"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the Town

Before I launch into what I expect is going to be the main course here (ha ha), that being all the stuff I am cooking at home, I figured I should tell you about the eating out we've done. One reason we moved to Vancouver was to enable us to spend more time together as a family, and that has mandated (and made possible) much more eating at home, rather than the couple-few times a week out that was our old pattern (not to mention five lunches per week picked up at work). But Vancouver is a foodie mecca for very good reason, and we've enjoyed occasional forays out into the restaurant scene.

Plus, you know, we need to find decent pizza and bagels.

Our first dinner out with friends was at The Oakwood Canadian Bistro, which we're very lucky to have in walking distance. While it manages to hit any number of hipster foodie restaurant cliches (Edison bulbs, buy beer for the kitchen item on menu, staff with long beards and/or visible tattoos, kale and Brussels sprouts in a single dish), the quality of the cooking elevates it. The atmosphere is friendly and cozy, while elegant in a rustic way, which is aided by the small-plates-to-share menu. We're thinking about going for New Year's Eve. Favorite items include that kale-roasted cauliflower-Brussels sprouts salad, a halibut with lardons and lentils (with pescatarian friends, the kitchen put the lardons on the side for me), fancified, but not too, poutine, and a killer cocktail made with smoked rum and ginger beer that arrives actually smoking, on a little wooden plank.

We've hit our favorite (I should probably start spelling that "favourite") dim sum place a couple of times -- Sun Sui Wah, which specializes in seafood. We've sampled a good Thai place around the corner, a couple of Greek pizza places, a ramen place, and some pubs with grub (the lemon-thyme duck wings at Elwood's were bone-sucking awesome).

We had a wildly successful Korean brunch with friends at Sura, where for $15 per person the table is covered with amazingly delicious dishes, way more than we could eat. Even the children loved it.

For brunch, which we typically go out for on those weekends we are able to pawn off allow the children to enjoy a sleepover with their grandmother, we've stuffed ourselves with organic eggs at Aphrodite's, which has the added attraction of being two blocks from our house. We also wildly enjoyed Latin-inflected dishes at El Caminos. I had a pulled pork and pickled jalapeno Eggs Benedict with smoked paprika hollandaise that I could happily eat every day.

On the pizza front, we've settled on Nat's New York Pizza, which is about as close as I think we're going to get. It's a far cry from our beloved Salvatore's in Port Washington, but let's face it, most pizza is.

It wouldn't be life in Vancouver without at least an occasional family dinner at White Spot, a Western Canada family restaurant chain that uses good ingredients and cooks them well in a not-too-frenetic atmosphere. They are famous for the kids meal "Pirate Packs" that come in a cardboard pirate ship and are much loved by my boys. I had a quinoa and tandoori cauliflower salad there with salmon on top that really was delicious.

Bagels present another whole set of issues. First of all, even the best bagels here are Montreal style, which will never fully please a born New Yorker. They're always going to taste too under-salted and too over-sweetened. The lox, while made of spectacular Sockeye salmon, is too crumbly compared to lush Nova. But I recently found a bagel I think I can live with at Rosemary Rocksalt. The signature bagel contains rosemary in the dough and is sprinkled with rocksalt. While I'm usually pretty much a bagel traditionalist in terms of flavorings, these strike me as in the correct spirit -- rosemary turns out to go wonderfully with salmon and cream cheese -- and the rocksalt adds that saltiness I was missing. The plain and other flavors are also good, and the texture is on target. Plus, they're constantly coming out of the wood-fired oven piping hot, and they have a very good rugalach. I plan to sample their bagel with Montreal smoked meat and mustard, at which point I'll probably have my U.S. passport revoked.

Vancouver is a city that lacks the kind of lunch places I'm used to -- delis that will make you any kind of sandwich, and salad places (and often these are one and the same). However, we are hugely blessed with excellent quality sushi at extremely reasonable prices. I've checked out several of the best looking ones in walking distance, and have enjoyed them all. Yuji's is probably the special place in the bunch, a tiny place less than two blocks from our house with top-notch sushi and some very interesting takes on Japanese "tapas." There was a curry squid to die for. Across the street is Irori, which has a very tranquil atmosphere and some very nice quality sushi. I had a special roll that combines pretty much all my favorite things -- uni and spicy chopped scallops, very lightly fried, with cilantro. I might be craving it right now.

Green Leaf (pictured) has great lunch specials and enormous portions in a nice sunny location, and it's becoming a favorite of the kids when they have earned a special lunch out with Mom. I liked the tempura pepper ring and asparagus that came with the chicken teriyaki. Hitoe Sushi has a very funky and authentic atmosphere, also with great lunch. They give you a packet of Pocky with your bill, so what's not to love?

What's most exciting is that nearly all the places I've described are within walking distance of our house, and barely scratch the surface of the available offerings in the neighborhood, much less the city.

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