Finding great food in Vancouver, part 2

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Reading through the Vancouver Chowhound message boards (search “itinerary”) led to a recommendation for Kingyo Izakaya. I had their bento box, a great value lunch at $16 with so many different components all beautifully presented. The tamago had shrimp and a delicious sauce. The tuna was excellent. Kingyo only makes ten bento boxes per day, but they can be reserved ahead of time by calling. The salted caramel tiramisu was really good. Kingyo is located on Denman St in the West End, near the entrance to Stanley Park. Tourist tip: Kingyo was a great place to go for lunch before a ~9 km bike ride along the sea wall of beautiful Stanley Park, where one can get amazing views of downtown Vancouver, the harbor, mountains, and Lion’s Gate Bridge.

I had fond memories of poutine ever since a trip to Canada as a kid. A search for “Vancouver poutine” led to many of the good reviews of Fritz European Fry House on Yelp. Poutine originated in Quebec and is traditionally French fries smothered in meat gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds – a combination that will leave your stomach sated and your arteries clogged. Key components are fries prepared to order and a delicious gravy, both of which Fritz did really well. I liked the addition of Montreal smoked meat, which is similar to pastrami. Fritz is a bit more conveniently located on Davie St, south of the Granville entertainment district, than the Eater recommended La Belle Patate.

Yelp also led to breakfast at the Yolk’s food cart, which was solid. I had a duck confit sandwich with poached egg, spinach, and marmalade on a toasted English muffin. The truffle-lemon hash brown skewers were very good. I must say that trying to eat a hot breakfast from a food truck next to the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station on a cold, overcast morning in March in Vancouver is not ideal. Yolk’s has a sit-down establishment as well, but it is a bit further out from downtown Vancouver.

Yelp also led to Japadog, the curiously popular food cart with a stand-alone restaurant on Robson Street. I really like fusion (Momofuku, Mission Chinese), but here it seemed a little forced.   Japadog makes hot dogs with Japanese toppings, which sounded interesting and was something I had never had before. One of their popular items is the Terimayo, a hot dog with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and strips of nori. After one bite I realized I had made a mistake. Nori and hot dogs do not go together.

Overall, I really liked Vancouver and know that I had just a taste of what the city has to offer food-wise. Having done the research for Vancouver, my experience is that it takes some work to sift through all the noise and deciding which sources to trust. At the end of the day, a consensus usually emerges that leads to great food travel experiences and memories. So take my outsider’s experiences and recommendations with a grain of salt and happy eating!

Kingyo Izakaya – website here

Fritz European Fry House – website here

Yolk’s – website here

Japadog – website here

East Side King Food Truck (Austin, TX)

Chef Paul Qui won Top Chef Season 9, producing really creative, visually appealing food.  However, the problem with all of these television food shows is that the viewer can’t taste the food!  Thus, my trek to Austin, TX.  Chef Qui was previously chef at Uchiko, an acclaimed Japanese restaurant in Austin, and in 2013 opened his own fine dining restaurant, Qui.  Before opening Qui, he also founded, along with Moto Utsonomiya, the East Side King food trucks, which has several locations in Austin.  After a late night arrival in Austin, I went straight to the ESK at the back of the Liberty Bar, located in a hip part of Austin on E. 6th St. and near Qui.  The relaxed beer garden at the Liberty Bar epitomized the really chill atmosphere in Austin.  Lots of hipsters, but they were friendly, enjoying good food and beer.  The menu has Asian influences with a few twists and is quite satisfying as a late night snack.

Thai Chicken Karaage – Deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet-spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeño.  Delicious.  Link to recipe here.

Liberty Rice – Steamed jasmine rice, ginger, garlic oil, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeño

Poor Qui’s Buns – Roasted pork belly in steamed buns, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi, green onion.  Delicious, especially with the combination of tender roast pork and a slice of crackling skin.

Link to East Side King website here.

Coming soon: a visit to Qui as well as a couple of Austin’s (and the world’s?) top barbecue spots.

Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

The Presidio lawn near the Golden Gate Bridge is a great setting for an Off the Grid food truck event every Sunday from 11-4 from April until late October.  There were about 18 food truck vendors and similar number of farmer’s market stands.  There is a beautiful lawn in the Presidio that makes for a very laid-back, fun, family- and pet-friendly atmosphere.  Sports Basement had hoops, balls, and frisbees for loan for free with deposit of a driver’s license.  Definitely a different, more open feeling than Friday nights at Fort Mason or StrEAT food park.  With so much competition in the food truck realm, the vendors are stepping up their game in terms of food offerings.  I am a big fan of The Whole Beast, ever since trying their Lamb Poutine at the Eat Real Fest in Oakland in 2012.  They offered some succulent, smoky ribs on top of Japanese noodles that were quite delicious.  The lemon and ricotta doughnuts tossed with fresh lemon zest and powdered sugar at Streatery were also outstanding and a relative bargain at $3 for 5 or 6.  Other creative offerings from Streatery included their pea crepe salad.  Tataki had a special of 4 items for $15 – the hand rolls and croquettes were good.  Definitely worth checking out for a nice Sunday picnic.

Link to Picnic at the Presidio here.

San Francisco Food Trucks: Off the Grid and StrEAT Food Park

I first became aware of the burgeoning food truck movement from a New York Times article in 2009 about Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ Korean taco truck in Los Angeles, CA that was causing a sensation with its fusion of Korean barbecue and Mexican tacos.  I had to go down to LA that summer and check it out.  I found the location of the truck, in an industrial park south of LA, on their website.  There was an hour-long line and a news crew filming the scene.  They had Korean barbecue (pork, chicken, kalbi) tacos and sliders that were delicious.


It seemed shortly thereafter that the food truck movement in the Bay Area really exploded.  In 2010 the Off the Grid group began organizing a food truck event on Friday nights at Fort Mason in San Francisco, where around 30 trucks gather from 5-10 pm.  It’s great fun to be able to try so many different trucks.

Off the Grid now holds a host of other gatherings in San Francisco and other locations in the Bay Area during other days of the week.  The downside of Fort Mason is that the lines are often long, it gets cold on Friday nights in the City, and there are not that many dedicated facilities (tables, bathrooms).  In 2012 the new StrEAT Food Park opened in the SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood, on 11th street near US101.  It’s loosely modeled after the food truck “pods” found in Portland, OR.  There are clean bathrooms, indoor and outdoor seating areas, sometimes a bartender, and up to ten trucks for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Another place to find food trucks is at various Farmer’s Markets in the Bay Area.  The Ferry Terminal Farmer’s Market on Saturday has the Roli Roti truck, which has chickens roasting on rotisserie grills with their juices dripping onto roast potatoes below.  Roli Roti also serves one of my favorite food truck items, the porchetta sandwich.  They take pork loin, herbs, and spices and roll it in pork belly and roast it on the rotisserie.  Slices of juicy meat and crackling skin are served with sweet onion marmalade, greens, and a crusty roll. Roli Roti also comes to other Farmer’s Markets and locations, but they only sell porchetta at the Ferry Terminal, unfortunately.

I am a big fan of all of the new food trucks.  It’s a great way for aspiring chefs and entrepeneurs to start their own food businesses.  Some, like Mission Street Food, have parlayed their success into actual restaurants.  The trucks take advantage of social media, announcing their locations on Twitter and Facebook.  They have been featured nationally on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.  There is a great variety of food being served: Indian, barbecue, seafood, creme brulee, cookies, Belgian waffles, Japanese, French.  Sometimes, the food from the food trucks can be a bit overwhelming.  A couple of examples: waffle fries drowned in chicken tikka masala and melted cheese; a sandwich of panko-crusted fried chicken, pulled pork, cheese, bacon, a fried egg, and slaw on a brioche bun.  Not subtle, but it doesn’t have to be.  There’s so much variety out there now that there is something for everyone.

Update May 2013: Just went to the Picnic at the Presidio food truck event sponsored by Off the Grid.  I think it’s a really great setting.  Link here.

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