Vancouver, Eh? (1/2)



Vancouver, Canada

Food-freaks in the know, know that Canada has some of the best food you can find in North America. Don't believe me? Check out just a few of the restaurants recommended by people who know good food in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver. Sure - French Canada is known to have some great bites, but Vancouver can seriously contend in the good-food arena. I believe I heard from a native Vancouver-an that Vancouver has one of the highest Asian populations in North America, and you know what that means: great freakin' Asian food!

Vancouver has one of my personal favorite sandwich restaurants in all North America: Meat and Bread. We had a late arrival into Vancouver, but I was lacing up my boots as soon as we hit the city - my mission was to sprint to MaB as quickly as possible and just take it all in. A couple of us suited up and made the trek; the whole time I could be heard repeating to my gang about "how amazing this place is." Long story short: we showed up and it was closed. It was like being a child who finally coerced their parents to take them to Toys R Us and it was closed for the day. I was heart broken. Defeated.We were starving, so we did what any good person may be tempted to do around the globe: pick something random. This is Russian Roulette when you've been shown the light, when you've taken the right pill from Morpheus; because you know how good things can be, and a random selection can yield 50/50 results (perhaps more like 1:100 odds not in your favor). 

We went to a place that will remain unnamed (to be respectful). Paolo paid something like 15 or 20 bucks for a "chicken salad" that had one measly, grey piece of chicken on a sad bed of lettuce (if memory serves me right, he saw it, put his money on the table and left). Rob and I shared the poutine and corn chowder; then I went for the AAA Strip Loin Sandwich. It was merely sustenance. Not much love went into it, and not much love came out of it. Sorry (insert pub/restaurant name here), you got one of the few dishonorable mentions on Kiichi - you took advantage of my weakness. The Brooklyn Breweries Black Chocolate Stout certainly helped remedy the pain though. Maybe that place should purely be for drinking. It wasn't awful, just not good. 

The dinner plan was one that had me researching something proper; and that's the thing: you can and (most likely) will find something great with the slightest of effort. Just give it a shot if you're somewhere new, pop on that inter-web and look up something good. Chances are if you're not in a cool, one-off, or boutique hotel, they probably won't lead you in the right direction; so take advantage of that data plan or wifi and look for 3-5 minutes, you'll find something.

What did I find? Guu Otokomae. A Japanese Izakaya restaurant. Think of Izakaya like Spanish Tapas: small bites to go with booze (in this case, Beer and Sake). Izakaya is my favorite kind of eating in Japan - non-pretentious, loaded with bites you can share with your friends, cozy, sorta-punk rock (or rock n' roll if that's more your thing) in a Japanese-way - and essentially just what you need. The word "Guu" represents the noise your stomach makes when it's hungry… oh Japanese people…

We went for a pitcher of Blanche De Chambly (when in Canada right, eh?) and I did the ordering:

I went for chicken karage (fried chicken), seared tuna, a salad of greens, this plate of assorted chopped things you get mixed together (real good, uncertain of the name), yaki-udon (grilled udon noodles), tako-yaki (an Osakan-treat: balls of dough with a chunk of squid in it, served with Okonami-sauce and Japanese mayo), tempura shrimp, grilled fish, more fried hunks of seafood, dumplings, random assortments of delicious unrecognizable Japanese-goodness, then all sorts of sweets to finish. 

That's what I'm talkin about. Guu Otokomae is set up just like an Izakaya spot: it's loud, it's friendly, it's boozy, and it's full of intensely good dishes. Everyone at the table was blown away. I felt transported back to my home country. 

Meat And Bread


Ask me about Meat And Bread - and you'll see me light right the hell up. Meat And Bread has (from first glance even) become one of my favorite sandwich joints in North America. 

We were on the Dream Theater support tour, Ashley was wrapping up work at Starbucks (for the free internet), I was in the bus parked off site (there wasn't room for our bus until a certain time) when she What's App'd me about a place that looked right up my alley. A short walk from the Symphony Hall (or whatever it was) we were playing - and there it was: Meat And Bread. 

Such a subtle name, with subtlety being the theme of the restaurant: minimal, modern decor - a hint of rustic woodsy-ness and modern art-gallery style high ceilings, tall windows, sleek fonts. Slate grays and pristine lines are accompanied by things like natural wood-colored wooden trays, huntsmen-esque decor fixed into some of the walls. 

There's typically always a line of locals out the door - always an encouraging sign of a truly great local establishment; their menu is simple: "Porchetta," "Grilled Cheese," "Soup of the day"… reading the contents, you see where the gourmet comes into play. We had the Potato, pork and leek "Soup of the day"; the Veal Braise (Veal, mushroom and onions, bleu cheese, horseradish jus); the ever so simply named "Grilled Cheese" (which is, from my 4 visits - always on the menu); ice cream sandwich to finish. 


I think there are merely 4 or so selections a day for sandwiches… that's it - the same bread, paper, tray, and sambal. I love that. I find places with 50 plus selections always do everything bad to ok at best… a place like Meat And Bread - with 4 simple sandwich selections, you know they're going to kill each one. 

The bread is reminiscent of European bakery bread - this one isn't hard like French bread - but has a good chew to it - it can nestle that meat nicely. It's fresh baked, meaty bread - all sandwich bread should be this bread; not the flimsy assembly-line crap you see in other delis. The little yellow dipping mustard-esque sambal is Meat And Bread's signature condiment - it can typically be found pairing very nicely with each sandwich. 

The meat had a nice bbq-pulled-pork texture (not flavor), with bold delicious pork-y goodness. Simple ingredients were laid atop - just enough so you can really focus in on all the components. The Grilled Cheese is probably the best grilled cheese I've ever bitten in to (only was able to steal a few bites from the wife… I did however devour the whole Veal Braise, solo). Artisan cheeses, perfectly pressed and grilled - not too long, not too short. If a place can make a grilled cheese this simple and this good - you know they're doing something right. 

The soup was fantastic - and that little ice cream sandwich is insanity. It's ice cream with little bits of chewy-good bacon inside. The mix of the creamy, natural vanilla ice cream - so sweet in it's milky, creamy, not overly frosty texture played perfectly with the savory bacon bits. I should have called it quits after the sandwich and soup (pretty hearty portions of sandwich here) - but anything with that sweet and savory mix is a must. Their sandwich alone could cause a line.

Meat and Bread - I love you.