DK Travel Guide: EyeWitness Reviews

Cru

From the time they were given the keys to the former Cyrano’s spot until the time they opened the door, it took just over a month (and they weren’t even on that TV show) for Dana Reinhardt, Mark Taylor (aka wine guy) and Christine Funnell to put Cru on the culinary map, and a fine job they’ve done. Coffee and butterscotch tones from the tall-backed banquette running along one wall to the couches in the foyer are warm and inviting and the lighting is state-of-the-art. The focus here is ‘fun and easy’ and the menu definitely gets this point across: each item is colour-coded with eight components of the wine list (with descriptions such as crisp, luscious, juicy, smooth and big), and all the wines are sold by the glass. What a perfect way to take a wine lesson, like training on the job. A three course prix fixe is offered with ‘mix and match’ choices or casual small plates that are all large appetizer sizes. They may just have the best duck confit in town and save room for the hot plum and ginger Johnnycake; plums poached with cardamom, star anise and red wine with a cornmeal biscuit topping individually baked and served with a big dollop of whipped cream. Comfy… $$$

 Burgoo 

In the style of an old French country farmhouse, from the wood panel on the front door to the cozy stone fireplace to the thick, white, oversized serving cups and bowls, Burgoo epitomizes comfort food. The ‘yummy carrot soup’ lives up to its namesake and all of the stews are likewise yummy. The trio of owners, Justin, Stephan and Ken, thought Vancouver was ready for a soup and stew house, hence burgoo, which literally means thick stew. Popular with the university crowd for quality and quantity, both soups and stews can also be purchased in 16oz containers at the front door, from $4.50 for soup and $6.75 for stews. 

Granville Island Market the ‘prêt a porter’ of the food world, and with such a vast array of foods, even the most clueless cook can put on a lavish feast. The mind boggles with choices and menu plans can change as fast as Vancouver’s weather in May. Be prepared to spend a few hours shopping and mingling- it is the place where restaurateurs of discriminating taste blend with shoppers of every ethnic stripe. And take a break to pick up a snack and watch the buskers. Oh yes, since everyone feeds them, mind the pigeons!

Oyama Sausage Home of Feenie’s weenie, (their cheese smokie) the mind boogles with choices – over 100 fresh and smoked sausages, all hand-made, along with 20 salamis, pates and terrines. Sausage selections change with the seasons – barbeque recipes for summer, cassoulet varieties for winter. You can special order foie gras or for not-so-special occasions, try the Parfait de foie gras; much more affordable.

Shaughnessy Restaurant

 Not just a destination restaurant as many locals will attest after dining here. Stroll around Van Dusen gardens surrounding this bright and airy room before, during and/or after lunch, dinner, and the extremely popular weekend brunch. The diverse wes coast menu has an eclectic Asian influence. Try the pan seared Alaskan Halibut with papaya and black sesame salsa, vegetable springroll and a refreshing cucumber-daikon coleslaw ($26) or the tenderest of prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloin with a robust roasted onion and blue cheese tart and wild mushroom ragout ($25). The patio is heated to stretch its seating from April to October. The wine list features several by the glass and they are constantly sourcing unsung B.C. wines. $$$ Ps. move over Heinz, pick up a bottle of their hickory smoked tomato ketchup on the way out –

Patisserie Bordeaux

 really know how to get their fruit tarts perfectly tarted up, either with frangipane(almond cream) or classic pastry cream, the fruits arrange themselves in perfect glazed symmetry like nymphs in a water ballet. And just because you’ve tried one tart, doesn’t mean you’ve had them all. There’s the most popular sour cherry and peach, or the classic apple or the stately pear, all perfectly fit to stand alone (or maybe with a dollop of vanilla ice cream). And if that Knave of Hearts were lurking about here, they would all be gone.  Try the mousses – not too sweet, ideal for picnics. And a good selection of individual cakes. They also carry a line of quality products mainly from Provence.

Les Amis du Fromage

 Alice and Allison Spurell aren’t stingy with their inventory. As Charles de Gaulle is quoted on their website, ‘How can anyone be expected to govern a country with 325 cheeses?’- how are we expected to choose from a store that has over 400 cheeses in less than one trip? Although French cheeses are the specialty, many of them are local. The mother and daughter team decided that cutting the cheese was more lucrative than their catering business and now restaurateurs and tourists come in droves for the mind-boggling selections and raw milk cheeses not available state-side. Lucky us.

Phnom Penh

The bustling clang of pots and pans mingle with lunch crowd conversation in this favourite Chinatown eatery. Décor is basic but who cares? The hot and sour soup and the garlic squid with lemon-pepper sauce can’t be beat. The service is fast, friendly and furious; you can be in and out in 20 minutes. Or linger and have a Vietnamese coffee; hot or cold, it’s the perfect finishing touch. $-$$244 East Georgia Street, 604-682-5777

Urban Fare

 This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the only grocery store in BC that is truly civilized. Where else can you sit down surrounded by grocery bags choc-a-bloc full of local products and sip a glass of BC wine while enjoying a Dawson Creek ham dinner from one of many deli selections? All the salads are excellent: try crunchy yet tender broccoli slaw or potato salad as good as Mum’s. The nightly carvery is a big hit with the locals, and they can even deliver to your door (within the area) in five minutes! Their rotisserie chicken is a favourite. Urban Fare constantly sources local food producers: on their shelves you will find preserves from a “Mom and Pop” operation in Kimberly, organic butter from a farm in Grand Forks (how butter used to taste, is supposed to taste) and fresh hummus in the deli from one of the staff’s uncle. Granted, Urban Fare is part of that bigger company but it’s more than a supermarket. Keeping it local is the key.