Login or Register
Do a search below using the city or postal code search box if your city is not listed above.

PrinceGastronomeVancouverSince July 28, 20154 Reviews
Average Rating
4 (4)
  • Food4.5 (4.3)
  • Service4.5 (4.3)
  • Value4 (4)
  • Ambiance3.5 (3.5)


Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 Reviews Found
Vij's1480 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver
Prince Gastronome
Submitted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 9:09am [Dine in]

On its surface, you could dismiss Vij's, baring you possessed some form of extrasensory culinary clairvoyance. I had criticized restaurants in the past that matched the straightforward décor approached by Vij's, but here, it's intentional and not the result of a limited budget. Vij's stands a proud achievement in a city of over half a million people that the most respected, most critically praised restaurant is so modest and unpretentious that it refuses to take reservations. Compared to the other dinners I would have on this Vancouver outing, Vij's not only came up the cheapest, but the friendliest as well. Of course, the day had to balance that experience with a depressing lead in.

I had arrived that same day, and after dropping my bag on the bed of the hotel, I hustled out and took to the road, guided my by TomTom voiced by Billy Connolly ("Turn around, if possible…it's important to turn your whole car around; don't just turn around inside the car."). Prior critics had recommended arriving around 5:00, thirty minutes ahead of the dinner service, if one had any hope of getting in on the first seating. My watch read 5:00, unaware that it would take 15 minutes to find a parking spot in this cursed town. I eventually stumbled into an empty stall mated to a Canada Trust that threatened to tow any car before 6:00 unless it was owned by a customer. Anxiety began to build. I couldn't remember if the doors opened at 5:00 or 5:30, and I began to worry that I'd be standing in line for hours, my empty stomach trying to convince my brain to eat the toddler in front of me while his parents tapped away on their iPhones.

Vij's is paired with another restaurant, Rangoli, owned by the same chef and promising modest prices with smaller portions. Rangoli also features a store where interested buyers can purchase prepackaged food and cookbooks related to the franchise surrounding the head chef and owner, Vikram Vij.

My substandard $15 dollar watch silently flipped to 5:30 and the doors opened, revealing the pleasant head chef and host, the celebrity himself. What modesty to welcome each customer personally? I managed a table at the first seating and took a moment to enjoy the décor, or rather lack thereof…well, what I could see in a restaurant as dark as an adult video store…I've heard. I did make out a painted but otherwise unfinished roof with exposed pipes and air ducts, bargain light shades only in fashion before 1979, and a cluster of female chefs clad head-to-toe in black like gastronomic ninjas frantically preparing the first set of orders.

The first waiter placed an unidentified brass jug on my table and I spent the first few minutes of the meal staring at it, unsure what could be concealed in its dimly-lit depths. As I pondered this culinary Lemarchand's box, passing waiters kept offering me free food. To start was pana puri, followed by glass of masala chai, a cassava root fry, and a vegetable pakora. My assigned waiter followed and poured water from the brass decanter still mocking me at the center.

Just water, huh? Kind of disappointed now.

Disappointment is being sarcastic. Some critics have pointed at the owner's boisterous attitude as being pompous, that the restaurant's refusal to accept reservations is inexcusable. My scholarly counter to such a criticism is to tell those people to bug off. Show up at 5:00 and swallow your damned pride; or better still, just avoid Vij's and drop twice as much money on a pretentious slab of cow you self-important philistine. I'm sorry that Vij treats each patron equally, regardless of the house they live in or the car they drive. There's no bouncer, no mandatory tie. Vikram Vij wears a scarf over an un-tucked kurta and doesn't ask for anything from his patrons. Expensive? Vij's was the cheapest place I patronized for dinner during my vacation, and maybe it might be expensive if what you're used to is the Indian equivalent of a culinary bukkake (yeah, I went there), where you're offered thirty variations of curries and kormas and can eat nonstop until you bankrupt Macau. Waiting twenty minutes is a small price to pay for the best Indian-inspired food you likely ever to find.

Don't expect butter chicken or masala chops; Vij's is about something entirely new, original recipes inspired by classic Indian traditions. The menu is a meek collection of dishes, scattered on the single page in seemingly no sensible order. I opted for the popular wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes. The dish was delivered with a side of rice and chapattis. Given the snacks preceding the meal, I hardly required an appetizer, although I would've liked to have ordered those somosas. Although I'm not one to enjoy tearing meat off bones, I found myself bravely diving in. There was no gristle or tough sections, the bones stuck up inviting from the large bowl and I alternated between them and the cream sauce, spooned up with rice or bread. The curry was without a doubt the best I had ever had.

The stress of my car's fate took hold and a rushed through the bill, racing to the stall to find my car still waiting patiently without a ticket. I wandered back to Vij's and dropped down cash for one of his cookbooks. The clerk asked if I wanted Vij to sign it. Yeah, she actually asked. While the chef signed my sister's name across the leaf, he recounted how easy the fenugreek sauce is to make at home, and that the secret to the lamb's tenderness is to marinade it in the wine for a full day. Oh, simple as that?

If I lived in Vancouver, or anywhere near it, I would make it my mission to order each and every dish on Vij's modest menu. I would run a blog dedicated to just this one restaurant. It truly is that good, even ignoring the demands imposed by its novelty. It isn't pretty, could stand with a few extra lights, and I did feel rather tight against other patrons, but Vij's placement on the upper echelon of the culinary elite is well earned.

FOOD: 10

OVERALL: 9 out of 10

By the way, I think describing a buffet as a culinary bukkake may be my most disgusting metaphor yet.

  • Food
  • Service
  • Value
  • Ambiance
Koho Restaurant and Bar3211 Grant McConachie Way, C3330, Richmond
Prince Gastronome
Submitted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 9:08am [Dine in]

As some of you know, I’m on a two week trip through England. I’m flying out on a charter flight and staying with a friend in Watford. Watford? Yes, a region of London isolated from the rest of the city, at least from the perspective of its mass transit. The way London works is that its mass transit is separated by expanding consecutive circle-zones. When you get a travel pass, you can acquire a card for 1 zone, 2 zones, or all zones 1 through 6. Here’s the kicker: Watford is not in any of those zones; it has its own “W” zone, separate from all the numbered zones. So we would have to get a travel card that states, “All zones plus Watford.” But that’s beside the point. We are still debating on whether we should travel to Scotland or Paris.

But before any of that can occur, we must wait five hours at the Vancouver international airport—an effective, unambiguous, and utterly uninspired location that tries its very best to extract all joy out of air travel. I’ve spent time stuck in large airports like Calgary, Taipei, and even Hong Kong, and by far, Vancouver is the most boring. Hong Kong had its own metro. Taipei had a two mile-long unbroken, unbent corridor that literally extended to the vanishing point. I’ve been stuck at YVR longer than any of those. It used to have a Cheers replica bar. Now it has a vague restaurant called Koho.

Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not Japanese. It is just another in a long line of necessary evils that populate airports across the planet. At least it’s not the Popeye’s I had in Hong Kong that refused to stay down between on the way to Taipei. To be an actual restaurant in an airport and not a counter kitchen, you need tables segregated from the others, often enclosed in a wood and iron menagerie that makes you think you’re in a zoo. And like what you would expect, the first page is all alcohol, just in case you wanted to polish off a quart of bourbon to make the flight go by just a little bit easier. I am far too tired to be in the mood for that. Instead, I order the Greek lamb burger. Cubed feta (YES) with olive oil and chopped onions cover a patty that’s a little on the slender side. It tastes good but doesn’t set itself apart from any lean beef burger I have had.

This is but the first. I plan on writing about every place I eat in London, and yes, I will be avoiding all chains…assuming I can identify them as chains. We’ll be starting each day with a pair of grain bars to get the energy going before taking on the city. Lunch and dinner will be eaten out. It’s just too bad the high point, our dinner at Gordon’s Ramsey at Claridges, is on our second day. Every meal from then on will have quite the mountain to measure up to.

So…what about Koho? Well, if you can’t eat at home and want something healthier than a cinnabun, you could do much worse, especially for a Moxi’s clone shoe-horned between the American and International baggage checks of the Vancouver Airport. Just don’t be the type that decides to eat here if you are arriving home. There are far better places the moment you escape the penal complex that is YVR.

Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Presentation: 3/5
Value: 3/5
Recommendation: 3/5

  • Food
  • Service
  • Value
  • Ambiance
Tojo's Restaurant1133 W Broadway, Vancouver
Prince Gastronome
Submitted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 9:03am [Dine in]

Of all the restaurants in my journeys, outside of Gordon Ramsey at Claridges (which is no longer Gordon Ramsey at Claridges), there has never been a more hyped restaurant than Tojo’s. They obviously wallow in the accolades—you can barely see through the glass door with all the stickers on it from various review sites like Zagat, Trip Advisor, or Yelp. I may never again encounter a restaurant with this much buildup. Hell, I was even discussing my visit with Jewel Staite. Jewel Staite! Jewel Staite? Yes, Jewel Staite. You know, Firefly, Stargate—oh forget it, those of you who know, care. She reaffirmed the apparent certainty that Tojo’s was one of the best if not THE best restaurant in all of Vancouver.


I’ll go.

Would it then be a surprise that it didn’t fulfill such lofty expectations? I was practically guaranteed transcendence, and no one was more shocked than I at my reaction. It’s admittedly unfair; it already counts as one of the best Japanese culinary experiences I’ve ever encountered, but with this level of hype, I was expecting it to top the list, and it didn’t. As it stands, it’s unfortunately just amazing. I await retribution for stating Tojo’s as simply fantastic, merely astonishing, regrettably excellent.

Based purely on its décor, it deserves high praise. This is not a conventional Japanese restaurant, but a Japanese restaurant’s ecstasy-laced hallucination of itself. It’s enormous, with gaps of hardwood floor shockingly underutilized, still leaving dozens of tables and an expansive bar open as we entered. The bar was reserved for omakase.

No, that’s not some mid-level Yakuza boss in Grand Theft Auto 5, but the term labeled for chef menus in Japanese restaurants. I find the exclusiveness of the bar disappointing, especially since I wanted to try omakase. My girlfriend wasn’t, leaving me trapped at a table ordering the non-omakase chef’s menu…yes there are two chef menus. No, I don’t really know the difference. I could see the owner/head chef, the one that looks like Sonny Chiba from Kill Bill, behind the bar serving a half-dozen men clearly ending their shift as GQ models. How badly did I want to sit at the bar? So much so that the $80 price tag felt like a drop in the bucket, not that I’ve had good experience with omakase.

In another feeble attempt at self-glorification, the last time I had a full-on omakase was at a restaurant in the New World Mall in downtown Hong Kong. Against a backdrop of fireworks blasting beyond a window overlooking Kowloon Bay on the final day of the Autumn Festival, as the Blade Runner-esque cityscape of the Admiralty fired lasers into a starless night made ever blacker by rampant pollution, I enjoyed a $300 omakase. It also gave me food poisoning, which is a tale in itself. A chef obviously lower on the totem pole, but one of some obvious talent was supplying my dinner in Tojo’s. My tasting menu included five courses of what I expected would be alternating variations of raw fish and rice. I held my chopsticks the proper way in anticipation, ironic that most of the delivered dishes were in dire need of fork. I consider myself a chopstick master—got a technique down and everything—I don’t even squish the rice. All but one of the dishes I was served was nearly impossible to enjoy with sticks, but at no point was I offered a fork. Some of the bites were as minute as Adam Sandler’s box-office draw.

The first dish, a tuna tartare, was one of the greatest dishes I’d ever sampled, followed by a salmon sashimi, followed by…I honestly don’t know what it was. I mean it was good, and I recognized the bed of morel mushrooms it sat on. Carrots, I saw carrots. All that led to a dish punctuated but what felt like slightly undercooked tripe, a dish so disappointing, I had to break a personal policy and share my displeasure with the staff (in the most polite way possible, of course). It was only after that was I served some actual sushi, five various pieces of exceptional refinement. Of the five courses, two disappointed while three overwhelmed, a fact obviously perceived by the wait staff, who obviously conveyed this to the chef, and the previous setback was redeemed with a complimentary green tea crème brulee, a dish of which all future crème brulees will be compared.

Tojo’s reputation is obviously well earned; it has reached that critical mass where no bad publicity can stop it. Like a G-type main sequence star, Tojo’s is unlikely to dim in the foreseeable future, feeding on a nearly inexhaustive supply of publicity garnered from celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Tom Cruise, and Jack Black. Wait…is that…Pat Morita (hasn’t he been dead for eleven years?). By the way, funny that Bourdain is the only one labeled; even Cruise is listed under just…”people”. Heaven forbid I offer up a negative review, not that I would give one. The experience, taken on an average of décor, service, and the six dishes served, still comes up with a top grade across the board. Odd that I walked out still…disappointed. How does that work?

Should you visit Tojo’s? Hell yeah. I’m required to visit different restaurants each time I visit Vancouver and I still want to try omakase. It was absolutely worthy the visit...if you have the money. Remember, such a reputation does equate to rather lofty prices. The only sushi combo dinner offered is a staggering $55. That price I quoted for omakase was only to start, with the cost likely to increase, up to triple depending on the details. Thank god, my girlfriend only ordered the California rolls. I left her out of the review until now because her comments perfectly reflect the justification of my review. She hates sushi…hates it. I can’t get her to try anything, but she ordered California rolls, and said they were the best she’d ever had. Thank you, Tojo’s, you might have finally opened up my girlfriend’s culinary horizons, and for that, I cannot offer a greater score.

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5
Value: 5/5
Recommendation: 5/5

  • Food
  • Service
  • Value
  • Ambiance
Pear Tree, The4120 Hastings Street, Burnaby
Prince Gastronome
Submitted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 9:01am [Dine in]

After a time at the Pear Tree Restaurant, I began to feel like the Merovingian from The Matrix as he spoke French, akin to wiping your…well, you know…with silk. I’d like to say “that” word, but most of the review sites discourage it. It felt like the luxury it truly wanted to be.

From the outside, The Pear Tree is rather unspectacular, yet being that stands out among rainbow walls and neon signs—the restaurant next door was salmon-colored with a yellow awning, leaving The Pear Tree’s shale tiles as somewhat reserved. This perfectly exemplifies how simplicity can be scenic. At least I wasn’t assaulted by varying shades of brown, the apparent default décor of every restaurant nowadays. A glass wall of wine divides the serving area from the colossal pristine kitchen. My girlfriend and I were shoehorned to a miniscule table at a far corner, a depressing point given our reservation days in advance. That would be the only criticism of the evening. Since Araxi the previous week, I had been waiting for a truly pampered experience, and The Pear Tree shared space with Araxi in a restaurant guide claiming both among a thousand restaurants across the world one must enjoy before dying. That’s a…big list. I got five down so far though. I better get off my butt.

The menu was Spartan, barely ten entrees, indicating the courses were made to order. We had already decided upon the seasonal table d-hote, akin to the chef’s menu. Three fixed courses for 64 dollars intermixed with pallet cleansers and bread. Yeah, not cheap. Quick spoiler warning, the dishes were all incredible. Against a canvas of ceramic white, each plate was a moment of beauty, fleeting until I rammed them down my gullet like a voracious duck. I’d be honest and doubtful to remember if I even chewed. Green was a dominant color used, offset with whites and browns. After the brioche opener, we were treated to glazed pork cheek with chargrilled green asparagus, mustard textures and bacon wrapped leeks. In truth, I’m not sure what mustard textures is meant to imply. It was grainy mustard; just say its grainy mustard. And I wasn’t kidding about varying textures, combine the asparagus with the leeks or the leeks with the pork cheek, toss one of the crisps that top the dish if you want. The same was extended to the main, pan roasted “Haida Gwaii” halibut, with Yukon gold potato pave, spinach fluid gel and spring vegetables.

Now I know what you’re going to say—I made up half those words, but that was a direct quote from the menu. So let’s do a Google search. I honestly didn’t know Haida Gwaii was once the Queen Charlotte Islands and that the name changed only a few years ago, did you? Potato Pave refers to the French word for paving stones, and was coined by the world famous chef Thomas Keller—so basically it’s a square potato. Fluid gel? Well, it’s pureed spinach mixed with a gelling agent like xanthan gum… yummm. Actually it was. Finally, the meal concluded with a simple dessert. Though still delicious, it was oddly subdued. In the end, that was The Pear Tree’s strongest note, how it doesn’t go overboard. It skirts the outer periphery of molecular gastronomy without fully embracing it. My girlfriend selected the pear sorbet while I dove into the chocolate ganache with a crisp nut base, salted caramel and orange/chocolate sorbet.

Pear Tree was an amazing experience but not transcendent…and I honestly don’t know if that translates to being a disappointment or not. I mean it’s less expensive than other places promising the world. I think the fault has to lie with hype. We picked it out from only a handful of restaurants in Vancouver listed in this restaurant guide. It listed only seven restaurants in Vancouver, and I had already been to Vij’s. But Vij’s wasn’t divine either, only fantastic, but I didn’t have a book that attempted to sell me on otherwise. I guess that means it’s all the book’s fault. I’m okay with that. The Pear Tree is worth a visit, certainly. It falls into a slot of restaurant I didn’t know existed—the one just below the best of the city, but one not trying to be better. Leave the top spot for the likes of Chambar or Absinthe, for those wanting to spend half as much but still feel they got 70% of an pinnacled experience, the Pear Tree is a worthy compromise.

Oh and one other thing, we were given a utensil that insanely combined fork and spoon, but I dare not call it a spork. We agreed it will forever be called a “foon”, as it was more fork than spoon. Crazy talk.

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Presentation: 4.5/5
Value: 5/5
Recommendation: 4.5/5

  • Food
  • Service
  • Value
  • Ambiance