Ever had one of those toe-curling experiences with food? Jamón Ibérico does it to me every time. They have at Cabrito and sometimes you just need that one thing to keep you coming back. Luckily, the rest of the food (for the most part) is executed well and warrants repeat visits if you’re looking for tapas/small plates. This is just the start of my journey to find out if Vancouver can do tapas/pintxos, and not just leave it to Toronto (eg. the exemplary Bar Raval and well-regarded Bar Isabel).
Everyone seen the promo video for Strathcona Beer Company yet? They’re really showing their love for skaters, motocross, bocce ball, weenie-roasting, working out on rooftops, and beer! This place finally opened on Friday, July 15 after a bit of controversy over opening up a brewery in a low-income neighborhood that struggles with addiction.
Hoang Yen on Victoria Drive (across the street from Chau VeggieExpress and Amay’s House) seems to have been there for ages but I never paid attention to it because of the “Vietnamese & Canadian Cuisine” noted on their sign and menu. It brought to mind those increasingly rare “Chinese & Canadian Food”-type diners that I would never eat at unironically. But the constant lineups at this small place made us curious. We tried their most famous dish, the “Bun Cha Ca” (housemade fish cakes in vermicelli noodle soup) and we liked it!
La Mezcaleria‘s second location in Gastown is finally open. They’ve had their original place on Commercial Drive since April 2013 but I’ve never been. Their molten cheese fondue served in a volcanic rock pot is one of their most Instagrammed dishes — for good reason! I mean, check this out:
Anyways, this was a lonely solo lunch for me, so I’d have to save the molten cheese for next time. I got a couple dishes and was plenty pleased about it, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be back with a group for fondue and mezcal flights.
It’s finally happened — Vancouver now has a dedicated craft cider bar. Orchard & The Sea opened on July 14 (a week ago as I write this), and operates out of The Birds & The Beets space in Gastown on Thursday and Friday nights from 6pm-11pm, and Saturday night from 5pm-11pm (sort of like a pop-up restaurant). I’m fairly new to the whole cider thing, but already know that I don’t like the syrupy sweet mass-market ciders out there. Maybe I’ll find something more to my taste here?
From the family that brought you the well-regarded Green Lemongrass and Broken Rice restaurants comes their new modern take on Vietnamese food at House Special in Yaletown. For some interesting background on the people and the restaurant, read this handy Georgia Straight article (informative writing, horrible photos).
This early review is a compilation of three visits. I still feel like I need another visit to fully understand their breadth (and try a couple of their soup noodles), but I have some travelling coming up so I feel the need to put this review out there first and revisit this place in July when I get back.
TLDR: Great beer list, some really great dishes, a few of the modern takes are less successful, restaurant still finding their legs. Worthy of your time.
Everyone knows about Hawksworth, the multi-award-winning upscale restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, right? I’ve actually never been there! More generous relatives have brought their families there and quite enjoyed it, but I’ve never step foot in there. An old boss of mine remarked that dining there is actually a good value! I thought, “WTF?! Maybe in your gated community mentality it’s a good value, but… I think you’re not paying me enough, then!”
Thankfully, David Hawksworth has opened his more casual and accessible share-plates restaurant Nightingale last week. Prices are about 1/2 to 1/3 cheaper than Hawksworth, with a focus on pizzas. Can’t get more casual than pizza! Are you ready for a taste of David Hawksworth unbuttoned?*
* Wicca actually came up with that phrase. I was thinking up tortured stuff like “Hawksworth with his two top buttons unbuttoned” and “Hawksworth rolling up his pants, going sockless, and wearing fashion sneakers.” Gah.
DISCLAIMER: As usual with these early “First Look” reviews, take everything with a grain of salt. It’s only been a week and I’m sure it’ll take more time before the team gets into a rhythm and gets to know that pizza oven and it’s quirks. But early impressions are good! Service was good and dishes were timed well.
The original Richmond location of Smokehouse Sandwich Co. has a big following and I’ve been meaning to try it for a couple years. They opened up a more convenient downtown location back in March but I was actually reminded this week about it from three different sources: a really cool dude posted a SocialShopper coupon for it on Facebook, and two different trusty Instagrammers posted their sandwiches over the past week. That black charcoal bun really stands out!
TLDR: I wanted to like it more than I did. Underseasoned meat, brisket sandwich was dry, but good chips and strawberry & mint drink.
Price isn’t usually that much of an issue for me unless something jumps out — and jump out it did when I took my family to the new Anh + Chi in the old Pho Hoang space on Main & 18th. I don’t mind paying more for a commensurate increase in quality, technique, freshness, and service…but I’m not sure that what I ate justified the increase in price.
TLDR: Average food with hints of greatness for a premium price.
Dedicated fried chicken places are actually hard to find in Vancouver proper. There’s the famous LA Chicken and Red Rooster Broasted Chicken in Richmond, but in Vancouver it’s mostly chains like Church’s and KFC. Korean independents like Lee’s Chicken are long gone. Enter King Chicken located on Broadway and Rupert, next to Sushiholic. Is there anything different that these guys bring to the table?
Note: this place is not affiliated with King’s Chicken (née Lee’s Chicken) in Surrey.
Note #2: I forgot about Zabu Chicken, the Korean place on Robson. I haven’t tried it yet, but might be an interesting comparison since Zabu also does a straight-ahead plain fried chicken in addition to their Korean-style sauced fried chicken.