Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
1505 West 2nd Avenue
It is probably more than 10 years since I had dinner at this location and it has been on my list of places to check out for ages. So finally, before heading off to a play at the PTC stage I reserved a table. Although my dining companion described the decor as somewhat minimalistic, I liked the spaciousness, the simplicity and the ambience. The tables are a reasonable size and spaced comfortably apart so that one can converse easily. The student chefs, who work as servers one night each week, are polite but not intrusive.
The restaurant offers a Prix Fixe menu for $36.00 with a choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. Somehow I had missed the fact that in February they were having a 2 for 1 special so that in the end our meal, 2 glasses of wine and 2 coffees cost under $40.00 each including service charge. Having said that it seems a little bit chintzy to comment on the fact that my scallop and salad appetizer came with a single small (nicely cooked) scallop. I would have expected a couple more. His minestrone was served in an attractive soup bowl but could have done with a touch more flavour.
Piato Estiatorio 1835 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver Ph: 604-568-2929 or Reserve Online
More than thirty years ago,the first time I sailed on the Aegean Sea, I fell under the spell of the Aegean islands. Much later when our oldest child was in his final high school year, as we planned a vacation in Europe with our children,the first component of the trip that we all agreed on was to go sailing among the Greek Islands. The image of white washed homes reflecting sunshine against cerulean waters has always stayed with me - and made me into an interior decorator's nightmare. In my home I always end up painting the interior walls stark white to recapture the sense of light and airiness.
And then there was the food. Sailing up to a taverna and eating freshly caught fish or calamari while inhaling an enchanting mixture of salty sea air "perfumed" with garlic.
888 Nelson Street
Ph: 604 -669-1962
Visit 1: Chilled by the icy wind and still stunned by the film we had just seen, (the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) we settled gratefully into the comfortable booth we were offered and began to thaw. It was not quite 5:30 and quiet so we had the opportunity to chat to Tracey, our charming server, about the restaurant and menus. Although I was tempted by many of the other a la carte items on the menu, the Prix Fixe special that offered a soup or salad, an entree from the fresh sheet, and a dessert or cheese plate, was too good value to pass up. And it was a good choice too.
We both started with salads; he had the house salad and I took the caesar salad. Very tasty and satisfying, with plenty of parmesan shavings. A glass of 2007 Pentage Gewürtztraminer was a nice sipping choice. Our mains were excellent; a seared duck breast cooked to perfection and a mocha crusted sirloin served with gnocchi and asparagus in a parmesan cream sauce.
He chose apple pie but I couldn't pass up the two-cheese plate. I picked the featured Guiness Cheddar and Cambazola. When Tracey brought the cheese, apricots, candied walnuts a couple of grapes and toast slices served on an attractive slate, she noticed that instead of the chosen Guiness Cheddar there was a different cheese. She promptly brought an additional side plate with some Guiness cheddar. Nice touch.
3014 Granville Street,
As we walked along Granville looking for Ouisi (with my "infallible" sense of direction, I had turned right - south instead of north from our parking spot on 12th), we were speculating about the origin of the name. Since it could be deconstructed as oui and si, we decided that it must mean "yes, yes." Great name for a restaurant, we thought. But after we found the place and were seated, Catherine, our smiling server, said it came from the middle part of Louisiana. We should have guessed since it serves Cajun and Creole food.
Ouisi features a theatre menu which looked great but as I am not usually to keen on dessert, we each decided to have a starter and then try the Jambalaya. I ordered a glass of Cono Suv Viognier 2005 from Chile to sip on while we waited.
My Cajun style Dungeness crab cakes, served with corn relish and roasted red pepper vinaigrette, were spicy but not too hot. I have never acquired the ability to consume very hot foods and drinks, whether thermally or gustationally hot, so these were perfect for my taste. My companion enjoyed her tomato based seafood chowder.
I have been a fan of German Rieslings for years. Raised eyebrows, quizzical or even somewhat patronising looks and comments about sophisticated palates and full bodied red wines would wash over me. I just smiled to myself as I picked up my Rhine or Mosel Riesling at the BC Liquor Store for a very reasonable price, and prayed to Dionysus and Bacchus (depending on whether I felt more Greek or Roman that day) that these wines would not become too "fashionable."
"Let them drink Chardonnay", I thought. And they did. And I bought my favorite Rieslings for a mere pittance.
Of course prices of the German Rieslings increased over time as with other wines but the idea that a preference for white wine indicates a lesser palate or ignorance of the "French paradox", still lingers in some circles. Yes I know about resveratrol and its possible health benefits but I figure I can get that anyway enough just by eating red grapes, skin and all. And fulfil a fruit requirement of the Canada Food Guide at the same time! So I continue to indulge in my preference for white wines and choose a Riesling or Gewürtztraminer over the ubiquitous Chardonnay every time.
Lift Bar and Grill 333 Menchion Mews Vancouver Ph: 604 689-5438or Reserve Online
Heading off to a play at PAL, the Performing Arts Lodge, I looked for a restaurant in the vicinity. I remembered that I had passed Lift on several occasions while strolling around Coal Harbour and wondered each time whether the food would be as good as the view. This was the perfect time to try it out.
Villa del Lupo
869 Hamilton Street,
Vancouver Ph: 604-688-3058
I was recently invited to dinner at Villa del Lupo, an elegant Italian restaurant in a heritage building on Hamilton. Although I have dined there several times, it has to be more than ten years since my last visit. It retains the old-world European ambience with comfortably sized tables, spaced far enough apart to allow quiet conversation.
For a change this dinner was not a prelude to a theatre outing so it was great to be able to relax, eat leisurely and enjoy wine with our meal. The service was quietly efficient and obliging. The menu featured Nodino di Vitello, a veal chop, done Marsala style. I did not fancy gnawing on a bone in company and I was sure I would want to eat every last morsel of the dish, so two of us asked if we could substitute scallopini for the chop. No problem.
So following an Insalata Caprese with deliciously sweet tomatoes and fresh bocconcini, I got Vitello Scaloppini with porcini and marsala wine demi-glaze. And sure enough the veal was soft as butter, and if I had not been with company I would have sopped up every last drop of the gravy and probably licked the plate too.
Dockside Restaurant 1253 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver Phone number604-685-7070 or Reserve Online
The Dockside Restaurant in the Granville Island Hotel is really convenient if you are going to see a play at Performance Works, about 1 minute walk from the hotel entrance. We were going to see Influence, a new play by BC writer, Janet Munsil, that was opening at Performance Works, so dinner at Dockside was an excellent choice. Whenever I have been there before it has been quite busy so I made a reservation for 6 pm. We were shown to a window table with a beautiful view across False Creek. Vancouver is such a spectacular city.
Cobre Restaurant 52 Powell St, Vancouver
Phone: 604-669-2396 or Reserve Online
Shortly after 6, in good time for my reservation, (see Gillian's Kitchen) I arrived at Cobre Restaurant which features "nuevo latino cucina" (which I hope translates into contemporary Latin American cooking ). I was seated at a nice spacious window table where I could look out onto Powell Street. I was cold and hungry, and my dining companion had called to say she may not get there until 6:30.
Quel dilemme or rather qué dilema.
I turned to the wine list. A glass of Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc from Argentina sounded appropriate for the occasion. But I definitely needed some food to go along with it. From the pan tibio (warm bread) section I chose the Argentinian sardo pupusa y 6 chili tomato jam - six small round thick corn tortillas, lightly fried - the tomato jam was not too hot for my tastebuds and added a nice kick to the bread.
1938 W. 4th Ave
In the evening we were heading out to the Telus Studio Theatre on the Point Grey campus of University of British Columbia to see Billy Bishop Goes To War. So I thought we would check out Gastropod for an early supper. Our reservation was for 5:30 and despite heavy traffic, we got there shortly after 5:30. We were warmly greeted and shown to a nice table, that could comfortably seat four. It was in the elevated section so we could look out over the rest of the restaurant. The impression is of a light, airy and open space. We were offered water while we studied the menus. I requested a glass of the Kruger-Rumpf “Munsterer Kapellenberg” Riesling Kabinett 06 while my companion ordered a Chardonnay. We considered the fixed price menu but agred that three courses would be too much if we were to appreciate the play. So we settled for starters and main courses.