Where to Tonight?
Our trip was scheduled to last two weeks - or to
put it another way - fourteen dinners! With three days off for a side
trip we were planning to make up to the Rockies, and another day
reserved for the 'official' family reunion dinner, that left just
eleven evenings free to spend in the enjoyable search for interesting
restaurants in Vancouver, a pleasure that had afforded me a great
deal of anticipation while waiting for this trip. Where to start?
Perhaps south-east Asia: Vietnamese, Malaysian ... Thai. How about
Mediterranean: Lebanese, Greek ... Italian. Or maybe Indian,
Jamaican, Native Canadian, English, Spanish ... the list goes on and
on and on - as long as that line of flags that stands outside the UN
building in New York. And only eleven days!
Perhaps it may seem strange that somebody living
in Tokyo, one of the world's great capitals, should be looking
forward to travelling to a relatively small city like Vancouver to
get interesting dining experiences. Surely we Tokyoites have every
possible type of food available right on our doorsteps, don't we?
Well, yes and no. Tokyo does indeed have everything, and with enough
diligent searching to find the place, many hours spent on trains
getting there and back, and a trip to the bank for a loan to pay the
exorbitant bill with which we are certain to be presented, we can eat
any type of food that we wish. But it becomes an expedition, a major
event, certainly not a simple "Let's go out for dinner tonight. What
kind of food would you like to eat?" sort of affair.
Why should it be that Vancouver, with a population
less than a tenth that of Tokyo, offers such a bewildering variety of
restaurants, while the larger city remains such a 'wasteland'? It is
of course, due to historical immigration patterns. Tokyo may be a
city of embassies, but Vancouver is a city of immigrants, thousands
upon thousands of them every year, coming from every corner of the
world. Although a small proportion of these arrive well-off
financially, by far the greater number arrive with not much more than
what they have carried with them. Jobs are scarce, and they have few
skills, but they do know how to do one thing ... and that is cook.
Not 'four-star' hotel cooking, but the simple basic methods of
preparing the day-to-day foods of their native country. Lacking the
capital necessary to start up more sophisticated businesses, opening
a tiny restaurant is one of the few options open to them. They find a
cheap hole in the wall space on a back street somewhere, clean it up,
put in a few tables and chairs, scribble a menu on the wall, and go
to it. Ingredients are usually not a problem, because after
generations of immigration, markets supplying foodstuffs from all
over the world are also common here. And thus one more restaurant is
added to Vancouver's 'collection', and perhaps even one more flag
But Sadako and I had only eleven days ... Well,
don't worry, I'm not about to embark on a plate-by-plate description
of everything we ate during our trip. We didn't even get to eleven
different countries, as we started repeating a bit (Sadako fell for
those Greek salads ... the feta cheese ...), and we also got
captivated by the new multi-ethnic cafe-restaurants that have sprung
up since I was last here (more about them later ...), but we did get
to Lebanon, Vietnam, Greece, England, China, Italy ...
All in all, it was a most enjoyable 'tour',
especially for Sadako, and when it finally came time to return to
Japan, we did so with a definite sense of regret at the delights we
were leaving behind. And actually, they were not all left behind. In
our carry-on baggage were a couple of spanakopita we picked up just
before leaving our hotel. Sadako had been wanting to try them every
time we had walked past that restaurant, but we never did get a
So that was our goodbye to Vancouver - Greek
spinach pie eaten at the airport just before boarding our plane.