Finding great food in Vancouver, part 1


Vancouver waterfront

Vancouver waterfront

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada (which might be the most beautiful city in North America.)  Whenever I visit a new city, I like to seek out food destinations that serve unique and delicious dishes.  Bonus if the place is affordable or offers something that one cannot get in the Bay Area.  For example, I won’t particularly seek out Chinese food, even though Vancouver is well known for good Chinese food.  But where to find the great places each city offers?  There are so many different resources online to research new destinations.  I like perusing the best of lists from Yelp, Eater, and TripAdvisor, reading the message boards on Chowhound, the “36 Hours in…” articles in the New York Times, and finding local food blogs.  From there it’s on to individual restaurant websites and even Google Images.  While some sources and reviews are spot on, others can lead one astray.

I found Bestie on the Vancouver Eater hot restaurant list and was very glad that I did.  Bestie specializes in currywurst, a German invention where fries are topped with sausage and curry ketchup/tomato sauce.  I first tried currywurst in Cologne, Germany but had never seen it in N. America, so I was excited to visit Bestie.  They make a delicious version with everything produced in-house, including the sausages.  In addition to the traditional Thuringer pork wurst, they have some unique offerings such as butter chicken and bison.  The dessert was excellent, a not-too-sweet gooey chocolate cake with sour cherries and yogurt.  The hipster staff was really friendly, but my impression on this trip was that most Canadians are really friendly!

I found Cartems Donuterie also on Eater.  Originally a pop-up, in 2013 Cartems made the successful transition to a brick-and-mortar storefront in downtown Vancouver with a beautiful, inviting space.  They have some really unique flavors.  I really liked the Honey Parmesan – a vanilla cake donut topped with honey, grated parmesan cheese, and ground black pepper.  I grew up eating Apple Crumb and Apple Spice donuts from Dunkin, so I had to try Cartems Apple Pie Stuffie, a delicious yeasted donut with a chunky apple pie filling.  Cartems serves really good freshly ground, drip brew coffee.  At $3 per donut, Cartem’s is triple the price of Tim Horton’s (the ubiquitous Canadian donut chain) but so much better.

Miku is a slick Japanese restaurant on the waterfront near Canada Place.  Miku, and it’s sister restaurant Minaya in Yaletown, offers a $28 Zen bento box lunch, which includes five pieces of sushi and four small dishes.  Miku specializes in “aburi” style of sushi that is lightly seared.  Their sushi rice was very delicate and each piece was well executed, especially their signature salmon aburi oshi sushi, made with pressed British Colombia wild sockeye salmon, jalapeño, and “Miku” sauce.  The small dishes were also well done; most memorable was the fried prawn, almost like a fritter with a delicious batter.  Miku is a good choice in a refined setting along the waterfront.   Tourist tip: after lunch take the Seabus from Waterfront Station to North Vancouver to get great views of downtown.  Then take the bus to Lynn Canyon or Capilano suspension bridge and hike in the lush Pacific Northwest rainforest.

What are the some of the ways that you find out about the local food scene where you are visiting?

Bestie – website here

Cartem Donuterie – website here

Miku – website here

Restaurant Review: Namu Gaji


Namu Gaji is a “New Korean” restaurant opened in 2012 by three brothers in a prime location in the Mission on the corner of 18th and Dolores in San Francisco. On the menu are Korean as well as Japanese-inspired dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, including from the owners’ local farm.  Small plates and larger plates are served family style.

Ramyun – homemade ramen noodles, 4505 Meats hot dog slices, kimchee, bean sprouts, and a panko-crusted soft egg in a delicious, hearty, spicy red broth.  My favorite dish on the menu.  There are 24 orders available per night.

Korean Fried Chicken (kfc on the menu)- super crunchy fried chicken coated in a sticky sweet, spicy red pepper sauce, served with a dashi gravy and tart pickled daikon and a cabbage slaw.  The flavor of the chicken coating was delicious, and the daikon was a great side to go with the chicken.  1/2 chicken for $35

Stone Pot – Namu Gaji’s take on bibimbap with rice crisped in the stone pot serving vessel, various vegetables, a fried egg, optional steak, and gochujang (a sweet, spicy red pepper sauce).  This was good, but not particularly special.  $16 (+ $5 for steak), so definitely pricy for bibimbap.

Two appetizers were excellent:

Dumpling – shiitake mushroom dumplings in a flavorful, earthy broth.

Octopus – tender chunks of octopus, pumpkin, in a spicy gochujang sauce.

One dish on the menu I wanted to try was the Bo Ssam – pork shoulder with oysters and other accompaniements.  It is $100 and serves 5 – 8 people, and there are two available per night.

Dessert – there were rotating flavors of shaved ice available.  I had the yuzu shaved ice, with candied kumquats and graham cracker crumble.  It was delicious and refreshing after a heavy meal, but one of my dinner companions said something to the effect of, only in San Francisco is a bowl of ice $8.

I can’t help but compare the menu to Momofuku in New York, which also sells Korean Fried Chicken, Bo Ssam, and, of course, ramen.  There is definitely a similar philosophy of using Korean and other Asian dishes as a starting point for more modern or innovative versions, but the owners of Namu Gaji have their own unique vision.

Service is very friendly.  They were very busy on both Sunday and Tuesday nights.  Reservations can be made online through UrbanSpoon.  The restaurant space is warm and inviting.  There is an open kitchen, a long communal table, and scattered small tables and seating along the window and kitchen.  The seats were backless stools, which were a little uncomfortable, but probably necessary given the small footprint of the restaurant.  Definitely recommended.

Link to Namu Gaji restaurant website here.

 

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