Dineout reviews: 2010 Q1

Are periodic food reviews back on this site?? I wouldn’t say that for certain but I get sad about my photos languishing on Flickr so I thought I would share some of my favourite photos and places to eat in Vancouver.

Copa Cafe. Beefy Beef. Motomachi Shokudo. Hapa Izakaya Yaletown. Mazazu Crepe. The Cannery. Vij’s Restaurant.

Copa Cafe
Do you have a routine when you come home from a trip? NPY and I will hit up a Chinese food joint because it’s our comfort food. I think that by now, I’ve successfully broken his penchant for going to greasy spoon, No. 9, in Richmond. It’s not even on the way home. Fortunately, Cambie Street, where I live, has some very decent Hong Kong-style cafes that hit the spot and chances are we get in at some odd hour that is not the main dinner rush hour and we can get “mini meals”: a full entree with complimentary drink for one low price. I had heard about Copa’s shrimp and avocado croissant from Chowtimes.com and was jonesing for one when I returned from Christmas–it contains two food items I fall hard for: avocado and croissant. It was just perfect, even though I’m not particularly partial to shrimp. Even the mayo-slathered fruit salad was tasty. And that’s a tall order when I’m usually to get hot noodles in soup after deplaning. Copa has a smaller selection and runs more expensive than its rival, Cafe Gloucester, 7 blocks away, but we’ve enjoyed some special dishes that CG does not offer: a creamy lobster sauce and rice dish and highly flavourful rice vermicelli with shredded roast duck (a favourite) and preserved Chinese vegetables.

Beefy Beef Noodle House (and No. 1 Beef Noodle House)
Between their two locations–one deep in Burnaby and one in Vancouver–we have been to this restaurant five times in 2010 (as of Mar.16). It is our go-to choice for comforting noodles and Chinese food in a hip Taiwanese (read: non staid like Cantonese) environment where we don’t have to wait until late for the special prices and the style of dishes means you can order for yourself and not have to negotiate a dinner to share with others. I was ecstatic when I learned that No. 1 Beef Noodle (in Burnaby) had started a Vancouver location that I can walk to from my house. Incidentally, the salty pepper chicken chef (pictured) went to the Vancouver location but it’s not one of our usual dishes. We love to order the tangy beef brisket and noodles in a tomato-beef broth and noodles in a hot and sour soup broth. There are rice versions of the noodle soup dishes but we prefer the comforting soupy dishes and the wide, fat slippery noodles are my favourite in town.

Hapa Izakaya (new Yaletown location)
Hapa Izakaya is, hands down, NPY’s favourite upscale restaurant. And, he will compare for you, you spend $50 on a couple drinks and four or five tapas and you’re more satisfied than going to an upscale “West Coast” restaurant. It’s really a matter of taste, I think, but I’ve come to adopt Hapa as a favourite, as well. Recently, Hapa opened a third location. Their original spot on Robson has happily expanded but it’s kind of far, even from the main shopping stretch. NPY tried the Kits location (without me!!) and doesn’t like the vibe as much. And now a location has opened in the middle of the Yaletown stretch of restaurants and we are very happy–it is close and has good vibes. His favourite dishes are carb-y staples onto which we tack on salad or small plates/tapas; we will almost always order yaki-udon and a hot stone bowl of rice. On the first visit to the new location, NPY let me do the ordering and–you know me–I went and ordered a bunch of things we never tried before: udonara and tonkatsu (both pictured), scallop salad and a salmon rice bowl. Udonara is an example of the fusion cuisine, inspired by carbonara sauce but a lighter, kind of Japanese version. NPY doesn’t like his udon messed with this way but I liked the new carbonara sauce and they always have a good spring udon noodle. We had to return within a month to get his favourites in a separate meal!

Motomachi Shokudo
YY introduced us to Motomachi Shokudo, a ramen restaurant within the “ramen corner” at Robson and Denman. The recipes and dishes are more healthful (and hence more expensive) and the dining room is relatively upscale for that area, for that style of dining. The most unique dish, by far, is their bamboo-charcoal miso ramen in a dark, rich, “medicinal” broth. Growing up with the vast variety of Chinese soups my parents have cooked up, and eventually endearing myself to black “sang day” soup (still of mysterious origins to me), it was definitely not a turn-off. The charcoal-bamboo broth even had a familiar-to-Chinese flavour… and it was so filling! The noodles were springy and YY loves the soft-boiled egg… and now I do, too. On a more recent trip to Motomashi, we discovered the rice dish on their small plates menu: Japanese rice with warmed pickled vegetables and shredded barbecue pork with some Japanese soy sauce and mayonnaise drizzle. It’s the perfect size–and just $3!–when you aren’t hungry enough for a big, steaming bowl of noodles. Unfortunately, they have an $8 minimum per person and it was frustrating to have to spoil the appetite with noodles in soup in order to order the tasty rice dish.

Mazazu Crepe
What a fortuitous suggestion it was of Su’s to save a bit of room when we were at Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Noodle restaurant in Aberdeen Centre (Richmond) to enjoy Japanese crepes from a shop in the “food court” upstairs. We strolled about the “food court” and I was wildly impressed with the improving selection of shops. Mazazu may have been one of the newer stands for all I know, never having tried it before, but I was pleased to see Cafe D’Lite which is usually inaccessible to me in the middle of Kitsilano. There is a towering display case of the crepe creations where you can see plastic representations of the possible combinations: banana/blueberry/Adzuki bean/strawberry and/or cheesecake/brownie and/or custard and/or green tea/vanilla ice cream and/or caramel/chocolate sauce. Keeping NPY’s preferences and my own in mind, I ordered their most diverse creation with slice strawberries, vanilla soft serve, wedge of cheesecake, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate sauce which is all served in a rolled up sweet crepe that acts like an ice cream cone. It was a heavenly combination that NPY and I eagerly and unabashedly wolfed down.

The Cannery Seafood Restaurant
So, March was my birthday month and being one who loves to plan, I booked a table at The Cannery for me and NPY… over one month in advance. You see, The Cannery is a perennial seafood restaurant favourite in Vancouver yet I had not made it there for a birthday, celebration, etc. They close at their Port location on March 27 and were booked solid for dinner service all through March. The view, to me, is “meh.” You’re at one container port looking across at another container port; cran your neck and you can see the lights of the suspension bridge. I think it is a much more fabulous view at sunset and we missed that having a 7 p.m. reservation. When looking up what I might want to order, I encountered rave reviews of their lobster oil and being a Bluenoser, when I hear of awesome things about lobster, my attitude is, “Try me.” Likewise, NPY likes his warm fresh bread with whipped butter and grumbled at the lobster oil mixed with balsamic vinegar. We both loved the lobster fragrance in the oil and carefully sopped up more oil than vinegar–I will have to return to buy some 375mL bottles for a couple of gifts. For my entree, I ordered a “Cannery classic”, their salmon Wellington. The salmon was just slightly on the wrong side of dry and I don’t like mini shrimp chopped into even smaller pieces but the pinot noir sauce, “magic sauce”–according to the server as he poured out a small portion just after setting down my plate–was the cherry on top. I had written a note on my OpenTable.com reservation that it was a birthday dinner and throughout the evening, the hostess visited to the neighbouring tables and tied balloons to a customer’s chair. The table next to us was slightly taken aback by the question, “I hear you are celebrating something special tonight?” and stammered that it was an anniversary… I think they got my balloon! NPY fixed that when I went to the powder room and we were presented with a red ballon and complimentary chocolate mousse cake. So, I got to make a wish blowing out my candle and when we symbolically set free my balloon!

Vij’s Restaurant
I’ve been to and heard of every restaurant in the Fairview area of Vancouver, so it seems. So I didn’t need to refer to Urbanspoon, right? I did, it turned out, because Vij’s topping the “Best in…” list reminded me of one major, note-worthy restaurant that I have not tried in all this time living in the area. It was a nice (not-rainy) day when I went to line up–the restaurant does not accept reservations and all one can do is line up before they open their doors at 5:30 p.m. We got in without a hitch when we arrived at 5:20. From the first moment, the attentive and compassionate service is noticeable. We are seated and served complimentary chai and while you decide what to eat, servers came around with four different amuse-bouches to nibble on. The small appetizers nipped my hunger a little and we ordered just one appetizer to share (farthest right), yam/paneer/cabbage koftas (cakes) in lentil curry. We were presented with wedges of naan to clean off the bottom of the plate and more naan instantly appeared when we finished. Because Vancouver magazine and most of the reviews told me to, I ordered the lamb popsicles. Although we were approaching satiation when our entrees arrived, we tried some of the lamb and the other entree, chicken and mushroom in saffron curry, which my dinner mate labeled “grown-up butter chicken”, although it is not very buttery. The flavours were intense and complex and the ingredients used were very good. What can I say? I’m now aboard the bandwagon chattering how it’s the best Indian restaurant in town.

On this day..


  1. Ben says:

    Gosh! ALL of my fav type of food is featured here! I was reading Copa and was telling to myself I would get some fried vermicelli on the way home today. And then I thought, hmmm … maybe I should just drive to The One and get the Beef Soup (no noodles). And then, maybe I should go buy some ramen (instant ramen someone told me is exactly like the real stuff). Now, I can’t decide.

    And it’s all your fault! LOL!

    .-= Ben´s last blog post ..S&W Pepper House on No 3 Road and Granville, Richmond =-.

  2. wyn says:

    Hi Ben,

    That is my aim, to get my readers to salivate! Then stop to read what I might have to say about dining wherever that is.


  3. Roshan says:

    I’d stopped going for Chinese food (real Chinese food and not the usual stuff we get in just about any restaurant in Cochin) for a few years and had recently just re-converted. Man all these dishes look so delicious.
    .-= Roshan´s last blog post ..Sens Update, 23rd March 2010 =-.

  4. Intriguing dishes and quite tempting those looks so delicious but the noodle beef is the one I wanna try. But I don’t like salads I hate vegetables and I don’t eat much of them.

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