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Got way too behind to even think of catching up with all the places I've been, which got discouraging. So, fresh start now that I'm freshly married and back in Vancouver. I have a couple of places from our honeymoon I'd like to review, but I'll get back into things with a Vancouver review.

Bo Laksa King is a great place to have laksa, said the internet! Hmm, ok, thought I, but what the heck is laksa? Oh well, it's near to where we're going to be anyway, let's try it!

They serve it to you in two bowls, as shown above. You squeeze the lime and pour the soup over the whole thing. That was the helpful instructions of the one-woman team running everything.

If you don't know what laksa is either, it's a Chinese-Malaysian specialty. Bo Laksa King's version is a rich, curry and coconut milk soup over shrimp, fish balls, tofu puffs, chicken, a hard-boiled egg, and your choice of rice vermicelli or yellow wheat noodles. We chose yellow wheat at the nice lady's recommendation. ($7.50)

Bo Laksa King has a nice combo deal where you can get a wrap with your laksa $2 off, so we got an Asian Beef Wrap:

Bo Laksa King does most of their business takeout, which they have to, because it's just a counter within a tiny grocery, and there's only three tiny tables outside. But I have to say that eating there, or at least nearby, might be worth it. The contrast between the hot beef and sauce, and the cool crisp vegetables, was lovely, and that's the kind of thing that just doesn't survive a trip home. ($4.50)

Our favorite part of the meal, however, was the Roti Canai ($5.99 for a large).

Once again, I would hate to have to take this very far before digging in. Hot, hot, hot and so stretchy and crispy and fresh and OMG, I want another order now. *salivates* Just by itself it would be worth the price, so to have that bowl of curry chicken dipping sauce is just... gah. Hungry now.

Name: Bo Laksa King
Location: 4910 Joyce St Vancouver BC
Prices: <$10 per person. No drinks, but it's in a grocery so you can buy a cold drink.
Service: Very, very friendly, but there was only one person there and she was doing EVERYTHING (taking orders, cooking, cleaning up, bringing you your order etc), so you must be patient!
Food: Amazing Chinese-Malaysian food at great prices. With a smile!
Recommended?: Yes, and please send me an order of roti canai while you're there?

Bo Laksa King on Urbanspoon
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"Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" is my own translation of 牛老大刀削麵, the Chinese name of the shop.

I went here a bajillion times because I lived not too far away. It was always busy, but never to the point where you had to wait in line, or anything like that.

They specialize in knife-cut noodles, as the name suggests. Knife-cut noodles, or dao xiao mian, are made by taking a block of dough and slicing the noodles directly into the pot.

Knife-cut noodles have always had a special place in my heart because my grandfather always made noodle soup in exactly that way. He didn't cut the noodles on a board or put them through a pasta machine etc. Cutting the dough right into the boiling broth gives the noodles a special texture that has to be experienced.

Here's one of my typical student dinners, and it's making me homesick. (Yeah, I consider Taipei my heart's home.) If you squint at the receipt, you might be able to barely, barely make out that I ordered a large bowl of their standard, the beef noodle 紅燒牛肉麵. It cost me $120NT, or about $4 at the exchange rate back then. Probably more like $3.75 now.

Whatever you order, of course, comes with unlimited cold black and barley tea and, IIRC, a small bowl of soup. I usually drank the barley tea.

The plain beef (what I usually ordered) is very lean, so if you like more tender beef, you should pay a little extra to get tendon meat. Which... hm... yeah probably most Westerners are a little off-put at the idea of saying "I'd like to eat some tendon!" Honestly the texture overwhelmed me a little bit when I first tried it. It's got that melt-in-your-mouth fat, instead of marbling. Taiwanese in general like fat on their meat more than modern Americans. Taiwanese chicken tastes better... brace yourselves... because the chickens are fatter. Ditto for pork, folks. I heard fellow former Taiwan people lament that meat in the States just isn't the same... while they reach for skinless chicken breasts with a sticker on them proclaiming how lean they are! Fat. It tastes good, yo. What a concept.

Anyway. This place also sells wontons, chow mein, fried rice and meat on rice, dumplings, and stir-fried year cake, which OMG I want some RIGHT NOW. I may have to see if either of the two Taiwanese restaurants in Pittsburgh make it.

Hmm, anything else... oh, I guess I should say, the entire menu is in Chinese, and nobody there will speak English, so you might want to print out some Chinese to take with you. I'll translate some key phrases here and you can pretty much mix and match.

紅燒 - hong2shao1 - "red cooking" (broth, ie, primarily meat flavored)
番茄 - fan1qie2 - tomato (broth)
牛肉 - niu2 rou4 - in this context, lean beef ($100NT small bowl)
牛筋 - niu2 jin1 - beef tendon ($120NT small bowl)
半筋半肉 - ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 - half tendon half lean beef ($110NT small bowl)
麵 - mian4 - noodles
湯 - tang1 - soup (without noodles)
素 - su4 - vegetarian (there is no vegetarian knife-cut noodles, but there are vegetarian fried rice and fried year cake)
飯 - fan4 - rice (in this context, that means plain rice under a piece of meat or whatever)
炒麵 - chao3 mian4 - fried noodles (chow mein)
炒飯 - chao3 fan4 - fried rice
水餃 - shui3jiao3 - dumplings (you buy them $5NT per each, or about six dumplings per US dollar)
湯餃 - tang1jiao3 dumplings in soup
抄手水餃 - chao3shou3 shui3jiao3 - stir-fried dumplings
餛飩 - hun1tun1 - wonton
排骨 - pai1gu3 - ribs
豬腳 - zhu1 jiao3 - pigs' feet
雞腿 - ji1 tui3 - chicken drumstick
木須肉 - mu4 xu1 rou4 - moo shu pork (yes, moo shu pork is really Chinese)
炒年糕 - chao3 nian2gao1 - fried year cake
大 - da4 - large
小 - xiao3 - small
碗 - wan3 - bowl

Hmm, that will cover most of the menu (and actually be helpful for a lot of places). For example, if you want vegetarian fried rice, take "vegetarian" and add "fried rice" and you get su4 chao3 fan4 素炒飯. If you want a bowl of tomato half-tendon half-beef noodle soup that's fan1qie2 ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 mian4 番茄半筋半肉麵! And say you want a large bowl, da4 wan3 大碗. Obviously, some things don't go together, for example, you can't get ribs with your wonton soup. But I hope it's a little helpful.

Name: "Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" 牛老大刀削麵
Location: 42 Longquan St, Da'an, Taipei 台北市大安區龍泉街42號
Prices: $60-150 NT ($2-5 US)
Service: Busy, busy, busy. Don't make them wait.
Food: Satisfying, hearty portions of good Taiwanese food. Yum.
Recommended?: Worth a visit, but not worth going out of your way for, perhaps. I was a regular here, but I lived close by.
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When I was living in Taiwan, I was confounded by the popularity of "milk flavored" products. Milk flavored pudding. Milk flavored popsicles. Milk flavored ice cream.

To an American like me, "milk flavored" means WHO FORGOT TO PUT IN THE ACTUAL FLAVOR?

But then, my first experience with "milk flavored pudding" was a Yoplait pudding at 7-11. It was underwhelming to say the least. So I thought the entire concept was ridiculous.

Then I went to Hong Kong and picked up a booklet at the airport, "Eat Your Way Around Hong Kong." Man, let me tell you, BEST BOOKLET EVER. Every single suggestion I took from that thing was rock solid. And Yee Shun Dairy Company was no different.

My bowl of milk pudding was homemade and supremely creamy, presenting the natural milk and egg flavor. In fact, for something of this quality, you don't want a strong flavor distracting you. You ought to be savoring the texture.

It cost HK$20 (~$2.50US), and came with that glass of tea at no extra charge. :)

Incidentally, if you're wondering why it has been literally months since my last post, I had digital camera problems. I'm still sort of having them, but I don't want to abandon this blog, so I'm putting up a few posts with images I had already uploaded.

Name: Yee Shun Milk Company 港澳義順牛奶公司
Location: Ground Floor, 85 Percival St, Causeway Bay 2576 1828
Prices: 30 HKD tops, I would guess.
Service: Indifferent.
Food: Dairy desserts and snacks, especially known for steamed milk and milk pudding.
Recommended?: Yes!
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Japadog isn't bad, it's just suffering from a case of terminal overrateditis. It's the #1 restaurant on Urbanspoon, it was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", and the line-up is always long.

But for all that, it's just hot dogs and sausages, with some Asian toppings. The quality of the meat is comparable to other hot dog stands. You won't be rolling around on the sidewalk in orgasmic delight after biting into one.

The Betrothed and I both had the okonomi, which is a kurobota (fatty pork) sausage with bonito flakes, fried cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce and mayo. The toppings on most of their items are likely to be carried away on a windy day, so you might want to wait for a calm one to try it out.

It was good, but it was hard for it to match the expectations we had built up for this place. The bun, for example, is just a bun you can get at the supermarket. The sausage was tasty, but nothing like as good as the ones at Aree's Dawg House. There was not enough fried cabbage and too much bonito. The sauces were really good and well matched, I will give them that.

I'd recommend this for a hot dog if you're going to be in Downtown, but I wouldn't make a special trip here.

Name: Japadog
Location: Burrard St between Smithe and Robson; three other locations
Prices: $5 or so per hot dog
Service: Efficient and smiling.
Food: Tasty tube meat with Asian toppings.
Recommended?: The food is good but the trendiness is out of proportion. However, the low price means that this is an easy way to do something that many celebrities have done, lol. Check out what some of them have ordered. Does your favorite star take the turkey terimayo or a plain and boring dog with nothing? Only one way to see!

Japadog (Burrard & Smythe) on Urbanspoon
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I'm on Team Fritz in the Fritz vs. Belgian Fries debate, but this is still a good place for poutine in Vancouver.

The menu is a bit bigger than Fritz's, with some more exotic combinations. In addition to fries fries and more fries, they also sell such healthy fare as deep-fried Mars bars and other desserts.

The gravy is vegetarian based (probably miso) like most places in Vancouver.

We got two larges (each about $8) which was probably a mistake lol, but at the time we were really hungry. The one on the right is topped with so-called "War", which is apparently a favorite in the Netherlands (they call it "patatje oorlog"). It's a peanut satay sauce and mayo, along with onions. Maybe this is the way the Dutch like it, but I thought there was too much mayo compared to the other ingredients. Also it was a hot day so it was a little heavy. Somehow poutine's gravy doesn't feel as heavy as the creamy peanut and mayo. But I liked the combination in principle.

Our other choice was a little more conventional, poutine Galvaude. This Quebecois treat is the good old poutine combination of fries, gravy and curds, with peas and shredded chicken. The big weakpoint comparing Belgian to Fritz is the fries; the fries at Fritz are simply better. But the gravy is comparable. The curds in our poutine were not as melty as I like them but still pretty delicious, and I liked eating it with the chicken and peas. The Boyfriend liked it too.

Oh, and you, faithful reader, should know that The Boyfriend is no more.

Because later that day he proposed to me! <3

So now he is... The Betrothed. *tiny cymbal crash*

And we're almost reaching the end of my time in Vancouver!

Name: Belgian Fries
Location: 1885 Commercial Dr Vancouver BC (604) 253-4220
Prices: $5-10 for most dishes. Also sells beer and coolers.
Service: Done take-out style. It was fine.
Food: Fries with various toppings done well. But to my mind, they overemphasize the toppings at the expense of the fries.
Recommended?: If you only have time to do one, I say go to Fritz European Fry House downtown. But this place is still good. I also had really good poutine at the Naam, of all places.

Belgian Fries on Urbanspoon
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Recently The Boyfriend and I went to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, on an errand. While we were there we planned to go to a Chinese restaurant in the area. The task of picking the place was supposed to be my responsibility, but I didn't have time to do it and still make it there on time, so I called up a friend and asked her for her advice. She mentioned a place and we walked there, but it was closed Mondays.

We sort of walked around after that and ended up picking, of all places, Felico's, a Greek restaurant. We agreed that there was a sort of delicious incongruity in Chinese food fanatics coming to Richmond, Chinese central of the Vancouver area, and not eating Chinese.

It was actually a rather cool and overcast day, so I don't know why I ordered a frozen mango margarita, but I did.

It was alright, neither fantastic nor horrible.

The pita bread, on the other hand, was fantastic. It was so warm and fresh like it had just come from the oven. Mmmmmm.

We ordered two dishes. Here is the Oreftika Platter, which is their appetizer combo and costs $19.95. I don't know if the picture does it justice but this thing had an overwhelming amount of calamari. Since The Boyfriend doesn't like calamari it was all for me, and it was a bit of struggle, because I like calamari but this was like five squids worth. We ended up taking most of it home, which brings me to something that really irritated me: there was a good amount of hummus and tsatsiki left, but they didn't pack it up. They did, however, carefully pack up the au jus that went with our lamb dish that neither of us gave a crap about. So it definitely wasn't that they didn't have those mini sauce take-out containers. Grrrr. It was really good hummus!

I also wasn't a big fan of the spanakopita and the stuffed grape leaves were too meaty for my taste. They were more like grape leaf wrapped meatballs. Which is good, but not what I think of when I think of this dish. Too much beef, not enough rice.

The other dish was the Kleftico ($16.95), lamb in mustard sauce served with roasted veggies. The Boyfriend was skeptical at the idea of mustard on lamb but it was quite good. Very, very fatty but so tender and juicy. It put me in mind of the traditional Sunday dinner, something that would be the highlight of your week.

My overall impression of the place was a mixed bag. They did some things really well but there were a number of things that irritated me needlessly. I'm somewhat of a stick in the mud so when I noticed that they hadn't charged me for my tea (I got mint tea) I brought it up to the waitress. In this kind of situation, when a restaurant makes a mistake and undercharges on a minor item, I'm used to them just waving it off, but she said she would fix the bill. I wouldn't have a problem with that either, except she took forever to fix it! We were standing right there and she couldn't seem to figure out how to add the tea. I was thinking "Surely at this point she will wave off what is essentially the cost of a tea bag?" But no, we had to wait for at least five minutes as she and another person (a manager?) wrestled the machine into adding the tea.

Even more irritating was the aforementioned failure to pack up the hummus and tzatziki. Even thinking about the hummus now, I want some. It was so full of garlic!

Name: Felico's
Location: 8140 Leslie Rd Richmond, BC (604) 276-8282
Prices: $7-11 for appies, $15-25 for entrees, as well as three platters for two around $35
Service: See above.
Food: Very good Greek food in an upscale atmosphere.
Recommended?: I'm undecided. I guess I would say I liked it. But there's this niggling dissatisfaction at the same time.

Felico's on Urbanspoon
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It's difficult to say "great" or "awful" or "mediocre" about this place. The pizza was really great yet with a significant drawback: it was really, really, really oily. I don't just mean greasy to the taste. I mean looking at the pizza one could see little pools of pure oil on the surface. To eat the pizza, we had to pick up a slice, hold it up and let the oil drip off, pat the thing on both sides with clean paper towels, and then eat it.

It's a shame because the toppings were so good. On Tuesdays Pizza From Hell, the take-out portion of Hell's Kitchen, does a good deal: buy one, get one free pizza. Since the pizzas are ordinarily rather expensive, this is the perfect time to try them. We ordered a 15" Sergeant Pepperoni (fancy pepperoni and wild mushrooms with thyme) and a 15" Aphrodite (pesto, chicken, almonds, asiago cheese and sun-dried tomatoes). Each would ordinarily be $21.45, so we got the pair for that price.

I really don't know why they were so very very oily. I've never seen anything like it.

Once they were blotted with the paper towels, the taste was pretty good, but more prissy people than us would perhaps be sickened at the concept of needing to blot one's food, lol.

Name: Pizza From Hell (part of Hell's Kitchen)
Location: 2041 W. 4th Ave Vancouver BC (604) 736-4355
Prices: all their 15" pizzas are around $20
Service: The door was locked when The Boyfriend went to pick up the pizzas, and someone had to open it for him. Dunno what that was about.
Food: Good quality ingredients, nice combinations, but whence cometh the oil?
Recommended?: TBQH I have not been particularly impressed with the pizza joints in this city. You might as well go to Fresh Slice.

Hell's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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Vancouver's weather lately has been oppressively, unreasonably hot, and because of this I was craving my favorite Taiwanese summer food: 涼麵 liangmian, or cold noodles.

I Googled for it, but I wasn't finding anything but Korean and Japanese style cold noodles. Then I had the brilliant (or obvious, or possibly a combination of the two) idea to search in Chinese, and I found a page talking about Wang's Beef Noodle House in Marpole as having great liangmian. This was about 1am, JUST LIKE IT IS NOW, because the heat makes it so hard to stay asleep. I immediately resolved to kidnap The Boyfriend when he got off of work and take him to this place.

We got there about 3pm, a slow period for most restaurants. I kicked things off by responding to the waitress's question of how many with “兩位" which means "two people", and after that I never actually spoke to the waitress in English.

I glanced at the menu only to find the liangmian and immediately ordered a bowl. The Boyfriend had been hoping to order salt and pepper chicken (鹽酥雞) but it wasn't on the menu. The waitress recommended him (through me) several dishes, so here's the scoop if you want it: the #1 and #2 rice dishes, which I can't remember what they are; the #3 and #5 dim sum, which was the scallion pancake beef rolls (餅夾牛肉) and I think a kind of dumpling; and of course, the beef noodle soup!

If you can't tell by the fact that I don't remember the names of the other dishes, we ordered the beef rolls. The Boyfriend also ordered a bowl of liangmian since he had never had cold noodles Chinese-style before.

Was it good? Was it good. WAS IT GOOD.

The picture is post-stirring and eating a few bites because I was just overcome with "DO WANT." It's a very simple and healthy style: cold noodles topped with a mildly spicy sesame-ginger sauce (and I think I also detected some peanut), topped with julienned cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. I am not a fan of cilantro so I scraped all of mine into my boyfriend's bowl; the waitress noticed and said I could tell them next time not to put it on.

I had asked the waitress upon coming in if the song that was playing was by Fahrenheit (a Taiwanese boy band) but she checked the iPod and found that it was Super Junior M (another boy band). Not long after we received our bowls, she asked me who my favorite singer was. I told her Landy Wen Lan (溫嵐). She immediately went and changed the iPod to play all Landy all the time! <3 So I spent half the time eating and half the time singing along, which amused The Boyfriend greatly.

I know I gushed about the liangmian but the bing jia niurou was EVEN BETTER. As a matter of fact, it was the best beef roll I have ever had, and I'm speaking as a girl who lived in Taipei an entire year, ate out at least two meals every day, and absolutely adores scallion pancake. It was the quality of the beef and the sauce that made it soar to unimagined heights of deliciousness. The absolute perfect combination of crispy, thin scallion pancake, tender beef, and rich, savory sauce.

Go ahead and drool at that picture a little. I'll wait.

Finished? Okay. While we were eating, I noticed that a family eating nearby had ordered a bowl of what was most certainly mango baobing. However, it hadn't been on the menu, at least not that I saw (it's quite possible I was blinded by "MUST HAVE LIANGMIAN NOW" though). I asked the waitress how much it was for a bowl, and she said $4.50. We said "Ummmmmmm yes bring that now plzkthx."

She went back to the kitchen to tell us our order, but then came out to say that the mango was sold out. Awwww. But that's okay because she'll go get some more! If we're willing to wait a little? Surprised, we agreed.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later I saw her come back in the front door with a plastic shopping bag containing two mangoes. Now THAT is service!

Also I have to point out here that in addition to our 超可愛 (super cute) waitress, there was another waitress who was freakin' hilarious. I spent any time I did not spend eating and singing along with the music translating her brusque scoldings and quips for The Boyfriend. For example:

Other Waitress: Where were you?
Our Waitress: We ran out of mangoes. I went to get more.
Other Waitress: These mangoes aren't ripe enough!
Our Waitress: I think...
Other Waitress: You don't know how to pick mangoes!

Okay it is not nearly as hilarious written down. Probably a lot of it was that it took me right back to certain balls-busting Taiwanese women I knew, who were undisputed masters of their domains and the terrified souls who cowered within them.

They were also gossipping about whether a certain Chinese singer were gay, and she snapped, "Well, of course he is! Who else would wear so many clothes?" LMAO.

Anywhoozle, back to the mango baobing! It was, to be precise, mangguo niunai bing (芒果牛奶冰), which means "mango milk ice", but here "milk" actually refers to sweetened condensed milk.

Once again, Wang's did not disappoint me. The most difficult part of making baobing is getting a good texture for the ice. It's not supposed to be hard crunchy granules of ice like in a snowcone. Chinese restaurants in North America that use snow cone makers for their baobing are the bane of my culinary life. It's supposed to be shaved ice, with a softer texture, something that won't hurt your teeth, and that melts relatively quickly on a hot day, forming a delicious super-cold liquid mixed with the condensed milk and fruit flavor.

Despite the other waitress's scolding, the mango tasted perfectly ripe to me. Another bane is restaurants that use canned mango in syrup. This was quite demonstratively not the case at Wang's.

The entire meal with tax came to a little over $20. The entire meal, as long as I didn't look out the window, I could imagine I was in Taipei. The music, the food, the sound of a Taiwanese woman bitching people out... ahhhhh. Nostalgia.

I want to go back. ;_;

But, while I can't go back to Taipei right now, The Boyfriend and I have resolved to come back here before I leave. Which is in two weeks, so that should let you know how much we loved this place.

Name: Wang's Beef Noodle House (王記台灣牛肉麵)
Location: 8390 Granville St Vancouver BC (604) 266-7966
Prices: <$10 person
Service: Our waitress did everything short of carry our food out to us on her knees. When the restaurant ran out of an item we wanted, she actually went so far as to run to the market and buy the ingredient needed. See, Hapa Izakaya? That's how you do it!
Food: Not only is it authentic Taiwanese food, if this restaurant were in Taipei, I would patronize it above others. It ranks with the best of Taipei.
Recommended?: No, not at all. Haha, just kidding. C'mon, did you read the review or not? GO HERE.

Wang’s Beef Noodle House on Urbanspoon
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Okay. Apologies for the massive spam, but I figured this was the best way to give "the whole experience" and be able to link to individual reviews. :) I'm posting in reverse order so that when someone loads up the page (or the tag) they can scroll from top to bottom and follow the order of restaurants we visited.

This post is the overview post.

So, the Boyfriend had a friend coming to visit from another province, and we wanted to do something that can only be done in Vancouver, for food. Her landlocked province is not a good place for sushi, so that was her suggestion.

I started Googling around looking for sushi reviews and came across the concept of an izakaya crawl. An izakaya, if you don't know, is kind of like a Japanese pub: small dishes of food, and sake and beer.

An izakaya crawl, therefore, is like a bar crawl gone Nippon.

Of course, in order to visit a lot of izakaya in succession, you have to be somewhere where there are a lot of izakaya, ideally somewhere where those izakaya are in walking distance. Vancouver is perhaps unique outside of Japan in having an area with a high density of izakaya: the stretch of Robson St. between Burrard and Denman, and then Denman between Barclay and W. Georgia. Many are true izakaya, but one can also mix it up by visiting some sushi places, some other Asian places, even a Western tapas restaurant.

Here's our timeline:
17:30 -- Guu with Garlic
18:25 -- Tapastree
19:25 -- Kingyo
20:25 -- Hon's Wun Tun House (my roommate joined us starting here)
21:15 -- Hapa Izakaya
22:00 -- Gyoza King (roommate left after here)
23:10 -- Zakkushi
24:00 -- finish line!

Altogether we shared 29 different dishes and I think I tasted 19 or so different alcoholic beverages, of which 5 were actually mine, but because it was all spread out I never got more than buzzed, which surprised me. In fact we didn't bother with a taxi home, we took public transit.

Alcohol was easily half the bill in the places where we drank, and non-alcoholic specialty drinks were often expensive too, so if you want to save money and still have the excitement of an izakaya crawl, drink water at most places.

Best overall restaurant of the night was without a doubt Kingyo, and worst was hands down Hapa Izakaya. Best value was the potstickers at Hon's; biggest splurge was the sashimi trio at Kingyo. Best and worst atmosphere was Kingyo and Hapa once again, but Guu with Garlic probably would have given Kingyo a run for its money if we had gone later in the night. Best service goes to Kingyo for the individual attention we received despite sitting at the bar and how busy they were, and worst was probably Gyoza King, due to a language barrier more than anything. Best drinks is a tough one. Guu with Garlic had the best Japanese drinks, but Tapastree had the best and most interesting cocktails. And one last star to Zakkushi for having the sweetest music, and also for seating us and being patient with our indecisiveness when I know they just wanted to close the kitchen and go home, lol.

I'd recommend any of these for your own crawl except Hapa Izakaya, and I'd recommend a crawl to anyone who like trying lots of dishes and drinks. I think you could probably fit more than seven places into your crawl if you were willing to keep going past midnight (several places are open until 1 or 2am). We debated hitting Toratatsu at that point but decided we would rather take public transit while the buses were still running more frequently.

Another recommendation is to sit at the bar whenever you can. Watching stuff being prepared is part of the fun.

A third recommendation is to wear nice socks, because if you choose to sit Japanese-style at a place, you'll take your shoes off.

If you have any questions about making your own izakaya crawl, don't hesitate to leave a comment. We did ours on a Tuesday night, so reservations may be more important on busier nights.
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Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.


We were totally pumped to start our izakaya crawl, so made a reservation at Guu with Garlic for 5:30pm, which is when they open, and arrived there at about 5:15pm, sitting outside on their wooden bench and contemplating their cell phone charm vending machines. As it turns out, the reservation was unnecessary. The place seats more than the entrance appears because there is an outdoor patio. Inside, there is the option to sit at a table, at the bar, or in a Japanese-style near the window.

Despite the name and the logo, Guu with Garlic does not use a lot of garlic. I didn't taste it in any dishes we ordered.

The energy was there right from the beginning, even when the place wasn't that full. Orders are shouted to the chefs working, and there's a lot of banter going on in Japanese between serving staff and chefs. I don't speak Japanese, but it seemed like a lot of call and response was going on, getting everyone revved up for the long night ahead. By the time we left it was full and there were people waiting outside, so if you're not getting there at opening, reservations are a good idea.

We started with drinks. I chose the Cherry Blossom ($6) for my froufrou girlie drink of the evening: peach schnapps, crushed strawberries, and ramune, a Japanese soda. The labels on the ramune are personalized for Guu, which was cute.

The Boyfriend and Ann (the friend) split 250ml of a certain kind of shochu for $25. Very tasty!

Our first dish of the evening: kurokke ($4), aka croquette! Mashed potato and chicken, deep fried, topped with worchestershire and bechamel sauces. We were all pretty hungry so this was a nice way to kick it off and soak up the alcohol hopefully.

Next up: one of the specials, scallop, prawn and squid yuzu ceviche ($7.20). A Japanese twist on the South American raw seafood favorite, this one was made with a Japanese citrus fruit for some East-West fusion. My favorite was the scallop.

The third dish in our initial order was tako wasabi ($3.50), which as the name suggests, is tiny pieces of octopus (tako) and wasabi mixed with soy sauce. This is one of Ann's favorite dishes, and although I didn't like raw tako at all the last time I had it, I liked it a lot this time. Maybe this octopus was fresher, or maybe it was the smaller slices, but the texture was a lot nicer.

We decided we wanted one more dish before we left, something that would really say "POSERS TO THE LEFT", lol. Ann and I kinda railroaded Gordon into compliance with us as we ordered nankotsu karaage ($4): fried chicken knees. Ahhhhh, night market food, I missed you! Yet this simple dish was taken to a level of elegance with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dip into the salt and pepper. Mmmm.

That was the end of our visit to Guu with Garlic. With some food and booze in our tummies, we left for our next stop: Tapastree.

Name: Guu with Garlic
Location: 1698 Robson Street, Vancouver BC 604-685-8678
Prices: $3.50 to $10 per small plate. If you planned to eat until you were full, you'd spend at least $25 per person, is my guess. GwG is also open for lunch, where you can get a meal and a pint of beer for around $10, which is a steal.
Service: Friendly, enthusiastic and busy, busy, busy. This seems like a good place to mention that the music here was pretty fabulous too. Nothing wrong with classic rock.
Food: Tasty and served up to you quick. Putting liquor into ramune with fresh fruit is an inspired summer combination.
Recommended?: Yeah! I'd say get a reservation later in the evening, I bet it's really hopping then. Sitting at the bar looked like a lot of fun too.

Guu With Garlic on Urbanspoon


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