Vancouver, Eh? (1/2)



Vancouver, Canada

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. 

23 thoughts on “Vancouver, Eh? (1/2)

  1. Guu is definitely one of the best Japanese restaurants to eat in Vancouver and it’s very authentic. Each Guu restaurant has its own atmosphere too so you’ll have to check out all of them!
    By the way, it’s Meat & Bread ;) too bad it was closed! Next time you guys come, have some fresh, local oysters at Rodney’s Oyster House with their special caesars. :) It’s definitely one of my favorite restaurants here.

    Thanks for a great show at the Commodore, I always love seeing you guys there!!

  2. Was the offending ‘restaurant / pub’ located within a block of Meat and Bread? I have my suspicions…

    There is an absolutely killer taco place – La Taqueria – about a block west on Hastings Street that would have knocked your socks off for $10.

  3. I was born in vancouver and moved to a small town a 6 hour drive north. Then in 2006 I moved back to attend the art institute of vancouver. Then once again moved 15 hours north in 2012. The 3 I miss about vancouver are

    #3 women
    #2 concerts
    #1 food

    Cobre my favourite of all places to eat. But every day you could enjoy a new cuisine and never eat at the same restaurant twice. But like you said… Sometimes you just have to say thanks but no thanks.

  4. Reading that you took took a Blanche De Chambly, being from Quebec makes me proud to see ta our beer is drink coast to coast! By the way, great show at Montreal. I really had a good time!

  5. Next time you’re in Vancouver you have to go to Steamworks Brew Pub. Its right by the Waterfront train station. Best pub in Vancouver!

  6. Great read as always Matt, I love living vicariously through your posts! I finally got to go to Japan myself last December (after waiting 26 ears!) and I took your advice of avoiding all the big places and was able to have a food adventure of my own :) So thank you! I also wanted to let you know, respectfully, that takoyaki has a piece of octopus in the middle, with tako being the word for octopus. I hate feeling so nitpicky, but I just wanted to make sure you knew!

  7. Your bit about Meat and Bread sounded so sad that I feel a bit (by a bit, I mean REALLY) disappointed, especially with the whole experience at the unnamed place. But anyway, thanks for another great read about your food adventure!

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