Last Friday, Sarah and I were feeling adventurous, so we headed to to Vancouver, B.C. It is crazy that after three years of living in Portland, we have never taken the time to go up to Vancouver. Personally, I had never been there. It is a very cool place. The architecture is amazing. There are all these modern high rise condominiums. They utilize daylight to reduce heating costs, so they are covered in glass windows. It is a very cool looking city and it happens to be home to some of the best Asian food on the West coast. They have very good fish, so the sushi is great and abundant. They also have very good Indian food. My goal was to go to one of the best sushi places and the best Indian food places in Vancouver. I consulted Yelp! and PortlandFood.Org for advice. The two heavy hitters for the weekend would be Tojo's for sushi and Vij's for Indian food.
Friday afternoon we arrived and got our room at the YWCA hotel. The rooms were cheap and clean. The beds were not Temperpedic, but they worked. We ended up paying about $95 Canadian per night. I would stay there again as the price was right and the location was convenient. After we got situated we headed down towards Tojo's. Tojo's is somewhat of an institution in Vancouver. It is the most recognized sushi restaurant. Of course, this has its downside as it means it may be somewhat touristy and overpriced. They supposedly are the originators of the California roll. They also offer Omakase style sushi, where you tell the chef your price range and he just starts sending you stuff. Sarah was not up for Omakase, so we did not do it. I regret not getting Omakase, but the meal was still good. The fish was very high quality. I ordered a whole slew of nigiri. We also had the California (Tojo) Roll, which was made with real crab and a spicy tuna roll. The rolls were nothing special and were overpriced. They also had some rolls that had lobster and other crab which we did not get. I found the nigiri to be reasonably priced and of outstanding quality. We also had some handrolls that were possibly the highlight of the night. They had a nice crunchy outside and a soft inside. Alongside all of this we had plenty of Sake, white wine, and beer. I thought Tojo's was great and the service was outstanding. I would go back for the nigiri, a couple handrolls, and the Omakase, but not before experiencing some other, less trendy, high end sushi spots in Vancouver.
After dinner, although stuffed, we decided it would be in our best interest to grab a few drinks somewhere around town. We headed back towards the downtown area, where out hotel was. We had a hard time finding a place that was not a bumpedy bump club blasting the Untz music. We were actually longing for a Portland style bar. Finally, we came to a place called the Black Frog in Gastown. They were playing some loud alternative music, but at least it had dim lighting and was not crowded. They also had one of those Guinness taps that pours a perfect Guinness. I tried a local amber ale that was fine, then reverted to my old friend Guinness for a few pints. I have been drinking Guinness recently because it is: A) Delicious B) Less calories than a Budweiser, therefore good for my diet. So we had a few rounds before retiring.
The next day we did our coffee/breakfast thing and hit Chinatown. They have a crazy Chinatown in Vancouver. There are tons of little markets that sell everything. There are all these open air stores that have dried shrimp and fish and lots of other nasty smelling stuff. They also have many butchers that usually have duck, chicken, or pig out front roasting on a stick or rotisserie. There are tea shops, herb stores that sell medicines and places that sell all sorts of little nick nacks. We walked around and bought Dim Sum at random places. The Dim Sum was fine, but no better than Wong's Kind Seafood in Portland (8733 SE Division St). I know that they have outstanding Dim Sum in Vancouver, but was a little too lazy to seek it out. Eventually we got bored with Chinatown and returned to the hotel.
For dinner we decided to go to Vij's, a trendy, high end Indian food restaurant. Vij's had good reviews everywhere and the consensus was that it was a must. We got there around seven and there was an hour and a half wait. So we put our names on the list and went to grab a drink. We came back 45 minutes later and grabbed some drinks at Vij's wine/beer bar while we waited. This was great because they pass out appetizers while you wait. They were all standard fried Indian appetizers. We were finally seated and the real fun began.
For appetizers we ordered a dish that was made up of paneer, Brussels sprouts and papaya in cumin, mango powder and sour cream curry served with naan bread. This dish was tasty, but slightly disappointing due to my extreme love for Brussels sprouts. It tasted good but was not amazing.
The second appetizer we got was spicy ground cricket paranta with tomato-cumin, chutney and celeriac salad. This was delicious and exciting, since we were eating crickets. You couldn't tell that they were crickets. They were crushed up into the dough for these little bread triangles. You put the other topics onto this bread and enjoy. We both really liked this dish and found it to be better than the Brussels sprouts.
For the main course I got wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on tumeric spinach potatoes. This is one of their signature dishes and was absolutely amazing. The lamb was cooked to perfection and the sauce was creamy deliciousness. I would go back for this alone. (Although I wouldn't mind trying some of their other meat dishes)
Unfortunately, my dining companion was not feeling the desire for cooked flesh that evening so she got a veggie dish. I can't remember what it was, most likely because it is forgettable. It was good, but not great and next to the lamb tasted like tofu(not really, just boring).
Vij's was a great experience. It was on the expensive side, but made for a great night. Afterwards we went to the Kitsilano neighborhood for a few drinks. We were advised by a bartender that it would be a more mellow bar scene. It was, except for the disco DJ. We had to leave that bar. After a few drinks we grabbed a cab back to the YWCA and called it a night.
Sarah left her credit card at a bar in Kitsilano so we had some time to kill before we left on Sunday, as the bar opened at two. We went to the tourist trap, known as Grainville Island. They have a cool market. We got a great bagel with lox there. Other than that we just kind of walked around. We decided to grab some cheap sushi before we left. We went to Kitsilano Sushi as it was near the bar we had to go to and Yelp! gave it good reviews. What a mess that was. One of the sushi chefs walked out. So an assistant chef and a bunch of waitresses started rolling the sushi. They were getting orders wrong and the sushi was mediocre at best. At least it was cheap. I was definitely ready to get out of there. It was disappointing to end my experience with such bad food and service in a city with such amazing food. We did, however, have an amazing weekend. On the way out of town we drove by a million bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich) shops. So I definitely have some unfinished business to attend to in Vancouver, BC...