Now that the madness of the Winter Olympics is a memory, this may be the best time ever to visit Vancouver. I love the British Columbian city as an escape from our summer heat, for the hiking, natural scenery and its convenient light rail system, which runs from the airport to downtown for only $8.50 r
But mostly I love Vancouver for its having the best Asian cuisine in North America. I begin most of my visits here with dinner at Vij’s, perhaps the most interesting Indian restaurant on the continent. Vikram Vij also owns the more casual restaurant next door, Rangoli, and neither takes reservations, so the lines always snake down the block. That’s what people do for dishes such as chickpeas in star anise with date curry on grilled kale and mixed vegetables with red beans in yellow mustard seed and coconut curry.
On day two I like to rent a bicycle and ride around the seawall that fronts Stanley Park, the city’s version of Central Park. (Bicycle rentals are all over town. Your hotel concierge will direct you to the nearest one.) The park is huge, magnificently scenic and peaceful. Look to the north, and you’ll get an unobstructed view of Vancouver Island, ships steaming in the distance.
Then I head for Granville Island Public Market, usually by water taxi ($2.50) from the Mainland. The Market is a colorful jumble of fruit and snack stands, butcher shops, bagel sellers and restaurants, not to mention dozens of street performers. Missing it would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.
I always save some of my appetite, because out behind the market, in the neighborhood called Kitsilano (“Kits” to locals), is Go Fish, where people queue up for fresh beer-battered halibut with Kennebec potato fries, and wonderful panko-crusted tuna sandwiches.
The third day I like to visit the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (6393 Marine Dr. NW, $14 admission), where there are more than 36,000 ethnographic objects here, and a half million more archaeological ones.
It puts me in the mood to eat in the city’s most celebrated Chinese restaurant, Sun Sui Wah. The restaurant is mainly patronized by Cantonese, who come for the amazing dim sum: sticky rice dumplings, ha gow, siu mai, fried rice noodles, five spice spare ribs, steamed chicken with Chinese sausage. Another great dinner choice is the C Restaurant, where chef Robert Clark prepares fresh Canadian seafood in creative fashion.
Be sure to hit the North Van, as locals call it, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park, a series of treetop suspension bridges in a pine forest that afford a thrilling natural view (3735 Capilano Road; admission $29.95). If you have a fear of heights, you may want to skip it.
The morning before heading back, I stop for breakfast at Medina Café for a Belgian waffle, or one of Belgian owner Nico Schuermans’ skillet breakfasts. The specialty here is gaufrettes, in Canada-speak—small, buttery waffles that taste best with a drizzle of pure Canadian maple syrup. It’s a great memory to leave with.
If You Go …
Getting There: Vancouver is remarkably easy to access from Las Vegas. Most flights leave in mid-afternoon and arrive in time for dinner. When you return, you clear U.S. Customs in Canada. Alaska Airlines has advance roundtrip fares for around $350. You’ll need a valid U.S. passport.
Where to Stay: Opus Hotel, 322 Davie St. (604) 642-6787, is a stylish Yaletown boutique hotel with beautiful, sleek rooms and a hot bar scene. Room rates from $249. Fairmont Pacific Rim, 1038 Canada Place, 888-264-6877, is the new jewel in the crown of Fairmont Hotels and features a new pool terrace, a waterfront location, rooms with views of nearby Howe Sound, and a terrific fusion restaurant. Rooms from $229.
Where to Eat: Vij’s and Rangoli, 1480 W. 11th Ave., (604) 736-5711; Go Fish, 1505 W. First Ave., (604) 730-5040; Sun Sui Wah, 3888 Main St., (604) 872-8822; Medina Café, 556 Beatty St., (604) 879-3114; The C Restaurant, 2-1600 Howe St., (604) 681-1164.