Dine Out Vancouver Part II: Gyoza Bar, Ritual, Afghan Horsemen

Gyoza Bar bao board
The bao board at Gyoza Bar.

For the second week of Dine Out Vancouver, we tried Gyoza Bar (Pender St. branch), Ritual and The Afghan Horsemen Restaurant. Gyzoa Bar was the best one of the three by far in terms of the food. For $20, I got an appetizer of pork gyoza, their bao board as an entree, and a little rice pudding for dessert.

The bao board really “wowed” me. It was a small rack of Korean spiced pork rib served with two bao buns to make your own mini sandwiches. Pickled apple and celery came as garnish. I loved the presentation and taste. We were so inspired, we decided to take the idea and make it our own at home (more on that in another post).

One word of caution if you visit Gyoza Bar: The dinner rush really slows down service, so the earlier you eat, the better.

Now, onto Ritual. I have a soft spot for this new restaurant because they’re in our neighborhood, and they started out with a no-tipping policy to give their workers better wages. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay in business by doing that–people were just too confused and put off by the higher prices–so they did away with the policy. We’ve eaten there before and enjoyed it. But I must admit I wasn’t wild about the meal for Dine Out Vancouver. The food was upscale and beautiful, and everything was prepared well, but there was…something missing. Maybe it’s because I like big flavors, but I thought the dishes were a little too simple. The shredded ribs entree was good, but on the bland side, for instance. But maybe simplicity is the chef’s intention.

As for The Afghan Horsemen, which calls itself the first Afghani restaurant in Canada, this place was surprisingly packed when we came for dinner. It’s a large space, and we were seated in the traditional area, which has cushions and tables for eating while sitting on the floor. The meal was good and hearty, like a home-cooked meal prepared by a grandmother who knows her way around the kitchen. We had tender lamb dishes served with long-grain rice for entrees. The food reminded me of Indian Row in downtown Manhattan, where I liked to eat when I lived in NYC. Different cultures, obviously, but very similar restaurant cuisine, according to my taste buds. Like Gyoza Bar, service slowed down at the dinner rush, so it’s best to get there for an early dinner.