Satiate wanderlust with an array of globetrotting dishes and spa journeys—suitcase and passport not required
By JILL VON SPRECKEN
Forget airports and security lines. Simply hop the elevator to the fifth floor to arrive at Chi, The Spa, a wood-panelled sanctuary that’s steeped in Eastern philosophy. Here, treatments are governed by chi, the universal life force that has guided traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. Inspired by the stretching methods of Chinese martial arts, the Wushu Massage treatment was created following study with a wushu master at the remote Wudang Mountain. First, guided stretching and breathing exercises open the body’s meridians. The stress release treatment is followed by tension-relieving muscle warming and Tai Chi massage. For the toxin-release treatment, bamboo assists in gentle stretches, then is rolled over muscles before a purifying oil massage. Serenity, found.
Time and time again, Vancouverites hear that their city is home to the world’s best Chinese food. No argument here—the locals are too busy stuffing themselves with delights that range from dim sum to Peking duck. For a modern take on the traditional, head to Bao Bei. The array of small plates are made from sustainable ingredients and are influenced by Taiwan, Shanghai and the Sichuan province. Settle into this lively, high-ceilinged space for Pemberton beef tartare, crispy pork belly or wok-fried squid, and wash it all down with a creative cocktail.
At Vida Spa, first things first: determine your dosha. Drawing from the ancient Hindu medicine of Ayurveda, treatments are tailored to the spa-goer’s predominant mind-body type: pitta, vata or kapha. The herb-infused hot-oil Ayurvedic Massage is the perfect introduction, but the Shirodhara treatment ups the ante by adding a steady stream of warm oil poured onto the “third eye,” or forehead, to promote relaxation and mental clarity. Or try the Swedana treatment, which begins with massage, followed by a steam in a large cedar chest, and finally a brisk brushing with herbal powder to prevent toxins from re-entering the body. Facial-rejuvenation acupuncture and one-on-one restorative yoga round out the offerings.
Spice-seekers, take note: dishes that range from biryani to butter chicken and beyond abound throughout the city—the perfect cure for curry cravings. And where better to sample international flavours than at internationally famous Vij’s Restaurant? Chef Vikram Vij is often in the spotlight, but it’s the contemporary cuisine that steals the show. Try the famed lamb popsicles, which are marinated in wine before arriving in fenugreek cream curry. The no-reservations policy means lengthy line-ups, but complimentary Indian snacks make the wait more than palatable.
Perhaps it’s the billowing clouds of steam or the mosaic-tiled hammam, but a trip to Miraj Hammam Spa is truly transportive. Upon arrival at this traditional Middle Eastern steam sauna, don a batik sarong and check your modesty along with your street clothes. Retreat to the hammam chamber, where thick steam envelops spa-goers to release toxins and stimulate the senses. Next, the gommage: leave the sarong behind and recline on a slab of Jerusalem gold marble while the therapist scrubs your body with exfoliating black Moroccan soap. Not ready to leave this steamy oasis? Indulge in an Orientale massage or aromatherapy facial, then lounge in the gilded Sultana Lounge and nibble Middle Eastern sweets.
At hotspots where Middle Eastern fare features on the plate, expect a devoted following on the hunt for skewered meats and oil-drizzled dips. Local chain Nuba has found fame for elevated Lebanese fare, served in several chic locations. The ingredients are as fresh and local as possible, and feature in favourites like garlicky hummus, pan-seared halloumi cheese, and Najib’s Special—a crispy, smoky and addictive cauliflower dish. Added bonus: the menu will satisfy vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike.
There’s nothing quite like a traditional massage on one of Thailand’s beautiful beaches, but the Phuket room at Smile Thai Wellness is a close second. The beach-themed oasis is one of 14 treatment rooms, all of which draw inspiration from destinations across the Southeast Asian kingdom. Traditional Thai massage has a 2,500-year history, and incorporates active stretching, compression and acupressure. In other words, the therapists push, pull and pummel limbs into a variety of pretzel-like shapes to harmonize and align the body’s energies—stretching aching limbs into glorious submission. Expect to feel relaxed, restored and invigorated. That means more energy for sightseeing, even if the sights are inside another of the spa’s tranquil treatment rooms.
Creamy curries, spicy soups and top-notch noodle dishes—the city’s array of Thai eateries range from street stall–inspired to sleek and modern. Find the cornerstones of Thai cuisine—hot, sour, salty and sweet—delivered in perfect balance at Maenam in laid-back Kitsilano. Here, traditional recipes blend seamlessly with local ingredients, and are served with panache. Sample menu staples such as eight-spice lingcod, green curry halibut and, of course, pad thai. Beat any lingering heat with a sipper from the cocktail list, or pop the cork on a well-chosen wine.
Five floors above the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown core, lofty Willow Stream Spa is decked out in plenty of marble and warm wood—a nod to the coastal rainforest setting. It’s not just the decor that’s West Coast–inspired; many of the treatments on the extensive menu are, too. Try the Coastal Mountain Body Wrap or the Pacific Rim Body Buffer, both of which use ingredients such as maple butter and a Bio-Maple compound to soothe and condition skin. There’s even an antidote for the city’s active lifestyle: the Van Active Feet treatment pampers lower legs and feet to keep hikers and Grouse Grinders moving.
When it comes to the local larder, Vancouver’s chefs have found plenty to celebrate. Sustainable seafood, foraged ingredients, and even honey cultivated on nearby rooftops can be found on the plate and menus throughout the city. The West End’s Forage champions all that is farm-to-table, sustainable and fresh with an ever-evolving menu of delicious small plates. Sample foraged mushrooms with Okanagan goat cheese or charcuterie with house-made pickles, and wash it all down with picks from the seasonal drink list, featuring an array of BC liquors, wines and brews.