It’s just about that time of the year again: Dine Out Vancouver is just around the corner. For the uninitiated, the annual campaign from Tourism Vancouver is designed to lure discount-seeking diners out in the traditionally slow period of late January/early February. This year, 215 restaurants from across Greater Vancouver are participating.
This is the ninth year for DOV, and the sixth year I’ll be writing about it (I started on the food and beverage beat in 2005.) So as you can imagine, I was starting to get a little weary of trying to find new angles and new restaurants — cynical even.
Earlier this week, TVan gathered a number of writers together for their media preview of Dine Out. The usual drill is to start off with bevvies and nibbles at a central location — this year O’Douls at the Listel Hotel in the West End — and then split us into different groups. We head off in separate shuttles to two ‘secret’ locations.
First up for my group was the Tomato Fresh Food Cafe at Broadway and Bayswater. I’ve been to Tomato before, both when it was still on Cambie and in its current incarnation, but only as a summertime destination. The present location has these awesome garage doors that roll right up to let the sunshine in.
Here’s the thing — it totally works as a winter spot too, with fire roasted tomato soup, coconut curry prawns cooled down with a little cucumber raita, wood oven baked pizzas, and a delish bouillabaisse. On this night we sampled a meaty chunk of Arctic char, on top of a cake of crisped brown rice and spinach wilted with almond brown butter. We took a pass on desserts to conserve stomach space, but I would totally head back for dark chocolate tart with Earl Grey ice cream. At $28 for 3 courses, it’s well worth putting on your DOV list.
Our driver got a little lost en route to Nu, but Sid Cross ably guided him to its location underneath the Granville Bridge.
Nu has NOT been on my list of places to go for some time — I liked the food okay but just couldn’t stand sitting in those terrible Egg chairs.
Nu is now doing modern Greek cuisine, and thanks to Godtopus, have put in very simple wooden dining chairs to match.
I am completely blown away by how much I liked this version of Nu.
We started with hummus and house made pita, seared directly on the grill — so thick and chunky it was almost like naan. Then it was zucchini chickpea fritters with eggplant chips and very tender octopus, and grilled albacore tuna with crisp green beans and vegetable moussaka. The tuna alone would have cost $10 for the generous portion in a different restaurant. Dessert, had we had room, would have been baklava or creme brulee. $28 for 4 courses. Booyah.
Fresh flavours, incredible value, and a lovely atmosphere — this version of Nu is firing on all counts.
And so colour this cynical writer a little more upbeat. If DOV is about getting diners to discover, or RE-discover restaurants (as it may be), it’s working.
ps Nu and its sister restaurants C and Raincity Grill have started their Dine Out menus early, as of last night — the official beginning is January 24th.