Restaurant Suggestions, and responsible instruction

April 4th, 2014, 12:39 am PST by Greg

This semester in my CMPT 165 class, I was faced with a problem: it was a one/two hour split. A two hour lecture is too long to talk straight through, but too short to take a real break (since 200 people can’t go get a coffee and come back in 10 minutes). So, I decided to just take a “no learning” break in the middle of lecture.

For hard to understand reasons, I decided that the right thing to do was to give a restaurant suggestion every week (and then give them five minutes or so to talk amongst themselves). It had the take-a-mental-break feeling without having them all run out of the room.

My weekly restaurant recommendations were somewhat random: kind of whatever I felt like talking about that week. I recorded the recommendations on the class discussion forum, so I would remember (mostly for myself). Below is my discussion records, along with some editorial additions. I also tried to give a tip or two on what to order, since it can be intimidating to go into a place where you have no idea what’s going on.

Maybe this is a followup to my North Burnaby Food post, since I did have an “accessible from Burnaby campus” bias.

  • Week 1: didn’t have the rhythm of the semester down yet, so no recommendation.
  • Week 2: Indian Wok, especially the chili dumpling appetizer. [This is by far my favourite place to eat at the moment. Where has Indian-style Chinese been all my life? My usual description: “it’s like Chinese food, but a little bit better.”]
  • Week 3: Burgers Etc, especially the pattyless veggie burger. [I maintain that their off-menu pattyless veggie burger is the best vegetatian “burger” I can direct you to. Everything else on their menu is also pretty solid.]
  • Week 4: Alvin Garden or 湘緣湖南食府. Possibly order things from the “Xiang’s specials” page of the menu? I’m always a fan of Hand-Torn Cabbage (手撕包菜 or “Hunan style cabbage” on their menu), but I’m not sure it’s any better there than anywhere else you find it. Just spicier. [This was part one of my “annoyingly vague English names of Chinese restaurants” rant. “Alvin Garden” is meaningless. The Chinese name translates to something like “Xiang River Hunan Restaurant”, which is wonderfully meaningful.]
  • Week 5: Kulinarya, a Filipino place behind Coquitlam Centre. My suggestions: breakfast (Tapsilog or longsilog), crispy pata, lechon. [I really don’t think Filipino food gets the recognition it deserves. I blame the Filipino tendancy to assimilate. I claim that Filipinos are the best at breakfast: definitely in the Asian division, and likely worldwide to my tastes.]
  • Week 6: Cotto Enoteca in north Burnaby for some excellent Italian food. Nothing on the menu is bad. [Although I may admit that the food quality is slipping a little under the new owners/chef.]
  • Week 7: Hog Shack in Steveston. Again, no way to go wrong. The combo platters are a good start. [It’s a little out of the way for SFU students to get to, but there isn’t much good BBQ in Vancouver. It’s also a uniquely American cuisine, which hadn’t made the list so far.]
  • Week 8: midterm day.
  • Week 9: Perfect Taste Restaurant/老東北風味餐廳 in Crystal Mall in Burnaby. No useful ordering tips since I didn’t order there. There’s always the option of asking “what are the most famous dishes” or something. [This is part 2 of the “useless English names” rant. The Chinese name is “Old North-East Flavour Restaurant”: it’s the cuisine from around north-eastern China, around Liaoning and Harbin.]
  • Week 10: In honour of Nowruz, a Persian recommendation of Cazba in North Vancouver. One ordering tip: a lot of the dishes have a choice of rice or salad or a mix for $1 more: pay the extra dollar and get the mix. [I don’t have great depth of experience with Persian food, but this seems to be the one that gets recommended by the Persians in my life. I feel that given the size of the population, there should be more restaurants to choose from.]
  • Week 11: Coffee shops! Caffe Divano in the North Burnaby neighbourhood (and a couple of other locations); Prado Cafe on Commercial; Revolver in Gastown. See also an excellent list of Top 10 Independent Coffee Shops in Vancouver. [I feel like I have a whole blog post about coffee shops. For now, let’s say I haven’t found the exactly perfect drink, but Divano is close to both my house and a perfect drink. I feel like 49th Parallel also needs some exploration on my part.]
  • Week 12: Soho Tea Room on Cambie at 19th. Order the french toast (which isn’t much like french toast as I know it) or the Macau sawdust pudding, or any of the bubble teas, or any of the wacky variety of food. Other Taiwanese cafes: Corner 23, Copa Cafe. And there’s kind of a fuzzy line between those and bubble tea places like Dragon Ball Tea House and Bubble World. [I described the Taiwanese cafes as “it’s like the not-really-Chinese Chinese food that we get everywhere but Vancouver went back to China as “Canadian food”, but in reverse. Sandwiches and spaghetti went to Taiwan and Hong Kong, mutated, and have come back. With bubble tea.]
  • Week 13: are we slightly short this semester? I don’t have a Thursday lecture in week 13.

I left the discussion forum with this question, that I’ll also invite answers to here: imagine your grandma/grandpa/auntie/whatever was visiting Vancouver and you wanted to show him/her that “it’s okay, I can get real food here, just like back home.” Where would you take them to get the old fashioned food that they want (and where are you from)?

You will notice that I have a real bias to that kind of “grandma approved” food in the above list. Fusion and high-end food are fine, but not where my heart lies.