Vancouver in my Mouth
More business travel a couple of weeks ago meant more delicious food in another one of my favourite Canadian cities, Vancouver. I had the chance to check out a lot of great spots, summarized thusly:
1. Nat's New York Pizza (1080 Denman Street) - On my first night in Vancouver, I decided to order some pizza to my hotel room. I had heard some good things about Nat's, so I called them up and ordered a "5th Avenue" (spinach, tomato, onion, and feta). A friendly delivery guy showed up about 1/2 hour later, and I dug into my piping hot pie. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed -- while the toppings were very fresh and flavourful, with a simple, slightly sweet tomato sauce, the crust was doughy and flavourless. It desperately needed a pinch of salt, or maybe some fragrant olive oil. This definitely wasn't the worst pizza I'd ever had, but it was far from the best. Meh.
2. Guu Izakaya (838 Thurlow Street) - Izakayas are kind of like Japanese tapas bars, specializing in cooked "small plates" and serving very little, if any, sushi. They're pretty prevalent in Vancouver, but I don't think we have any in TO. I stopped at Guu on Thurlow for lunch on my first day in Van, and found myself in dim, woody, comfortable surroundings. The staff shouted a Japanese greeting at me, and I took a spot at the long bar that nearly spans the entire length of the restaurant, behind which the busy chefs assembled dishes. Fron the short lunch menu, which included mostly bento-style meals, I chose the fried prawns with tartar sauce, which was served with miso and sticky rice. My food came quickly, and was arranged in a cute mini-bento-box. I started with the miso, which I found to be pretty standard, but not too salty. The rice was perfectly sticky, and came with some interesting Japanese pickles on the side -- these looked like slices of tiny cucumbers, and tasted like a combination of pickled ginger and wasabi. Very refreshing. The prawns were battered in a light panko crust, and came with a pink (!) tartar sauce. I'm not sure what caused the colour, but the sauce was creamy, tangy, and delightful. I would love to try Guu for dinner, when the menu becomes more extensive, but my lunch experience was great. Recommended!
3. Rangoli (1488 West 11th Ave) - Rangoli is the sister lunch spot to Vancouver's famous and innovative Indian restaurant Vij's, and this tiny diner is located right next door to its big brother. Seating is limited and I found myself in extremely close proximity to my fellow diners. The lunch menu at rangoli is small, but there's lots of exotic flavours to choose from. I settled on an eggplant, pea, and paneer dish in pomegranate-cinnamon masala after a fellow at the table next to me mentioned that my fist choice, the Tilapia curry, is not as tasty. I also ordered a chai to accompany my meal, which was brought out promptly by the friendly waitress and tasted perfect -- creamy, spicy, warm, and comforting. My meal arrived a short time later, and was accompanied by a chapati and some raita. The eggplant was cooked to perfection -- it was not mushy and had soaked up a huge amount of flavour from the slightly sweet and sour, spicy masala sauce. The paneer tasted very fresh, and the tangy raita added a nice punch to the dish. I happily finished my meal and noticed on my way out the door that Rangoli features a wall of refrigerated cases from which you can purchase pre-made meals from Vij's. If only I didn't have a flight back to Toronto preventing me from stocking up! Rangoli is a great, tasty, inexpensive lunch spot, and I highly recommend it.
4. Go Fish (1504 West 1st Ave) - This is a tiny fish stand down by the water near Granville Island, with no indoor seating. Luckily, I was there on one of Vancouver's few sunny Winter days. Go Fish serves up a variety of homey seafood offerings, such as fish n' chips, fish tacos, and rich chowder. The day I was there, tempura cod tacos were on special, and sounded great -- I decided to give them a try. Each taco contained a piece of extremely fresh tempura battered and deep-fried cod with some sesame-flavoured cabbage slaw, tomatoes, and a spicy red sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, and its fluffiness was contrasted nicely by the crunch of the tempura and cabbage. The earthy, sesame flavour of the slaw really enhanced the Asian feel of this typically Mexican dish, and the spicy sauce left a pleasant after-burn. I wolfed down both my tacos in no time. Around me, lots of people were digging into fantastic-looking orders of fish n' chips, served in bamboo steamers. I think I may need to make a special trip back to the West coast to give one of the battered salmon portions a try. Go Fish was definitely my favourite Vancouver find. Go now!