A friend of mine who went to graduate school in Pittsburgh before moving back to Singapore once gave me a valuable piece of advice that every food tourist should take to heart. The “Rajesh Menu Rule” is that if you are in a place and you see an item on the menu that you’ve never seen before in a place of that kind, you should order it immediately. The context for his application of this rule was Indian restaurants in the U.S. many of which have a fairly standard menu template. Any deviation from this standard usually indicates some true piece of creativity that the owners of the place want to point out, so it’s good to investigate.
On my first trip to Vancouver, BC in 2010 I sadly did not follow this advice when getting dinner at Kintaro Ramen, a small ramen shop that sits in a cluster of them in the western part of the downtown area. On that trip I spied the item they have on their menu that you probably won’t see in most other shops: “Cheese Ramen”. They even call it out as a special thing that is of their original creation. I should have have ordered it on sight, but at the time I wanted the more straight up version of the dish, since Pittsburgh is something of a ramen wasteland. That’s fine.
What is inexplicable is that I could have gone back to this shop in 2014 and again neglected to try it. I had always felt low level regret about this and had always hoped to get back to Vancouver and honor Rajesh by correctly following his advice at this place.
So this year when we decided to go back to Vancouver for an end of up-and-down year trip, to hopefully end the up-and-down year on an up note, my mission was clear. On our fourth night in town (there is a lot of food in this town, it took until then for a spot to clear up in our schedule, and even then we were still semi-stuffed with dim sum lunch) we headed back to the shop and I got my bowl. And it was good.
The bowl is based on their miso broth with slices of pork and then one shredded cheese (maybe mild swiss, maybe mozzarella) and one slice of cheese (probably mozzarella):
As you eat it the cheese melts into the soup and all over the noodles. It’s nice! You can kind of see the cheese melted into the noodles and broth here:
Of course, the more straight up ramen at Kintaro is also still great:
And they also had a cool onigiri extra, which Karen had been craving.
At this point I could make the rest of this post a lightly annotated list of about 125 food pictures. But that would be pretty tedious. So I’ll try and edit this down to the top ten or fifteen highlights along with where the dishes came from.
Our main sources for food info came from a list of Downtown area places that I got from a colleague at the local Apple office in the city, and also the food blog Sherman’s Food Adventures that I found out about from a friend of my brother’s who lives in town and plays hockey with Sherman. Sherman apparently produces that web site as a “hobby”, which gives you an idea of what hobby-level eating is like in Vancouver, BC (remember: it’s cooler than Seattle).
Izakaya and Yakitori and So On.
If you want casual Japanese bar food look no further than two local chains: Guu and Zukkushi. The Guu places are izakayas with a wide range of small plates. Highlights here were the sashimi and karaage of various sorts.
Scallop sashimi was great at Guu with Garlic on Robson:
The cauliflower karaage was great at Guu Toramasa on Seymour street:
And that location had a great yellowtail sashimi as well:
Meanwhile, at Zukkushi on Main we got dozens of different kinds of grilled skewers and also this chicken yakitori rice bowl that was absolutely perfect in every way. The rice was perfect. The egg was perfect. The chicken was perfect. And the auxiliary toppings were the perfect balance. Beautiful.
They also make an Udon Carbonara that you should try. Especially if you tried the Cheese Ramen above and liked it.
We also overloaded on fried meat at Saku on Robson, which has the best (and most) katsu I’ve ever had. This is their sampler platter, which was a lot bigger than we thought it would be before we ordered it. Oops.
Finally, our sushi slot was taken up by a fancy lunch at a fancy spot called Miku which you should also go to if you can afford it.
Again I got a rice bowl that was perfect in every way. This is tuna on an absolutely perfect bed of white rice.
The rest of the sushi was just as good:
Somehow I have no photographic record of the inari sushi that I got, which for once in North America was better than the stuff you get at a 7-11 in Japan. I know the Miku people would be insulted by this comparison, but they have to understand that where I am coming from this is the highest possible compliment.
Dim Sum and Related
We broke with tradition and got dim sum in the city this trip instead our normal mode of going to Richmond. I think we did OK.
New Mandarin Seafood Restaurant had the only shu mai that Karen ever ate on purpose. They had scallop and quail egg in them.
They also had these seafood tofu rollups that were similarly excellent.
And finally, the ever popular sleeping teddy bear dessert.
Meanwhile, we went to Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant on Christmas. As one does. There were a few people there.
Everything here was great as well. But the highlight was the last thing we ordered after we were already full. This crab meat and assorted seafood egg fried rice was just unhinged:
The clay pot with the steamed chicken on rice in it was also great:
We had also never had a well executed pan fried steamed buns with pork in them like these:
Things like this don’t make it to Pittsburgh.
In between all of these things, we did head to Richmond to walk around the malls and to get the roast meat at Hong Kong BBQ Master. Neither was a disappointment, but I’m only showing pictures of the roast meat.
They have two kinds of pork:
And also pork, duck, and chicken:
Finally, the fancy Chinese this time was a Michelin Starred Peking Duck place that only has a score of 3.5 in the local Yelp. iDen & Quanjude Beijing Duck House is probably not the best value for money, but I found the the food and the service to be hard to criticize. I can’t say why the Yelp people are so mad about it.
Get the smoked fish appetizer:
And of course the duck:
And the special duck fried rice with crispy rice bits and foie gras:
Of course we went back to Vij’s. This experience is summed up by the vegetarian Thali.
Ahn and Chi
My brother’s friend suggested that we get together and have lunch at a local favorite Vietnamese spot, Ahn and Chi. This place has a nice story behind it, and it has really good soft-shell crab fried rice.
The vermicelli bowl is also great. But we should have split one.
OK. I’ve about doubled my ten to fifteen highlights quota. You missed out on the chicken buns that have ham in them at the Kam Do bakery, Hei Hei rice rolls in the Richmond Public Market food court in Richmond, DingDing, a Taiwanese hole in the wall with omelet covered rice, Lee’s Donuts, and the bagels at Siegels. Finally, there was the corner with at least 5 or 6 coffee shops near Hastings and Cambie. We tried Nemesis, Timber Train, and Revolver, but just go to Revolver because it’s the best one.
I’ll end with a gratuitous sunset picture:
A sunrise picture:
And whatever this is:
Extra Note on Photos
I like to take pictures on trips. I even still bother to pack a camera different from phone with which to do this. I’ve told the story before about how I went from giant cameras to smaller cameras and then back and forth again.
This trip might have convinced me to go even smaller on the non-phone camera. This seems paradoxical but it really isn’t. Smaller cameras can now do what you used to need a giant camera to do. So you might as well take advantage of that if the main motivation for your trip is something besides maximizing photo quality (like stuffing yourself with dim sum).
You’ll notice that almost all of the pictures on this page were taken with my phone (the file names start with the standard iPhone prefix). And the ones that were not could (mostly) have just as well been done with a high quality smaller fixed lens camera like the Sony RX100 model whatever. So I think I’m going to go that way.