New West End eateries roundup: Grotto, Blind Sparrow, Yogi, Ramenman

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      A number of eateries opened up in late 2015 to add to the West End's numerous dining options so here's a roundup of some of them for your perusal. Whether you're interested in Italian, Japanese, Korean, or fusion food with craft beer, here are some places to check out or keep an eye out for.

      An Italian cavern

      The West End's Italian cuisine options have been slowly increasing over the past few years, with the likes of Nook and Amici Miei.

      Restaurateur Fiona Grieve, who opened up Buck Stop at 833 Denman Street, launched the Italian-oriented Grotto in late November at 1725 Davie Street. It's tucked away in a cozy, below-street-level space formerly inhabited by a pizza joint and the Japanese yoshoku (Japanese takes on Western diner food) restaurant Barefoot Kitchen.

      Chef Dan Lindsey offers an intimate, classic selection of antipasti (ranging from confit pork belly with crispy artichoke to Humboldt squid with housemade roasted garlic sausage, grilled eggplant, olives, and tomato), pasta (spaghetti, ravioli with butternut squash, gnocchi with smoked chicken and pork belly, and more), and pizza (margherita, muffuletta, prosciutto, and more).

      Grotto's braised veal tortellini with bone marrow bordelaise, mushrooms, peas, and burrata.

      The weekend brunch menu offers up intriguing items such as a breakfast pizza (complete with bacon, eggs, and herbed potatoes) and prosciutto benny on focaccia.

      There's also a drink list that includes everything from cocktails (and a sorbet martini) featuring Grieve's line of Spitfire Biters to beer on tap.

      Drink locally, eat globally

      Just off Robon Street, the laidback Blind Sparrow gastrotavern, run by chef Bryce Frisky and restauranteur Michael Gayman, has taken over the space formerly inhabited by the French restaurant Left Bank at 751 Davie Street.

      Blind Sparrow on Denman Street

      Globe-trotting sharable plates on the menu reflect an international range of culinary influences.

      Blind Sparrow's braised lamb belly

      There's such varied fare as Korean chili braise boar ribs with lemon cilantro slaw, Moroccan spice rub lamb chops, chickpea bruschetta with fresh naan, Vietnamese steak wraps, and spicy prawn tacos.

      Blind Sparrow's jambalaya spring rolls

      But take note beer afficianados, for the main focus of the inviting, stylish room is on the 12 rotating taps of local craft beer, and there are also six B.C. wines plus cocktails.

      Blind Sparrow interior

      Korean coziness

      Among the row of Korean eateries populating Robson Street near Denman, a casual, cozy Korean spot opened up at 1706 Robson Street last October.

      Yogi Korean Snack Bar

      Yogi Korean Snack Bar offers a selection of popular Korean dishes.

      Yogi Korean Snack Bar

      There's an emphasis on broth-based servings, including shin ramyun (spicy noodle soup), eomuk (fish cake with seafood broth soup), and udon.

      There's also soon-dae (pork sausage stuffed with vermicelli) and tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake with fish cake and spicy sauce).

      Yogi Korean Snack Bar's soon-dae

      There are five types of kimbap (sushi-like Korean rolls), including variations with tuna mayo and bulgogi (marinated meat).

      Yogi Korean Snack Bar's kimbap

      Korean packaged snack foods line the main counter and both the menu and premises are a good antidote for Korean homesickness.

      More oodles of noodles

      Just around the corner from Yogi, another ramen spot has opened up to add to the area's explosion of ramen places.

      Set back from the main stretch, Ramenman at 841 Bidwell Street might be missed by those sailing along busy Robson Street. It's a petite space but features a stylish, minimalist design.

      The Ramenman

      It offers three chicken broth–based ramen: regular (with egg, bamboo shoots, leek), clam, or stew (with bamboo shoots, burdock and spinach), all with a choice of pork or chicken char sui.

      And for those with vegetable-based diets, good news: there's also vegetarian ramen.

      The Ramenman's ramen

      Other offerings include pork scallop gyoza, chicken karaage, curry rice, and more, as well as craft beer.

      Udon gone

      If you were hoping to try out the new udon joint on Robson Street, you're too late.

      Sanuki Udon, one of the city's first stand-alone udon shops, opened at 1226 Robson Street in September, offering a few types of udon—kitsune (tofu), niku (beef), pork kimchi, curry with beef and vegetables, kake (noodles and broth), and zaru (cold noodles with dipping sauce).

      Niku udon at Sanuki Udon

      The Japanese chain hails from Sanuki province in Japan.

      Unfortunately, it closed only after a matter of months before the beginning of this year. However, udon can be found on many restaurant menus, including the aforementioned Yogi as well as the relaunched Hatzu Japanese Bistro (formerly Sushi Bella) on Davie Street.