Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Beware of Sandbar - A Granville Island Overview

Ahhh, a leisurely trip to Granville Island - what a wonderful thing for a couple of foodies to do. Because I was thoroughly enjoying the Vancouver International Jazz Festival back in July, and also went down to see Shear Madness one night, I've had a few great visits to Granville Island this summer. When you go down there for an event in the evening, there's the question of what to have for dinner. The choices are few, and now, for me, they are quite clear.

In short, my top pick is The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, if you have the foresight to make a reservation early. I liked it so much, I tried to go again the next week (be sure to reserve early!). Also a great spot to pick up lunch or dessert to go, and enjoy outside. Next pick is the bistro (downstairs) part of Bridges, where Cheeseboy and I were able to get one of the nicest spots of the restaurant just walking in (even during the festival). I was truly impressed with the entire dining experience (food execution, presentation, interior design, view, menu, server), far exceeding my expectations. Though part of that is recently having had my expectations lowered by a snarky waiter experience at Sandbar, a stone's throw away. Like the names of the restaurants, Bridges (bistro level) towers above Sandbar in so many ways. Another choice is the market, now open until 7 pm, so one could graze there for an early evening. I have yet to try Go Fish! at Fisherman's Wharf, despite being in the area and wanting to try this restaurant several times. We always seem to think of this place on a Monday (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), or we're not hungry early enough, as this place closes fairly early. One day! Other restaurants that I haven't tried on the Island include Sammy J Peppers, The Keg, Tony's Fish Cafe (a fish and chips place at the mouth of the Island that we would have happily tried if they had had the good sense to stay open later during the Canada Day Jazz Festival Event), Dockside, and the Tap Room at the Granville Island Brewery. Other restaurants that I have tried and will absolutely avoid are Sandbar, mainly due to horrible server attitude, an uncomfortable setting, and lacklustre menu and food, and The Cat's Meow, which I went once to years ago, and can only remember the crab cakes being inedible. Details of my restaurant experiences will be posted below, as well as a list of my favourite Granville Island foodie hot spots, including one of the best almond croissants you'll find in the city.

To be continued...

8 comments:

kolibri said...

I love Tony's, best fish & chips in town. In fact, probably best fish & chips ever. It's very small though, so you need a bit of luck to fit in.

SaabKen said...

I agree, Tony's fish & chips rank the best in the city.

We too had a horrid experience at The Sandbar. That was a few years ago and while I forget the specifics, I do recall walking out swearing never to go back again. I guess they haven't changed much !

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks both of you for recommending Tony's. I'll definitely check it out next time I get a chance. Occasionally, I get cravings for deep-fried battered oysters. Oh, btw Ken, I read another mention of bad service at Sandbar on the Adam's Dining Guide site, as well as a more favourable review. So I guess we're not alone in getting unpleasant experiences there.

Mark said...

Innerssin....

The absolute best service I've ever had in a restaurant in Vancouver was at Sandbar.

Took Beata and her Mom there for a dinner last October. The server was absolutely psychic - knew exactly when we seemed to want something at the table. Timing was perfect on delivery of the meals. The 3 courses were fantastic. The wine suggestion was perfect. Service from start to finish was phenomenal. So much so, I tipped 20%.

Hrmmm.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks for your comment, Mark. I was given something by another server while I was there, because I couldn't find my waiter, and that woman was friendly and helpful from what I could tell, so perhaps the one bad one is tarnishing the image of the whole restaurant. See this website for other reports: http://www.dinehere.ca/restaurant.asp?r=10 At the very least, things are inconsistant. The other site with the complaints noted that it is a very large space with lots of tables, which may contribute to their inconsistency in service. My waiter did seem knowledgeable about the food, but I'll give you just one example of him just not caring about what we thought - I asked for a little bit more bread because I had ordered a big bowl of clams, which is great with a bit of bread to sop up the juices, and he brought over the bread basket (didn't seem to be too happy about me asking), which had a small plate with a pat of butter already placed in the basket, and he put down the basket, and took away the butter. I must have looked confused and surprised, because he looked at me and said "you're okay with that butter, aren't you?" pointing at the remaining third of a pat of butter from the previous basket, still on the table. Which meant not only was he deciding for me that I wouldn't need butter, but he would also have had to make a trip back to the counter to return the fresh butter. Was it really worth it for him to do that? Incidentally, I tip 20% (sometimes more) pretty frequently. I appreciate good service. However, I am not one of those people who gives that automatically, even if the service is bad.

SaabKen said...

1) Consistently good service is what we all dream of getting from restaurants.

2) Consistently bad service is also easy to deal with (you either ignore it if the food is good, or simply avoid the restaurant altogether).

But ....
3) Inconsistent good/bad service puts the customer in an awkward place of feeling ambivalent, even self-doubting.

Unfortunately I think I've seen too many local examples of #2 and #3.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Heh, no ambivalence here. There are too many good restaurants in Vancouver and too many new ones to try, for me to bother with going back to any restaurant who's given me bad service. Might be harsh from the restaurant's viewpoint, as everybody will have a bad night at some point, but that's the Vancouver scene - it's very competitive. And there's a big distinction for me between rude or snobby service and just in the weeds service (where I'm much more forgiving). I mean, going to a restaurant is not just about the food, otherwise everything would be counter service. About the only place I've ignored bad service because the food was good enough was Memphis Blues (but that's cuz pulled pork is like crack). And that really surly guy that used to be there hasn't been around for years, it seems. And anyway, that place IS counter service, so I never really had to deal with him for very long.

Dumpling_Girl said...

I had the oyster burger, served with fries at Tony's Fish and Oyster Cafe today, and I have to say that I wasn't that impressed with the chips, and that's half of the whole fish and chips experience. They were kind of dry and tasteless. The oyster burger wasn't bad, but it was served with barbecue sauce and a little tartar, and it might have been better with no barbecue sauce and a good deal more tartar sauce instead. Bridges Bistro has an oyster burger, and I will have to try that for comparison's sake. I'm not even sure that I enjoyed Tony's more than the fish and chips stand in the market. I've had some pretty tasty fries in the last week (at Frenchies, and at Devin Blaney's Cookshop cooking class. He's the chef at Ocean 6 Seventeen in False Creek), so bad fries are extra disappointing. I might give Tony's another shot one day, and have the fish and chips (instead of the oyster burger).