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.
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.
Last year was all poke — this year’s trend seems to be Mexican! With the opening of Fayuca, El Santo winning Vanmag Gold Award for Best Latin (disappointing review here), expansion of Tacofino into Yaletown, La Mezcaleria into Gastown, etc, Mexican cuisine is getting hot. But what I’m after is just plain good eats. Surprisingly, the most impactful (there’s a Sherman word for ya!) “Mexican” experience I’ve had that consistently impresses me is the tacos at Four Winds Brewing in Delta. They use tacos as a canvas, and bring in smartly constructed flavours. I’m not even going to touch the notion of authenticity. There’s a huge range of regional Mexican cuisine that we are just frickin’ ignorant about in Vancouver. I’m just concentrating on whether the shit tastes good or not. So does Lucha Verde taste good?
NOTE: Lucha Verde wasn’t even a week old when we visited. I think you’re all intelligent enough to take what I say below in perspective. They were still training new servers but we still got good, attentive service. The owner was wearing a TMNT t-shirt!
Big props to foodbysamson for discovering this place. Tetsu Sushi Bar (Facebook, Instagram) is my idea of a cute, perfect-in-its-own-way, neighbourhood sushi place you’d find in Japan — small (only 14 seats), run by Japanese people or people trained in Japan (itamae and server are from Osaka), serves a curated selection of fish from Japan (and presumably the best local fish too), offers some unique dishes not found elsewhere, and is too good to keep a secret. While not as practised and precise as a place like Sushi Bar Maumi (review here), it’s filling a gap — high quality neighbourhood sushi — and hits some pretty high notes.
In a previous post, I’ve said that happy hours are a great way of getting people in the door during a slack period, sell some drinks, show them what you can do, and hopefully entice them to spring for a full dinner experience later on. Therefore, I don’t think restaurants should be pussyfooting around when it comes to this critical window of opportunity to win customers.
I’ve been working up the nerve to go to Cacao since Chef Jefferson Alvarez opened it in late summer 2016, but luckily they just opened up their snack bar on their second floor, which gave me and a couple longtime Chowhounders a chance to get a taste of what Cacao has to offer.
I’m exaggerating about how spicy the food was. If you avoid eating the actual chilies, the food is about medium spicy. If you DO choose to eat the chilies…well…that’s all on you. For me, the more painful part was my allergy to capsaicin (the compound in chilies that make them spicy). Whenever I eat even traces of capsaicin, I start sweating like this:
Because of this affliction, I’ve avoided a lot of the Hunan and Sichuan/Szechuan restaurants around town. But recent visits to Nine Dishes and Joojak has reignited (literally) my interest in this spicy cuisine. I really do enjoy the flavours and the experience — I just need to bring a headband and a towel next time.
The slow proliferation of Japanese-run ramen places has reached the Metrotown area in Burnaby. Yaguchiya Ramen is currently in soft-opening phase but the shoyu ramen I tried already tasted like it hit the mark right out of the gate. It’s a tiny place that seats ~16 people but I can already tell they’re gonna be busy once word gets out. Glad to see real Japanese ramen this far out of downtown.
The newest Angus An venture, Sen Pad Thai, opened up a couple weeks ago (early May 2017) in the Net Loft building across from the Granville Island Public Market. (It’s the same building that houses Paper-Ya.) The whole Angus An group of restaurants has had a busy season. Only two weeks previous, Freebird Chicken Shack reopened in a larger space at River Market (New West) with a revamped menu. I’ve written about this group of restaurants before:
- “First Look: Juicy, Delicately-Seasoned Rotisserie Chicken at Freebird Chicken Shack in New West”
- “Fat Meh Noodles: An Early Review of Fat Mao Noodles”
- “Longtail Kitchen – New Fall Menu” (2013)
- “Longtable Dinner at Longtail Kitchen: Authentic Malaysian Cuisine by Alex Chen” (2014)
- “Getting My Tail Kicked at Longtail Kitchen” (2014)
- “Steel & Oak x Longtail Kitchen: You Got Red Pilsner in My Green Curry! You got Green Curry in my Red Pilsner!” (2014)
- “I Choo Choo Choose You at Longtail Kitchen” (2015)
- “What its like being a small part of a food TV show: You Gotta Eat Here (Longtail Kitchen Episode)” (2015)
I’ve also been to Maenam a couple times (before I started this blog), so I think I have a bit of a tough love kind of relationship with the whole group. I hold them to high standards (if you flaunt Michelin-star experience, then I must watch for attention to detail, technique, consistency, and above all, taste — actually, those are my criteria all the time). If those high standards aren’t met, it kills me inside as a fan and as a customer.
So does Sen Pad Thai fall into the homerun category (Longtail Kitchen), underappreciated but mildly inconsistent category (Freebird), or the not-good-enough-out-of-the-gate-wouldn’t-go-back category (Fat Mao)? Read on…
The Kingsway and Joyce area has been a hotbed for Chinese food, with a few notable Northern Chinese restaurants (including some blow-your-head-off spicy Hunan food at Luckynoodle). I don’t have a lot of experience with Northern Chinese food, but I’m growing to like it, even tolerating the oiliness of some of the dishes. We had a really good first experience at Joojak and would definitely come again, and perhaps explore other Xian restaurants to see how they compare. We’re kinda spoiled for regional Chinese food in Vancouver/Richmond/etc and I’ve taken it for granted.
Side note about this area: There’s a new Peaceful Restaurant going in across the street from Joojak, right beside Goldtrain. Also, the new location of Hida Takayama Ramen (the ghetto superstar of Robson Public Market) is where Vanya used to be beside Royal Bank. Plus, I like the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Wang’s beside London Drugs. It’s a very foodie-worthy area.
The cult favourite Nine Dishes is back! Their former location on Kingsway in Vancouver closed down in February 2015 (I think) and was a favourite among those with an adventurous attitude towards dining. I went to the new location with a group of longtime Chowhound members to see if the magic was still there. Will it be a case of “Nein Dishes” at Nine Dishes? Will it hit the mark or will it be chabuduo (close enough)?