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terryr May 6th, 2006 08:40 AM

Please help us select your favorite Vancouver Pacific Northwest seafood and dim sum restaurants
My family (husband and two daughters, ages 23 and 19) will be in Vancouver in June. We are from the Boston area and are always interested in trying out restaurants that are more unique to the region. Therefore, we ask your help in suggesting your favorite Pacific Northwest seafood or fusion restaurants and dim sum/Chinese restaurants, and please tell us why. We are looking for great cuisine, a nice ambience without being stuffy or too formal...and a more moderate price range wouldn't hurt either if the food is well recommended.

So far, in my research, I have come across West Restaurant, Raincity Grill, and Coast in Yaletown that fits into our first category...but, as you know, reading about them is so different than hearing from you who live in the area of your personal experiences with these restaurants or others! Secondly, I am considering Sun Sui Wah and Imperial Chinese Seafood restaurants for dim sum or dinner...please, your thoughts?

Fodorites have never failed in giving us the real scoop...many thanks for helping us select well!


littlemountain May 6th, 2006 12:33 PM

West, absolutely. Two weeks ago I had the Wild Spring Salmon Mouginoise with Dungeness Crab and Pine Mushroom Veloute which that very night was being served by the chefs of the Top Table Restaurant Group (of which West is the leading member) at the James Beard House. Innovative and outstanding. West is more expensive than the other Pacific Northwest restaurants you mention, but it's worth every penny. (Vancouver food is still inexpensive by international standards.)

You can add "C" to the list -- it specializes in seafood and is under common ownership with Raincity Grill. "C" is somewhat of an exception to the tendency of Vancouver restaurants which say they specialize in seafood to fail to really excel both in concept and in execution. Do we really need another overcooked maple smoked salmon? If it's a good Vancouver restaurant, there will be good fish and shellfish on the menu. If it has seafood in the name (and especially if it has a view), it needs to be approached with appropriately adjusted expectations.

If you're walking on or near Granville Island, there's a tiny gem of a budget place called Go Fish to check out.

There are some good threads on the E-Gullet forums on Vancouver seafood.

Dim Sum. Chinese restaurants in Vancouver are taking a well-deserved critical beating at the moment for failing to invest in the decor and service that would raise them to the level of top restaurants in other genres of cuisine. Sun Sui Wah has great food, but all the charm of a college cafeteria. Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant has a great room (in a historic building), but it's getting a little worn. The last time I was there (for a dinner banquet) it was no great shakes in the food department either.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a unique Vancouver restaurant - Vij's ( Hard to describe -- "noveau Indian" or "West Coast East Indian" are typical attempts.

ragout May 6th, 2006 02:56 PM

LittleMountain is so right about the Vancouver restaurants. Great reply! We like all your's and Ltle Mtn's ideas. We agree about the Chinese restaurants needing to pick up the decor etc. Even our Asian friends complain about it even when the food is good.
I would recommend the "Earl's" chain for for less expensive but good food and service. And for a very special Vancouver experience in June, dine in the garden at Il Giardino - not the least bit stuffy, great staff and good food too. A lesser known place to stop while walking Robson Street is Saveur -upstairs above Robson St stores. (I think between Thurlow and Bute, north side.) Another great spot for lunch in sunny weather is Bridges on Granville Island.
Don't forget to stroll the slopes of South Granville shopping area and art galleries if you like that scene. Imported high end clothing ususally cheaper than in the US.

Flyboy May 6th, 2006 06:56 PM

We never fail to visit Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House:

It's very nice and it is also reasonable, in my view.

terryr May 7th, 2006 12:10 PM

Thank you for your suggestions...they are very helpful.

Littlemountain or others, yes, I have come across references to Go Fish in my research, and it sounds like we should not be remiss in going there. Would you mind telling me more about this place? Is it an informal place for dinner (they don't seem to be open beyond 6 PM)? You say it's located on or near Granville Island...perhaps we need to add that location on our list of "to do's" while in Vancouver?

Also, you have made mention of Vij's...again, another name that keeps coming up in my research! Even though we have Indian restaurants in the Boston area, I am now thinking that we should go there as well since it is mentioned so much among foodies! If anyone can say more about Go Fish and Vij's to help us, we would like to hear from you and expand our own thinking! Thank you.

littlemountain May 7th, 2006 01:19 PM

Go Fish is just a shack, a trailer actually, down by the the public fish docks at Granville Island. For all intents and purposes, it's a take-out place, because there's virtually never an empty table to be had, and the limited seating is all outdoors (hence the early closure). I wouldn't send visitors there on a special trip but if you're already at Granville Island and the line isn't too long, you may enjoy this more than, say, the food court at the public market. They have more imagination here, too, grilled fish, fish tacos etc. and not just deep fried offerings. And yes, Granville Island is a nice destination on a sunny day -- for locals as well as visitors. It was once industrial land which was reclaimed, cleaned-up and thoughtfully redeveloped over 20 years ago in an early urban renewal scheme. It has a combination of restaurants, boutiques, art stores -- even a live theater.

Funny that I should be plugging two restaurants that don't accept reservations! In contrast to the ultra casual Go Fish, Vij's is not a hole-in-the-wall kind of spot; it's elegant, but comfortable. But, in spite of its reputation, it doesn't take reservations. For anyone -- even a former prime minister, in one famously reported incident. What it means, of course, is that the tables can turn over a minimum of 3 times an evening with no dead spaces. And, while no one is exactly encouraged to linger, one isn't pushed out the door either -- Vikram Vij is a visible and gracious host. The food? Well, I love traditional Indian food too, but what's different about this food is the balance -- the meat, fish, poultry etc. isn't an afterthough to a heavy sauce of butter and cream. The sauces tend to be lighter, but they're exotic, and pleasingly proportioned versus the flavours in the rest of the ingredients. And the combinations are creative. And the lamb is to die for.

curiousx May 7th, 2006 02:33 PM

you weren't asking for this but if you like sushi, Tojo's is the best place in BC, probably Canada. Prices to match and worth every penny

terryr May 7th, 2006 06:39 PM

Many thanks, littlemountain, for your additional info on Go Fish and Vij's, very helpful..and on the "no reservation" policy at both. Tojo's has also come up repeatedly in my search. Gosh, at this point, my family and I will need to stay at your city for a couple of weeks!

Please keep your suggestions coming, in particular your favorite Pacific Northwest seafood and dim sum restaurants! Thanks for your help.

curiousx May 9th, 2006 11:27 AM

One more thought - although not for the faint of heart.

The Only Seafood Cafe, assuming it is still operating, serves the freshest and cheapest seafood - oysters, crabs, fish n chips, you name it - fried, chowdered or whatever.

Located close to the heart of Vancouver's Skid Row at 20 Hastings Street East (Tel (604) 681-6546), the decor probably hasn't changed much since the place opened in 1916. The service is fast and frenetic; the clientele are from all walks of life; and the food is outstanding.

Look for the neon seahorse sign on the outside.

Highly recommended for lunch by James Barber, as I recall.

PamSF May 22nd, 2006 11:39 PM

We were just there in early April(again). Vij's is a must. It just seems to get better and better. We tried Chambar this time and were WAY UNDERWHELMED!! If you want upscale Vancouver PNW try either Bishop's or West. If you want casual and fun try Aurora Bistro. We had a great meal @ Aurora and liked the feel of the place alot. We ate at Bishop's on our last trip and found it a bit stuffy. We did eat @ Feenie's this trip(next door to West and part of the same establishment). Our standout meal was @ Vij's (again).

Vij's does not take reservations. Every other place does.

If you want to appear to be very hip parents you can wander over to Bin 941 which is all local BC food and wine. No reservations but get there early enough and you should be fine. We ate there on our last trip and loved it despite the fact of being two of the oldest people in the place.It's small plates and the seared ahi is to die for!

PamSF May 22nd, 2006 11:43 PM

P.S. Aurora Bostro will also make you look quite hip. The chef and owner was formerly a sous chef at Bishops.

We are not true dim sum junkies but found the dim sum @ Kirin at W. Georgia wonderful for our tastes and we are from SF area. Folks seem to favor the Richmond area of Vancouver but Kirin is well within walking distance of Stanley Park and has parking underground as well. BTW~We were some of the only caucasians in a sea of Asian folks dining there which I always consider a very good sign.

wally34949 May 23rd, 2006 03:21 AM

I always find good inexpensive restaurants along Davie Street in Vancouver. There are several Greek restaurants there, too.

Gerald May 31st, 2006 07:28 PM

Everyone has given you great suggestions, but I notice that PamSF is slightly confused on one point. Feenie's isn't next door to West. West is on Granville Street, Feenie's is on Broadway. Feenie's is chef Rob Feenie's casual establishment. His very well known, excellent and very expensive )main restaurant, Lumiere, is the one next to Feenie's. Lumiere's website is

PamSF Jun 1st, 2006 12:14 AM

whoops~Gerald is correct.My bad.

BowenLinda Jun 1st, 2006 12:03 PM

You've got some great replies, terry, but I would choose C over Coast any day of the week. I found the food far superior at C's and the location/service/ambience is wonderful. Haven't been to West but have heard/read excellent things about it.

A less expensive choice would be the Sand Bar on Granville Island. Had 1 so-so meal and 3 good (not great, though) meals there. Fun atmosphere, great location.

Carmanah Jun 1st, 2006 01:06 PM

By the way, your question about Granville Island has gone unanswered. Yes, it's definitely worth spending a bit of time at Granville Island. It's technically not an island but a little peninsula underneath the Granville Street Bridge south of downtown. It's famous for its large public market (featuring local food sold in kiosks - coffee, chocolates, fresh flowers, fruits/veggies, bakeries, fish shops, fine cheese, fresh pasta, local wine, etc). Granville Island also has restaurants, local artist studios, the local art college, a large harbour, and local theatres. Certainly a unique Vancouver experience, so you might as well check it out if you're in town!

terryr Jun 1st, 2006 08:35 PM

Thanks, Carmanah, for bringing up Granville Island again. My family and I will definitely go there. For a casual and fun place to eat, we hear that the outdoor deck of Bridges may be a good choice as it overlooks the harbor. However, I now see that BowenLinda has recommended the Sand Bar at Granville Island which we have not heard about before...can you please describe the difference, and the quality of food and ambience? Lastly, thanks PamSF for another strong recommendation to Vij' can be sure that we will go Indian when in town! Glad to see this thread is being revived before our trip in mid June.

BowenLinda Jun 2nd, 2006 11:19 AM

Just to reiterate, terry, that the Sand Bar, IMO, is a "good", not "great" restaurant. Large, noisy, oyster bar, great rooftop deck with heat lamps (perfect in case we NEVER get any sun this summer!), fun.

Yes, Bridges has a nice outdoor deck. My husband and I had dinner at Bridges more formal dining room, and found it very average. The Bistro on the main floor had been redecorated since I was last there (which was yeaaaaars ago), and we found the decor really unappealing - oddly sterile and cafeteria-like. If the Bistro's food is anything like the dining room's food, I'd give that a miss but I would sit on their deck in fine, sunny weather and enjoy the view/ambience.

Take a peek at for its restaurant listings and reviews.

terryr Jun 5th, 2006 03:13 PM

Thanks BowenLinda on your advice about Bridges...yes, we plan to do just that...if the weather is nice, we will dine out on their deck and enjoy the harbor view.

If the weather is not cooperative, does anyone have any suggestions of a good restaurant on Granville Island in case we have to head indoors? Or a restaurant close by (via cab) that has great food and a fun ambience? We will go there after visiting Granville.

Based on all of your recs, we will definitely try Vij's, C, and a dim sum in Chinatown (though still torn between Sun Sui Wah or Imperial Chinese Seafood...if there's a resounding "yes" for one of these, that's the one we'll head to). Thanks again to you folks in Vancouver! Can't wait to come and enjoy your city!

littlemountain Jun 6th, 2006 10:05 AM

Why not book your dinner at "C" to follow your trip to Granville Island? "C" is a 2-minute "Aquabus" ride from Granville Island to the foot of Hornby Street ("C" is one block East of Hornby at the foot of Howe Street). See If the weather is nice, you can sit on the terrace at "C" looking over Granville Island, which is every bit as picturesque as the deck at Bridges. If the weather is foul, the food inside will certainly be better than any of the at best "good, but not great" offerings on Granville Island.

Another more casual (and somewhat cheaper) restaurant than "C" (one block further East, under common ownership) which you could also reach by the Aquabus is Nu: See their website for a good view of Granville Island from the "C"/Nu shoreline.

Also, just to be clear, neither the Imperial nor Sun Sui Wah is in Chinatown proper. The food at Sun Sui Wah is better than the Imperial, but it's a 10-minute cab ride away from downtown to sit in a cavernous room with a cafeteria atmosphere.

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