Dine Out Vancouver starts this Friday (January 18) and runs until February 3. If you're still deciding where to go, here are some places you may not have considered. On a media tour last week, I visited four under-the-radar restaurants to get a taste of their Dine Out menus. Here's what stood out at each. All are still accepting reservations.
Never heard of Nosh? That's because it's brand spanking new--it opens at 2585 West Broadway, in the old Mistral location, today (January 16). The 28-seat Kitsilano restaurant is a stylish yet casual affair with an open kitchen and hybrid counter/table service (diners order at the counter and the food is delivered tableside).
Nosh specializes in "slow-cooked fast casual fare" such as rotisserie meats and braised dishes created by executive chef John Ly, who formerly cooked at North Vancouver's Pier 7 restaurant. It's liscensed, too, so go ahead, have that glass of wine with dinner./p>
Nosh will take reservations by phone or email, or you can just walk in.
Nosh's entree choice of rotisserie pork shoulder. This is deliciously tender and served with a cute dish of roasted root-veggie hash with house-made bacon and red-wine braised cipollini onions.
Nosh's entree choice of braised short ribs with parpadelle and crispy kale.
Nosh's dessert choice of cinnamon-orange rice pudding. These "pots" are the signature dessert of pastry chef Holly Fraser. Everything is made in-house, including the Oreo-style cookies for the crumbs on the bottom layer.
Located in Yaletown downstairs from the New Oxford, Hooker's Green is a dark, casual pub run by the Donnelly Group. The Dine Out menu offers some hearty options designed by executive chef Alvin Pillay.
If you have a big appetite, a starter of shortribs, a hefty grilled cheese and fries as a main, and a brownie for dessert will surely satisfy it. Lighter and vegetarian options are also available: you could have a quinoa salad to start, polenta as a main, and panna cotta for dessert, for example.
Hooker's Green appetizer choice of Vietnamese shortribs with pickled vegetables.
Hooker's Green entree choice of a white Cheddar grilled cheese sandwich with house-smoked pork shoulder and pickled onion. The room is very dark, so don't mind the flash photo: the sandwich tastes better than it looks here. The garlicky rosemary fries are addictive with whole sprigs of deep-fried rosemary in the mix.
Located in Gastown next door to Wildebeest restaurant, Catch 122 has exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood, and black-and-white images of the neighbourhood's early days on its walls. The restaurant opened last year and has a comfort-food menu with an emphasis on French bistro fare. Chris Hogan, formerly at Zefferelli's, is the executive chef.
Catch 122 entree choice of smoked and braised beef side ribs with barbecue sauce and bone marrow mashed potato.
Catch 122 entree choice of rabbit three ways: the leg is braised, the rack is pan-seared, and the tenderloin is wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with mushrooms and sage.
Despite its location in tony Yaletown, Bistro Sakana maintains a down-to-earth neighbourhood vibe. Executive chef Etsuko Needham and her husband Peter run the intimate, friendly room.
While the Dine Out set menu offers no choice, each course is very good. The dessert--okasan's dark chocolate brownie--is not Japanese ("okasan" means "mom" and the brownie is Etsuko's mom's recipe) but it's fabulous, served warm with dark chocolate sauce and vanilla bean gelato.
Bistro Sakana's appetizer is a rich, miso-laced wild Sockeye salmon chowder.
Bistro Sakana's entree is a sample platter for one person. The selection includes flame-torched aburi sushi and pressed sushi with fresh, interesting flavours. For example, the round teppan roll on the left mixes tomato, scallop, fresh bocconcini mozzarella, and shiso-basil pesto; it's quickly sauteed and surrounded by a balsamic reduction and olive oil.