I had four days in Vancouver and my mission was to eat like the locals. Crowd sourcing some bloggers for restaurant recommendations before I left, they all had one thing in common: a full-fledged love for the food in their fine city. I started to realize that going to a place where the locals go might mean some mind-numbing waits. Case in point: the 4 hour wait at Rodney's Oyster House I encountered the first time I attempted entry.
Wide disagreements are had about which izakaya den is most worthy of your time if you had to pick just one. I started with Kingyo. The room was quiet and full of worn wood, Jack Johnson and his breezy guitar-laden ilk wafted through the space, sun steaming in through the windows. I ordered pork belly in a barbeque plum sauce over mashed potatoes with a coriander sauce, garnished with radishes. The belly melted, the radish cut the fat and the potato soaked up whatever best parts of the sauce you couldn't mop up with the meat itself. I also tried their "famous invincible & undefeated tan-tan noodle" with pork bone and shrimp broth seasoned with black sesame, miso, cashews and green onions. The broth was decidedly more creamy than I'd expected but it was also spicy in that stealthy, warm, subdued way that surprises you when notice yourself starting to sweat. Both were savory choices that might have been better had the temperature been cooler but even at its coldest, Vancouver rarely gets anything more than rain in their high-40's weather all winter.
However, I was blessed with high 70's and sun for the majority of my trip. Walking around the northern section of the city and starting in Yaletown, there are sailboats as far as the eye can see. Just past their masts on the horizon, massive snow-capped mountains are a reminder of how versatile the landscape is. Not only can you sail all year round, but you can also go hiking or skiing with just a 45 minute train ride.
I was full, or so I'd told myself, until I passed by Bubble World, a place I trusted immediately due to the large group of crazy-haired and cool-looking Asian kids loitering outside. The place is high-tech. Powder and milk is tossed into a cup that is shaken for several minutes by a machine and then tossed into a plastic cup and suction-wrapped by another machine, the seal so tight I was tempted to throw it against the wall to see if it could withstand the hit and leave the floor dry. But, I was too pleased with the place to seriously consider vandalizing it, even for the sake of science
Another attempt to get into Rodney's foiled, I found myself at Bin941, a sliver of a restaurant, where you're immediately waved to the back to wait. Through the crowds, and poor servers trying to cart food to the tables, you think that going through the restaurant is not just a bad idea but also a fire hazard, but in the back you find a long ledge and plenty of stools at which to bide your time while you wait for a table. Sangria quickly delivered, and a snack menu offered and soon we had gigantic prawns enveloped in itty strings of yam and fried, served with a chile mayo was so good I ordered it twice. Duck breast with fingerling potato, goat cheese hash, and port cranberry jus was sweet and savory and creamy all at once. The food was worth the wait though might not be a good idea for those with claustrophobia.
Though immensely polite during the day, by night, the locals can seriously drink. I soon realized that maybe the mass imbibing was a vehicle by which to consume a food that tastes so good, however ugly and bad for you. Enter: poutine. Fritz's serves the best stuff in town. Or at least, the best stuff within walking distance from the bars. The line at 3am stretches down the block but it moves quickly. The menu lists plain fries (why bother?) and poutine in three different sizes: large, extra large, and jumbo (which resembled a small KFC bucket). French fries were topped with cheese curd (think mozzarella in a clumpy cottage cheese form) and then with gravy and then with more fries, curd and gravy and then all three layered once more. I highly recommend it, though I do not recommend the heaviness that sat in my stomach for a full 24 hours afterwards.
In need of fresh air and in order to switch up methods of public transportation, Granville Island market is a 5 minute ferry ride across the bay. The best part about Granville Market isn't actually part of the market. It's the fish and chips stand just outside its border. Go Fish oozes the kind of small town charm that you'd expect from rural Canada. A baby blue shanty, nestled along the water with a wooden deck off the pass through to the open kitchen. I snapped a photo and the tall Hawaiian guy behind the register hollered, "The paparazzi are here!" but then grinned and offered to take my photo instead. "I have the best view in the house," he said as he took a photo with the water and ubiquitous snow-capped mountains in the background. I ordered the standard, cod and halibut with fries, but were told they were famous for their salmon tacos so I couldn't resist. All were fresh and light-tasting, and served with a side of vinegary coleslaw with the nutty hints of ground sunflower seeds. Plenty of lemon and malt vinegar scattered across the table, I felt I'd had a pretty successful eating tour of the city. We'd hit everything we wanted. Almost.
With a plane to catch that night, I tried Rodney's one more time. Table for two? "Right this way!" We were escorted to a table in the lofted second floor. It's the kind of place you'd find twins of in Maine or Seattle, but love them all the same. Slices of white bread with butter were rustic, the servers good looking, chalkboards adorned the walls with some 15 types of oysters available that day. Three varieties of oysters, fried oysters and grilled scallops later, we could finally check Rodney's off our list. As we left the city, my thoughts weren't so much, "Goodbye Vancouver," but more, "I'll see you soon."