Exploring Vancouver through food – Part 1

DAY 1

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Yesterday, I arrived in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. to begin a 5 ½ day food-athon across one of Canada’s most picturesque cities…and most importantly to visit one of my best friends!

I was in Vancouver many years ago, but was too young to fully appreciate the beauty of the landscape, and the evolution of the city’s food culture is a more recent phenomenon anyway.

Upon arriving in Kitsilano, we started with lunch at Peaceful Restaurant. A nondescript looking eatery, made famous for it’s hand-pulled noodles, and made more famous by a visit from none other than Guy Fieri, on an episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives.

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It was hands down, the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. Asian Legend in Toronto is a very close runner-up, and to be fair, I didn’t order dishes at Peaceful, that I’ve had at Asian Legend, but I can say it completely exceeded my expectations.

As per my trusted friend’s recommendations we ordered some of their famous noodles with spinach and a spicy peanut sauce, the spicy pork dumpling soup and the steamed buns and dove in. The handmade noodles melted in my mouth, and the combination of the peanut and spice was uniquely creamy and zesty at once. The steamed buns are filled with a pocket of hot liquid soup, that bursts when you bite into them – a beautiful surprise! As for the spicy dumpling soup, if I lived nearby, I would undoubtedly be popping in every week for some of that tangy, broth.

My food adventure off to an excellent start, my friend went to work and I toured Granville Island. The market there reminds me very much of Toronto’s St. Lawrence market with a West Coast flair.

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I picked up some homemade granola and wandered the winding little streets, in and out of various shops, eventually making my way back to Kitsilano to get ready for a really special night out.

We were going to Chej Vikram Vij’s restaurant, Vij’s for dinner. This was the place I was most excited to visit on my trip here and my expectations were high.

Upon arriving, I was told there would be a wait of about 1 ½ hours, which I had expected. I made my way back into the lounge I had heard so much about, and ordered a glass of wine and waited for my friend to arrive.

Throughout my wait, I was offered several incredibly unique and tasty little bites to snack on and the atmosphere was warm and friendly, like being invited over to a charming friend’s home for dinner…a very trendy, well-to-do friend with an excellent decorator.

Once seated it took us almost no time at all to order. We had the pork belly spoon with apple and pear chutney, which, let me emphasize, you MUST have if you go here. It was possibly the best anything I have ever eaten in my life. There were dozens of spices I couldn’t even pick out that all melded together perfectly in one surprising and satisfying bite – unbelievable.

We moved on to chickpea and ricotta cookies in a tomatoey chickpea sauce. We both agreed that while we liked the cookie part, the chickpeas in sauce, though tasty, wasn’t particularly special.

However, the braised short ribs and lamb kabobs that followed absolutely were. These dishes were saucy, creamy, melt in your mouth delights that had me licking my spoon and tearing at the complimentary Naan to keep sopping up the sauces, not wanting to miss a drop.

Throughout the meal they bring warm naan and a fragrant basmati rice to accompany your meal. The naan will also keep coming should you run out.

We made room in our desert stomachs (located somewhere between your rib cage and main stomach) for tiny doughnuts soaked in a clear syrup. They were soft, sweet, slightly crisp and the syrup had a warm, maple-like flavour, It really reminded me of an elevated version of pancakes with maple syrup – delicious!

One technical detail I really appreciated was the fact that our plates were always brought warm and the cutlery was always refreshed with each new offering. It really is the small things that count.

On a side note, there are no pictures of our meal at Vij’s because it disappeared too fast.

After walking more than I possibly have in years in one day and eating my (and probably many other people’s) fill of fabulous food, we dragged ourselves home and passed out.

DAY 2

I awoke this morning with a plan, I was on my own today to explore historic Gastown, but first, a breakfast of champions at the famous Vancouver landmark patisserie, Thomas Haas.

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I was informed by my friend and by the kindly young hipster at the counter that I might want to try their most famous dish, the double baked almond croissant. I don’t need to be told more than twice, when the words “double baked” are involved, so I ordered one along with a London Fog.

Sipping my tea latte and tearing sticky pieces of my crusty, gooey, croissant, I read up on Thomas Haas and how he came to Vancouver. A sweet story (no pun intended), I recommend giving a read.

I made my way all around Gastown this afternoon, admiring its cobbled streets and many, many, many restaurants and cafes. The highlight of this journey was when I stumbled across the Gastown Steam Clock, which releases steam to a tune every 15 minutes.

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Also saw a woman punch the sturdy clock (it was having none of that) in protest to its steam whistling  (she had apparently had enough).

For lunch I was determined to find PazzaRello. Canada’s only food truck with a wood burning oven…onboard!

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They serve up a mean traditional Napolean pizza, with a scorched crust, and a gooey, foldable centre, just as pizza was intended.

My favourite thing about Vancouver that I’ve found the most surprising so far, is the mountains. Toronto is a flat city, where you can see the CN Tower from anywhere, which is actually something I like, as I find it reassuring.

Here the mountains tower over you, leaving me feeling quite small, marveling up at their sheer size. The combination of clear, deep blue water, meeting tall, purple mountains and endless sky, is overwhelmingly beautiful.

What a place…

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