings, bread crumbs cooked in what else but pork fat, and these luscious cucumber pieces that were as soft as ripe melon because they're cooked sous vide. This dish beat the Japadog.
And I couldn't leave Vancouer without getting my foie gras fix, so I got the prettiest plate in town. It included rhubarb two ways with yogurt and a champage gelee. Magnifique!
Luckily it finally got dark, and it was time to stop eating. I had to stock up on good food because the next day I set foot on a cruise ship for 7 days of buffet eating. You won't be seeing any pictures of the food onboard, but you will soon be seeing some shots of beautiful Alaska.