By Tim Pawsey
Blessed with a happy marriage of abundant year-round fresh ingredients, a diaspora of ethnic influences and limitless culinary talent, Vancouver is hailed as a foodie’s paradise by critics and casual diners alike. A broad offering, from corner cafes to craft brew–fuelled pubs to edgy, contemporary regional rooms, means this city is never short of choice. The only challenge might be deciding where to go and what to order. Where’s well-travelled readers weigh in with their taste-filled finds in the 16th annual Where to Dine awards.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2011
801 W. Georgia St. 604-673-7000.
Star chef David Hawksworth’s namesake restaurant and bar in the gorgeously renovated Rosewood Hotel Georgia has re-energized the downtown dining scene, with precisely honed plates of locally sourced ingredients served in a retro cream-trimmed and chandelier-crowned setting. Hawksworth gives his state-of-the-art kitchen a workout with detail-driven tastes such as yellowfin tuna ceviche with avocado, crispy amaranth, pecan and cilantro; and sturgeon served with organic wild rice, parsley purée, bacon emulsion and sautéed hedgehog mushrooms. Seven certified sommeliers bring wines from the climate-controlled glass-sided cellar to pair with the six-course tasting menu—now the hottest foodie ticket in town.
OTHER NOTABLE NEWCOMERS
These hot spots also vied for the honour of Best New Restaurant 2011.
GREEN TABLE AWARD
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.
1876 W. 1st Ave. 604-730-0321.
According to Green Table executive director André Larivière, “It’s not just the fresh, local, mostly organic produce and sustainably sourced meats and fish for every delicious artisan-oven-baked pizza, or the compostable take-out containers and zero-waste program. It even goes well beyond the fully carbon-neutral operations. What owners Dominic and Suzanne Fielden have created with their family-friendly ‘pizza, pasta and more’ restaurants is a new way forward—a model that fosters a new type of sustainable partnership that raises the bar on what it means to be successful, bringing meaningful, lasting benefits that will truly feed the community for generations to come. When it comes to making pizza and a greener future, it’s all in how you slice it. Congratulations!”
The Green Table Award is conferred on a restaurant that promotes sustainability in food service at all levels of its operation, as deter-
mined by the organization’s executive.
WHERE SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD AWARD
Edible Canada at the Market
1596 Johnston St. 604-682-6681.
Unique in its hybrid multi-faceted model, this combination bistro and specialty food store is 100 percent Ocean Wise, offering popular plates such as kasu and birch syrup sablefish, and Lois Lake steelhead salmon. Long a supporter of all things local and sustainable, through an ever-expanding program of eco-tours, guided market visits and cooking classes, founder Eric Pateman has proven himself to be one of BC’s most potent regional green advocates.
The Where Sustainable Seafood Award is presented to the restaurant that best exemplifies practices of sourcing, serving and promoting sustainable species, as outlined under the Ocean Wise Program. The conferring committee represents the BC Seafood Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and Where Vancouver.
637 Hornby St. 604-683-7671.
In a world where novelty all too often trumps tradition, it’s the long-running rooms that are easily overlooked. Founded in 1962, in a paneled retreat that now predates most other restaurants in the city, Hy’s continues to deliver its proven recipe for success: steaks served with just the right touch of white-jacketed formality, in reassuringly clubby surroundings unparalleled in Vancouver. Even newcomers return to this bastion of tradition for classics ranging from New York strip loin and lobster tail to perfect tableside Caesar salads, not to mention the mandatory cheese toast unapologetically kept warm under tin foil.
BIRKS SILVER SERVICE AWARD
SEAFOOD (Readers’ Choice)
Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton St. 604-688-8078.
Arguably the city’s toughest critics, the community of Les Clefs d’Or hotel concierges is relentless in its search for dining excellence when selecting for the Birks Silver Service Award. Quite simply, restaurants that don’t make the cut are not recommended. And even those who do are subject to continued scrutiny. The front-line experts at the city’s leading hotels demand their recommendations meet or exceed their guests’ expectations. Once again, perennial winner Blue Water Cafe wears the crown. Where congratulates the Yaletown stalwart on another convincing win.
Coast Restaurant; The Boathouse Restaurant.
Readers’ Choice: Vancouver
1193 Denman St. 604-685-7337.
One of the earliest regional standard bearers, this quintessential Vancouver room on the shores of English Bay continues to set the pace for West Coast cuisine. Highlights include changing seasonal menus and an always available but also evolving salute to the celebrated 100 Mile Diet, which—hold the salt!—adheres strictly to its mantra. One of the city’s most extensive cellars celebrates British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, with many labels available by the glass.
Coast Restaurant; West.
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar
1011 Mainland St. 604-633-2534.
Catch a game in the comfortable lounge and stay for a serious steak at this long-running chain that helped revolutionize and define Vancouver’s renowned laid-back but flavour-packed dining scene. Regulars salute the value-priced drinks and menu highlights that range from the hand-carved, slow-cooked prime rib classic to baseball top sirloin and barbecued chicken and ribs, all offered with well-chosen wines at three downtown locations.
Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar; Hy’s Encore.
333 Menchions Mews. 604-689-5438.
It pays to seek out this modernist, glass and corrugated structure that clings to the edge of Coal Harbour’s seawall, behind the Westin Bayshore tower. Few patios offer so unencumbered a mountain and ocean panorama. Plus, a cosy firepit wards off late-night chills. Even inside, wrapped with floor-to-ceiling windows, almost every table is waterside. The polished fish and chips and delicious weekend brunch are worth the search.
The Boathouse Restaurant; Bridges.
1037 Alberni St. 604-687-2858.
The vibe is palpable at this two-tier downtown destination, with its dazzling 18-m (60-ft) marble bar and wall of wine downstairs, and more formal but still energetic dining room above. Hang with a lively bar crowd over drinks and antipasti, or settle in for substantial, well-priced plates of the celebrated truffle cream spaghetti with spicy Kobe meatballs or a shared platter of grilled rib eye, veal piccata and chicken parmigiana.
Il Giardino di Umberto; CinCin.
909 Burrard St. 604-669-4298.
Locals and visitors alike worship at Michel Jacob’s holy grail of all things Alsatian and beyond, where the power lunch lives on and every dinner concludes with intricate chocolate crocodiles. A loyal clientele hails the gourmet fare, from classic onion tart to duck liver terrine and Sauternes jelly to imported, true Dover Sole—a rarity—to pan-seared veal sweetbreads, with some of the most intuitive service found anywhere.
Les Faux Bourgeois; Le Gavroche; Provence.
562 Beatty St. 604-879-7119.
Ideally located close to BC Place Stadium and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, this warm, bustling, red-bricked brasserie and dining lounge is perfect for pre-game or post-theatre nibbles but also merits its own show of serious Belgian eats. Perch at the bar for quick bites of lime-and-chilli-rubbed beef strip loin with a glass of Chimay Trappiste, or hunker down for ample tureens of moules frites Congolaise or tender tagine-braised lamb shank, all complemented by an expert wine list.
Transylvania Flavour Restaurant; Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna.
941 Davie St. 604-683-1246.
Chef-owner Gord Martin touched off a small-plates revolution continent-wide when he opened Bin 941. The craze
continues to this day, which is why fans still pack into the rambunctious and sardinesque West End spot. Detail-driven, wide-ranging tastes encompass Angus beef short rib with parsnip purée, peppercorn Cabernet jus and cremini mushroom and spinach salad; and Digby scallop Baja prawn tournedos with crispy leek tempura. Grab a stool at the stove-side bar for the full experience.
La Bodega Restaurante and Tapa Bar; Sanafir.
Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge
Wedgewood Hotel, 845 Hornby St. 604-608-5319.
Romance rules at the Wedgewood’s luxurious lounge and piano bar, while Chef Lee Parsons obliges with seductively thorough French plates. Start with a champagne cocktail in a cozy fireside wing chair before indulging in Alberta tenderloin with Bordelaise sauce, roast loin of Fraser Valley pork with choucroute, or Madeira jus–napped slow-braised veal shank. The wine selection matches the menu, while service is discreetly attentive.
Yew Restaurant + Bar; Griffins.
Mahony & Sons Public House
1055 Canada Place Way. 604-647-7513.
Look for the big blue raindrop on the promenade at the Vancouver Convention Centre West to discover this spacious homage to the likes of Guinness and Smithwick’s, as well as plenty more on tap, and find cut-above pub plates brought by a brigade of cheerful mini-kilted maids. Go early for a seat on the waterside patio to enjoy eclectic tastes such as miso maple salmon, bangers and mash, spiced onion and Guinness soup, and thin-crust pizzas.
The Irish Heather; Steamworks Brewing Company.
718 Drake St. 604-605-0045.
West Coasters still hail the city’s original drive-in (since 1928) as their very own, even though the carhops and window trays have long been replaced by well-appointed rooms run by family-friendly servers. Triple O burger sauce still tops the bill of traditional faves, and Pirate Pak meals in a boat delight small fry, while grown-ups gravitate to more healthy plates such as Asian chicken salad and fusilli primavera.
Milestones Grill and Bar; Red Robin.
530 Robson St. 604-569-1158.
The original adventurous street vendor, who turned the humble hot dog into a unique Asian-inspired dining experience, has recently opened not one but two permanent rooms, in Vancouver and New York City. Those eating on the run, however, still line up at four carts around town for the Terimayo hot dog, with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo and seaweed; the Oroshi, with daikon, green onions and special soy sauce; or the more simple but equally delicious Kurobuta pork.
The Famous Warehouse; Hawker’s Delight.
1480 W. 11th Ave. 604-736-6664.
Hailed internationally as the founder of modern Indian cuisine, Vikram Vij draws some visitors directly from the airport for his legendary lamb popsicles, fenugreek cream curry and tamarind-spiced New York steak. Even waiting at this always busy, reservation-less South Granville room can be a pleasure, as the host obliges with complimentary chai and finger foods. Equally impressive: the concise (and curry-friendly) list of hard-to-find wines.
Maurya Indian Cuisine; Judge’s Indian Cuisine; Palki Restaurant.
1172 Alberni St. 604-682-8833.
The city’s first formal Chinese room established outside Chinatown is now celebrating 25 years, in which it’s grown from one downtown location to four bustling restaurants. Top tastes of authentic Chinese specialties roam from King crab (when in season) and lobster plucked from live tanks and prepared in a variety of ways to the celebrated Peking duck and roast suckling pig. Not to be overlooked: dim sum made fresh daily and affordable banquets.
Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant; Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie.
1133 W. Broadway. 604-872-8050.
Wearer of the perennial sushi and seafood crown, Hidekazu Tojo continues his reign. The man kick-started North America’s love affair with sushi some 25 years ago when he introduced Vancouverites to the BC roll, made using local ingredients. No surprise, he is still a trendsetter. Tojo was also one of the first sushi chefs to insist on using sustainable species, with others taking note. The ultimate splurge: Omakase, a chef’s table like no other.
Guu; Ki Modern Japanese; Miku; Hapa Izakaya.
1116 Robson St. 604-683-3383.
Upbeat and welcoming, these tasty spice-filled haunts offer a blend of classic and contemporary Thai cuisine in a modern setting. Regulars favour the generous combination dinners as well as inventive signature creations, such as boneless duck curry in whole coconut, boneless chicken with peanut sauce, or herb-grilled lamb chops. Also popular: highly affordable lunch specials.
Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine; Maenam.
Thomas Haas Chocolates and Patisserie
2539 W. Broadway. 604-736-1848.
Must-visit destinations for more discriminating chocolate and pastry lovers, Thomas Haas’s spotless and well-run North Shore and West Side deli-patisseries reward with a wealth of temptation, from truffles filled with every conceivable flavour to flaky almond croissants to the ultimate espresso. Obligatory take-away: fresh-made macarons in 12 flavours, from cassis to passion fruit to the unpredictable “macaron of the moment.”
CinCin; Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar; True Confections.
To view our Whistler winners, click here.
To vote for your favourite Vancouver and Whistler restaurants in our 2012 Where to Dine Awards, click here. You could win a fabulous prize package from Rocky Mountaineer and Nita Lake Lodge!