Sandbar, Vancouver.

August 2015.

I’ve been to this place at least half a dozen times, usually with a friend late in the evening. I’ve sat both outside on the lovely deck, and inside in the fairly ordinary funky restaurant.

This time Robin and I came for lunch, with a reservation. There was no place available out on the deck on a sunny warm day, so we waited at the outdoor bar and started in on a bottle of Poplar Grove pinot blanc. We won the next-table lottery: an older couple got up and wound their way to the exit, leaving open what the fellow behind the bar referred to as “the best seat in the house”: right at the corner, hanging out over False Creek, up over the view of all the late-season tourists everywhere on Granville Island, spanning 180° under the iron girders of the bridge around to the anchored boats away south to the right. Couldn’t be better.

A German-accented charming fellow with a beard and his head shaved brought our bottle of wine over, and we ordered from the simple menu with its special touch of a daily fresh sheet. Starters were har gow (a shrimp dumpling) and albacore tuna crudo with jalapenos, lime, cilantro, and toast points. The shrimp dumpling was respectable, a competently-steamed simple Asian pastry around a few shrimp, meeting a Chinatown small restaurant expectation. The tuna etc. was flavourless and a bit overcooked — pub food really.

I ordered clams, which were littlenecks that came steamed in a milk-and-clam liquid. The clams were tiny and not-very flavourful, the liquid was pleasant and the waiter brought extra bread to soak it up. Don’t remember the price but it was no bargain.

How many beautiful venues are there in this town serving ordinary food and filled with noise? Granted we did have the best seat in the house. The view was really fun, and that outdoor patio is pretty classy by ordinary tourist standards. But we have just started on a project of Thursday lunches in our beloved hometown, and this kickoff missed the ball. The highest and best use and my future plans for the Sandbar would involve drinks-only on the deck, late at night.

Food 6.2, service 7.5, ambience 8.3, value 6.4.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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