Food-freaks in the know, know that Canada has some of the best food you can find in North America. Don’t believe me? Check out just a few of the restaurants recommended by people who know good food in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver. Sure – French Canada is known to have some great bites, but Vancouver can seriously contend in the good-food arena. I believe I heard from a native Vancouver-an that Vancouver has one of the highest Asian populations in North America, and you know what that means: great freakin’ Asian food!
Vancouver has one of my personal favorite sandwich restaurants in all North America: Meat and Bread. We had a late arrival into Vancouver, but I was lacing up my boots as soon as we hit the city – my mission was to sprint to MaB as quickly as possible and just take it all in. A couple of us suited up and made the trek; the whole time I could be heard repeating to my gang about “how amazing this place is.” Long story short: we showed up and it was closed. It was like being a child who finally coerced their parents to take them to Toys R Us and it was closed for the day. I was heart broken. Defeated.We were starving, so we did what any good person may be tempted to do around the globe: pick something random. This is Russian Roulette when you’ve been shown the light, when you’ve taken the right pill from Morpheus; because you know how good things can be, and a random selection can yield 50/50 results (perhaps more like 1:100 odds not in your favor).
We went to a place that will remain unnamed (to be respectful). Paolo paid something like 15 or 20 bucks for a “chicken salad” that had one measly, grey piece of chicken on a sad bed of lettuce (if memory serves me right, he saw it, put his money on the table and left). Rob and I shared the poutine and corn chowder; then I went for the AAA Strip Loin Sandwich. It was merely sustenance. Not much love went into it, and not much love came out of it. Sorry (insert pub/restaurant name here), you got one of the few dishonorable mentions on Kiichi – you took advantage of my weakness. The Brooklyn Breweries Black Chocolate Stout certainly helped remedy the pain though. Maybe that place should purely be for drinking. It wasn’t awful, just not good.
The dinner plan was one that had me researching something proper; and that’s the thing: you can and (most likely) will find something great with the slightest of effort. Just give it a shot if you’re somewhere new, pop on that inter-web and look up something good. Chances are if you’re not in a cool, one-off, or boutique hotel, they probably won’t lead you in the right direction; so take advantage of that data plan or wifi and look for 3-5 minutes, you’ll find something.
What did I find? Guu Otokomae. A Japanese Izakaya restaurant. Think of Izakaya like Spanish Tapas: small bites to go with booze (in this case, Beer and Sake). Izakaya is my favorite kind of eating in Japan – non-pretentious, loaded with bites you can share with your friends, cozy, sorta-punk rock (or rock n’ roll if that’s more your thing) in a Japanese-way – and essentially just what you need. The word “Guu” represents the noise your stomach makes when it’s hungry… oh Japanese people…
We went for a pitcher of Blanche De Chambly (when in Canada right, eh?) and I did the ordering:
I went for chicken karage (fried chicken), seared tuna, a salad of greens, this plate of assorted chopped things you get mixed together (real good, uncertain of the name), yaki-udon (grilled udon noodles), tako-yaki (an Osakan-treat: balls of dough with a chunk of squid in it, served with Okonami-sauce and Japanese mayo), tempura shrimp, grilled fish, more fried hunks of seafood, dumplings, random assortments of delicious unrecognizable Japanese-goodness, then all sorts of sweets to finish.
That’s what I’m talkin about. Guu Otokomae is set up just like an Izakaya spot: it’s loud, it’s friendly, it’s boozy, and it’s full of intensely good dishes. Everyone at the table was blown away. I felt transported back to my home country.