So recession kinda sucks huh? Seems every day it gets a little harder to justify an evening out when the sky is apparently falling. The way I see it, we can either cloister ourselves at home with our favourite depressant (in my case, Bombay Sapphire) and wait the downturn out–or, we can get out there and lift a budget-friendly glass to better times.

Win a Zin gift certificate!

Win a Zin gift certificate!

Think you can’t afford an after-work get-together with friends right now? Not true! Check out the great $2 tapas menu on offer between 4 and 7 pm at Zin on Robson from March 16 to April 30.

Executive chef Karen Gin’s menu of toonie treats includes mac & Jack (with a hit of Jack Daniels), chili lime-glazed chicken wings, naan pizza, braised short rib poutine, and my personal all-time lounge-food fave: truffle popcorn. 

Zin is one of my two favourite martini bars in Vancouver (more about the other one later) and I’ve got a $50 gift certificate to Zin to give away in a random draw on March 27. To enter, just leave a comment answering these three important questions: 

  • shaken or stirred?
  • vodka or gin?
  • one olive or two?

Make sure I can get in touch with you, and good luck! (And if just can’t wait to win, make sure you make Happy Hour reservations: call Zin at 604.408.1700.)

PS: Blog about this contest at your own site with a link back here and you’ll get a second chance to win!

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Tourism Vancouver/Dannielle Hayes

Tourism Vancouver/Dannielle Hayes

Looking for the world’s best Chinese food? Then you better make a beeline to…Vancouver, BC? It’s true: the Lower Mainland’s myriad Asian eateries could easily go chopstick-to-chopstick with any contender back in the old country. From har gow to hot pot and Shanghai to Szechuan, it’s all here and it’s all good—and sometimes even outstanding.

Which is why it’s time to say hello to Canada’s first annual Chinese Restaurant Awards, presented today to 23 Vancouver-area restaurants deemed by a panel of esteemed food fetishists to be serving the best Chinese signature dishes.

Where to find the city’s best congee? Mak’s Noodle Restaurant, apparently. Dim sum? Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant. Soup? Wonton King. And Jade Dynasty won in no fewer than three categories: best scallop, best geoduck, and best chicken.

The list is long and the winners range from neighborhood haunts to high-end restos, but you’re pretty much guaranteed a good meal just by closing your eyes and picking a name at random. (In fact, there are two fool-proof lists—the other is a round-up of best restaurants by category—bubble tea, noodle house BBQ, etc.—as chosen by diners themselves. You’ll find both on the awards web site.) 

Now excuse me please: I’m off to New Town Bakery & Restaurant for a box of the city’s (maybe the world’s?) best coconut buns… 

Had the pleasure and privilege today of a working lunch at Voya, a swank new eatery worthy of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, next to the Loden Hotel at Melville and Thurlow in downtown Vancouver.

Voya at Loden Hotel, Vancouver, BC

Voya at Loden Hotel, Vancouver, BC

The lunch menu is a smart two-course prix fixe: $26 buys your choice of any two plates from the small and carefully crafted menu. My organic beet-and-chevre salad was as good or better than the nearly perfect one I enjoyed at L’Express in Montreal recently (high praise indeed), and the poached wild salmon that followed was faultlessly prepared and presented.

This place is a natural to participate in Tourism Vancouver’s Dine Out Vancouver event happening January 14 to February 1–except that they missed the registration deadline. That’s the bad news. The good news: marketing director Barbara Hicks says they’ll go it alone with their own cheekily named Wine Out Vancouver prom0tion–$38 will buy you a three-course dinner, but even better, you can sample any bottle from their sophisticated wine list for just the retail price plus 15 bucks. Heck, you might even want to sample two…

Call or e-mail for details & resos: 604.639.VOYA or info@voyarestaurant.com

(And ps: yes, that was Fresco chef Rod Butters sitting at the bar today…)

It’s January in Vancouver and the only thing emptier than your wallet is your social calendar?      

Damp spirits? Dine out!

Damp spirits? Dine out!

Quick fix: Dine Out Vancouver, Tourism Vancouver’s annual winter gift to the locals for being nice to out-of-towners the rest of the year.

This is a sweet deal, my friends: between Jan. 14 and Feb. 1, you can treat yourself to a three-course dinner at more than 180 of the city’s best restaurants for just $18, $28 or $38 per person. Scope out the menus at the web site today and don’t wait to claim your table: the most popular eateries book up quickly and early reservations are pretty much mandatory.

If you want the full tourist-in-your-own-town experience–and let’s not ever underestimate the therapeutic properties of sleeping under 400-thread-count sheets in a bed that’s actually been made–then take advantage of the hotel packages also on offer: as little as $150 gets you a night in the Big Smoke with dinner for two.

This year I’m tempted by the menus at the one-syllable eateries: Zin, YEW, Cru and Brix. But Provence‘s lemon curd and lavender tart also has my attention…