Many hold that the closer a restaurant is to a movie theatre, the worse the food. It does often seem that some establishments use their enviable locations, be it waterfront or theatre-side, as a crutch to lure in unsuspecting or time-pressed diners. Happily, there are some exceptions, and both of these happen to celebrate the cuisines of the Far East. After all, what could be better than a night of Harry Potter and honey-glazed pork?
990 Smithe St.
Monday to Friday - 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to late
Saturday & Sunday - 3 p.m. to late
Signature Drink: Lychee Lemonade
Signature Dish: Dancing Godzilla Roll
Dinner & drinks for two: $70
Red alert: this dining spot is located in the same building as the Scotiabank Cineplex. Despite the location, the food is better than most. Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes skip across the menu like a bullet train. No fusion here, just a good sampling from key regions. The Alaska roll ($8.75) was a smoked-salmon-and-cream-cheese concoction often called a Philadelphia roll at lesser establishments. Try the Dancing Godzilla version ($10.25) with tempura prawn and unagi sauce for extra kicks. Singapore-style rice vermicelli ($10.95) was a heaping plate of wok-fried noodles, barbecue pork, shrimp and egg. Shanghai pot stickers ($5.95) were juicy, tasty and meaty, but we were a little annoyed at only getting five wraps for the two of us. Requests for one extra wrap created consternation, so I wouldn’t advise it. Malaysian fried bread ($3.25) with curry dipping sauce was great, if slightly greasy.
117 West Pender St.
Saturday to Thursday -- 5 p.m. to late
Friday -- 11:30 a.m. to late
Signature Drink: Shanghai Alley
Signature Dish: Tea-smoked Duck Breast
Dinner & drinks for two: $75
Located kitty-corner from Tinseltown Cinema in Gastown, this little gem focuses on contemporary Chinese cuisine built on local ingredients. No dairy is used, and vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful. The regular menu offers soups and share plates to choose from, or you can go with the summer special -- two courses for $22 or three courses for $27. Won ton soup with Sloping Hills pork ($7) is a deep bowl of clear, aromatic broth, chopped chives and feather-light dumplings. Caramelized Qualicum Bay scallop ($13) comes with bamboo shoot and pea vine salad drizzled in a ginger soy reduction. Organic Oceans tuna tartare ($13) is worth ordering just for the taro chips that come with it. And don’t miss dessert. My fave is the chocolate banana hazelnut spring rolls with fresh berries ($7.50). The key lime brulée with yin yang cookies ($7.50) is also pretty mouth-watering.
A Drink to Set the Mood
In keeping with the Asian theme, what could be better than a martini that speaks of lust and drama? Have it with the prawn pot stickers or the seared scallop at Wild Rice.
Shanghai Alley Martini
2 oz your favourite vodka (try vanilla for extra kicks)
2 oz Alizé red passionfruit
Healthy splash of lychee juice
Shake, strain over ice into chilled glass, and slurp away.