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Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House

5 Hot Oyster Restaurants in Vancouver

Bivalves at Oyster Express. Photo by KK Law

We love our “R” months, hailed as prime time for oysters (although, these days, you can indeed get great oysters all year round). Check out these five top shuckers.
Oyster Express This smart, compact newbie on an unlikely corner in Chinatown offers a dozen different kinds daily, along with a classic prawn cocktail (pictured).
Rodney’s Oyster House Discover down-home hospitality, plus steamers and chowders, in a funky Yaletown warehouse setting.
Joe Fortes Downtown’s original San Francisco–style seafooder is still shuckin’ for a lively after-work crowd around its horseshoe bar.
Merchant’s Oyster Bar New on the Drive. Find fresh-shucked and baked but also a full menu, with cod en papillote, boudin (sausage) au mer and more.
Oyster Seafood & Raw Bar This diminutive but cute spot is tucked away on the ground floor of an art deco building. Buck a shuck daily from 3 to 7 p.m.—Tim Pawsey

 

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Hot Dining: Where Recognizes Retiring Restaurateur Bud Kanke

Bud Kanke

By Tim Pawsey

The restaurant biz can be precarious at the best of times. But few have enjoyed as much success as Vancouver’s Bud Kanke, who this year retired after conceiving, co-designing and nurturing no less than 11 restaurants over 41 years. A chartered accountant by trade originally, the ever-sanguine Kanke considers that, along the way, eight were successful.

(more…)

Hot Dining: Seafood Specialists

Artful seafood at world-renowned Tojo's. Photo by KK Law

Vancouver baits foodies from around the world with its oceanside locale and access to the freshest fish. For this seafood savant, top spots to taste saltwater succulents include Tojo’s (pictured), for buttery sashimi; Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, for oysters by the dozen; and Coast Restaurant, for line-caught fish.—Kristina Urquhart

Hot Dining: Top Vancouver Restaurants to Eat Oysters

Oysters at Monk McQueens. Photo by KK Law

Superb Shellfish

Whether or not you believe the old adage about eating oysters only in months containing the letter “R,” November is a win-win. Enjoy waterfront views at Monk McQueens (pictured) while slurping succulent BC bivalves on ice. If you prefer these molluscs cooked, the oysters Rockefeller is a tasty choice. Other top spots for these freshly shucked shellfish include Coast Restaurant, Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House and Yew.—Kristina Urquhart

More information:

MONK MCQUEENS FRESH SEAFOOD AND OYSTER BAR Patio, Where to Dine Awards 2010. $$-$$$. L (M-F), D (daily), brunch (Sa-Su). 601 Stamp’s Landing. 604-877-1351. www.monkmcqueens.com (more…)

Hot Dining: Oysters R Us

Oysters at Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House. Photo by KK Law

Whether you like them freshly shucked on the half shell or reincarnated as Angels on Horseback, more than 15 varieties—from Chef’s Creek to Kusshi to Royal Miyagi—confirm BC as an oyster lover’s paradise. Connoisseurs head for the gleaming brass and mahogany bar at Joe Fortes (pictured) for one of the city’s best raw plates. Prefer them cooked? Opt for oysters Rockefeller, with spinach, pernod and Hollandaise, or oysters Kilpatrick, with bacon, Worcester sauce and scallions. Other notable bivalve boosters include view-kissed Monk McQueens, Coast, The Boathouse and Rodney’s Oyster House.—Tim Pawsey

Hot Dining: 5 Secret Patios

The sophisticated patio at Goldfish Pacific Kitchen. Photo by KK Law

1 Joe Fortes The tastefully adorned, plant-filled, rooftop garden sits above busy Robson Street at Thurlow.
2 Goldfish Cozy couches beckon from the back of this Asian-inclined West Coaster.
3 Gotham This discreet alfresco hideaway is mere steps from Pacific Centre.
4 Dockside Granville Island’s “other” brewery offers refreshing, waterside ales.
5 Cardero’s This sun-soaked afternoon escape in Coal Harbour lures with crispy wok squid and sesame-crusted albacore tuna.—Tim Pawsey

2009 Where to Dine Awards

By Tim Pawsey// Photos by KK Law

With its rich diversity of year-round local ingredients, from fresh seafood to artisan cheeses, Vancouver has emerged as an international culinary destination. Every year, Where Vancouver surveys readers to find out just which dishes, settings and service left a lasting impression—tastes that linger in the memory well beyond the trip home. And, once again, our well-travelled voters proved the great dining we enjoy here is a vibrant and flavour-filled reflection of this all-embracing, multicultural community.

READERS’ CHOICE

Caprese salad and spicy Kobe meatballs, at Italian Kitchen

ITALIAN
Italian Kitchen
1037 Alberni St. 604-687-2858.
Upbeat ambience and down-to-earth flavours rule at this lively two-tier room that appeals as much for its bar scene as for its multiregional fare. Drop in for a mixed antipasto platter at the dazzling 18-m (60-ft) white marble long bar, and stay for veal scaloppine with Braseola, penne arrabbiata or crab-stuffed prawns, each matched with a vintage from the well-stocked, glass-walled cellar. Must have: the spicy Kobe meatballs.
Honourable Mentions
CinCin
Il Giardino Di Umberto

FRENCH
Le Crocodile
909 Burrard St. 604-669-4298.
A long-running Francophile favourite, Michel Jacob’s burgundy-and-mustard-toned room delivers authentic bistro fare, often with a nod to the chef’s hometown dining mecca of Strasbourg. Top tastes include tarte à l’oignon, foie gras terrine, grilled veal medallions, rack of lamb with mustard sabayon, and wild salmon with saffron velouté. Wines roam from Alsace to the Okanagan, while service, ever thorough, is always discreet. Best-kept secret: authentic Dover sole with beurre blanc.
Honourable Mentions
Lumière
Le Gavroche

OTHER EUROPEAN
Chambar Belgian Restaurant
562 Beatty St. 604-879-7119.
This popular pre- and post-show room continues to evolve, now with its own Chambar Ale, an always-busy private room and The Dirty Apron Cooking School. Settle in for slow-cooked lamb tagine with honey, figs, cinnamon and cilantro; moules frites Congolaise; or bison carpaccio drizzled in truffle oil. This art-festooned heritage room feels just like being in Brussels—minus the airfare. Inside scoop: the city’s best Belgian waffles at next-door sibling Cafe Medina.
Honourable Mentions
The William Tell Restaurant
Jagerhof Schnitzel House

CHINESE

Delectable dim sum at Kirin Mandarin Restaurant

Kirin Mandarin Restaurant
1166 Alberni St. 604-682-8833.
A soaring three-storey atrium welcomes diners to this downtown room, celebrated for its authentic Northern Chinese fare, including the renowned Peking duck, as well as fresh King crab and lobster plucked from live tanks. Regulars pack in for mid-day dim sum, while larger parties choose the affordable but inventive set menus. Top taste: roast suckling pig.
Honourable Mentions
Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant
Wild Rice

JAPANESE
Tojo’s
1133 W. Broadway. 604-872-8050.
The man who kick-started Vancouver’s sushi craze—which shows no sign of letting up—was also the first sushi chef to feature West Coast, as opposed to imported, ingredients. Tojo’s celebrated cuisine is becoming increasingly sustainable. Must-have: the omakase, the ultimate Japanese experience, where the chef cooks what he wants for you.
Honourable Mentions
ShuRaku
Guu

OTHER ASIAN
Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine
1096 Denman St. 604-683-3333.
These cheerful and colourfully decorated affordable haunts celebrate the culinary crossroads of Straits cuisine. Laksa (the spicy Malaysian broth and seafood staple) is a mainstay but so too are Hainanese chicken, black cod in caramelized ginger sauce and rendang curried beef. Top tastes: the prix fixe for six, which adds up to a menu-wide sampler.
Honourable Mentions
Thai House
Phnom Penh Restaurant

INDIAN
Vij’s
1480 W. 11th Ave. 604-736-6664.
Vikram Vij, the man credited with bringing modern Indian cuisine to Canada, continues to dazzle with his unique and flavourful style. Go early to avoid the inevitable late-evening wait, and savour celebrated tastes such as curried organic chicken liver paté, mutton kebabs or spot prawns and halibut in coconut lemon curry.  Don’t miss: the famous fenugreek-cream curried lamb “popsicles.”
Honourable Mentions
Maurya Indian Cuisine
Rangoli

Filet mignon with crab legs and asparagus, at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar


STEAK

The Keg Steakhouse and Bar
1011 Mainland St. 604-633-2534.
Legendary for consistency and value, The Keg—which has its roots in Vancouver—continues to impress. Go for the New York strip; the baseball top sirloin with shrimp, scallops and Béarnaise; and the lively bar scene. Granville Island, Thurlow near Robson and Yaletown (with its tiered fireplaces) are all popular locations. Don’t miss: sirloin topped with Dungeness crab.
Honourable Mentions
Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar
Hy’s Encore

SEAFOOD
Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton St. 604-688-8078.
East meets west at this Yaletown hotspot, where executive chef Frank Pabst focuses on less well-known sustainable species such as sardine and jellyfish, while sushi chef Yoshi Tabo presides over the raw bar. Highlights range from sablefish with miso sake glaze to coffee-and-ancho-braised Kobe-style short ribs, enjoyed in a heritage red-brick-and-beam setting. The lure: the seafood tower.
Honourable Mentions
The Boathouse Restaurant
Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House

HOTEL DINING & BAR
Yew Restaurant
Four Seasons Hotel, 791 W. Georgia St. 604-692-4939.
The Four Seasons’ gorgeous wood-trimmed room lures the power crowd and celebrities, who come for inspired Pacific Northwest plates, served with flair in a dramatic setting. Want to make friends? Try the communal table. If you’re the exhibitionist type, book the all-glass semi-private room. Highlights range from seared halibut cheek with dashi broth to lobster chowder to roast duck with caramelized shallot tart. Insider scoop: one of downtown’s best coffees.
Honourable Mentions
Market by Jean-Georges
Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge

TAPAS/SMALL PLATE
Bin 941
941 Davie St. 604-683-1246.
Owner/chef Gord Martin’s diminutive haunt ignited a small-plates revolution that swept the continent. A loyal clientele still packs into the friendly room for well-presented plates such as beef tenderloin with grainy mustard masala sauce, and steamed Cortes Island mussels with chorizo and smoked tomato broth. Insider’s perch: a seat right at the bar, overlooking the stove, where you can watch the chefs at work.
Honourable Mentions
La Bodega Restaurante & Tapa Bar
Guu

PUB FARE
Pourhouse
162 Water St. 604-568-7022.
“Don’t call me a mixologist, I’m a bartender!” says Pourhouse co-owner Jay Jones, whose specialty is the Gold Fashioned. Sit at the handmade, 8-m (27-ft) bar for lighter plates, or settle into the gently formal dining lounge for Sloping Hill pork ’n’ beans, local halibut with shaved fennel, or roasted Fraser Valley chicken vol-au-vent. Don’t miss: the six-course chef’s table with wines to match.
Honourable Mentions
Doolin’s Irish Pub
Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant

BUDGET BITES
White Spot
580 W. Georgia St. 604-662-3066.
It can be challenging to have kids in tow when travelling, but these family-friendly rooms—which started out as a 1928 drive-in—have a history of serving nutritious, affordable fare. Traditional favourites such as beef dip, turkey dinners, clam chowder and the famous burger with Triple O sauce now share the menu with more eclectic tastes such as prawns tempura and chicken quesadilla. The hook: the Pirate Pak meal in a boat for kids.
Honourable Mentions
Vera’s Burger Shack
Cactus Club Cafe

WEST COAST
West
2881 Granville St. 604-738-8938.

Squid a la plancha with squid ink aioli, at WestWest2881 Granville St. 604-738-8938.

The fare at this definitive West Coast room, with its open kitchen and expansive bar, complements its clean and minimalist lines. The ingenious menu changes with the season, based on available, local ingredients such as Pemberton Meadows strip loin with espresso-scented celeriac purée or Queen Charlotte Island halibut with Read Island clam chowder. Insiders go for: the vegetarian tasting menu or the early-bird prix fixe.
Honourable Mentions
Coast Restaurant
Salmon House on the Hill
Raincity Grill

LAST COURSE
Thomas Haas Chocolates and Patisserie
2539 W. Broadway. 604-736-1848.
True truffle hounds head to these dessert outposts, one tucked away in an industrial corner of North Vancouver, the other next to good friend Daniel Boulud’s west side db Bistro Moderne. Make the trip for extraordinary chocolate morsels filled with every flavour imaginable, but also double-baked almond croissants and superb espresso—with chocolate sparkle cookies, of course. Don’t miss: the free samples of truffles given out most days.
Honourable Mentions
True Confections
Sweet Obsession Cakes and Pastries

CRITICS’ CHOICE

WHERE SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD AWARD
The Observatory
6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver. 604-998-4402.
It seems fitting that this mountaintop room, which lays the entire coastline of the Lower Mainland at your feet, should win Ocean Wise’s Sustainable Seafood Award for working so conscientiously to help preserve our marine species. Settle into your table at 1128 m (3,701 ft) to enjoy such local and sustainable tastes as house-smoked oysters, spring salmon lasagne and halibut with fingerling potatoes, all served against the dazzling backdrop of the city far below.

GREEN TABLE AWARD
Cactus Club Cafe
588 Burrard St. 604-682-0933.
“While some may have ‘greener’ menus, or more reclaimed wood tables,” says Green Table executive director André LaRivière, “as yet, no one but Cactus Club has established sustainable policies and practices across all of its 21 locations. Sustainability has become an essential part of the Cactus Club culture, and a measure of their success for its management and staff. We need many more restaurant groups to follow their lead.”

The 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. The Green Table Award is conferred on a restaurant that promotes sustainability in food service at all levels of its operation, as determined by the organization’s executive.

Assorted chocolates, squares and truffles, at Thomas Haas Chocolates and Patisserie

BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2009
Cibo Trattoria
Moda Hotel, 900 Seymour St. 604-602-9570.
Combine the best of Italian cuisine with soundly sourced West Coast ingredients and you have the foundation for Cibo Trattoria, a lively spot in the smartly restored Moda Hotel. Dishes may include agnolotti of suckling pig and veal, baked halibut with black trompette mushrooms, and roast ling cod with young asparagus—all paired with an astutely chosen wine list of Italian and BC bottles. Don’t miss: Uva Wine Bar and Red Card Sports Bar + Eatery, both right next door.

Other Notable Newcomers
Au Petit Chavignol
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
Cafe Barcelona
The Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe
db Bistro Moderne
Lumière
Judas Goat Taberna
La Brasserie
Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca
Market by Jean-Georges
Maenam
Miku
Mis Trucos
Nook Restaurant
Oru
Voya Restaurant and Lounge

BIRKS SILVER SERVICE AWARD
Coast Restaurant
1054 Alberni St. 604-685-5010.
This dazzling new space—with its circular bar and hip O Lounge—is more than just a pretty face. Nobody knows (or hears) more about the overall guest experience than Vancouver’s concierge community, which honours this buzz-worthy room with its coveted Birks Silver Service Award. On the menu: everything from fish ’n’ chips to Dungeness crab cakes to line-caught chum salmon, all served with a fine melange of polish and pizzazz.

EDITOR’S CHOICE
Il Giardino di Umberto
1382 Hornby St. 604-669-2422.
Since 1973, Umberto Menghi has helped set the pace for Italian dining in Vancouver. Today the “little yellow house,” with its cozy, multi-tiered, terracotta interior, still lures the glitterati with its romantic surroundings and power-lunch scene. Few settings can compare to the vine-wrapped, well-concealed terrace for a lingering summer meal, truly an oasis in the heart of the city. Wow factor: succulent, tender osso buco with 2006 Sassicaia.

TOP DROPS

Lesser-known BC wines from smaller producers can be hard to find but are often available at either VQA or private wine stores. What to look for? Any on this list would be a welcome addition to any cellar.

Cassini Cellars Chardonnay
Fairview Cellars The Bear
Foxtrot Pinot Noir
La Frenz Shiraz
Laughing Stock Portfolio
JoieFarm Riesling
Poplar Grove Syrah
Quinta Ferreira Obra-Prima
Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir
Twisted Tree Six Vines