ON THE LEFT COAST
I’m no sushi expert, but after a meal at Tojo’s on West Broadway in Vancouver I think I’ve found Japanese nirvana. Tojo (hence the name) is rated one of the top 12 chefs in Vancouver, and on top of being a friendly guy who spends a lot of his evenings chatting with customers at his high-end restaurant, he’s an absolute whiz in the kitchen.
We were lucky enough to enjoy some of his famous marinated tuna the other night, as well as some magical Dungeness crab on a bed of seaweed marinated in Japanese lemon juice. And his B.C. rolls are to die for, with bits of cooked salmon wrapped inside a tasty roll that makes anything in Toronto look like day-old Captain Highliner’s.
He mixes some unusual ingredients, including tiny bits of pineapple, and the overall effect is out of this world. The sablefish nearly melts in your mouth and comes in a beautiful bowl with a piece of what looks like parchment paper on top. A beautiful, red maple leaf rests on the paper and the fish is simply marvelous, wrapped around perfect pine mushrooms and slivers of asparagus.
Our waiter constantly admonished us that we had to wait 30 seconds for this dish to be ready or two minutes for that one and he also kept insisting, “this dish … no soy sauce!” It was like watching a Seinfeld episode about soup, but he was absolutely right. This is Japanese food to be savoured, not drowned in salty soy sauce.
The weather isn’t always perfect out in British Columbia, but a crisp, 12 degree day in October in Vancouver is something to savour. Folks this week were out in hordes in Coal Harbour and English Bay and Kitsilano Beach and, of course, at Stanley Park.
As I watched a group of four shirtless guys play beach volleyball at Kits on a late afternoon, I noticed a guy with a blue hoodie sitting on one of the logs overlooking the ocean. He was chatting on a cellphone and next to him was a book titled, “Bartending for Dummies.” I don’t know what it means but it seemed very west coast.
Only in Vancouver? Hard to say, but you gotta admire anyone who strolls down Burrard Street in front of the Sutton Place Hotel wearing camoflauge pants, a brown, open-necked shirt and a houndstooth jacket. Sounds pretty weird but the guy looked confident enough to pull it off.
EAST SIDE BLUES
No matter how many times you see it, it’s stunning to drive down Hastings on the East Side of Vancouver and see so many people who seem homeless or down on their luck hanging out in one place. It’s as if you took every homeless person in Toronto and shoved them all onto a single street corner. Folks out here get used to it, but it’s disheartening as hell to see so many people in desperate need of a helping hand gathered in a few short city blocks.
The Kingston-based rock band Bedouin Soundclash was supposed to put on a free concert on Thursday in the region’s supervised drug injection site but it had to be cancelled. City officials took down the stage after saying proper approvals weren’t in place for the facility.
As if these people didn’t have enough problems, now they lose a free concert from one of Canada’s better-known bands. Nice.
Like Toronto, there’s a huge boom in condos in Vancouver. But city council is talking about banning them from some areas and placing a height limit on others as the skyline is starting to resemble a mini-Manhattan.
With the Olympics on the way, there also is a hotel boom. The Loden, which yours truly gets to check out for the weekend, just swung its doors open to the public. There’s also a new Fairmont on the way and a Ritz-Carlton, as well as a couple others.
What they don’t have enough of is office space downtown. Council members are trying to figure out ways of getting more commercial space in some areas, including trendy Yaletown.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Oct. 24 says passenger traffic in September dropped 2.9 per cent while cargo traffic was down 7.7 per cent.
"The deterioration in traffic is alarmingly fast-paced and widespread," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO. "At this rate, losses may be even deeper than our forecast U.S. $5.2 billion for this year."