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Vancouver eating 2015

Here are some of the places I ate at when I was in town for the month of June: Ask for LuigiMiku, Jules Bistro, Chambar, Wildebeest, Vij’s, Meat and BreadBauhaus, Tojo’s, ZestFlying PigLe CrocodileZestHawksworth, HamaeiTacofino, Floata, and Sun Sui Wah.

Ask for Luigi is Vancouver Magazine’s 2015 restaurant of the year, it’s in Railtown, a pretty sketchy part of town, surrounded by homeless shelters and derelict buildings. The food is good, but there are numerous places in Melbourne that can do the same if not better “home cooked” Italian food. I wouldn’t have given it this accolade. Miku is an amazing 300-seat Japanese restaurant located in what would be a Darling Harbour (Sydney, AUS) setting if comparing locations. I would describe the style as “Californian Japanese”, tasty, colourful and un-challenging. Jules is a nice simple bistro serving French dishes. The dishes could have more care, a leaf out of Luigi’s playbook wouldn’t go astray. Flying Pig does this better,  solid gastro-pub food. Chambar promotes itself as a Belgian beer and mussels place. It has an extensive list of Belgian beer, but surprisingly, no Tripel Karmeliat. It has 3 mussels dishes and lots of other mainstream bistro dishes. Lovely setting, but food is nothing exciting. Meat and Bread, high on marketing, low on delivery. Le Crocodile is old-school French food. From the 70s. Go there to experience ye-olde-world, but nothing else. Hawksworth is also an established award winning restaurant. Its food looks great but there’s not much taste. The dining room is also very congested. A 2-feet separation between tables is just uncomfortable. It’s like sitting in a cafe. Disappointing, it could be so much better. Wildebeest was one of the hottest next restaurants when I was here a couple of years ago. Today, it’s a solid restaurant serving mainly meet dishes after several changes to chefs. Sadly it’s lost its edge, with nothing really innovative or new on the menu, but still worth a visit. Vij’s is an Indian restaurant with a huge following. Anthony Bourdain highlighted the chef in his TV series along with Tojo’s and Cioppinos. It’s easy to see why. Lovely, easy eating Indian food, cooked with care. Diners line up before 5.30 to either dine in the first seating or put their name down for the second seating. Worth a visit to see what the fuss is about, especially the signature lamb popsicles. Hamaei is a delightful neighbourhood Japanese restaurant. Something you’d like to have in your local shopping strip. Excellent sashimi, sushi and hot dishes like seafood motoyaki. Other places were Tacofino for mexican food with not much soul, Floata for yum cha in a huge space, and Sun Sui Wah for yum cha and spot prawns.

So, onto my three favourite places. Zest, a contemporary Japanese restaurant in suburbia, Tojo’s, a benchmark Japanese restaurant, and Bauhaus, a 5 week old restaurant in Gastown. Zest has old school and new school Japanese dishes. No chef hang-ups of “we don’t do rolls”, it does everything well. Classic sushi and sashimi with excellent fish, and new style dishes from a huge menu. Nothing like it in Melbourne. I went to Tojo’s in 2007. It’s now relocated to a bigger place with a huge sushi bar where Tojo works his knife. Having Omakase there is like eating at Tojo’s kitchen. He engages with you, asks what you like and then goes away and makes you delicious dish after dish. Credited with as the originator of the California Roll (as well as a few others like the BC Roll), his repertoire is immense and his dishes are all delicious. And Bauhaus, led by a 1-star Michelin chef Stefan Hartmann from Berlin is the most beautiful contemporary restaurant I’ve visited this year. Still getting it’s feet, the dishes are a combination of classic German on the a la carte list to more creative ones on chef’s tasting menu. It also has the best front of house staff in Vancouver. At other places, it’s next to non-existent to at best, casual take-it-or-leave-it approach reminiscent of Melbourne in the 90s. Photos from these places:

Missed out on these dinner only places: Bao Bei, Pidgin, L’Abbatoir, Salt Tasting RoomBlue Water Cafe, GuuCioppinos, Maenam, Sushi Bella

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