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"RESTAURANT REVIEWS"

by

Philip Barrington


Il Giardino

Il Giardino - the original of Umberto Menghi's restaurant empire. The little farm boy who ran away from Pontedara, Tuscany, has returned home in more ways than one. If you want to escape to Italy while in Vancouver you seriously don't need to look any further. Mind you if  you want the real thing, there is of course Umberto's now world famous "Villa Delia" a true Tuscan Cooking School and restful resort nestled in the picturesque village of Ripoli di Lari and some would say the heart of Italy itself, between Siena, Pisa and Florence. I could wax on about the food at Il Giardino; paper thin carpaccio that disappears with each delightful bit, fettuccini Alfredo as smooth as silk, the most tender veal piccata and ossobuco, seafood galore and the bread - at a recent lunch I've never eaten so much bread at one sitting. A wine list that defies description "Bella!", it will simply take your breath away; from the sunken great bar, main restaurant and the intimate ivy covered summer patio - all of which will have you suspended in time in another land. As many before me have said, "It doesn't get any better than this!" Still, unquestionably one of my favourite restaurants anywhere. Take the time to immerse yourself in this restaurateur and culinary chef's world of all that is 'the best' in what is Italian, right here in the city, Whistler and Tuscany. If you enjoy good friends, food, wine and travel as much as I do...drop in and experience a shear delight for the senses, oh and be sure to visit: http://www.umberto.com it's an internet trip you'll not soon forget. 

For Reservations: (604) 669-2422  -  1382 Hornby Street.


Gourmet Grazing

We were three and all had separate ideas for drinks & dinner. Solution: Gourmet Grazing and it was to be Lumière's Tasting Bar, Pastis and Coco Pazzo. Now I have to tell you this is serious taste treats. So to start a healthy round of innovative cocktails - a trip back in time to a Negroni, a Perfect Martini & a Brandy Alexander, served up by Lumière's friendly barman extraordinaire, Chris Stern. And a trio of tasters in the way of, black truffles in pasta, ahi tuna & sake marinated sea bass and each only $12 bucks - sharing remember is the order of the evening. You have to love &tasters or let your hair down and do dinner & wine a la cart to die for - best as you'll find anywhere in North America.

Then it was on to Pastis. I'd been before, but my friends were salivating with anticipation. Unassuming from the outside - clever in it's use of space, small granite bar, warm beige yellow's, curious original art work and intimate feeling inside. A nouvelle French Bistro of the Four Star kind to be sure. John Blakeley (Le Crocodile & Diva) has done a superb job in bringing the elements of classic French cooking together with our west coast tastes. A perfect wine list covering all the bases without being silly. We enjoyed a full bodied Wolf Blass Shiraz. Remember this was only dinner, one course, but we could have eaten a horse, we finally settled in on two duck breasts, NY pepper steak & pomme frites without blinking and it was all out of this world or as someone more or less, sophisticated, once said; "it was a mouth orgasm". Hard not to be tempted by their desert menu and to linger for an espresso, or cappuccino and a brandy. But this was a ménage à trois dinner evening.

Now Coco Pazzo might be considered out of the loop of the city, but when you know the pedigree of it's owner/chef, Ken Bogas (formerly of Saltimboca & Mangiamo) you don't hesitate to skate to the outskirts of town. Italian/Mediterranean in it's atmosphere with heavy wood tables & chairs and a small summer patio/courtyard. The ten minute drive was a good thing, as our tummies had a chance to settle down and make room for desert & coffee, ok we had a liqueur too...what-a-ya gonna do about it?  Three different desserts - forks & spoons a plenty please. Crème Brulé of the day (Ginger - they only come better in St. Barts); a lemon tart even the Naked Chef would be sputtering over to find the words to describe it's heaven sent lemony appeal. As if that wasn't enough we just had to have the Chocolate bread pudding with Whiskey Sabayon. You don't need to wait & see if this place is hotter than a Broadway Play, they're already lined up around the block. With manager - the ever so refreshingly polite & efficient - "Harry" handling you with kid gloves, you'll be back for the service alone, well plus KB's famous rare Ahi "happy-happy" and you will be too. Be flexible when booking, even if you have to wait a week or three it's worth it and you'll be humming the Coco Pazzo tune for months to come. 

Lumière:  For reservations: (604)-739-8185  -   2551 West Broadway Street.
Pastis:  For reservations: (604)-731-5020  -   2153 West 4th Street.
Coco Pazzo:  For reservations: (604)-267-1864  -   'At the Boulevard' 1864 West 57 Avenue. 


La Terrazza

La Terrazza Mama Mia what a lovely restaurant from floor to ceiling and the biggest and most colourful flower arrangements I've seen outside of the Vatican. This is Andrea Botecelli for the taste buds. It all comes together from the moment you walk in a sense of 'this is going to be GREAT' quietly envelopes you, from the polished floor, roman columns and classic paintings. The menus arrive, eyes dart from crab to carpaccio, peppered seared Ahi, grilled quail, oh yes the ever present pan seared fois gras, & veal medallions (mine were so tender I could have cut them with my fingers). And the wine list, one of the most comprehensive, if a bit over done, in the city. We savoured the long legs, rich body & ruby red colour of the '94 Primitivo - the 'original' Zinfandel. Hey why pay $300 (unless money is no object) when you can sing and dance first class all the way to Italy & back for $34. And hats off to whoever chose their wine glasses - classic. A round of Calvados, frothy cappuccino's and a few of their now famous Chocolate Lava Cakes, that'll blow the lid off any choco-holic, let alone Robert Downey Jr. or Mt. Vesuveus for that matter. Refined Italian dining for a delectable evening to

For reservations: (604) 899-4449  -  1088 Cambie & Pacific. 


Cardero's

Cardero's - the city's literally only 'on the water' marina Restaurant & Marine Bar/Pub. One of four restaurants owned and operated by the Sequoia group, this is one "IN" place to rendez-vous with friends to savour your favourite libation & dine as you hang out over the water down in the new & trendy Coal Harbour. With a city surrounded by as much water as ours, it doesn't get any better than this and especially if you are inclined to mangia something from the sea. The fresh Oyster Bar beckons to 'get you in the mood', as well as a succulent variety of fish cooked in all kinds of ways, from the blistering hot Wok or the wood burning oven all in an open kitchen format. There is the nautical themed Marine Bar with soft tan leather couches and intimate fireplace for cozy chats. This award winning restaurant is a must and especially if you want to catch the last rays of summer days on their patio. Whether, it's "Cardero's" on the water, the fun & dancing "Sand Bar" down on Granville Island, the always classic "Teahouse" in Stanley Park or the ever elegant "Season's" overlooking the city high atop Queen Elizabeth Park; Sequoia Restaurant's Group has Vancouver covered with a blanket of culinary quality, bringing great food, wine and service together, that welcomes even its most ardent critics, the people who call Vancouver  

For reservations: (604)-669-7666  -  Cardero Street, Coal Harbour.


The Crime Lab

Vancouver's hang out for the 'Cool Martini & Late Nite Eatery taste set'. As much fun as you can have with your cloths on. Enjoy...with the cities most imaginative 3 oz. Martini's from the Classic, "OO7", Smoking Gun to the Rigor Mortis plus 22 more. Then delve into Small Plates, like Seared Scallops w/ fiddle heads, oven-dried tomatoes and smoked pear jus or the Fruitwood smoked Duck Breast along with countless other yummy starters under ten bucks. Big Plates range from Cashew & Strawberry Crusted Halibut to Seared Fallow Venison & the list goes on, all creations scintillating prepared by Master Chef, Dan Tigchelaar. Rick the head waiter will always be sure you get positive/killer results...upstairs in your private booth, downstairs or out on the patio on Pender & Jervis you can sip your favourite libation and sample late night eats from 5pm till 2am. When you've died for all the rest, remember: "Crime Never Pays!", but the Crime Lab is your best

For reservations: (604) 732-7463  -  280 West Pender Street.


Seawall Bar & Grill

Seawall Bar & Grill - in memory of Trader Vic's. Gone is the feeling of 50's Polynesia, but resurrected in the beautifully refurbished Westin Bayshore Hotel is this quite unassuming, but yacht club like venue for dining with breath taking views of Stanley Park, the north shore mountains and the sleekest white visiting million dollar yachts. This bar & grill offers something for everyone in exciting mouth watering cuisine; crab cakes that scurry across the menu, the best chicken quesedias in town, mouth watering lobster mango salad, and great offerings from their charcoal grill and not one, but two private sun drenched patios. You know, there is something else here that strikes you right away, warm & hospitable service, which might be an extension of what you'd expect from Westin, but locals too enjoy being treated like a hotel guest; the reason this writer thinks it's developing a very strong following for laidback lunches and casual dinners. Also don't forget "Currents" the hotel's main restaurant & bar that will stimulate your imagination with their '100 Martini' list and award winning dishes that abound. The Bayshore has long been Vancouver's anchor and she is still and even more handsomely moored in Coal Harbour. Cruise on down, check out the refit, relax and be pampered by the friendly crew at the Seawall Bar & Grill... permission to come aboard, graciously granted.

For Reservations: (604) 691-6967  -   in the Westin Bayshore Hotel at the foot of Cardero Street.


Zin

Zin 'taste tripping' - global cuisine with flavours remaining true to their mother kitchens mixed with a funky jazz R&B atmosphere that is a must this summer. Get your juices flowing with a Zin Zinger martini at the cool bar or sit and watch the world stroll by on the Robson patio. Some things remain in this tantalizing and ever evolving menu. Try the Goats Cheese fondue, the towering 5 Spice duck salad w/Asian vinaigrette and or the Sake cured salmon with Ponzu and tempura vegetables, or be a devil and sample the Korean KimChee flamed tenderloin. The desserts are too zinful to resist. So make a date for some fun in the coolest 'hot spot' in Vancouver.

For reservations: (604) 408-1700  -  1277 Robson Street at the Pacific Palisades Hotel.  


La Folie

La Folie 'heavenly French cuisine' - If you haven't heard the rave reviews about chef Fredrick Desbinis and partner Patrick Leroux...well let's just say you're missing a gastronomic delight. After this, you'll be drooling with anticipation. The ambience and food at this sidewalk bistro could just as easily be found on any boulevard in France. Their "tasting menu" is a six course dinner that is not to be missed, complemented by your favourite wine. Mini Salad Nicoise with seared ahi -- plump sweet Digby scallops with and orange-ginger reduction --Caesar salad with frisse lettuce and thin parmesan wafers -- risotto cake laced with spinach and goats cheese floating in a butternut squash and carrot sauce -- succulent monkfish --trilogy of tender lamb or the Fois Gras topped filet mignon and the grande finale, Calvados Tartan flame. Suffice to say with good friends, a scintillating symphony of great conversation, food and wine await you at La Folie...'for craziness', 'for fun', simply out of this world, now playing in Whiterock. 

For reservations: (604) 541-6339


Imperial

Imperial 'dim sum to die for' - It has to be consistently one of the best Chinese seafood restaurants in town and with unquestionably the best view of Stanley Park and the north shore mountains in the background. This reviewer has never taken notes on Dim Sum, for as Dim Sum lovers will attest, we all have our favourites. There is only one other Dim Sum Restaurant I'd compare this to and that is Yank Sing in San Francisco with it's sixty plus varieties of Dim Sum. I don't know if the Imperial has that many, I've always been too full to ask and walked out saying the same thing..."that's the best damn dim sum". If you haven't experienced it or it's been a while since you were last there, put it on your Dim Sum dining list.

For reservations:  (604) 688-8191  -  55 Burrard Street.


Raw

Welcome to "RAW", this city's most progressive health cafe, next to the Smoking Dog - now ain't life strange - a great French bistro incidentally, but that's another review. If you haven't entered the world of organic, wake up! If you have an appetite for health this little space ofserenity down in laid back Yorkville on West 1st is a must visit with returns guaranteed. I actually know people who are hooked, addicted even, but that's very cool in this case. You see this stuff is good for you, really good for you. The food speaks volumes when you EAT ALIVE at RAW, from truly amazing inventive organic salads w/tarragon Dijon dressings or cumin balsamic vinaigrette -- stuffed mango burrito -- spring rolls and veggie delight sandwiches and where else in the city can you get the best homemade peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Sweets and early power eats, organic fruit & veggie juice as well as the sexiest organic smoothies abound. Teas from around the world & Salt Spring Island Roasting Company coffee. RAW combines the food, the elements and Feng Shui is incorporated to ensure, light, love and energy for the mind, body & spirit. You can be assured of doing your body good - you'll come away just that much more at ease with life as seen and experienced through the eyes at RAW and that's as someone once said: 'A Good Thing!'.

For packages and catering events: (604) 737-0420  -  1849 West 1st Avenue.  Open from 9am and closed Sundays


Kam's Place

Kam's Place 'sinful Singaporean cuisine' - The sweet fragrances of the orient are the first to greet you as you step off the hustle and bustle of Davie street. This is not just another Asian restaurant with bright lights and big tables, but rather an oasis of quite tranquility designed to calm, refresh and replenish you. Quite conversation rises above the bowls of sticky rice in the bamboo booths separated by palms and the soothing trickle of water over flat stones. This is as much about eating and contemplating the tantalising dishes that explode with excitement, as it is to immerse yourself in the humble, smiling and hospitable culture of another land.

For reservations: (604) 669-3389  -  1043 Davie Street.  


Bacchus

Bacchus 'the POWER restaurant & lounge' - with turbo Bentleys of green, Ferraris in red & yellow, pewter Porsches, a black TT - images of a horny black toad and awesome wealth parked outside; with vanity plates like:"2FUN", "MADEIT", "OBHAVE" & "HI-TTEC", it is no wonder people slow their pace when walking by to check out the seriously chic and casually elegant. Whether doing the obligatory 2oz Grey Goose or the latest in obscure Tequila's at the bar/lounge as you wolf down the chef's complimentary tasty pupu's, or perhaps in for that deal making Pelgino lunch or a candle lit dinner where fine linen, polished crystal, glistening silver, mouth watering dishes and velvet wines all come together over a worldly chin-wag - Bacchus is 'killer' for people watching together with one of the city's best haute cuisine menus and outstanding wine and liqueur lists. Oh and for those prone to an intercourse cigarette (& cigar puff after 10pm) - a secret mahogany panelled room awaits you. "BAM!" as our friend Emeril would say, "If you really wanna kick it up a notch, check this place out - it hums... ya know what I'm sayin', like the pedigree of the beautiful tin curbside, yeah baby!". Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge, THE place to see - and be seen, at the Wedgewood Hotel, where London, Paris, Riyadh, Manhattan, Hong Kong & Hollywood meet in Vancouver.

For reservations: (604) 608-5319  -  845 Hornby Street.  

 

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The author, Philip Barrington can be contacted at: philip@cpbw.net

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