Day 3 Itinerary:
C A N A D A P L A C E / W A T E R F R O N T
999 Canada Pl
We had lunch reservations at Miku for 11:30, but we were a bit too eager to get there and arrived early. To kill time, we decided to just walk around nearby Canada Place and the Convention Centre.
Pretty views all around. I bet it's even prettier coming at night.
M I K U
200 Granville St #70
Ask anyone for restaurant recommendations in Vancouver and 9 times out of 10, they'll suggest Miku. Miku is well-known for its stunning waterfront views, which amazingly plays second fiddle to their unparalleled food and service.
Knowing its popularity, I booked a reservation a couple of weeks in advance. After I left my name with the hostess, party after party began to file in the restaurant. There were a lot of couples and families, and I bet it's super popular with the downtown business crowd. Wish I can be that baller and have lunch here everyday.
The decor is super classy. When I made the reservation online, I had requested a table with a view of the waterfront. They sent back an automated message that they don't reserve specific tables but we were led to a window table anyways. So it doesn't hurt to ask.
Miku is a fusion of traditional Japanese with West Coast influences. They're particularly known for their Aburi-style (flame-seared) sushi. Dropping off the menus, our waitress was super friendly and knowledgeable. She was also helped by an army of other staff in serving us. Seriously, they had at least five people dedicated to our table. People in charge of expediting and describing dishes to us, another to clear plates, and another person refilling water glasses. It was like a well-oiled machine.
A bowl of miso soup comes with any of the sushi lunch sets that you order. Definitely not your standard bowl of miso. Very clean and light.
The salmon oshi sushi ($16.50) is what everyone gets. A pressed sushi made with two layers of BC wild sockeye salmon, flame-seared Miku sauce, and a slice of jalapeno. The blowtorch brings out the natural oils of the salmon, so I did think it was a bit fishy tasting. They're also quite liberal with the Miku sauce (a peppery Japanese mayo) which makes it quite salty. Regardless, it was very soft and smooth on the palate.
The aburi chirashi tart ($22.00) is another signature concoction exclusive to the lunch menu. Made with layers of sushi rice, spicy tuna, avocado, sockeye salmon, and flame-seared Miku sauce, the "tart" is then topped with a cucumber fan, lemon, prawn, raw scallop, tobiko, and ikura (salmon roe). They give you a spoon and a knife to divy it up, so treat it like a cake. It was a surprisingly filling dish thanks to all the rice, but the flavour does tend to be a bit boring after a while.
To be able to try more items, we also ordered the premium ($28.00) sushi lunch, a selection of traditional and aburi nigiri, oshi (pressed sushi), and sushi rolls. Our plate came with two salmon oshi, two saba oshi, two pieces of red wave roll, unagi, ebi aburi, sockeye salmon, hotate (scallop), and two other nigiri that I can't remember or identify.
With the pieces I tried, I could tell the sashimi was incredibly fresh. The ebi nigiri was flame-seared with a garlic sauce of some kind. It wasn't bad, just a flavour I wasn't expecting. I also didn't enjoy the red wave roll all that much, but the saba oshi sushi was definitely the highlight. Buttery smooth with delicious miso flavour.
I had high expectations for Miku going in, and safe to say, my expectations were met. I think I'll be better off in the future now, picking items I know I would like and order again. Like the saba oshi? Oishii!
After our meal, we walked over to Gastown since it's super close from Waterfront Station. Based on the number of souvenir shops that we walked past, it's definitely a popular tourist destination. Truly a juxtaposition of old and new.
The infamous steam clock, forever surrounded by tourists and cameras (myself included).
S O F T P E A K S
25 Alexander St.
Unlike Edmonton, Vancouver does not lack in artisan ice cream choices. There's Earnest, Rain or Shine, Tangram Creamery, Bella Gelateria, Mister, 720 Sweets, LIK N2 ... the list goes on and on. One could plan an entire Vancouver trip just visiting all of these places.
Soft Peaks is another such example, a Vancouver ice-creamery that arrived on the scene over a year ago. They're well-known for using 100% organic, local Avalon milk in their soft serve.
The store is located right in the heart of Gastown. The space is very airy and bright, and thanks to the high ceilings, it seems much bigger than it actually is. Much of their design and branding is honeycomb-themed, inspired by the honeycomb ice cream trend that took Korea by storm a couple of years ago.
Their menu is also honeycombed! Each hexagon has one of their signature soft serve creations. Available in small or regular, each creation consists of their organic milk soft serve dressed up with various syrups and toppings. If you don't like any of their ten flavours, you can build your own. I feel it's pretty reasonably (and competitively) priced, with the most basic starting at $4.00 and the more extravagant capping at $6.75.
More recently, they expanded their menu to include milkshakes and ice milk bars. Ice milk sandwiches are coming soon!
Since ice cream is the perfect portable treat to explore the rest of Gastown with, most people take theirs to-go. If you want to stay in, there are a few tables both inside and outside. The store is split-level, so there's also a loft upstairs with additional seating. After we received our ice cream, we made our way up the stairs. The loft contained a communal table as well as a long bar.
We got their signature honeycomb peak ($5.75 for a small), which combines their organic milk soft serve with a base of cereal flakes, honey drizzle, and piece of local honeycomb. The ice cream itself is very rich, creamy, and smooth. My mom loved it because it didn't taste sweetened at all; it just tasted like milk. It was a good thing too, because the honeycomb was ultra sweet. A bit waxy and thick in texture, but delicious honey flavour nonetheless. Reaching the bottom of the cup, the cornflakes stayed surprisingly crunchy, but it felt more like an afterthought if anything.
I have to say, I was pretty impressed with Soft Peaks. All natural, gluten-free, no preservatives, and no artificial flavours? Well, that's just the cherry on top.
After we were finished with dessert, we walked back to Waterfront station and waited for the bus that would take us to Granville Island.
G R A N V I L L E I S L A N D
1669 Johnston Street
Granville Island is always a nice spot to visit during the summer. Lots of studios, galleries, and shops to explore.
The best part of Granville Island has to be the public market! They have everything under the sun: fresh produce, seafood, baked goods, artisan crafts, and countless food stalls. It's sensory overload.
Enjoy the food spam!
We picked up a cup of white tea lemonade ($3.40) from the Granville Island Tea Company. Super sour and tart. It was a bit hard to finish the cup actually.
Poké is everywhere in Vancouver right now! Once we left, so many poké shops seemed to open up at the same time: the Poké Guy, Pokéritto, and Poké Time. When a trend hits Vancouver, it goes hard.
After we finished our quick stroll around Granville Island, we took the bus back to Waterfront Station and hopped on the Expo/Millenium line. We got off at Stadium-Chinatown, since there were a few things that my mom wanted to pick up in Chinatown.
C H I N A T O W N
Vancouver's Chinatown is the largest in Canada, but it's definitely seen better days. I know a large portion of the community had moved and re-settled in Richmond instead. Still, a lot of long-standing businesses remain. Walking down one of the main stretches, you can definitely notice a hint of gentrification, which has been a subject of long debate in Vancouver.
My mom was tasked with buying medicine/herbs and Chinese sausages for family, so that's what we set out to do while we were in the area.
When we were finished running my mom's errands, we made our way back to the hotel to rest up. We didn't have concrete plans for dinner, so not wanting food to go to waste, we ended up eating the leftovers from last night's Peking duck dinner.
At around 9, we decided to take a night walk to London Drugs to get some bottled water. Since it was located in the same plaza, we also decided to grab some dessert from:
B E A R D P A P A ' S
6551 Number 3 Rd
Known for their "fresh'n natural" cream puffs, Beard Papa's is an international chain that first opened in Osaka, Japan. Today, they have over 250 stores in Japan and 300 worldwide. Edmonton used to have their own Beard Papa's store in WEM, but sadly that closed down a few yeas back.
There are currently three franchises in Metro Vancouver: one on Robson, one in Aberdeen Centre, and the other in London Plaza (directly below Empire Seafood Restaurant). The London Plaza location is definitely their largest store out of the three, operating also as a sit-down cafe. Along with their trademark cream puffs, this location offers a bigger menu which includes hot and cold drinks, shaved ice, mochi waffles, macarons, cakes, and other small snacks.
The cafe was bright and well-lit. When we walked in, one of the staff behind the counter asked us "for here or to go?" There were only a few tables occupied so we decided that we would stay. The girl then told us that they were only offering take-out at the time. I get that they close at 10:00, but it was barely 9:15. Not like we would overstay our welcome and prevent them from leaving on time, but why bother asking us in the first place?
Regardless, we ordered a few items to-go which were wrapped in paper and placed into a plastic bag.
The green tea fondant ($2.75) is the matcha version of a molten lava cake. I've had their chocolate fondant in the past; the green tea version is not as rich and just slightly more bitter. They offered no re-heating instructions, so it was a guessing game with the microwave. Even then, the amount of ooze from the center was a bit lackluster.
Now onto their signature item, the cream puff. The cream puff shells are baked fresh daily, with no preservatives, and they remain flaky and crisp since they're filled-to-order. The custard they use is creamy, but surprisingly light and airy with no greasiness. They also come in a variety of flavours, from the classic vanilla to chocolate, green tea, and strawberry. They were out of the mango flavour I wanted, so the girl suggested their feature of the day, cookies and creme ($2.25). There was a slight cocoa hint to the custard, but the flavour would've been much better and true to the name if they folded in small cookie bits for some texture. What I appreciate about their cream puffs though is that they aren't overly sweet. It definitely caters to the Asian palate that way.
My mom chose the green tea cream puff ($2.25) which also wasn't too sweet. Just a slight bitter quality from the green tea.
Beard Papa's is branching out with their desserts, but I'd stick to their original since it's what made them famous.
Stay tuned for day 4!