Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last weekend in Vancouver, B.C., I set out to consume as much Asian food as was humanly possible, returning to Portland with a full belly and a list of places to try on my next visit.

We took a cab straight from the airport to Vij's on Friday night, where we were greeted with glasses of prosecco and a continuous offering of freshly fried tidbits(lentil fritters, potato puffs, etc.). Vij's is one of the most highly regarded Indian restaurants in North America, and we were treated to an 8-course dinner selected by the chef himself. I was surprised by what were my favorite courses - the jackfruit and goat curries.

The next morning, my friend Nathan Fong, a local and expert on the Chinese food scene there, picked us up and took us on a breakfast crawl. First stop was for radish cakes, noodles and seabass congee with ginger at Congee Noodle House. Then it was off to Chinatown for apple dumplings, and a delicious meatball Bánh mì from Kim Saigon sandwich counter. Nathan is an excellent culinary guide, and lucky for us, writes some fantastic articles in the Vancouver Sun that offer additional recommendations.

Fully stuffed with Nathan's promise of a multi-stop dinner, we decided to skip lunch. However, late in the afternoon I found it impossible to resist trying the famous Japadog (photo below), since the cart was parked right in front of our hotel. Seaweed on top of a kurubota pork sausage? How could I not? It turned out to be tasty, but one might be enough for my lifetime.

It was that night sold me on Vancouver's food scene. Izakayas are everywhere. We went to the original Guu for kimchi fried rice, pork cheek and pork belly skewers, fried chicken and jelly fish salad. 6 people crowded around a tiny wooden table drinking light Canadian lager (Russell lager is so refreshing!) was tons of fun. We inhaled our food, and then it was off to Lin's for dumplings and more. Much more. We sat at a big round table right in front a a plexiglass window behind which Lin herself was rapidly rolling out dough and filling dumplings at a speedy pace. She's known for her Shanghai style juicy dumplings, filled with warm, savory broth. We had wontons drizzled with an aromatic Szechuan pepper sauce, pan fried dumplings filled with roast pork, cold Beijing-style noodles, dan dan noodles, radish cakes, and a number of other truly delicious dishes. This was by far one of my favorite Chinese meals ever. It's also unbelievably affordable. My mouth is fully watering right now. I can't even look at the website without salivating. Go there if you go to Vancouver!!

We were stuffed by then. Our friends kept threatening to take us to a ramen shop afterwards, and we were terrified until we realized that they were only joking. The next morning we woke up and headed to a late brunch at Medina Café, a tiny, charming space with a creative menu that I HIGHLY recommend, despite the long wait. I had a lavender latte (delicious, believe it or not), and the vibrant and satisfying tagine with poached eggs.

After walking away the afternoon in Gastown and the Coal Harbour waterfront, we ducked into Kingyo Izakaya. The menu was full of unexpected combinations: kimchi tomatoes (in the photo above), pork belly bibimbap, wasabi octopus and snow crab/cheese spring rolls. Lots of fun fusion going on here (love the Korean influence), playful presentation and lively flavors. I can't wait to go back!

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