When the weather threatened to get butt-hot again today, I started to miss Vancouver. Sigh. We visited for a few days a few weeks back. Seventies for a high, sixties at night. Perfect weather for strolling through gorgeous parks, gazing at million-dollar yachts, and eating. Yes, Vancouver lured me in with its gorgeous scenery, but it was the food that made me fall. Fall hard.Asian culture permeates everything culinary in Vancouver, so I was excited before the first bite even hit my mouth. Beyond fresh sashimi, drool-worthy uni, luscious toro. You can’t throw a brick without hitting a Korean barbecue, or a pho joint, or a place specializing in yakatori. Just imagine me clapping “Hercules! Hercules!” Nutty-Professor style to get an idea of my excitement level.
Vancouver Chinatown has an open market every Friday and Saturday night (thanks Mas to Millers for the tip) with over 100 stalls selling everything from slippers to kittykat bobbleheads to BRAS (yes, bras). And FOOD! Dumplings, meat on a stick, dim sum, and bubble tea. Mmmmmmm……coconut bubble tea. Haven’t had one of those since we lived in Pittsburgh, and damn it was tasty. Amazing pork buns too, luscious barbecue-ey meat within a dumpling light as air and melt in your mouth. Scarfable.
Then there was the ramen. Kintaro Ramen Noodle on Denman Street to be exact. I’m giving the address because if you are ever in Vancouver you MUST, simply must, eat here. It seats maybe 20 people, open kitchen, and the menu is extremely limited. But eating at Kintaro Ramen Noodle should be on everyone’s “50 Places to Scarf Food Before You Die” list. It’s that good. I’m linking (above) to a guy who obviously knows WAY more about the intricacies of ramen than I ever will. But after eating at Kintaro, I’m making it my life-long mission to learn. It may just have knocked pho off my death row meal top spot.
This is NOT the 5-for-a-dollar shit you get at Kroger. I’m talking homemade noodles in rich, days-long-simmered pork broth with any ingredient you select. I opted for miso broth with extra wakame (seaweed), but you can also add extra pork, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, even cheese! When the server asked if I wanted my broth “light, medium, or rich” I almost kissed her. When she asked did I want my pork “lean, medium, or fatty” I did. Okay, not really (my husband would’ve applauded) but yeah in my heart I did. Rich and fatty please!
We had the best seats in the house, meaning the bar overlooking the open kitchen where our eager eyes could behold the steaming cauldrons of luscious broth. Then the bowl arrived. The meat was cut in a thick slice, with a wide ring of fat surrounding the just-pink-inside interior. Perfect. I touched it with my chopstick and it FELL apart in tenderness, the fat liquefying in the broth and the pork pulling apart like a finely smoked barbecue. Not even a cliché to call it orgasmic. We sailed out of there with full bellies and grinning smiles. Sated. Total complete foodsex.
Guu Garlic was just as fun, Japanese dinner theater. Located in the Robson section of town, that day littered with rainbow glitter and streamers leftover from the Gay Pride parade. Again, we were fortunate enough to grab bar seats and gorged ourselves on Izakaya, or Japanese tapas. Takoyaki, or octopus “croquettes”, Ton Toro, grilled pork cheek in yuzu ponzu, and Kakuni, more pork belly, in a rich broth with a steamed bun and poached egg which broke over the whole dish in an extremely sexy way. We sat there for hours, ordering when we got hungry, downing sake, and listening to the waitstaff shout orders to the sushi chefs, and the sushi chefs shouting insults back in Japanese. It was the best kind of dinner theater because it was real. And the food didn’t suck.
At Joe Fortes, also in the Robson section of town, we tasted my new favorite oyster, the Kusshi. From Kusshi Baynes Sound on the West Coast. I kept calling it “the coochie” because 1) the restaurant was crowded to the rafters and loud and my hearing sucks and 2) because I’ve got the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. Even when the bartender corrected me, I insisted they were “coochies”. Maybe it was the third martini. Lord, these oysters are amazing. Like uni married foie gras and had an oyster baby. You taste the brininess of the sea first, followed by a deep butteryness on the back end. I had an appetizer at The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland a few years ago. Chef Jonathan Sawyer took clams and placed a thin slier of foie gras on top. With my first taste of the Kusshi oyster my mind immediately went to that. Gorgeous. Even more gorgeous with two martinis.
After all these stunning meals I seriously considered moving. But after visiting the Granville Island Public Market? I knew someday I would. Someday. Seriously guys, I’ve been to markets in Seattle, New York, Paris, London. But Granville Island Public Market is THE BEST FOOD MARKET I’VE EVER VISITED IN THE WORLD. Cherries the size of softballs. Exotic produce like currants, kumquats, Meyer lemons. Okay sure currants are everywhere in Britain, but you NEVER see fresh currants in the U.S. In the meat case? Twenty-five kinds of bacon (at least). There was one whole counter of just salmon, double-smoked, triple-smoked, jerked into candy, you name it. Pates out the wazoo. Chocolate confections and pastries, and coffees, and breads, and cheeses to die for. Eataly can officially kiss my ass. Granville Market is the shiz. God I hate that I just used that word, but after entering, within minutes we were hangdog, open-mouthed. I think you could probably visit this place every weekend for 10 years and have a different lunch each time. They even had gummy coke bottles, my absolute forevermore favorite candy.
After making the once-around, Hubby and I proceeded to create a picnic lunch of duck prosciutto, baguette, Dutch cheese, Cornish pasty (I told you they had everything), double-smoked salmon “nuggets” and other assorted yummies. We even went back for cheddar scones even though it was 2 in the afternoon. Lounging in the outdoor seating area on the water, munching away, we longed for some wine to wash it down, the only thing missing. When we couldn’t possibly finish our duck prosciutto, we offered it to the picnicking family next to us. They gladly accepted, trading it for some French soft cheese. BUH-liss. Bliss exclamation point.
Okay, just did a read through of this post, and I’ve used the words “luscious” “gorgeous” and “stunning” more than once. Needless to say I am now completely in love with Vancouver and long for a return trip. If only to buy some more gummy coke bottles. And gawk at those cherries.