Entering Vancouver with crisp blue skies over the city we were greeted with a mix of soaring glass skyscrapers, cozy coffee shops, homelessness, graffiti, and occasional pot smoke wafting in the air.
From our hotel we walked down to Gastown. A skid row of sorts in the 60s it is now a hip area with trendy shops, restaurants and pubs. An air of grittiness, however, remains, as the streets are not as clean as they should be and a number of homeless lie sleeping in the doorways. Gastown is best experienced in the evening when the dim light softens the grittiness and the old style street lights give the streets another-era atmosphere.
The luxury upscale l’Hermitage Hotel is located an equal distance from rundown neighborhoods on one side and street mall cleanliness on the other. Our room was upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite with a kitchenette. Small but lovely, the rooms were decorated in simple traditional elegance. Amenities included – a washer and dryer, a capsule coffee brewer, lots of outlets and USB ports, a safe, an iron and ironing board, etc. The room was quiet and the bed comfortable.
The hotel also has a restaurant, an outdoor pool on the 5th floor, a steam room and an outdoor patio. Valet service offers secured underground parking for an extra $35/day.
Coquille Fine Seafood (sadly permanently closed)
This new Gastown seafood restaurant has a fun hip vibe with shell shaped booths backed by a dark green accent wall and drawings of octopus tentacles on the wall. The rest of the room is light and bright with large windows that look out on to the streets of Gastown.
The menu is heavy on seafood. In fact, if you don’t eat seafood there is very little to choose from ,i.e., a surf and turf special with steak and shrimp or a leek tart. However, you should come for the seafood. It’s excellent.
We started with the roasted Hamachi collar special and the octopus carpaccio. The Hamachi was served with a side of homemade pickled cumbers and piquillo peppers. Fabulous combination, the collar meat perfectly cooked and succulent. The octopus carpaccio was tender, well-seasoned with a smoked paprika aioli and piquillo peppers and plated with tiny croutons for crunch.
For mains we tried the crispy bream on a bed of fresh fava beans, spinach and green onion and the smoked and grilled sable fish topped with a tamarind and pepper glaze served on bed of an herb emulsion and cucumber. While both dishes were beautifully done the sable fish was the star of the evening, the tartness of tamarind in perfect harmony with the smoky rich fish.
Service is Canadian friendly. My only criticism is service was very slow. It took over a half an hour to get the first courses.
Sura Korean Cuisine
Sura was recommended by the hotel concierge for Korean food. This West End eatery was hopping on a Thursday evening at 7:30. We waited about 15 minutes for a table but had we arrived 15 minutes later there would have been no wait. The menu offers a huge selection of authentic Korean fare divided by category.
Having only been in a few Korean restaurants, we weren’t sure what to order and went for some of our standard favorites – seafood pancake, barbeque chicken and mackerel with squash in a kimchi sauce. The food was good, but nothing blew us away. Looking around at the many happy patrons I’m guessing this was an ordering error on our part and I would love to give the restaurant a second chance.
Afternoon Oysters at Lift Bar and Grill
With fabulous sunny views over the water, Lift is a lovely place to hang out on a beautiful afternoon. Their happy hour, however, is less than a bargain. Their website advertised 1.50 oysters on the half shelf, but when we arrived we were told that they don’t do that during the summer months, i.e., May through October. Hopefully the false advertising has been taken off their website. We, however, thoroughly enjoyed the super fresh oysters despite the doubled price.
Breakfast at Medina Café
Located right next door to the l’Hermitage Hotel, Medina Café’s location couldn’t have been more convenient for us. This top rated café opens for breakfast at 8:00 and was packed by 8:30 on a Friday morning. The dining room is an open, high-ceilinged room with rustic charm and views into the kitchen.
The menu includes an extensive list of breakfast choices most featuring typically dinner type slow foods topped with eggs. Sounded great! We tried the Cassoulet with white beans and andouille sausage and the mushroom fricassee. Neither dish, however, lived up to our expectations. Slow food should have deep melded flavors. These dishes tasted slapped together without the time necessary to blend and deepen the flavors.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Pacific Northwest page.
May 22-24, 2019