The Dine Out madness is now on in Vancouver. It’s a featured element of almost every conversation I have these days, but that’s ok – because I finally “get it”. Being new to Vancouver, I had no idea how to go about participating in this supposedly extraordinary wine and food event. Basically, during three weeks, about 150 restaurants throughout the city offer a three course meal for really cheap – you can choose a $15, $25 or $35 menu – as a sort of introduction to their place, I guess. Everyone gets really into it and I must say, the organizers had a stroke of genius when they decided it would take place at the end of January. It’s the post-Christmas blahs, it’s cold and grey outside, and you don’t really have anything better to do anyways. Dine Out is a nice excuse to get out with friends and try something new.
When I was looking to make a reservation to see what this thing was all about, every single person I spoke with had a different suggestion as to where we absolutely had to go, and, needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed. Good thing we have friends who know what they’re doing. Last night, Brian and Kelly invited us to join them at Sanafir… check out that website, it’s really beautiful. That was my first inkling that we were in for a treat, and this was confirmed when we showed up and saw a doorman at the door. What a nice touch.
The place’s decor made a big impression from the moment we walked in. The room, with its high ceilings and gauzy curtains, was bathed in a warm golden glow from low hanging, Moroccan-inspired chandeliers and these quaint pillar candles that were staggered on tiny shelves all over the walls. We had to wait for our table but there was a bar to linger around and all the staff was very very attentive. That was true for the duration of our visit, actually, and one of the things I really liked. Though we sat at a table on the main floor, I went upstairs to look around and that’s where I saw the low tables at which you sit on cushions, as well as semi-private loungey beds, softly lit and surrounded by curtains – I’m not sure if you have to request those specially, but it would be a great spot for an intimate little party.
Our server was very charming, just the right combination of there-when-you-want-her, witty-repartees and discretion. She did a great job of explaining how the menu worked; basically there was a choice of salad or lentil soup as an appetizer, and then you chose either the seafood tapas selection or the meaty tapas, three for each, followed by one-dessert-fits-all. Of course we got some of everything to try it. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of tapas – I find that I end up spending a fortune and going out for pizza afterwards because I’m still hungry – but this may just have changed my mind! My favorite was the sushi-roll which had a tasty crispy outside and a minty basil sauce, and the oxtail (sounds-weird-but-was-truly-scrumptious) dumpling thing. Every item had a unique, distinct taste and each was very prettily presented. The desert was a poached pear with a sweetened (and with poppy seeds? don’t quote me on that) mascarpone cheese.
Overall, it was a delightful experience – made better, of course, by the excellent company – and I will definitely have to plan aheaad and make a few reservations for Dine Out next year.