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2015 Where to Dine Awards: Vancouver

By TIM PAWSEY

Pacific octopus with Tuscan beans at Cioppino’s

Pacific octopus with Tuscan beans at Cioppino’s. (Photo: KK Law)

Fueled by a wealth of flavours, Vancouver celebrates a bounty of fresh ingredients, from myriad seafood species to specialty farm-raised meats, along with winning wines. Every year, Where’s globetrotting readers weigh in on those tastes that left their mark well beyond the trip home. These accolades reinforce the city’s rep as an international culinary destination driven by diversity and a merging of influences through multicultural respect and understanding.

Critics’ Choice

EDITOR’S CHOICE
Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
Hailed as the gold standard, Pino Posteraro’s Yaletown room yields better Italian fare than just about anywhere outside (and even, some would suggest, inside) of Italy. The owner-chef is also masterful at pairing wine from an impressive cellar. Service is meticulous, while the open kitchen hums under the watchful eye of the chef, who leaves only to greet his guests personally.

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Bufala
Locals pack into this airy Kerrisdale room for perfectly crusted margherita pizza, kale Caesar salad (with salt-cured egg yolk, Parmigiano-Reggiano and crispy bacon), beef carpaccio, meatballs and more. The menu is rustic but well thought out and smartly executed. And the cocktail-friendly Castelvetrano olives alone are worth the trip.

Summer seafood salad with tuna tataki at the Fish Counter. (Photo: KK Law)

Summer seafood salad with tuna tataki at the Fish Counter. (Photo: KK Law)

WHERE SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD AWARD
The Fish Counter
Take one respected marine biologist (Mike McDermid) and one celebrated chef (Robert Clark, the driving force behind the Vancouver Aquarium’s successful Ocean Wise program), and what do you get? A down-home, no-nonsense, all-sustainable fishmonger and counter, embraced by the neighbourhood since day one. No surprise, the seafood is among the freshest anywhere—and the fish ’n’ chips superb.

GREEN TABLE AWARD
Tacofino’s Taco Bar
A love of surf, sun and Baja led first to food trucks and then more recently to this immensely popular Gastown taco emporium, with its capacious restaurant and bar, located in Blood Alley. Not only is Taco Bar fun, tasty and affordable, but this bustling burrito haunt is also sustainable to the max, adhering to Climate Smart and ZeroHero recycling programs and serving only sustainable seafood, with the goal of achieving the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise certification.

LES CLEFS D’OR CANADA SILVER SERVICE AWARD
Black + Blue
Concierges are the go-to authority for what’s hot (or not) on the local dining scene. Always “au courant,” they’re also in-the-know as to which rooms consistently over-deliver. Laurels from this demanding group constitute a cherished accolade. Plush and polished, serving the best in dry-aged beef, Black + Blue is the ultimate steak emporium, a luxurious setting defined by its horseshoe bar, two tiers of booths and a spacious rooftop patio, complete with its own kitchen. Service is upbeat and detail-driven.

Pacific albacore tuna crudo at Yew. (Photo: KK Law)

Pacific albacore tuna crudo at Yew. (Photo: KK Law)

Readers’ Choice

HOTEL DINING
Yew Seafood + Bar
Chef Ned Bell advances the regional sustainable agenda with inspired dexterity. Go for the Yew chowder, West Coast paella or cornucopian seafood tower, but don’t miss the Oceans cocktails, such as the smoky-toned, whiskey-based Glacial Snout.
FINALISTS Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge; Hawksworth Restaurant; Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar.

SEAFOOD
Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
Chef Frank Pabst’s innovative take on West Coast seafood focuses on sustainable species that range from swimming scallops, sturgeon and sablefish to tuna, lobster and plenty more on the regular menu, and also at the all-encompassing raw bar.
FINALISTS Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House; Coast Restaurant.

WEST COAST
Cactus Club Cafe
Celebrated Iron Chef America winner Rob Feenie develops dishes with true regional flair at this rapidly expanding restaurant group, which prides itself on creative plates and smart, friendly service. Fave tastes range from Feenie’s ravioli and prawn trio to Szechuan chicken lettuce wraps.
FINALISTS Coast Restaurant; Hawksworth Restaurant.

ITALIAN
Italian Kitchen
A lively during- and after-work crowd packs into this downtown destination ruled by a gleaming 18-m- (60-ft-) long marble bar. High on the hit list: antipasto platters (the Misto platter includes the celebrated meatballs), veal scallopini bresaola, seafood fettuccine and trout al forno.
FINALISTS CinCin Ristorante + Bar; Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca.

FRENCH
Le Crocodile
Even if fine dining has waned, Michel Jacob’s cosseting escape endures, balancing authenticity with tempered panache and impeccable detail. Standout dishes roam from a duo of foie gras to pan-seared veal sweetbreads or sautéed imported Dover sole with butter sauce.
FINALISTS Les Faux Bourgeois; Tableau Bar Bistro.

Wild Mexican sea prawns (front), roasted cauliflower tacos (top left) and Lois Lake steelhead ceviche (top right), at Cuchillo

Wild Mexican sea prawns (front), roasted cauliflower tacos (top left) and Lois Lake steelhead ceviche (top right), at Cuchillo

LATIN
Cuchillo
Savvy cocktails and local ingredients drive inventive plates in a sexy setting on Gastown’s edgy east side. Top tastes range from pork belly confit with maple-chipotle-tamarind glaze to pan-roasted sablefish to mole lamb albondigas tortilla.
FINALISTS Baru Latino; Las Margaritas.

STEAK
Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
This plush wood-panelled room matches its luxurious surroundings with the best in steak and service. Go for the 28-day dry-aged porterhouse or New York strip, or for lunchtime lobster bisque or Dungeness crab cakes. Order premium wines from the extensive cellar on an iPad-presented list.
FINALISTS The Keg Steakhouse & Bar; Black + Blue.

EUROPEAN
Chambar Restaurant
In its new, expanded setting, but still with heritage style, this boisterous red-brick room combines the best of Belgian and Moroccan cuisine. Tastes range from tagine and moules frites to pistachio-basil-crusted sablefish and grilled venison loin, cleverly matched with wines from a globally attentive cellar.
FINALISTS Café Medina; Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna.

INDIAN
Vij’s Restaurant
Even if attention has shifted east with the arrival of My Shanti (in Surrey), the original location—where Vikram Vij etched his indelible mark on the dining landscape—still rules. Go early for stalwarts such as cayenne-and-ginger-curried pork tenderloin, or wine-marinated lamb “popsicles” in fenugreek cream.
FINALISTS Sitar; Rangoli.

Sashimi platter at Miku. (Photo: KK Law)

Sashimi platter at Miku. (Photo: KK Law)

JAPANESE
Miku Restaurant
This elegant, contemporary, glass-wrapped restaurant adjacent to the harbour and Canada Place combines the best of regional (and Ocean Wise) ingredients with classic and modern Japanese styles. The hallmark is Aburi (flame-seared) specialties such as prawn, salmon and mackerel. Presentation is precise, dramatic and always colourful.
FINALISTS Tojo’s; Guu.

CHINESE
Peaceful Restaurant
Enjoy northern Chinese classics, including Kung Pao chicken, Mandarin wonton soup, Sichuan-broth-braised fish, fresh hand-pulled specialty noodles of every kind, dumplings, wontons, rolls and more. Spices are balanced and authentic at all three busy locations.
FINALISTS Kirin Restaurant; Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie.

ASIAN
Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine
These cheerful Southeast Asian rooms draw on influences from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Thailand, with specialties such as roti canai, Singapore-style laksa, Hainanese chicken and much more. Spicing is always to taste, while the service is friendly and well-informed.
FINALISTS Red Ginger Asian Cuisine; Maenam.

BUDGET BITES
Hawker’s Delight
Bring cash to this no-nonsense, down-home and downright delicious hole in the wall, where it’s a tough choice between the mee goreng, laksa, lamb curry, mee soto and more. It’s the closest (and cheapest) you’ll find to Singapore street food beyond Asia.
FINALISTS The Warehouse; La Taqueria; Meat & Bread.

Albacore tuna salad with a poached egg at Café Medina. (Photo: KK Law)

Albacore tuna salad with a poached egg at Café Medina. (Photo: KK Law)

BRUNCH
Café Medina
In the capable hands of chef Jonathan Chovancek, the “new,” positively capacious Medina is even more popular than the old. Don’t miss the poached eggs with spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs, the saumon fumé ciabatta and, of course, the waffles. Did we mention the waffles?
FINALISTS Twisted Fork Bistro; Graze Vegetarian.

FOOD CART
Tacofino’s White Lightning
At lunchtime, you can’t miss this wicked white-and-black taco truck at Dunsmuir and Burrard. Grab a fish taco, slow-cooked pork burrito or chicken karaage. Vegetarian and vegan options, too. De rigueur: the chocolate diablo cookies.
FINALISTS Japadog; Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck.

PUB FARE
The Fat Badger
More gastropub than bangers ’n’ mash, this cozy, TV-free haunt in a Victorian-era West End home delivers the works, from Scotch eggs to a trio of Yorkshire puddings to irresistible rabbit, duck and squab terrine, plus sticky toffee pudding. All served with respectable pints of Smithwick’s, Guinness, Kilkenny and more.
FINALISTS Craft Beer Market; Alibi Room; Mahony & Sons.

RICHMOND & AIRPORT DINING
Globe@YVR
Some of Vancouver International Airport’s award-winning appeal extends to an array of flavours before and after security. Those in the know head to Globe@YVR for smart Pacific Northwest tastes in a modern lounge overlooking all the action right outside—with a spectacular mountain backdrop to boot.
FINALISTS Tramonto; Milestones Grill + Bar.

DESSERT
Thierry
Part cafe, part bar, Thierry Busset’s homage to the classic Parisian patisserie seduces with an extraordinary array of macarons, hand-crafted chocolates, cakes and savouries, plus perfect coffee, tea and spirits for late-evening indulgence.
FINALISTS True Confections; Bella Gelateria.

To see our Whistler winners, click here.

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