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ngibzakBurnabySince June 11, 200922 Reviews
Average Rating
3.5 (3.5)
  • Food3.5 (3.5)
  • Service3.5 (3.5)
  • Value3.5 (3.4)
  • Ambiance3.5 (3.5)

Reviews

Displaying 1 - 20 of 22 Reviews Found
Chop10251 St Edwards Dr, Richmond
High end dining in the 'burbs
Submitted Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - 6:50pm [Dine in]

First heard about Chop from a friend, who'd suggested it for dinner a few months ago. We didn't end up making it there on that occasion, but when another opportunity came up recently, we decided to finally give it a try.

Upon entering, I was immediately struck by Chop's décor. It was, without a doubt, one of the best looking restaurants I've visited this year. A pleasant surprise – the kind of place you’d expect to see downtown, not in Richmond adjacent to a freeway. The girlfriend wasn’t quite as impressed. While she didn't dislike it, she did find it a little dark and staid. It's a matter of personal taste, I guess.

Our friends were already waiting for us when we arrived, so we dove straight into the appies. The girlfriend and I shared the lobster, scallop, and gorgonzola dip, which we both thought was outstanding. I was concerned beforehand that the cheese would be overpowering, but it turned out to be nicely balanced. The friends ordered the ahi tuna pillars and French onion soup. I didn't try either, but they definitely scored high in presentation, and the friends said they were good.

As a main, I chose the miso glazed sablefish, with wild rice as accompaniment. The fish was excellent – well cooked and very moist. It ranks among my favourite recent sablefish preparations. For hers, the girlfriend selected the wasabi crusted tuna. It came a lot rarer than she expected, with only the slightest cooked ring on the outside. It also had a generous (overly-generous, in her opinion) wasabi glaze. She compared it to eating a very large piece of sashimi. I tried a little, and she wasn't completely exaggerating. Another few seconds on the grill wouldn't have hurt. As for the friends, they were perfectly happy with their orders – macadamia crusted mahi-mahi and peppercorn steak.

To finish, we ordered a couple of fallen chocolate soufflé cakes, with coffees. We were a little scared when the cakes first arrived. They looked way to heavy, especially after the meal we'd just eaten. Turned out, though, they were nice, light way to end the meal.

The total for all of the above was somewhat hefty, definitely more than you'd typically pay to eat in the ‘burbs. If the food hadn't lived up to expectations – which it did, fortunately – it would’ve been grossly overpriced. Portion sizes were decent as well, which helped soften the blow to the wallet.

The one area that we, as a group, found lacking was service. It wasn’t bad, per se. In fact, all our servers were very friendly. They just weren’t quite on the ball. Two things in particular stood out. First, our food didn’t arrive all at the same time. The entrées came in two waves, about two or three minutes apart. That made for an awkward wait. Second, there was a strange reluctance on the part of our servers to clear unused or empty glasses from the table. At one point, there must’ve been a good half dozen empty glasses on the table, which the servers moved aside to clear space for the plates, but didn’t remove. That was a little odd.

Overall, our first visit to Chop went about as well as expected. The price point will probably keep us from being anything other than irregular guests, but as a 'special occasion' type of restaurant, it's a fair alternative to going into town.

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Dan Japanese Restaurant2511 West Broadway, Vancouver
Had a good time, with a few snafus
Submitted Friday, October 30, 2009 - 5:21pm [Dine in]

After seeing the number of (mostly) positive reviews Dan has received, the girlfriend and I – both sushi fanatics – decided that we had to go and try the place out for ourselves. And so we did, about a week ago.

The first thing we noticed, as soon as we stepped inside, was the size of the restaurant. Dan isn’t a big place at all – more of a neighbourhood Japanese bistro than your typical sushi joint. Still, it’s comfortable inside, stylishly decorated, and very, very clean. The second floor, where the only table I was able to reserve was located, unfortunately wasn’t as inviting (and is the reason they get a 3 rather than a 4 for ambiance). For some reason, a large, heavy drape completely blocked the view from the balcony to the main floor below. With only two tables up there, and not a lot of floor space, it made us feel like we were dining in some forgotten corner of the restaurant. Fortunately, the servers, who were exceedingly friendly and polite, came around regularly, which helped dispel (somewhat) the isolated, claustrophobic vibe.

As for the food, overall we were pleased with the quality. We ordered four mains – agedashi tofu, chicken karaage, saikyo yaki (grilled sable fish) and assorted tempura. Of these, our favourite was the sable fish. It was beautiful – a little smoky, a little sweet, a little savoury - all in balance. The other mains were good as well. Both the tofu and chicken karaage came with sauces that were delicious. The tempura, though, struck me as a little unusual. It had a heavier batter coating, kind of like on a fish stick, instead of being light with a crispy panko breading. I don’t know if that made it more or less authentically Japanese. Whatever, the case, it was still alright, although certainly different. In addition to these dishes, we also ordered three types of sushi – wild salmon, tuna toro, and ebi. All were very good, with the wild salmon being among the freshest tasting I’ve had in a while.

The one area where Dan fell below expectations was value. Their prices were easily among the highest I’ve paid for Japanese in Vancouver in a long time. Especially for the sushi items – each piece of nigiri was only about the size of my thumb, and yet cost twice as much as those from other sushi places I frequent. While it’s reasonable to charge a premium for quality, theirs seemed a little much, especially in conjunction with the smaller portions. Prices for the mains weren’t nearly as bad (except for the sable fish, although that was so good it might be worth it), but still tended towards the higher side.

When we finally left Dan, we had conflicted feelings about the restaurant. For food quality and service, it scored high marks. But for value, it was a bit of a letdown. Ultimately, we’ll probably go back again, although not in the near future, and probably only on special occasions. And only if we can get a main floor table.

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L.A. Grill & Bistro8100 No. 2 Road, 128, Richmond
Can't figure this place out
Submitted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - 6:47pm [Dine in]

I don’t get it. Every time I pass by L.A. Grill, the restaurant’s always at least reasonably busy. Obviously, they’re doing something right in order to bring in customers. But whatever that is, it’s lost on me. Certainly, their prices (at first glance, anyway) are reasonable. Still… I’ve been to L.A. Grill twice now. The first time wasn’t great. In fact, it probably wouldn’t qualify as anything more than so-so. And as for the second visit, well, it was downright abysmal.

It started immediately, with our greeting at the door. The girl who met us couldn’t have been more disinterested or rude if she’d tried. After seeing there was two of us, she took one step towards a table, threw the menus down, motioned to the seats and strode away. She didn’t even wait for us to budge from the door. Seriously, what the …? While I wasn’t anticipating fine dining service, I was at least hoping for more than to be waved in my table’s general direction. I don’t expect that kind of treatment from a diner in the middle of nowhere, much less a place that calls itself a bistro. Fortunately, the girl who actually did wait on us was much more pleasant and helpful. She salvaged what would otherwise have been my first ever 1 star rating for service.

As for the food, that too was a problem. Both the girlfriend and I ordered the shrimp and avocado sandwich. The sandwich itself was alright (I liked it more than did the girlfriend), but the sides were – and I hate to get this nasty – truly pathetic. The salad, as it was, consisted of one lonely leaf of romaine lettuce which had been chopped up and drowned in an oil so thin and flavourless I thought it was, at first, water. A few drops of balsamic were drizzled on top for good measure. Also on the plate was a potato which I’m sure had been well boiled before being baked to death and sprinkled with a pinch of seasoning. The same ubiquitous, bland oil drenched it, and ran onto the bottom of the plate, which in turn made the bottom half of the sandwich soggy. While some may argue for the L.A. Grill based on price (the sandwich platters only cost $7.95, if memory serves), I’d counter that a low price is meaningless if the quality is the pits. Would it really decimate the restaurant’s bottom line to include more than one measly rib of lettuce in their salad, or to use a decent quality (preferably olive) oil in their dressing?

When it comes to restaurants, as far as I’m concerned, there are at least two things to expect. The first is decent service – not necessarily five star, but at least polite enough that you don’t feel like an unwanted guest. The second is, of course, food – the quality should be such that you don’t think to yourself afterward, ‘I can make the same thing, way better, with stuff I already have in my kitchen.’ I can’t remember the last restaurant I went to that was as totally lacking in executing these two basic elements as the L.A. Grill. Needless to say, we don’t plan to ever go back.

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George's Taverna3760 Moncton Street, #130, Richmond
Good, but watch that first step!
Submitted Friday, October 9, 2009 - 6:31pm [Dine in]

With its distinctive storefront, cheerful blue and white colour scheme, and prominent location in the heart of Steveston, George’s Taverna is something of a local landmark. Despite this, I’d never gone there until recently (and somewhat by accident). The girlfriend and I were in the area, our hearts set on a sushi lunch, when we discovered that neither of the two places we frequent are open Sunday afternoons. Since we were starving, we decided to duck into the first restaurant that seemed appealing. That turned out to be George’s Taverna.

It’s my guess that most people fall into one of two opinions when it comes to this restaurant. The first would consider the place to be a kitschy, cluttered, cramped shack of a diner. The second would think it a quaint, offbeat, and informal eatery. A case can be made for either, but I lean slightly towards the latter. Although, there are two things I wish they’d fix. First, there’s the perilously uneven floor at the entrance (the girlfriend practically fell in when we entered), which strikes me as a lawsuit waiting to happen. And second, there’s the lingering, tacky residue on the tables, which made it a little uncomfortable to rest elbows or otherwise lean forward.

As for where it counts the most – the food – George’s delivered. We started with hummus, which arrived considerably thicker and chunkier than what most restaurants serve. It was also delicious. If I had to pick one thing about it, maybe it could’ve used a little more garlic. But then again, I’m a garlic fanatic, so… For her entrée, the girlfriend ordered the lamb souvlaki. I didn’t try any, but she said she enjoyed it quite a bit. I went for the kalamari, which was likewise very good. The ringlets of squid were tender, and the batter coating was nice and crunchy. As for the other items on the plate – the Greek salad was just right (not too much onion, and with a nice, strong feta), and the potato fantastic (moist and flavourful right through to the centre).

Value-wise, prices weren’t too bad, especially considering the neighbourhood. And in terms of service, well … it was a sleepy Sunday, so service probably wasn’t as sharp and cheery as it would be otherwise. Still, we found nothing really to complain about. Plus, it was entertaining to eavesdrop on George’s son chatting up the couple a few tables down.

Overall, we liked it.

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No. 9 Restaurant5300 No. 3 Road, #812, Richmond
It's alright
Submitted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - 11:29am [Dine in]

Being a frequent visitor to Lansdowne Centre, I've probably passed by No. 9 a few hundred times without ever thinking much about it. I knew it was a Chinese restaurant, seemed to be reasonably busy, and was open 24 hours, but that's about it. A short while ago, the girlfriend's sister came to town to visit, and wanted to go for Chinese food. Somehow, No. 9 came up in the discussion, and that’s where we ended up.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was a little surprised to see just how crazy bustling it was inside, especially in comparison to the rather calm exterior. My first impression was of an über-busy Chinese Denny’s or IHOP. And that’s not necessarily a diss, because I happen to like IHOP. Despite the crowd, we were seated promptly, then given a variety of menus. There’s a lot of food available to order, and more than a few ways in which to order it. We eventually agreed on a four entrée special consisting of stir fried vegetables, sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, and fried rice with chicken, with seafood chow mein thrown in for good measure. All the food came very, very quickly. No more than five minutes could’ve passed between the time we placed our order, and the time it arrived at the table. That was impressive. As for the food itself, well … I’ll begin with the pluses.

The sweet and sour pork was very good. In fact, it was probably one of the better ones I’ve had in a while. The cubes of pork were nice and big, trimmed of excess fat, with a sauce that was just right and not overly sweet. The fried rice with chicken was also well received by everyone at the table. And the lemon chicken, which I thought was a little too syrupy and candy-like – I’ll admit I’m not a lemon chicken fan – was enjoyed by those who wanted it.

The seafood chow mein, which was my choice, was disappointing. I love seafood chow mein, and have been searching for that elusive perfect chow mein ever since the Richmond Garden, which in my opinion served the very best, closed many years ago. No. 9’s was passable, but on the bland side. I have to admit, though, that after taking the remainder home and tweaking it a bit myself, it actually came out tasting fantastic. Next time I’ll just get it to go.

The one item that wasn’t a hit, at all, was the stir fried vegetables. I only nibbled a few bites. It was ... meh. My companions hated it outright, saying it had a funky vinegary taste they found off-putting. Needless to say, it went practically untouched, and we didn’t pack it for home either.

All things considered, No. 9 was actually an okay place. Service was fast (albeit not friendly – I don’t recall seeing any smiles during dinner). The food was, for the most part, decent (I suspect, though, they use MSG, so be warned). And value-wise, the portions were fair, so no quibbles there. There’s no rush, but we’d go back again.

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Closed
Delilah's1789 Comox Street, Vancouver
A new favourite
Submitted Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 6:13pm [Dine in]

A good friend recommended Delilah’s a little while back. Actually, “recommended” is probably too light a word to describe her enthusiasm – "raved rapturously" might be more fitting. She must’ve gone on about the restaurant for half an hour, praising everything from the décor, to the atmosphere, to the food, to the martini selection (ah, yes, the martinis…). Anyway, with that kind of glowing endorsement, it was only a matter of time before the girlfriend and I tried it for ourselves, which we did last week.

It was an extremely quiet night when we arrived, with only one booth occupied, and a few more patrons at the bar. This worried us at first (was the restaurant reserved for a function? was it any good?), but our concerns vanished as soon as we were shown to our booth. Delilah’s is a very cool, very unique place. The velvet, the ceiling mural, the art, the furnishings, even the music – it all came together to give the space a lush, retro feel that was fun, yet intimate at the same time. Our server, whose name I didn’t catch, fit in perfectly. She reminded me a bit of a 50’s pinup. And she was great, too, very friendly and personable.

Seeing as Delilah’s is best known for its martinis, we had to start with those. I had the Champs d’Alize, which was very, very good. In fact, I could’ve easily had another one (or two, or three), if not for the fact I had to drive. The girlfriend had one of the fruitier concoctions – the Ruby Slipper, I think – which she loved as well. Our server brought over a basket of bread for us to share, which included butter that had been whipped with a little cheese. We’d never had that before at a restaurant. It was so simple, yet brilliant.

From there, we decided to order off the prix fixe menu. There’s a two course and a four course option, and we picked the former. The girlfriend chose crab cakes as her appy, with mussels for me. Both were great. The crab cakes were flavourful, crispy but not dry, and came with a really tasty sweet/spicy sauce. As for the mussels, they arrived fresh and plump, sitting in a pool of chipotle cream that was absolutely fantastic. For our mains, we each ordered the beef tenderloin with whipped potatoes (a $5 supplement on the prix fixe). These, too, were excellent. The steaks came tender and juicy, and the whipped potatoes they sat upon were outstandingly good.

After that, neither of us had any room for dessert, so we ended our meal with some specialty coffee and tea. When it was all said and done, it was a really delicious dinner. And not only that, but because of the atmosphere in the room, it was also a memorable overall dining experience

If I had to point out one thing about Delilah’s that I think could be improved, it’d be the inclusion of a three course option on their prix fixe menu. Nothing against the size of their dishes (the portions are fine), but two courses may not be enough for some people, while four may be too much. Aside from that small nitpick, however, we both had a terrific time. We’re already looking forward to returning again soon.

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Sandbar Seafood Restaurant1535 Johnston Street, Vancouver
Pricy, but what a view!
Submitted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - 6:13pm [Dine in]

Went to the Sandbar pretty much on a whim a couple of weekends ago. We’d gone to Granville Island planning to catch a show, when the girlfriend suddenly decided that that she wanted to have dinner first instead. Sandbar was nearest, and despite the fact that it was a bustling Saturday night and we didn’t have reservations, we decided to give it a shot. It didn’t look good at first. We were told we’d have to waitlist, and were directed to another counter; but, as luck would have it, we managed to nab a table almost immediately. And not just any table, but a window-side table on the top deck, and the exact same table where we’d had our first date. Very cool, and lucky.

After taking our seats, and indulging in a little wine and bread, we decided to start with an order of veggie spring rolls. These arrived nicely deep fried – crisp but not greasy – and came with a plum and black sesame dip that was both slightly sweet and slightly tart. While adequate, both the girlfriend and I agreed that something with a bit of heat, such as a sweet chili sauce, would’ve made an even better accompaniment. Still, as an appetizer, it was alright. For her main, the girlfriend chose the salmon (coho, I think), which came atop a creamy risotto. I didn’t try any, and I’m a little vague on the exact details of the dish, but the girlfriend said it was fine. What she really loved, however, and I enjoyed as well, was my order – mahi-mahi with a burnt orange glaze. It was very good, with the sweet/spicy glaze giving the meaty fish a real kick. Definitely a dish to seek out again.

Service during dinner was polite, efficient and helpful. We’ve been to the Sandbar a few times, and have never experienced anything less. Ambiance-wise, it’s hard to beat dinner by candlelight on the rooftop patio. And as for value … well, in my opinion this is the Sandbar’s major weakness. The portion of rice that accompanied my main was so small I thought it must’ve been portioned out with a shot glass. And the only other things on my plate were a few sprigs of asparagus and a small wedge of tomato. While I realize that there’s a premium to be paid for food quality and location, it’s be nice if the Sandbar’s portions could at least approximate their inflated prices.

Still, value for dollar notwithstanding, the Sandbar’s not a bad place to go for well prepared seafood on Granville Island. Just be sure to ask for a table on the patio to in order to make the most of your visit.

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Twisted Fork Bistro1147 Granville Street, Vancouver
Funky, friendly, and tasty
Submitted Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 6:32pm [Dine in]

Came across the Twisted Fork almost by accident, while idly surfing the ‘net one afternoon looking for nothing in particular. I’d been wanting to find a new restaurant to go to downtown – someplace nice but not overly fussy, with good food at reasonable prices – and the Twisted Fork seemed to fit the bill. So the girlfriend and I made our way there one evening.

We arrived a little after opening, and after chatting with the front of the house for a minute, helped ourselves to a booth at the back, near the open kitchen. The Twisted Fork isn’t a big restaurant, but it is a funky-cool and comfortable place to hang out for a few hours. It’s casual, but not too casual; and classy without being pretentious. The booths lining one wall promote a certain intimacy that’s only enhanced after dark, when the lights are dimmed.

After placing our orders for a couple of the restaurant’s specialty cocktails, we decided to take our very friendly hostess’ recommendation and go with the prix fixe menu. I chose grilled sourdough and pan seared halibut, with a lemon tart for dessert. The girlfriend had the smoked gruyere and onion tart, beef bourguignon, with crème brulée to finish. All were quite alright, with the grilled sourdough being our least favourite (not bad, just a little dry). The highlights were the gruyere tart, with its spicy chutney topping, the beef bourguignon, which the girlfriend praised to no end, and the lemon tart, which was the best I’ve had in recent memory. Overall, it was a very good meal, and considering the 25 pp cost, an excellent value.

By the time we left the Twisted Fork, both the girlfriend and I were full, happy, and satisfied. That’s pretty much all you can ask from a restaurant. We’re looking forward to dining there again.

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Steamworks Brewing Company375 Water Street, Vancouver
A so-so experience in Gastown
Submitted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 7:00pm [Dine in]

Back when my office was located downtown, I used to make my way to Steamworks every so often for lunch. Aside from cold beers and a nice patio, they also featured a seafood pasta made with squid ink which I really loved. Finding myself back in Gastown over the long weekend, I decided to indulge in a bit of nostalgia and try the restaurant again.

Not much seems to have changed in the years since my last visit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The interior is still very pub-like and inviting, and the patio has the same great view (if you can overlook the parking lot) of the harbour and North Van. The one big difference was the absence of squid ink pasta from their menu. That was a downer, although not entirely unexpected. Menus change, c’est la vie. I went with the lobster ravioli instead. They were large, nicely stuffed pasta pillows in a slightly sweet tarragon cream sauce. Not bad at all. The girlfriend chose the deluxe burger with fries, to which she assigned a solid 3 out of 5 rating. Prices for both dishes, as well as our drinks, were pretty much what you’d expect from a touristy downtown restaurant – i.e. there’s a small premium to be paid.

Service was efficient and polite, but not exactly friendly. Strange, but that hasn’t changed either since my last visit. Neither the hostess who greeted us at the door nor our server seemed overly happy. Our server in particular looked like she was just biding time until the end of her shift. It’s not that I expect huge displays of friendliness from my servers when I dine out, but a warm smile once in a while is nice, too.

In the end, this latest jaunt to Steamworks wasn’t all that different from previous visits. We had decent food, with so-so prices and so-so service. Although, now that they no longer offer one of my favourite dishes, I can't say it was anything more than an average experience.

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Closed
Le Nakamura Japanese Dining12480 No. 1 Rd, #130, Richmond
Better.
Submitted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 - 7:41pm [Dine in]

Admittedly, was not a huge fan of Le Nakamura after my first visit. Two things in particular rubbed me the wrong way. First, there was the woefully undersized nigiri we were served (the pieces of fish weren’t much bigger than my thumb, and I don’t even have particularly big hands). And second, there was the fact that we had to wait about ten extra minutes after we finished dinner to get our bill, while the three servers stood around the cash register chatting. However, on a recent dinner out it was the girlfriend’s turn to choose the venue, and Le Nakamura was what she picked. While I still wasn’t blown away, at the very least the second visit was an improvement.

The one difference I noticed immediately was regarding the size of the sushi – we received decent sized portions. I’ve never had a problem with the quality of Le Nakamura’s sushi, because it’s actually pretty good, but for my money I want pieces that are at least bigger than tater tots. The other, non-sushi items we ordered – namely, gyoza and tempura – weren’t bad either. These arrived hot and freshly prepared. So, food-wise, we were much happier this time around.

Service was better as well. The fact that the place was only about a quarter full probably didn’t hurt, but even so, it was nice to see the servers keeping busy attending to tables, rather than having a group discussion in the corner. Our tea cups were never empty for long, and both our food and the bill arrived promptly.

In the end, my impression of Le Nakamura was definitely improved by a second visit. While it’s still not my first choice to go to get a sushi fix, I wouldn’t turn down a chance to eat there again, either.

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Bistro Pastis2153 W. 4th Ave, Vancouver
C'est très bon
Submitted Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 4:18pm [Dine in]

Have been resisting a fierce craving for French food the last couple of weeks. Finally buckled over the weekend, and, under the pretense of taking the girlfriend out for a special dinner, decided to pay a visit to Bistro Pastis in Kits. Never having dined French in Vancouver before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hoped for the best.

The first thing we noticed, as soon as we walked through the door, was the vibe to the room. The décor, the dark wood bar, the Francophone staff, even the somewhat close quarters of the tables – it all worked to give the restaurant a very cozy intimacy that felt authentically French bistro. Since we arrived a few minutes ahead of our reservation, and because it was a busy night, we were invited to sit at the bar, where we gladly enjoyed a couple of Kir Royales while we waited for a table to open up.

Once seated, we began with the foie gras featured appy, as well as the escargots. Both were very good, although the girlfriend and I were split. She favoured the escargots (which were fine, but I prefer the traditional, simpler version in the shell), while I liked the foie gras. I’d never had foie gras before, and found it surprisingly mild and buttery smooth. The dumpling which it topped was delicious. For her main, girlfriend chose to go with the plat du jour, which was Arctic char with mashed (or crushed, as described by our server) potato and grilled vegetables. While she didn’t absolutely love it, she did enjoy the dish. I went with the grilled salmon with lemon gnocchi, which I found to be quite good. The salmon came medium rare and tasted very fresh, and the gnocchi was terrific. To finish our meal, we shared a very nice crème brulée.

After dinner, considering what and how much we ate and drank, and the overall quality of the food and service, I had a pleasant surprise when the bill came. It wasn't quite as large as I expected, and was actually very reasonable.

Ultimately, I found Bistro Pastis to be a fine restaurant and a good value. It's a good place to turn for quality French bistro fare in Vancouver.

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Havana Restaurant1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Lively and atmospheric
Submitted Thursday, August 6, 2009 - 1:13pm [Dine in]

Looking for a fun place to go, a small group of us hit up Havana’s over the weekend for a late dinner. With it being fireworks night, we were betting the restaurant would be a little less busy than normal, and we’d be able to grab a table straight away. It didn’t quite work exactly as planned – the patio was still packed and we had to sit inside – but at least there wasn’t a long wait.

Once settled in, we immediately ordered a pitcher of sangria. There are a couple of different blends available, and we voted to try the tropical. I don’t know if there was a mix-up with the order, because when our sangria came, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly tropical about it. It was perfectly fine otherwise – cool, refreshing, and packed with fresh (although not tropical) fruit. But, as someone in our group remarked, it would’ve been even better if they’d thrown a mango or kiwi into the mix.

For my main, I chose the braised lamb shank with potatoes and au jus. The lamb itself was beautiful – moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. Unfortunately, the gravy (and I’m not normally one to complain about gravy) leaned towards the salty side, to the point that I couldn’t even detect the chipotle in the dish. I consider myself to be more tolerant of salt than most people, but even for me it was almost too much. The others in the group were okay with their food, though; the only nitpick I overhead regarding a general dislike for the beans (fortunately there weren’t any in my order).

In terms of service and ambiance, Havana’s scores good marks. Our server was bright, attentive, and really seemed to make an effort to make dinner fun. And, even though we didn’t get a patio table overlooking the Drive as originally planned, it was still cool eating inside the restaurant. With its distressed walls lined with graffiti and old photos, not to mention the oppressive heat of that night, we really did feel like we were dining somewhere in Latin America. Havana’s offers a unique dining experience that’d I’d try again.

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Milestone's Grill & Bar1210 Denman Street, Vancouver
View, terrific. Food, not so much.
Submitted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - 2:38pm [Dine in]

I’d normally avoid reviewing chain restaurants. Their conformity makes singling out one particular outlet really rather pointless. But the Milestone’s on Denman is different enough from the rest that I thought I’d make an exception.

What sets this Milestone’s apart, and the one major plus in its favour, is its location. Set just off the corner of Denman and Davie, this restaurant has one of the best patios going. That was the main reason the girlfriend and I decided to eat there – to watch the spectacular sunset over English Bay. We definitely weren’t disappointed. The view, plus the lively crowd, both inside and outside the restaurant, really made for a memorable dinner.

Unfortunately, where it counted the most – the food – was a disappointment. I ordered the Italian sausage ravioli, which I remembered as being pretty good, having had it a few years before at the Robson Street location. When it arrived, I was surprised to find the sausage filling pureed. It’s one thing to expect a regular meat filling, and if it’d been advertised as such I would’ve been okay, but I was expecting a sausage filling with sausage consistency. Meh. Another problem was the sauce – not the flavor (which was fine), but the amount. The drizzle of red and white sauce down the middle of the plate was pretty, but it wasn’t nearly enough. And finally, to top things off, the dish wasn’t served hot. The ravioli had cooled to the point of being lukewarm and gummy. Overall, a letdown. The girlfriend, who ordered seafood fettucini, didn’t fare much better. She said her food tasted alright, but complained there was a general lack of seafood on the plate. A little surprising, considering how it’s described in the menu.

All this left me with split feelings about this particular restaurant. If you’re looking for a great summertime patio – someplace to kick back with some friends, enjoy a cocktail, maybe share an appy or two, and watch the action on the beach – it’s an easy recommend. But if you’re picky about your food and are looking for a great meal, you can do better someplace else.

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Vij's1480 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver
A favourite
Submitted Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 6:34pm [Dine in]

While standing in a lineup with the girlfriend Saturday night, waiting for Vij’s doors to open, the guy queued behind us asked what the big deal was with the restaurant. He said he passed by often, and was curious why there was always a crowd waiting to get in, what type of food was served, etc. I was a little surprised by his questions, as I’ve always considered Vikram Vij and his namesake restaurant to be relatively famous Vancouver entities. Nonetheless, I was happy to advise him that he could expect really good (albeit not entirely authentic, at least according to a South Asian friend who refuses to eat there – it’s her loss) Indian food. I’ve been to Vij’s a number of times over the years, and this most recent visit was probably the best yet.

After being shown to one of the last tables in the house (much to our relief – the people a few spots behind us were advised they’d have to wait 45 minutes to an hour), and a small debate over the menu, we decided to get things started with an order of samosas. Without exaggerating, they were some of the best samosas I’ve ever eaten. Crunchy/flaky pastry on the outside, savoury meat on the inside, and a sweet sauce with a dab of coconut as accompaniment … absolutely delicious. Both the girlfriend and I agreed that we would’ve been perfectly happy if dinner consisted of nothing but a dozen more. But we moved on. For her main, the girlfriend chose a dish of halibut and spot prawns in curry, while I went with grilled sablefish and zucchini in a mango reduction. The halibut and prawns were excellent – the fish held up well to the moderately spicy sauce. And as for the sablefish, simply put, it was out of this world. I’ve eaten a lot of sablefish dishes recently, and Vij’s, by far, has been my favourite preparation. The girlfriend tried a little and agreed that it was outstanding. To finish, we shared an bowl of … some sort of frozen pistachio dessert. The girlfriend called it ice cream, while I thought it resembled granita. Whatever it was, it was very good, and a refreshing way to end dinner.

Despite the fact that there’s a bit of a revolving door approach, service was top notch. There was never any confusion or delay with the orders, and every server who approached our table was polite and professional. Vikram Vij – the consummate showman and host that he is – greeted guests personally at the door upon opening, and was a perpetual man in motion during dinner. He even spooned curry sauce onto my girlfriend’s rice. Awesome! Ambiance-wise, the small, dark room is cozy and intimate, yet the atmosphere within is lively. The ‘no reservations’ policy actually adds to the restaurant’s charm – it's a guilty pleasure to sit inside and eat wonderful food, while the lineup of hungry patrons grows outside on the patio. Finally, in terms of value, considering the quality of food served, the charming ambiance and the spot-on service, Vij’s is definitely worth extra. It remains among my top picks.

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Closed
Iguana's Beach Grill14985 Marine Drive, White Rock
Neither exceptional nor awful
Submitted Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 4:02pm [Dine in]

The sheer number of restaurants lining White Rock beach can turn dining there into a real guessing game. That was the situation over the weekend, when the girlfriend and I decided to try our luck after an afternoon on the boardwalk. Being infrequent visitors to the area, we determined to go to whichever restaurant appealed most as we walked by. Iguana’s, with its shady patio full of customers, caught our attention, and we decided to check it out.

After being shown to our table – right alongside the sidewalk, perfect for people watching – we kicked things off with an order of sangria. Strangely enough, despite the restaurant not being overly busy (all patrons were seated at the patio, about ten of us in total), it took a long time for our drinks to arrive. We must’ve sat at our table, without food or drink (not even water) for almost fifteen minutes. In the end, it was worth the wait. The sangria was good – refreshing and light, perfect for a hot day. Although, it would’ve been nicer if fresh fruit had been used, rather than frozen.

For appies, we chose to go with the crab and gouda dip. This dish was alright. However, I’m not sure if it was a case of the crab being too subtle, or the cheese being too strong, or possibly both, because neither the girlfriend nor I could really detect the seafood in the dip. The accompanying pita chips were unique, though, and quite tasty.

The girlfriend ordered, for her main, the halibut fish and chips. Her verdict – it was okay, but not great. There was something about the batter (she didn’t elaborate) that she didn’t quite love. She also didn’t like, in the least, the accompanying Asian inspired cole-slaw. She found the use of sesame oil in the salad off-putting; although I tried it, and quite liked it. For myself, I selected the steak sandwich with fries. It turned out to be a perfectly good dish. The garlic toast was crunchy, and the horseradish mayo gave the sandwich a nice zing. My only complaint was that my steak was slightly over-cooked, leaning more towards medium than the medium-rare I requested.

Service, after a slow start with the drinks, was decent, middle-of-the-road. Same too with the bill. In fact, middle-of-the-road would probably be a good description of Iguana’s overall. Not a place to either avoid or seek, it’s a nice average benchmark against which to compare other restaurants in the area.

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Closed
Fish On Rice4361 Kingsway, #201, Burnaby
Mediocre Japanese for less
Submitted Monday, July 20, 2009 - 7:02pm [Dine in]

I readily admit that when it comes to sushi, I’m a bit of a snob. I'm not a fan of all-you-can-eat, and prefer to see my sushi made before my eyes, or at least within easy view. Part of this preference is due to freshness, and to reassure myself that everything is made to order. But part of it is also for entertainment. Watching an experienced sushi chef ply his craft is just plain fun to watch. That said, it was with some hesitation that I went on an office outing to Fish On Rice on Kingsway. I’d been there once before – a visit that was surprisingly passable – and didn’t want to press my luck. As it turned out, the second visit was a mistake.

Maybe it was the size of our group (there was a dozen of us), but service was chaotic. Food arrived which we hadn’t ordered. Orders we made never came. It seemed like we had three or four different servers bringing out food, which resulted in confusion regarding who was to receive what. At one point, dishes were simply dropped off at one end of the table, leaving us to figure out to whom it belonged. It wasn’t as if we were being particularly difficult patrons, either. Despite our group size, we were well organized, placing all orders at the beginning rather than tossing them in during the course of lunch.

As for the food itself, the hot items were mostly okay. The high point, personally, was the chicken karaage. It came out hot, crispy, and delicious. The veggie tempura was also decently made. The chicken teriyaki was only so-so, no better or worse than you’d find at most Japanese restaurants. And I was advised by several that the beef teriyaki, which I didn’t try, was not very good at all. The biggest disappointment was the gyoza, which came out deep-fried despite us not ordering them that way. By consensus, they were awful.

The sushi received a similar reception. The sashimi tasted alright, although there was something a little off about their textures. The salmon was gummy, and the tuna gritty, as if it hadn’t been properly frozen/defrosted. The dynamite rolls, which normally are among the first to disappear, were only half-eaten. The BC rolls, which again I didn’t try, were hardly touched by the person who had ordered them. And all the other nigiri and rolls were only average, at best.

Service, as noted above, was spotty. Even though I know it was unintentional, it still left a bad taste in my mouth that my debit card was almost charged $150 instead of $15 due to the careless push of a button. Ambiance-wise, Fish On Rice looks exactly the way you’d expect a high volume Japanese restaurant to look. The one area where Fish On Rice does excel is value – as long as you’re interested in quantity over quality. In which case, I’m in no hurry to return for a third visit.

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Closed
Simba's Grill7413 Edmonds Street, Burnaby
First time for African
Submitted Monday, July 20, 2009 - 3:11pm [Dine in]

Have been curious about African cuisine for a while now, so it was with a great deal of anticipation that I finally tried Simba’s Grill, a place I’ve heard good things about, a few weeks ago. It was definitely a unique dining experience. Unfortunately, the names of most of the dishes tried escape me; but I'll describe them as best I can.

We arrived for dinner around 7 pm, and were a little surprised to find the restaurant unoccupied. On the plus side, this allowed us to monopolize the wait staff, as well as the services of a very friendly and helpful woman, who turned out to be the owner. My friend, who’d been there once before, took charge and ordered chai teas and mogo to start. The chai was nice, but came unsweetened and quite a bit milder than to what I’m accustomed. This may just be a difference between Indian and African chai, if there is such a thing. As for the mogo – deep fried cassava root – it came with three condiments: tamarind, a spicy sauce that I believe was peri-peri, yogurt, and freshly grated coconut. The tamarind was alright, although I would’ve preferred it a little tangier, and the peri-peri and yogurt were nice, too. But our clear favourite was the coconut. The slight sweetness played well with the otherwise meaty fries.

For our mains, we chose to share chicken stewed in creamy curry, and prawns in … a chunky, red, possibly tomato (?) sauce. Both were very good, although my friend and I were split – she preferred the prawns, which were unlike anything I’d eaten before; and I preferred the chicken, which was reminiscent of a sweeter Indian curry. We accompanied these with naan bread and a large helping of African maize meal. The maize – which can be best described as the thickest polenta you’ll ever eat in your life – it was, well, heavy. It had barely any flavour, and didn’t add anything other than sheer bulk to the meal. I doubt I’d order it again. Fortunately, the naan was terrific.

To finish, my friend ordered a dessert of ricotta in cream. I was dubious about this at first, but it turned out I was wrong. The lightly sweetened cream contained chunks of pistachio. Absolutely delicious.

In terms of ambiance, Simba’s is the kind of quaint, neighborhood restaurant you’d expect to find in the area, blending hominess and ethnicity nicely. Value-wise, it’s not too hard on the pocketbook, either. By the time we finished dinner, the restaurant had become half-filled with diners. Judging by their interactions with the servers, many of them were regulars. It’s easy to see why, Simba’s is a good restaurant.

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Village Sushi Bar13020 No.2 Road, #150, Richmond
Worth a look if you're in the area
Submitted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 - 3:12pm [Dine in]

As much as I’d like, I just can’t bring myself to give this tiny mom and pop sushi bar an exceptional review. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, because it’s a perfectly fine little place, but neither did I find anything upon initial visit which really stood out. Maybe a second, more in-depth visit will change that opinion, but for now ... A little surprising, considering the rave reviews it’s received thus far.

Certainly, the sushi was good enough. The girlfriend and I shared a platter of tuna toro and salmon, done nigiri style, as well as an order each of BC and salmon rolls. Nothing too complicated, and common enough to be easily measured against competing sushi places. When it came, we found the food to be freshly assembled and nicely portioned, with good hunks of fresh fish and well prepared sushi rice. Good, but not mind-blowing. About the best thing I have to say about the sushi is that the salmon in the BC rolls was actually quite meaty, not just exclusively salmon skin, and was still warm.

Any rating for ambiance would almost be a waste of time, as the room is so tiny you can’t really describe it as anything other than ‘quaint’ and ‘clean’. Eating on the small outdoor patio, weather permitting, would probably be a better idea. And as for service, considering it's unlikely there's ever much more staff on hand than the husband and wife (I’m guessing they’re husband and wife) duo, it's inviting and friendly.

Comparatively, I’d rate Village Sushi as being one of the better Japanese places in Richmond. Definitely better than Le Nakamura (overpriced with undersized sushi and disinterested staff). Worlds better than Shota. And comparable in quality to Ichiro (although with a significantly smaller menu offering). Value-wise, Village Sushi wins over all three.

Honestly, I doubt I'd seek out Village Sushi if I wasn't in the West Richmond/Steveston area, or wanted a wider variety of items on the menu. But if I was in the vicinity and wanted to get a quick sushi fix, I wouldn’t think twice either. Village Sushi’s a decent little neighbourhood sushi bar.

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Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant3866 Bayview Street, #140, Richmond
Solid waterfront dining
Submitted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 - 11:41am [Dine in]

Am somewhat of a fan of the Blue Canoe, having patronized this restaurant at least three or four times since last Fall. Of those, only the last visit was disappointing. On that occasion, our party of three was seated at a table clearly meant for two – partly our fault for coming on a busy night without reservations, although we would’ve waited fifteen minutes for a bigger table – and my otherwise beautiful tuna steak came out almost fully cooked through. Meh. Undeterred, I decided to give it another try this past weekend. After a long day of hiking, a relaxing al fresco meal at the Steveston Pier seemed like just the thing.

We arrived late afternoon, a little ahead of the dinner crowd, to find the patio already crammed with patrons. Luckily, there were still a few tables open and we were able to take our seats right away. Our server (friendly guy, didn’t give his name) came over promptly to take our drink orders and get the ball rolling.

After some indecision, the girlfriend decided to go with the mussels, clams and fries, in a Thai broth. She definitely wasn’t short-changed in the shellfish department. When the bowl came, I was impressed by the sheer volume piled into it. The broth was nice, too – subtly sweet and not overpowering. Girlfriend’s only complaint was that there was a bit too much grit and broken shell hidden in the broth. A little can be expected, but I recall seeing her pick sand off her tongue more than a few times.

Wanting something lighter, and despite our server’s warning that some people don’t like the tarragon used in it, I ordered the crab and avocado sandwich. I happen to like tarragon, and was actually a little disappointed I couldn’t detect it. Neither could the girlfriend. Nevertheless, I thought the sandwich was very good. As with the girlfriend’s dish, there was no shortage of seafood given. About the only change I’d suggest (aside from an extra sprinkling of tarragon) would be to replace the bun with a nice grilled sourdough. That’d knock it out of the park, I think.

Ambiance wise, it’s hard to beat the Blue Canoe’s patio on a warm summer evening. The breeze, the sunset and the fishing boats bobbing a short distance away can make for a magical experience – along with the food, of course. Service was good, as well. We actually got a chuckle out of it, actually, as we must’ve had three different people come by our table asking if they could clear our plates. And as for price, well, it is Steveston, so there’s a small premium to be paid.

Overall though, considering the quality of the food, the casual-cool ambiance, and decent service, the Blue Canoe’s worth the little extra.

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Provence Mediterranean Grill4473 W 10th Ave, Vancouver
A Point Grey gem
Submitted Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - 2:54pm [Dine in]

First visited the Provence Mediterranean Grill a little over a year ago. Don’t remember very much about that evening, but I do remember having a good time and leaving the restaurant satisfied. Finally had a chance to pay a second visit recently, and am glad to say it was a pleasant experience once again.

Arrived around 8:30 on Friday night with a friend, without benefit of reservations. Fortunately, it wasn’t overly busy so we were able to take a table straight away. Our server, Teya, came over promptly bearing crostini and tapenade. My friend, a first-timer to the restaurant, devoured it. Fortunately, bread and butter came shortly after, or else I wouldn’t have had anything for myself.

After a little indecision, we each chose to go with the Chef’s tasting menu. The friend went with shellfish à la nage to start, and lamb sirloin for her main. She really liked both, and I have to say that the juicy lamb looked especially tempting. I decided to try the soup and poisson du jour. The soup was purée of wild mushroom – earthy and mild, the kind of comfort food you’d really enjoy on a rainy day, and the poisson was mahi-mahi – a generous hunk of perfectly cooked fish on a bed of something similar to barley (can’t remember the name, even though I twice asked Teya what it was). We capped off dinner with cheesecake for her, and a refreshing sorbet trio for me. All in all, the meal was very good. And considering the generous portions, an excellent value for the money.

Service from Teya, as well as another server whose name I didn’t catch, was attentive, friendly and helpful. We ended up closing the restaurant, and didn’t feel rushed to leave. And as for the decor, the restaurant is comfortable and inviting, with warm colours and flowy fabric on the ceiling. The only exception was the display case near the back – a glaring bit of utilitarianism in an otherwise romantic room. Odd, but not a turn-off.

I’d easily recommend the Provence Mediterranean Grill to anyone looking for a quality bistro meal in the Point Grey area. It definitely won’t be another year before I make a return visit.

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