Last week I did something I very rarely do unless I'm on vacation - I was out to dinner three times in a row, to three vastly different restaurants. And as a bonus, with three of my favourite women.
Wednesday - Bistro de Paris - This was a special treat for me because the restaurant this used to be, the Cafe de Paris, was one of my favourites for years. It went downhill and I stopped going, but yesterday morning I read a good review of this new incarnation. The restaurant still has that lovely French bistro feel (it's a neighbourhood restaurant), small, not fancy, but comfortable and comforting. It has lovely service, a fabulous wine list with great French wines (something few restaurants in Vancouver do), and the menu is definitely bistro - steak frites, chicken, fish. It's a small menu but well chosen to reflect the bistro mentality. I had steak frites and it was fine. They have a daily special - soup or salad, main course (yesterday's was salmon), dessert - which is also very reasonable and I'll definitely try that next time, especially since there are millions of sockeye salmon being caught, bought off the boats, then cooked and eaten the same day (and I'm not kidding when I say millions, we've had the biggest return of sockeye since 1913).
Thursday - Hotel Vancouver - This hotel is one of Vancouver's grand old dames, one of the original CN hotels. The lobby has just had a fabulous renovation and, as an aside, has some of the prettiest washrooms in the city. The lobby bar is one of my favourite places to stop and have a drink in the evening and they have live music to warm up the space. The service is impeccable, it's a great place for people watching, and they have - I know, I know, you might not think of this as a great dinner out - the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever had. It's not on the menu but if you ask for it, they're happy to order it for you.
Friday - Legendary Noodles. This tiny restaurant is the complete opposite of both the other restaurants, but it's equally charming. It's also on Denman Street, a couple of blocks south of Bistro de Paris. It's one of those restaurants that transports you to another place and time - in this case, I think of any Chinese city in the 1930s. I'm always fascinated by the woman who runs it - older, incredibly elegant - I expect to see her in a movie. And the restaurant itself? You walk up a couple of stairs, through a tiny wooden door and into a very narrow room - aged wood, tiny tables, dark. You might just be in Hong Kong or Shanghai. It always makes me want to rush home and watch my favourite Chinese movies - like Jeremy Irons in The Chinese Box. The menu is not extensive, but if you like handthrown noodles, you'll love this place. I have a glass of wine or a beer, some kind of noodles, and it costs $10-15 and I've been on vacation - in both time and space. Hard to beat that.