RICHMOND, BC – During my many visits to Vancouver over the years, I have not spent much time in the suburb of Richmond except of course for the airport. That changed on my recent trip when I attended a conference at the extraordinary River Rock Casino Resort (www.riverrock.com).

Richmond (www.tourismrichmond.com) is actually the fourth largest city in BC, just 25 minutes south of downtown Vancouver and 25 minutes north of the United States border – a city of stunning mountain vistas, beautiful waterfront sunsets and vibrant urban living. It is also where they shoot my favorite television series, Once Upon a Time – more specifically the seaside village of Steveston.

The River Rock Casino itself has 90,000 square feet of game floor, 115 table games, 1,100 slot machines, a dedicated poker room and high limit rooms. In addition, the property has a swimming pool with a big Jacuzzi and 70 foot waterslide, a spa with six private treatment rooms, a work-out gym and weight room, a very popular show theatre presenting some of the top modern artists in music, comedy, theatre and more. There are seven bars, restaurants and lounges spread throughout our property as well as live music with no cover charge four nights a week at Lulu’s, a beautiful marina and boardwalk overlooking the Fraser River and a heated waterfront patio. There is a 24-hour food court, as well as Java Jack’s, a convenient stop for quality artisan coffee, smoothies, soft drinks, pastries, sandwiches and more.

River Rock is centrally located between two major shopping districts: the diverse, world-class shopping centres and niche neighbourhoods in Vancouver, and the bustling and uniquely Asian-Canadian Richmond area shopping attractions. You can reach downtown in no time at all by taking the Skytrain, which also brings you directly to the airport.

As for the rooms, we stayed in a lovely 525 square foot one bedroom suite. This featured a luxury Euro-top cashmere King bed, with 300 thread count sheets and down/feather (60/40) duvet. There is a sofa bed with seven inch mattress in the living room , a 42 inch TV in the living room and a 32 inch model in the bedroom, an iPod dock and speaker with alarm clock, quality bathroom amenities, a mini fridge, 24 hour room service and upon request a crib, a humidifier and microwave. It was very spacious and comfortable.

While there are certainly some fabulous restaurants in Richmond, we could not resist the temptation of once again experiencing our favorite dining establishment in the heart of Vancouver – Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (www.joefortes.ca) on Thurlow Street. We were a party of four on the night we chose to eat there and this was an extraordinary dining experience from the moment we were seated. This is indeed one of the city’s finest restaurants.

Our waiter Jamie, who has worked at Joe Forte’s for many years, gave us a very good presentation of the specialties.

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. Each dish is prepared 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 three-tiered Seafood Tower on Ice, premium oysters and succulent chops, their signature dishes have become a favourite of locals, celebrities and tourists alike.

We decided to share the Seafood Tower, featuring Atlantic lobster, chilled crab, local oysters, clams, mussels, scallop ceviche, smoked local albacore tuna and poached jumbo prawns. Not too many restaurants anywhere I have travelled in the world can make something as appetizing as this. It is $59.95 a tier. We also started off with a small order of scallops – cooked to absolute perfection.

For drinks, members of our party had some prosecco, bitter sweet bliss, sparkling pear and Joe’s cranberry cocktail.

One member of our party vividly remembered the mouth-watering miso marinated sable fish from our visit two years earlier so there was no question what was on her list to order. It came with baby bok choy, mushrooms, ginger scallion butter and jasmine rice. She was not disappointed. The appetizer version of the scallops prompted another to order the Jumbo scallops as her main course – a wise choice. We rounded out our selections with the nine ounce filet mignon center cut filet, with café de Paris butter, scallop potatoes and market vegetables and a sensational bone-in rib steak (14 ounces) for myself with bacon, horse radish, mashed potatoes and market vegetables. To say this was the best steak I have had – well since I last dined at Joe Forte’s – would be accurate.

Save room for sweet indulgences. We shared the Dessert Trio – a Tahitian vanilla crème brulée, tiramisu, chocolate raspberry truffle tart, brandied cherries, biscotti and vanilla gelato. What a treat! In addition, we somehow found room to try the Pavlova crisp meringue, with fresh fruit, lemon curd and cream.

Reservations are required. Call 604-669-1940 or email info@joefortes.ca. They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow him on Twitter @mikecohencsl and on Sandboxworld.com/travel.