Vancouver Weekend: We're Thinking....Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2017

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five oft overlooked restaurants to check out during the 15th annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival, which runs from this Friday (January 20) to February 5.

      For additional menu details and information regarding reservations for the spots mentioned below, visit the Dine Out Vancouver website.

      Salmon n’ Bannock, #7–1128 West Broadway

      Situated on West Broadway in the same plaza that houses local sushi institution Tomokazu, Toys R Us, and, really, not much else, Salmon n’ Bannock is of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety in terms of façade. But this First Nations–inspired bistro demands a closer look.

      With its warm interiors, seemingly handcarved wood dishes, and vibrant selection of aboriginal artworks decorating the walls, the much-raved-about eatery offers Vancouverites a chance to connect with B.C.’s rich history and culture. On the menu, of course, is OceanWise salmon and bannock, an indigenous quick bread that can lean either sweet or savoury.

      Sample both specialties in the wild-sockeye tartare paired with bannock crostini and a fresh quail egg as part of the $40 Dine Out meal, then dive into a main course of juicy, free-range bison flank steak, steelhead trout, or an additional serving of bannock, this time topped with pecan-and-herb pesto, smoked spaghetti squash, and sautéed mushrooms.

      Elk and boar meatballs and roasted-sunchoke salad are also on offer, plus a heavenly blueberry parfait and shortcake that will have you wondering why Vancouver doesn’t boast more spots serving First Nations–influenced cuisine.


      Kamei Baru

      Kamei Baru, 990 Smithe Street

      Before there was Tojo’s, Guu, and Miku, there was Kamei sushi—the pioneering Japanese restaurant that taught an entire generation of Vancouverites not only that it was okay to eat fish raw, but also that teriyaki sauce tastes pretty great when it doesn’t come in a Kraft bottle. What started out as a single early-’70s location has blossomed into a mini-empire, with the Kamei group running restaurants around the Lower Mainland.

      Kamei Baru takes an approach that’s part Shibuya-cool and part West Coast–relaxed. The space is massive, good news if you’re desperately looking for a quick bite right before that screening of La La Land a couple of doors down at the ScotiaBank Theatre. Budget-conscious diners will love that the menu has plenty of options beyond the splurge-worthy Black Cod Saikyo ($23.95) and Grilled Seafood Platter ($28.95).

      Dynamite rolls are only $5.95, and a Baru Specialties menu offers chicken karaage, panko-breaded oysters, and Kurobuta sausage for only $4.95 each. Don’t miss the fried brussel sprouts, which perform the magic trick of making one of the vilest vegetables on the planet completely delicious. On the cocktail front, thanks to the $8.95 price tag, you’re not stopping at just one Lychee Margarita (tequila, fresh lychee, lime and lychee juice).

      For those going the Dine Out route, pick from a $30 menu that includes the Baru chowder and appetizer, Baru steak or teriyaki ribs or Baru salmon, and a dessert. As delicious as all that sounds, the best thing about Kamei Baru is that the staff is so chill; on a recent visit timed around Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a small child was stretched out on a bench fast asleep, even as the place started filling up.

      The only concern of the waiter? That the noise was going to wake the kid up.    


      The Afghan Horsemen

      The Afghan Horsemen, 1833 Anderson Street

      For those who have always wanted to sample the sumptuous flavours of Afghanistan without, you know, stepping on a land mine, South Granville restaurant the Afghan Horsemen is a safe bet. Serving up Middle Eastern cuisine influenced by old Persia, India, Greece, and Mongolia, the spot is so unique that the Dine Out website assigns the eatery its own cuisine category.

      Featured in the lowest price bracket at just $20 per head, the Afghan Horsemen offers its first-class menu for pennies, with entrée choices ranging from baked lamb shank and lamb shoulder to chicken kebab. More than just an excellent eatery, however, the restaurant sports hanging fabrics, columns, and arches, transporting diners as far away as possible from the gritty underside of the Granville bridge.

      With its authentic Afghan room—an antechamber furnished with low tables and cushions on the floor—and richly spiced cooking, the restaurant provides a vibrant and immersive cultural experience.


      Horizons Restaurant

      Horizons Restaurant, 100 Centennial Way, Burnaby

      Perched in Burnaby Mountain Park, Horizons has been serving West Coast fare for over 30 years. Guests are treated to a beautiful view of Metro Vancouver—clear skies (or rainy bliss) and the surrounding scenery of trees and Japanese totem poles during the day; twinkling city lights and the glow of dusk during the evening.

      Executive chef John Garrett has crafted a special three-course prix-fixe menu ($30) for Dine Out Vancouver 2017, with gluten-free and vegetarian options available. Some of the featured dishes include Gulf Island mussels, West Coast seafood chowder, wild B.C. salmon, and New York steak.

      The meal finishes off with dessert: your choice of tiramisu with a lace cookie, or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla crème brûlée. This restaurant may be a little out of the way (a 30-minute drive from Downtown Vancouver), but you’ll realize it’s worth the short trek once you arrive.  


      Carthage Cafe

      Carthage Café, 1851 Commercial Drive

      The French and the Tunisian, the European and the North African, make an exotic, sophisticated combination in this clandestine Drive haunt—and, fortunately, they do on the restaurant's Dine Out menu, too. At 30 bucks for the prix fixe, this is an excellent chance to check out this dramatic, different little retreat.

      The room delivers big atmosphere, dimly lit by North African, coloured-glass fixtures, with long, gold curtains, rich purple tablecloths, and dark walls and furniture. Art from Tunisia livens up the surroundings, and the service lives up to the luxe-feeling surroundings. Not surprisingly, Carthage does a killer slow-braised lamb, so you can't go wrong warming up a cold winter night with the Dine Out menu's lamb-shank couscous with vegetables and tomato broth.

      However, how often do you get the chance to order a tagine, the fragrant North African stew that's slow-cooked in a gorgeous, conical earthenware pot? The one on the prix fixe comes with chicken in saffron broth with potatoes and bell pepper, enough to make you think about booking plane tickets for somewhere more exotic than Commercial Drive.

      It should be noted that the outpost's French influences mean the desserts are a notch above, too; leave room for the Dine Out selection’s crème caramel.

      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.