Dine Out Vancouver Festival is back for its twentieth year, bringing together over three hundred restaurants, wineries, craft breweries throughout the city. Taking place January 14 to 31, Dine Out is a festival where restaurants, wineries and breweries set up special set menus at set prices (they range from $20-29, $30-$39, $40-49 or $50-59). Some restaurants also offer special promotions which include additions like take-out options. The festival also includes food and drink experiences around the city like cooking classes, Chinatown tours, brewery visits and of course the food truck festival.
Dine Out is a great way to try the best tastes in the city for a pretty reasonable price. When I first moved here, it luckily aligned with Dine Out and I was able to try a bunch of restaurants and get to know the ins and outs of Vancouver’s culinary talent. It made a huge difference in getting to know the city, but even if you're a local, why pass up an opportunity to eat a bunch of delish food? After a few years of less going out, and more dining in, this is a great chance to try all the best bites you’ve been craving.
My Dine Out sneak preview was at Hello Nori. For months my friends have been telling me that I have to try it. I don’t know why it’s taken so long - I live less than a five-minute walk away. What I’m really trying to say is that I wish it didn’t take so long. Luckily Dine Out gave me the opportunity because this is the best sushi I have had in Canada. In fact, this might be the best sushi I’ve had outside of Japan (for those curious, the best sushi I’ve ever had was at Narita Airport during a quick layover. I know, airport, but the truth is the truth).
Hand rolls are the name of the game at Hello Nori and not only do they lay down the freshest fish and most perfect rice, they also provide a welcoming service and an atmosphere meant for participation. There are a limited number of seats around the Chef’s style bar at Hello Nori, which means every spot you sit in is the best seat in the house. No matter what you order, the Chef is rolling it up right in front of you and dropping it on your plate at the ideal temp and texture. That’s pretty much the concept behind the restaurant: here, you get hot rice, cold fish (unless you’re ordering something torched) and crispy nori.
The Dine Out set menu is no different. In fact, it’s the ideal way to try some of their best hand rolls. Their Dine Out menu features four rolls for $24 - the kanpachi, blue fin tuna, anago, and snow crab. The order of the rolls was put together thoughtfully, almost like a tasting menu. With the kanpachi being the lightest in flavour, it was an ideal way to start the meal, and since it was my first time at Hello Nori - a great introduction to the style of eating I would expect from the rest of the night. The Chef let me know that you’re going to want to eat your handroll ASAP – lest your nori gets soggy and your rice cold. My experience at Hello Nori was incredible, from the service to the impossibly fresh fish (I can't recommend the anago enough). I would come back in a heartbeat - but first, there are tons of other restaurants that I'm really excited to go to during Dine Out. Which is the point, right? You can find your new fave spot while still making time to eat your heart out all over the city.
Dine Out Festival is a once-a-year chance to experience the best the city has to offer in the food and beverage industry while still remaining mindful of that new year budget. Whether you’re dining at Hello Nori like I did, or trying one of the other incredible restaurants, you’re sure to have a great experience. Hot tip: some restaurants that don’t usually take reservations (ahem, Ask For Luigi) do so during this event.