By Mike Cohen

 

VANCOUVER- The Greater Vancouver area  (https://vancouver.ca) is home to Canada’s third largest Jewish community, with more than 25,000 members.  There are seven mainstream Jewish congregations in Metro Vancouver, one non-denominational congregation in White Rock, five Chabad houses, and two Kollels. The Reform synagogues have the most members, closely followed by the Conservative and then Orthodox congregations. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the identified Jewish community on the Lower Mainland are synagogue members. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver conducts the community’s central fundraising initiative, the Federation Annual Campaign, which supports 40 partner agencies locally, nationally and in Israel… The Jewish education system includes five pre-schools, five-day schools, and nine supplementary schools. Youth and student organizations include Vancouver Hillel Foundation (http://www.vancouverhillel.ca), which serves Jewish students attending the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, as well as other colleges in Metro Vancouver. There are additional Jewish youth organizations active in Metro Vancouver.

I recently returned from my first trip to Vancouver in five years. Surrounded by water on three sides and nestled alongside the Coast Mountain Range, Vancouver is home to spectacular natural scenery and a bustling metropolitan core, boasting one of the mildest climates in Canada. The Greater Vancouver region is home to more than two million people in 21 municipalities, making it the third largest metropolitan area in Canada.

 

WHERE TO STAY

There are more than 24,000 rooms in Greater Vancouver and more than 13,000 in the downtown core. For this trip, we based ourselves at the Landis Hotel & Suites (https://www.landissuitesvancouver.com) located downtown at 1200 Hornby Street.  This is part of Mayfair Properties, which also owns the neighboring Courtyard Marriott.

Here you have easy access to the city’s buzzing business district, pedestrian-only shopping entertainment districts, gorgeous green spaces, and spots like Stanley Park, the Vancouver Art Gallery, historic Gastown, hip Yaletown and more.

The hotel offers deluxe, executive and penthouse suites. They are in the midst of renovations, replacing carpeting with hardwood floors and outfitting the rooms with new furniture. Our executive suite featured a master bedroom with a luxurious king bed and a second bedroom with a comfortable Queen bed. Both had cozy duvets and triple sheeting, black-out drapes, closet space with mirrored glass doors and a radio alarm clock. The kitchen offers ample cooking and storage space and includes a full-size fridge with a freezer, a stove, an oven, a dishwasher, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker. You can enjoy your meals or snacks in the dining area located on an enclosed balcony with city views. The glass-top table seats four.  As well, you can sleep extra guests on the pull-out sofa sleeper in the nice-sized living room, which also features a 37-inch flat screen HDTV. Guests can relax after a busy day in the deep soaker tub in the full bathroom, which also features a shower and double sinks with a granite countertop. This is one of few hotels in Vancouver to feature all-suite accommodations and an indoor pool to play around in.

Flooded with natural light, the spacious fitness centre will inspire you to stick to your work-out goals away from home. The hotel gym features several treadmills, Elliptical machines and stationary bikes, a rowing machine and a variety of free weights. Enjoy cool, filtered water and a 37 inch HDTV flat screen while you’re working out. General Manager Khalid Ali is very hands-on, often working at the front desk to connect directly with guests.

The aquatic centre features a heated indoor pool with a spacious Jacuzzi so you can relax at the end of a busy day in Vancouver. The pool is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There is no lifeguard on duty – all guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

You can also hop on a complimentary shuttle bus for easy transit anywhere in the downtown core. Just make your shuttle arrangements in person at the front desk.

For more information about the hotel call toll-free: 1-877-291-6111, email res@landissuitesvancouver.com or log on to www.landissuitesvancouver.com

 

SEA TO SKY GONDOLA

 The Sea to Sky Gondola (https://www.seatoskygondola.com) is located on Highway 99 just south of Squamish, a scenic 45 minute drive (depending upon traffic) from downtown Vancouver. A 10 minute gondola ride will take you up to a truly magical place with some of the most spectacular views you will ever see and activities for all interests and ages. We really enjoyed the experience, especially the memorable photographs we took where the backdrop was spectacular.

As you rise from the water’s edge on the valley floor, the view opens up before you: the bright blue water of Howe Sound, dotted with green islands and backed by the steep mountains of the Coast Range; the majestic Stawamus Chief; and a bird’s eye view of the town of Squamish with the rugged, snow-capped mountains to the north.

The gondolas were custom-made by Austrian manufacturer, Doppelmayr, and have comfortable padded seats and floor to ceiling glass windows for maximum views. The ride up and down is a thrilling adventure for all ages and provides new views of Shannon Falls and the famous Squamish Chief climbing area.

You will arrive at the Summit Lodge where the experience continues. A popular spot for spectacular photos is the 100 metre Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.

If you would like to explore more, there are many walking and hiking trails for all ages and abilities, whether you want a backcountry adventure or a stroller/wheelchair friendly interpretive walk. These experiences are fully accessible to all. For those looking for a bit more adventure, the Via Ferrata (Italian for the “iron-way”) is a great option.

The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is approximately 100 metres long and has a backdrop that falls away thousands of feet below, giving you a greater feeling of exposure and height over land. The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge offers amazing 360 degree views of the area, both up to the high alpine of the mountains above and down to the fjord below.

The Summit Lodge Viewing Deck is the first of the three viewing platforms that you encounter. Located footsteps from the gondola’s unloading station, this magnificent 5,000 sq/ft deck offers breathtaking views of Howe Sound, the coastal mountain range, and the famous Co-Pilot and Sky Pilot mountain peaks. The viewing deck is attached to the Summit Lodge, which has a fully licensed restaurant and bar. The Summit Lodge Viewing Deck is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and a refreshing beverage while taking in the views. In the summer months, a number of events are hosted on the deck including live musicyoga, wine pairing dinners and more.

The bridge is open year-round and is one of the many adventures that is available to you with your day ticket or season pass.

After the adventuring, you can enjoy a meal with a view at the Summit Lodge. Take in the vistas on the Summit Lodge deck and watch the sunset.

There are events happening year-round at the Sea to Sky Gondola. There are not many other places where you can listen to live music, taste fine wines, or practice yoga with such a spectacular setting. Make sure you check our website for our Schedule of Events to see what is happening when you are planning to visit.

Accessibility-From Basecamp to Summit, the Sea to Sky Gondola makes it easy for people to connect with the great outdoors. All of the Basecamp and Summit Lodge facilities are wheelchair and stroller accessible. The gondola cabins are designed to accommodate both wheelchairs and strollers and are capable of slowing or stopping for ease of access. The patio and viewing deck at the Summit are wheelchair accessible (snow conditions permitting) and can be accessed on the left hand side of the building.

For visitors with babies and young children the Panorama Trail and Spirit Trail are stroller accessible. The following amenities are available to make the Sea to Sky Gondola as accessible as possible:  wheelchair accessible parking spaces directly adjacent to the Basecamp facilities; Accessibility window for ticket purchases at Basecamp; wheelchair accessible gender neutral washrooms available at the base and in the Summit Lodge (ask retail at Summit for directions); wheelchair accessible tables are available at the Basecamp Cafe and in the Summit Lodge; and  Baby changing tables at the base and at the summit.

Adult day tickets are $41.95 when purchased online and $43.95 at the ticket window. Check out ticket pricing and buy tickets online at https://www.seatoskygondola.com

 

PLAYLAND

If you like amusement parks, Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition (www.pne.ca) on East Hastings Street is the place to go.

The 15 acre Playland Amusement Park is a popular attraction. Open from late April through the end of September it has hosted millions of thrill seekers of all ages since it opened in 1910.  The Park was named “Happy Land” in 1926 and remained on the original site until 1958, when it was moved to its present spot and re-opened under the name Playland. Previously owned by a number of parent companies, Playland became a division of the PNE family in July, 1993. Playland’s marquee attraction, the beloved 1958 Wooden Roller Coaster, remains the most popular ride on the site and one of the most highly regarded wooden coasters in the world. Designed by the legendary ride construction team, Carl Phare and Walker LeRoy, the Playland Wooden Coaster rides over half a million people annually. The flume, though, ranks as a favorite as well. Unfortunately, on the day we visited, it was not operational… Other popular rides include wave swinger, west coast wheel, breakdance, the scrambler, the corkscrew, rock climbing, the hellevator, bumper cars, the pirate ship and music express. Tamer rides include the merry-go-round, cool cruzers, the super slide, raiders, helicopters, tea cups and honeybee express. There are the traditional carnival games, an arcade and plenty of food options.  This place is a lot of fun and I would highly recommend you spend the day there. It was a memorable experience for my sister-in-law as this was her four year old’s very first visit to an amusement park. He felt so adult behind the wheel of his own car (cool cruzers), driving a motorcycle (choppers) and climbing aboard the kids’ rollercoaster (Kettle Creek Mine Coaster). I thought he was quite daring to go on the wave swinger. The PNE is wheelchair accessible.

DINING OUT

Looking to eat kosher in Vancouver? There are a number of options.  The Omnitsky Kosher Delicatessen at 5775 Oak Street serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Sabra Restaurant and Bakery at 3844 Oak Street was founded in 1992 by the Kahlon family. Plans call for a second location to open in the not to distant future.  There is also  Café Forty One at 5750 Oka Street,  the Maple Grill at 1967 West Broadway, The Mount Royal Bagel Factory at 701 Queenbury in North Vancouver and  the Garden City Bakery  on Blundell Road in Richmond.

There are some superb restaurants in Vancouver. Here are some in particular I strongly recommend.

 

JOE FORTES

First let me tell you about Joe Fortes Seafood & and Chop House (www.joefortes.ca) on downtown Thurlow Street. It has become our “go to” place while in Vancouver. On this night we were a party of five adults and a four year old.

The hostess seated on the gorgeous roof garden.  Our server Jennifer, who also works as a manager on some nights, gave us a thorough look at the menu and the day’s many specials. One of Joe Fortes many unique qualities is the immediate sense of character and personality that guests recognize the moment they step inside. The large, bright room feels instantly powerful yet inviting, and it’s no coincidence that these qualities were also embodied by the legendary figure that the restaurant takes its name from:  Seraphim “Joe Forte.  In 1885, this burly seaman landed upon Vancouver’s shores and settled into a cabin in English Bay. There, Joe quickly became one of Vancouver’s most popular citizens, serving Vancouverites in a variety of ways first as a bartender and later as Vancouver’s first official lifeguard. Today, he is remembered by a monument near the site of his home, and his popularity lives on inside the welcoming walls of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.

With a commitment to freshness, the Joe Forte’s kitchen receives daily local deliveries, ensuring that you’re guaranteed to find the freshest ingredients on your plate every day.

The restaurant is owned by noted Jewish restaurateur David Aisenstat. Born and bred into the restaurant industry, he first learned his chops from his father Hy Aisenstat, founder of the famous Hy’s Steakhouse chain. His ability to recognize and retain talented people, and his passion for art and design, combine for what have been consecutively successful ventures in the industry. He has since continued on to become a legendary restaurateur in his own right, as the owner of The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, Hy’s Steakhouse Cocktail Bar, Gotham Steakhouse, The Shore Club, Ki, and of course Joe Fortes. 

 The main dining room is anchored by a soaring horseshoe oyster bar. This Grand Room boasts large, cozy booths, perfect for hosting a high-powered lunch or dinner meetings, as well as intimate dinner dates.   From the mezzanine, diners enjoy a bird’s eye view of the action and live musical entertainment below.

The mahogany-walled wine room offers guests a unique and discreet setting in which to enjoy an intimate lunch, or a private corporate celebration.   The more casual side of Joe’s is experienced in the bistro and bar area where locals and out-of-towners alike mingle, soak up the live music and keep their eyes open for visiting celebrities.

For a breath of fresh air, guests like us request to step up to Vancouver’s most desirable roof garden and into an urban oasis featuring a living green wall, cozy outdoor fireplace and bustling horseshoe bar.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House has been specializing in classic, American cuisine since 1985. It is a tribute to Executive Chef Wayne Sych and his dedicated kitchen staff of 70 people that Joe’s has maintained its unparalleled popularity with both locals and tourists alike for more than 20 years – an astonishing feat in the restaurant business. But even a cursory glance at the menus reveals why Joe’s stays at the top of our customers’ minds and, quite literally, at the tip of their tongues.   

The Joe Fortes kitchen prepares each dish with a focus on natural flavours and features the finest ingredients collected from Pacific Northwest farmers, fishermen and food artisans. Serving more than 50 kinds of fresh fish, including their legendary Seafood Tower on Ice, premium oysters and succulent chops, their signature dishes have become a favourite of locals, celebrities and tourists alike.

From our previous two visits, the Seafood Tower on Ice was on our “must eat” list and it did not disappoint us. The five adults in our party shared two towers, almost a meal on its own, featuring chilled Atlantic lobster, local oysters, marinated clams and mussels, scallop ceviche, albacore tuna crudo and chilled jumbo prawns. We also added a crispy crab cake and some scallops.

Since we have been to Joe Forte’s before, we had some valuable experience as to how to navigate the impressive menu. Three members of the group decided to have the best of both worlds – splitting the petit mignon and the most delicious cuts like butter piece of fish we’ve ever experienced – miso marinated sable fish with sides of sesame quinoa, mushrooms, edamame, kale and sweet soy and  café de Paris butter gratin, potato pavé, and market vegetables. I opted for the Sirloin Steak (7 oz.), with buttermilk mashed potatoes and jasmin rice. Given the large serving I already enjoyed from the Tower, this was the perfect size of meat. The other member of our group chose the Scallop dinner from the special menu of the day.  As for our little four year old nephew, he feasted on some macaroni and cheese.  There were drinks as well for some of us, bellinis, a vodka martini and a glass of wine.

While pretty much full, the dessert menu was too appetizing to ignore so we agreed to share a piece of chocolate sin cake with ganache, brandy and chocolate brittle and half orders of  traditional tiramisu with mascarpone cream, lady fingers, espresso, kahlua and baileys and  the Tahitian vanilla Crème Brûlée, with house-made biscotti and whipped cream. Needless to say we all left with smiles on our faces.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow Street. For reservations call 604.669.1940. It is open seven days a week from 11 am to 11 pm.

 

 THE SANDBAR

I also recommend you check out the four extraordinary restaurants that makeup the Sequoia Company of restaurants at   Vancouverdine.com  We opted in favor of the Sandbar (https://www.vancouverdine.com/sandbar) on Granville Island at 1535 Johnston Street.

There is live music here seven nights a week and quite a marvelous ambiance. The 300 seat restaurant was packed the night we chose to dine there. Guests can enjoy the bustle of the market, the non-stop energy of False Creek and the shores of Vancouver’s West End. Walk up the wood post staircase, the only item that was salvaged from the historic Mulvaney’s Restaurant site, and elevate your view of the city waterfront. The busy animated open kitchen gives the guest that “Granville Island Market feeling” plus an up-close look at the chefs as they prepare their seafood creations.

The Sandbar serves up the freshest seafood in a warm, sophisticated atmosphere. Suspended above the bar in the Teredo Lounge is Kivi, a 24 foot salmon troller hand built by Allan Farrell, one of the West Coast’s finest craftsman of wooden boats. Fresh oyster bar, tapas, dinner and dancing, this is considered to be Vancouver’s most popular spot to see and be seen.

 Along with your menu comes a clipboard called the Seafood Fresh Sheet, with holes punched next to the items that are fresh that day.

We were a group of five adults and one four year old, who was thrilled with the kid’s menu/coloring page. He happily enjoyed his pizza while using his crayons to the max, creating some masterpieces of his own. The adults, meantime, started off with some French martinis, a margarita and a glass of white wine before sharing a magnificent Sandbar Tower – eight jumbo prawns, 12 oysters, ahi tuna poke, salmon sashimi, king crab and lobster. I ordered a delicious cup of clam chowder while the table also shared a trio of superb sushi rolls: California (Dungeness crab, avocado, cucumber, tobiko and mayonnaise) and Tuna Goma-ae (albacore tuna, Chef Hoshi’s special sesame sauce and green onion) and special scallop (diced scallop, tobiko, mayonnaise).

For the main course, a few of us gravitated towards the clipboard. I wanted something authentically B.C. and found it in the Wild Sockeye Salmon with mango papaya salsa, citrus butter and sauce. On the side I had some rice and roasted potatoes. It was a good choice. Two others chose the Sable fish (black cod) with a miso ginger glaze while another opted for the Ahi tuna, seared rare with soy mustard, wasabi, cucumber and salsa. The crab & shrimp Louie was the final item selected by a member of our party – fresh Dungeness crab, hand-peeled shrimp, egg, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers and creamy Old Bay dressing. Their steaks are said to be very good as well, something we will have to consider on our next visit. For dessert we managed to share two decadent choices: the lemon torte and some to die for chocolate cake, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Our little nephew, his pizza completely digested, was more than happy to take part in this final tasting of the evening.

Open seven days a week until 11 pm, you can find all of the information you need on their website or by calling 604.669.9030.

 

BRIDGES

Also located on  Granville Island, Bridges (www.bridgesrestaurant.com) serves the freshest seafood Vancouver has to offer. One of my oldest friends, Clifford Margolese, moved to Vancouver 35 years ago. When I asked if we could meet for lunch, he immediately suggested Bridges. It was my first time back in 10 years and the place has not lost any of its charms. On this beautiful day we say out on the patio, looking out at the waterfront.

Bridges opened in 1980 on the western tip of Granville Island, a redevelopment project orchestrated by the federal government’s Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and backed by a group of Jewish businessmen: Michael Seelig,, Nathan Divinsky, Abe Sacks, Manny Glasser, Tamara Franke and George Frankel.

The restaurant offers magnificent views of Vancouver’s waterfront, mountains and city center. Bridges Dining Room, Bar, Bistro and outdoor dining are the quintessential summer experience in Vancouver. Served by public moorage, Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, Bridges is easily reached by the water and has hundreds of free parking stalls for automobile access. It is open daily, from 11 a.m.

One of my oldest friends, Clifford Margolese, moved to Vancouver 35 years ago. When I asked if we could meet for lunch, he immediately suggested Bridges. It was my first time back in 10 years and the place has not lost any of its charms. On this beautiful day we say out on the patio, looking out at the waterfront.

 Bridges operates a second floor dining room with 150 seats inside and a 40 seat terrace.  On the main floor is a 120 seat bistro and a 100 seat bar with its own terrace.  During the summer months they operate Vancouver’s largest patio, with a license for 300 seats on the waterfront. What do we recommend? Well for one thing you will probably need to go back more than once.

Clifford and I shared some deliciously fresh oysters with pickled ginger mignonette and calamari, with  house made tzatziki, with crispy fried onions and jalapenos. For my main meal I remembered how good the grilled chicken club burger was, featuring free-range chicken breast and crispy bacon served with fries. You can switch the latter for another side if you wish.

Clifford, always the healthy eater, chose the mixed green salad, featuring  market fresh vegetables, organic greens and honey lemon vinaigrette. He added a salmon filet as well.

I was able to coax my friend into sharing some desserts – the decadent chocolate cake and the equally fantastic lemon layer cake. It was worth the cheat for both of us and a great suggestion from our server Charlie.

Bridges is located at 1696 Duranleau Street. For more email info@bridgesrestaurant.com or call 604-687-4400.

 

GOTHAM

We got to experience Gotham Steakhouse and Bar (https://gothamsteakhouse.com)  at 615 Seymour Street for the first time.   The menu is simple and classic steakhouse, with only the finest ingredients making the cut. Hand-crafted cocktails and extensive wine list make decisions just a little harder, but satisfaction guaranteed. This is also owned by the Aisenstat family.

The restaurant is sophisticated and elegant, but the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed. You never know who may turn up on any given day. Gotham counts well-known performers, actors, sports icons and local legends all among its regular guests. It features soaring ceilings, sumptuous leather and velvet upholstery and, private dining rooms.

Dinner at Gotham is an occasion to remember. The à la carte menu features classic steakhouse favourites, perfectly prepared and presented in an atmosphere of luxurious comfort. The beef is Prime Grade Alberta, 28-day aged, and simply seasoned to bring out maximum flavour. The fish and seafood is delicate and fresh, and the delicious and decadent side dishes are perfect accompaniments to complete a memorable dinner.

There are two levels, with an elevator providing handicapped access to the second floor and to the basement where you will find the washrooms and some private rooms used for groups and special occasions. A seasonal urban garden patio is popular as well. All of the servers wear white tops. Our waiter Ryan has been with Gotham for 14 years.

 Our party of six included one four year old who loved his choice from the kids menu –a grilled cheese sandwich and mashed potatoes. After starting out with some drinks, we went directly to our main courses: a 32 ounce bone-in rib steak, served sliced, and nicely shared by two people; a perfectly prepared filet; the Blackened Ahi Tuna; and  the fish of the day, which happened to be halibut with risotto and vegetables included. We all shared some sides of mashed potatoes,  creamed spinach and fresh steamed broccoli. We will hopefully try items like the Seafood Tower, the jumbo lobster tail and the fresh oysters on our next visit. To cap the night off, we also shared the decadent Belgian Chocolate Bourbon Cake. It was an absolutely superb meal in a great ambiance. Gift cards are available in different denominations and a very nice option if you would like to surprise a family member or business associate with something they would truly appreciate.

The house DJ is on duty for social hour, from 3 pm to 6:45 pm, Wednesday to Friday. And when the summer sun shines, he takes his mix of contemporary sounds to the patio for chilling al fresco. Tuesday through Saturdays they feature some of Vancouver’s most talented musicians in the sensuous lounge from 7 pm to 11pm.  This is perfect for cocktails before dinner or a luxurious after dinner drink.

Executive Chef Jean Claude is from France. He honed his skills over winters in the Alps and summers in St. Tropez. Arriving in Montreal in 1992, he spent six years at Le Soubise, then moved to Vancouver, furthering his experience at several well-known local restaurants, including as Chef-Owner of Cyrano. Since 2005, with grace, skill and good humour, he has led the Gotham kitchen.