The old Efendi Uyghur at 1345 Kingsway (near Knight) was only open for about a year but received great feedback (like this Alexandra Gill review). Unfortunately, they had to close the restaurant due to the mother’s health issues. The space got sold and turned into House of Dosas nemesis, Dosa Factory. I didn’t get a chance to check out Efendi the first time, but thanks to “el lobo solo” on Chowhound, I learned that it’s back in a new, smaller location further east at 3490 Kingsway (same tiny stripmall as Subway).
The ramen boom from the last few years resulted in imho TOO MANY tonkotsu-style ramen places. Great tonkotsu was already achieved with places like Santouka, Jinya, etc. Chicken paitan was already pretty much perfected by Marutama (with an unique personal take by The Ramenman). I’ve also enjoyed the Iekei-style tonkotsu/Tokyo shoyu hybrid ramen at Yah Yah Ya and Yaguchiya. What I felt was missing from the scene was a classic Tokyo-style shoyu ramen, the kind featured in Tampopo:
(^Funny German dub)
I know clear soups aren’t popular right now, but there’s something classic, nostalgic, and minimalistic about it that appeals to me. So recently, Gyoza Paradise (on Robson and Thurlow back in the 90s, which I never heard of or went to) reopened on Broadway near Arbutus as Gyo Para with a focus on gyoza and chintan (clear broth) style ramen. I was intrigued but wanted to wait until they got their feet. I think 6 months is enough, right?
Fraserhood’s Crowbar opened up in late June 2016 and I had heard good things about their burger over the past year, along with other good things about their food in general — and also some he said/he said employee dispute-type stuff that’s the worst kind of thing to have play out over the media/social media, where it’s so easy to get a twisted hall of mirrors version of the situation that I chose to ignore all of it. Vancouver’s such a small scene…tight-knit in some ways, cliquey in others. Let’s settle your shit and get back to serving great food, yeah?
Fellow food obsessive hungrySLIF had been there a couple times and encouraged me to pry this crate open, so we did.
Even after four years, Marutama Ramen (moldy oldy review here) is still considered one of the top ramen places in the city. Definitely Top 5, if not Top 3. Their chicken paitan (cloudy chicken broth) ramen is still unique and well-executed. That slippery aosa seaweed (sea lettuce) has me all [insert sweaty feverish emoji here]. AND their ramen egg is still the most delicious and consistent around.
Their new third location on Main and 13th is called Marutama Gaiden and offers a different take on their chicken paitan ramen. Don’t come here expecting more of the same. Almost everything is different. Here’s my personal take on this place that we tried at the tail end of their two-week soft opening phase.
The folks behind Wildebeest, Bufala, and Lucky Taco have added another thoughtful expansion to their mini-empire in the form of the anti-sports bar sports bar Bells & Whistles located on Fraser just south of Kingsway. The food is typical sports bar/pub grub/comfort food like burgers, wings, nachos, onion rings, etc, but done with atypical care and better ingredients, served in an atypically bright and family-friendly environment, with a very atypical craft beer menu with absolutely NO macro beer in sight.
Admittedly, the pricing for the food and beer is a bit high (especially for the neighbourhood), but in the week and a half they’ve been open, it’s been absolutely packed. I guess that shows that people have been wanting something like this for a long time and are willing to pay for it. For myself, I really appreciate their approach — casual accessibility, eyes on quality, no “Bells & Whistles” despite the name — but if things were maybe a couple bucks cheaper across the board, I’d come back more often, and with less hesitation.
Chi Men on Denman opened up in late July 2017 in the former Chelicious space, and has been quietly ladling out some really good soup noodles to a barely appreciative West End audience. It hasn’t been busy in there, but they deserve to be. With 3 Quarters Full Taiwanese Cafe (located in Denman Place Mall) still around after a full year in business, looks like the West End might just have the right clientelle to keep these kinds of Asian restaurants in business. Maybe. Winter is coming.
After a long build-up, Taps & Tacos is finally open near “Brewer’s Row” in Port Moody. I tried it about a month and a half after they opened, so things should’ve settled in nicely by this point.
Aotoya (aka Blue Door) is a slightly dingy, Japanese homestyle hole-in-the-wall on Victoria Drive, located beside longtime institution Supreme Pizza (get a pepperoni, mushroom, and Italian sausage pizza and one of their crack-laden pastas). If you can deal with Aotoya’s sometimes slow service and slow kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with good-to-great Yōshoku-style food that’s got uniqueness and charm. For fans of places like Hi Genki.
I’ve had the (inaccurate) impression that The Mackenzie Room in DTES/Japantown was like our version of The Black Hoof in Toronto. Aside from the chalkboard menu, there’s not that much that’s similar. Black Hoof does more offcuts while Mackenzie Room has more veggie-forward dishes. But both places do have a fun, loud, lively atmosphere. I went there with three other food-obsessed people and ordered the entire menu. Here’s how it went down.
(Not a huge amount of detail in this post cuz I’m writing this a week after it happened and didn’t take notes during dinner.)
Perhaps timed with the annual Powell Street Festival, Akiyo Tani (Campagnolo, Tojo’s) and Nathan Lowey (Refuel, Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma) opened up Dosanko, a yōshoku-style restaurant in the (hardly Japanese nowadays) Japantown area. This space used to be Growndswell Cafe, which I had only been to for pop-up events (a “multi-sensory” film screening of Spirited Away produced by HERE THERE with food by Annabelle Choi timed to coincide with different scenes in the movie, and a Nashville “Hot Chicken Throwdown” featuring Merchants Workshop, Handtaste Ferments, and Local Omnivore. For the record, Merchants got my vote.) Dosanko have kept the existing bar, and refrained from jamming in as many tables as they could. The room feels airy and spacious. The scene outside on the street though is still typical Japantown/DTES, which adds a bit of frisson (or guilt) to your dining experience.
I tried a mere two dishes from the menu but was pleased with the solid cooking and thoughtful sourcing of ingredients. Whether you’re gonna be ok with paying the 10–25% premium over other yoshoku-type restaurants is all on you.