Addicted to novelty since 2001

Eating Out in Vangroovy: Vancouver Restaurant Recommendations

My DinnerI recently got forwarded an email about Vancouver restaurants. Somebody was collecting recommendations for a visiting gourmand.

I’m kind of anti-gourmand, myself, and I almost never discuss food on here. As such, I thought I’d edit and link up the list and post it for the use of the more food-friendly among you. The following opinions are not my own, but come from a group of trustworthy Vancouver professionals (who clearly eat out a lot). I regret the repeated use of ‘scene-y’.

Bishops – Never fails to impress with lovely service and amazing food.

Bluewater – Always has amazing fresh sushi and seafood. Plus, it’s a fun scene.

Brix – For the late night fondue and a night cap. It has a gorgeous, European-style courtyard, which is a really rarity among Vancouver restaurants.

Chambar – A Belgian restaurant–try the mussels.

Cin Cin – Has a brand-new menu, exquisite service and a fabulous wine list. Try the pasta starters with truffles.

Cioppino’s – Amazing high-end Italian. Get Pino’s osso bucco and let Massimo pick his wine. He’s amazing.

Coast – For the chef’s tasting table, the fish tacos and the lobster poutine. Not as ‘scene-y’ as their other restaurants (Glowbal, Sanafir, Italian Kitchen).

Il Giardino – Another Italian restaurant–very scene-y and fun.

Parkside – The sweetest setting in the West End, the most wonderful service and some of the most imaginitive, well-priced food in the city.

Quattro – Over on the North Shore. You don’t get the view of the Beach House in West Van, but the food, service and ambiance is infinitely superior.

Tojo’s – Simply amazing, and a must-see in Vancouver. It feels kind of overpriced because you can get amazing sushi at other places for an eighth of the price but it’s an experience. Do omikase (a chef’s tasting menu) at the bar.

Vij’s – They don’t take reservations, but it’s so worth the wait. Sit in the lounge and eat Indian appetizers and have a drink while you wait for your table. Another Vancouver must-see.

West – Phenomenal food and service. It often rates as Vancouver’s #1 restaurant.

Wild Rice – Very young and hip Chinese fusion. They don’t take reservations, you can go to the (reputedly lipstick) lesbian bar around the corner for a drink. They’ll call you when your table is ready.

There you go. Dine out, Vancouver.

On Having No Reservations

Can I opine for a minute now? I have zero, zilch, nil time for any restaurant that makes me wait in line because they don’t take reservations. This means you, Vij’s and Wild Rice. It strikes me as a complete lack of respect for their customers, and discourages me from patronizing them. After all, I’m already paying for the food, service and ambiance. Should I really have to pay to wait in a queue, too?

It’s also frustrating because I don’t understand the logic behind the decision. Is it the same thinking that manufactures queues outside of nightclubs? Are they being different just for the absurd sake of being different?

Incidentally, the same applies to more casual places that are consistently too busy. I’ve never been to Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe on West 4th for this reason–they have a reputation of being notoriously busy for breakfast.

In short, I really don’t like to wait in line for food. Having to eat the stuff every day is irksome enough.

What’s your favourite Vancouver restaurant?

18 Responses to “Eating Out in Vangroovy: Vancouver Restaurant Recommendations”

  1. Beth

    If you want to try Vij’s without the lineup, you could go to Vij’s Rangoli, their diner next door. I’ve been to Vij’s once and the food actually was worth the wait. Of course, we showed up about 20 minutes before opening and stood in a small lineup, because at least then you know you are only going to be in line for 20 mins.

    And I don’t get the fascination with Sophie’s – I’ve been there a couple of times and didn’t really find it to be anything special. To each their own, I guess.

  2. darren

    Beth: Indeed, I’ve been to Rangoli a couple of times. Indian is far from my favourite ethnic food, but I guess I enjoyed it. I really dug their decor, if I recall correctly.

  3. Bill Stilwell

    I think for higher end restaurants, it can be part of creating a specific experience – it’s part of the ambience. A quote from someone that asked Vij about this (I can’t link to it) has this to say:

    “We asked Vij what we should say to the guests and his reply was quite enlightening. He said, please tell your guests that we welcome them as if they are guests of our home. At home, you certainly would not bring your guests to the dining room table as soon as they step in the door – you would take them to the living room, have a little chat with some drinks and nibblies and then gradually guide them over to the dining room for dinner.”

    And honestly, this is kind of what it’s like waiting at Vij’s, and it is worth it. If you view dining as a more utilitarian thing, you’re probably not going to like it, but obviously enough people do enjoy how they’ve chosen to do things.

    A couple restaurants that I’d add to this list are Rare and Boneta.

    Oh, and if I can add my own pet peeve about restaurants: why do so many of them think I want to watch some lame flash when visiting their website? Give me a menu, opening hours, and contact info!

  4. darren

    Bill: Thanks for that–very interesting. That’s a charming answer, but dubiously convenient. I mean, when I’m at my friends house, I don’t hand over my Visa card and tip him at the end of the meal.

    And tell me about it on the restaurant’s websites. That list is a hilarious study in the breadth of all possible web designs, from the tacky to the dated to the simple and elegant.

  5. mark

    La Regalade in West Van is conspicuously missing from your list. It is often missing from this sort of list though, And, I’m quite happy for it.

  6. Christine

    I’m not a big fan of waiting in line either, but I have waited at VJ’s on several occasion and thought it was worth the wait. Vikram is simply the most fabulous host and he’s very gifted at remembering faces. I waited once sitting just a few feet away from Harrison Ford and he chatted to me the same way as he did with Ford. Yes, Harrison Ford had to wait and I’ve heard Martha also had to sit at the back with the rest of the punters.

    I’ve also bumped into Vikram at the Granville Market and talked to him about cheese. He’s the most charming man I’ve ever met, so I’ll keep going to Vj’s and just put up with the line.

  7. Adriana

    New fave in Victoria that you’ll have to try out (yes, its a tanget, but one of interest I hope):

    Red Fish Blue Fish.

  8. stephanie vacher

    If you want to spend 1/3 as much as you would at Tojo’s, go to Toshi’s at 16th and main. Unfortunately he doesn’t do omikase :[

  9. Tasha

    I can understand very busy casual dining chains such as Earls and the like not taking reservations… They’re busy enough that taking reservations can be a hindrance to turnover as reservations can be late, not show up, etc.

    But in Vancouver’s wonderful range of fine and semi-fine dining establishments, part of the whole dining experience should be arriving at the restaurant and having the host looking up your reservation and escorting you to your table to start you off feeling like an important guest.

    I will wait in line for a diner like Sophie’s any day (contrary to other commenter’s notes, I love it there, big portions, mmmm). However, overrated places like Stephos I will not. Cheap greek food is plentiful on Davie Street without the one hour wait. I won’t wait in line for an overrated higher end restaurant though. This city is full of fabulous finds in every nook and cranny where I can get a table right away.

    omelettes: Dockers – Fraser and 45th ish

    Japanase Tapas – Guu, various locations, frickn fantastic atmosphere

    dessert – Sweet Temptations on Main and whateverish

    Italian – Arrivas on Commercial Drive

    Greek – Kerkis in the Dunbar area.. sorry, sister is a cook there and the food is actually super awesome. Learned to love lamb from eating Greek food.

  10. Ryan Cousineau

    Alas, Honey, the bar around the corner from Wild Rice, is long closed. They do have a pretty long bar in the restaurant itself, though.

  11. Raul

    Actually I don’t think Honey is actually closed. There’s Milk, Honey and the Lotus Lounge. All three are open.

  12. Tom

    Hey Darren. Just thought I’d let you know why we (Wild Rice) do not take reservations. We do not like to promise our customers things that we can’t follow through on. We are a small (88 seats) independant restaurant. If you called and made a reservation for 7pm on a Friday night, we would have to hold that table for you from at least 5:30pm on to make sure that when you arrived, there would be a table ready for you.That means that for 1 1/2 hours, that table sits empty.Being a small business, we do not have that luxury.Hopefully this answers your question. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me. Cheers.

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