Star guy Adrian Brijbassi gets a Vancouver food tour from legedndary Vikram Vij
Star Travel writer/organizer/web guy/deputy editor in all but title Adrian Brijbassi is wrapping up his vacation out west, but couldn't resist filing a blog post on the restaurant scene in British Columbia's biggest city. Specifically, he got to take a tour with the hugely talented Vikram Vij.
VANCOUVER — Vikram Vij isn’t just one of Vancouver’s leading restaurateurs, he’s also a fan of the city’s eclectic food scene. The other day he took some time to introduce me to a couple of recently opened spots in areas where tourists may not think to venture for fine food.
The first was Campagnolo, a charcuterie at 1020 Main Street, close to the Pacific Central bus terminal. Campagnolo (www.campagnolorestaurant.ca) cures all its meats on the premises, a sure sign of a restaurant serious about charcuterie. It also serves a range of reasonably priced cuisine, including pizzas, salads and a must-try appetizer of pan-fried chickpeas with mint and citrus. The wine list is short, but it has a strong mix of provincial and international selections. A moscato from Italy was a refreshing finish, similar to an ice wine but not as sweet.
The room was airy with understated décor, adding a classy touch to a part of town long known for dive bars and seedy nightlife.
“You may not expect to find a restaurant of this calibre here, but things are starting to change,” Vikram says.
Stop No. 2 was Bao Bei, a Chinatown restaurant that’s only been open for a few months and was doing brisk business midweek. It’s fusion cuisine includes Shao Bing (braised pork on a sesame seed flatbread with Asian pear), grilled squid with pork belly and bok choy, and a delicious beef tartar topped with quail’s egg and served with lotus root chips. Really interesting stuff from chef Joel Watanabe.
Bao Bei (www.bao-bei.ca) is tucked away at 163 Keefer Street, not Pender, which is the main street in Chinatown. It’s also not far from Main and Hastings, the notorious corner where Vancouver’s drug culture is on cringe-inducing display.
“Again, location doesn’t matter as long as the food is good. You can see they’re packed, so word is getting out,” Vikram says of Bao Bei, whose name means “treasure” or “precious”. “And you can see from the sign it’s called a ‘Chinese brasserie’. That’s saying something about where they want to go and it takes some guts to do this kind of food.”
We finished the night at Chambar, the Belgian restaurant that opened a few years ago and has turned into a favourite in town. Along with great mussels and scallops, Chambar has an outstanding beer selection and brews its own ale and lager.
As you’d expect with a local celebrity, wherever Vikram goes there are plenty of people who wave and come over to shake hands. The front-of-house staff at the restaurants are happy to see him and chefs drop by the table, eager to hear what he thinks.
“Vancouver isn’t like other cities. We all support each other, we all want to see each other’s restaurants do well,” says Vikram, whose own establishments — Vij’s and Rangoli — continue to do amazing business. Waits are now three hours for a table at Vij’s and about an hour at Rangoli. Both restaurants (www.vijs.ca) are on 11th Street, just off of Granville.
Vikram will be moving to a new 2,400-square-foot location on Cambie Street soon, allowing him to meet the demand.
In the meantime, he has a new cookbook (“Vij’s at Home”, co-written with wife and chef Meeru Dhalwala) that’s already sold thousands of copies in Canada, and he is helping to set up the second annual Canadian Chefs’ Congress, which takes place in Duncan, B.C., on Sept. 11-12. Some of the nation’s leading chefs from each province and territory will cook for 500 invited guests and select media members.
Great stuff, Adrian. Thanks. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogger, Jim Byers.NEW YORK FASHION DEALS
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clothing items and canvas tote bags for shopping sprees on September 10. Some of
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In an effort to increase visitation and consumer
participation in the Fashion’s Night Out fashion show on September 7 at
Not that you needed another reason to go to New York, but there's also the newly opened Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC hotel. Some of you may have heard of the Gansevoort down in the meatpacking district, with its cool rooftop bar. This is a new Gansevoort up at 29th and Park, on the edge of the quiet but well-located Murray Hill area.
The p.r. folks tell me it's 20 storeys with "249 elegant, generously-sized guestrooms averaging 475 square feet with loft ceilings, and 37 suites ranging from 560 to 1,550 square feet, many with balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows."
Just be prepared: introductory rates at Gansevoort Park Avenue will start at $395 USD per night from August 26 to September 7. After September 7, 2010, the rates at Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC will start from $495 USD per night.
BLUE RODEO ROCKS
This has very little to do with travel, but I guess I could point out that the band is in Vancouver this weekend. Anyway, I caught Blue Rodeo's Molson Ampitheatre Show at Ontario Place Thursday night, and it was awesome.
The keyboard player, Michael Boguski, was spectacular all night, but especially during a raucous version of crowd favourite "Five Days in May." He really pounds the keyboards. And I've always loved drummer Glenn Milchem's work; powerful yet also restrained when required.
The usual singalong to Greg Keelor's "Hasn't Hit Me Yet" was wonderful, and Jim Cuddy did some real rocking out on his guitar. It's a shame we haven't heard bassist extraordinaire Bazil Donovan croon of late, but there's always next year.
My wife and I have now seen these guys 20 or 25 times. We kinda lost count, but we started going around 1988 and make it a regular show at the ampitheatre and at Massey Hall, where we always order the second seats go on sale and usually get the second or third row. Insanely great shows.
It was funny to see several elderly folks with canes at a rock concert, as well as a few kids. The group in front of me featured a boy of about 10 with two adults in their late 20's or early 30's, plus an older guy who turned out to be former CFNY deejay Don Burns! They had a fabulous time, bopping and rocking all night long.
If you've never seen Blue Rodeo, you're missing a group of real Canadian icons. There's not a more passionate, tuneful, musically talented and enjoyable band on the planet.
Now, if I can only get Jim Cuddy to call and tell me about his favourite travel spots I'd really be in heaven....I'd even buy him a glass of his favourite red wine.