Award winners – Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Finder http://vanmag.com/restaurants Your ultimate guide to dining out in Vancouver. Thu, 10 Jan 2019 23:17:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Royal Dinette http://vanmag.com/restaurants/dinner/royal-dinette/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/dinner/royal-dinette/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 01:22:56 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/?p=3778 Royal Dinette, the newest venture from chef and restaurateur David Gunawan (Farmer’s Apprentice, Grapes & Soda), had people talking long before it opened its doors.

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Royal Dinette, the newest venture from chef and restaurateur David Gunawan (Farmer’s Apprentice, Grapes and Soda), had people talking long before it opened its doors. In partnering with the Donnelly Group—owner of more than a dozen local bars, pubs, and eateries—some questioned whether the visionary, independent-minded, locavore-focused Gunawan might be compromising his autonomy.

The room, which shares space with Donnelly’s Blackbird Public House and Oyster Bar, reinforces this impression. According to its website, Royal Dinette is meant to evoke “the laidback, informal atmosphere of a bygone diner.” But that would be a diner as only a high-budget restaurant designer could imagine it. I like the open kitchen, with all its culinary geekery on display: blowtorches and Rational ovens, ranks of squeeze bottles and plastic tubs. But with its green leather bar chairs, black and white marble, gilded pillars, and stag’s-head coat hooks, no nighthawk is ever going to order a blue-plate special and a cup of joe in this place.

Which doesn’t matter much, in part because of the killer team Gunawan has assembled: managers Chen-Wei Lee (formerly of Bao Bei, Chambar, Wildebeest) and Jonathan Therrien (Café Medina, Chambar), bar manager Wendy McGuinness (Chambar), and head chef Jack Chen (Bishop’s, Farmer’s Apprentice, L’Abattoir). That’s the SEAL Team Six of the Vancouver resto scene right there. And for the most part, what they delivered to the table when I visited (the offerings change frequently) was impressive in its innovation and technical exactitude.

The appetizers set a striking precedent. Smoked Castelvetrano olives napped with anchovy and lemon (a justifiably famous fixture of the menu at Farmer’s Apprentice) were a welcome offering here. Beef tartare was excellent, bedded on a light-green purée of sorrel and brown butter, and sprinkled with shavings of cured egg yolk plus smoked and dried beef-heart jerky. It might not make sense on paper, but it did on the palate.

Similarly, mains were a procession of revelation. Summer squash and peach are a strange pairing. Pistachio and Thai basil even more so. Colatura anchovy sauce is a flat-out weird accompaniment. But Chen put all of those things together on a single plate and it tasted great. We felt the same apprehension about capellini with duck confit, sauced with eggplant purée and miso butter. We ate it in a kind of curious silence, aware of a creative imagination at play in surprising and effective ways.

Not every combination nailed it, as is bound to be the case with this sort of cooking. A dish billed as Pacific Halibut, Grilled Octopus, Brassica, Smoked Pork, and Seaweed Broth (every dish is referenced on the menu simply as a list of its components) ate more or less as it read. Everything on the plate appeared to have been fastidiously assembled, but we came away thinking the dish might have been prepared by four cooks contributing their respective elements from different kitchens. Caramelized octopus, moist halibut, porky broth—great parts not quite equalling a coherent sum.

Another dish—Tamworth and Berkshire Pork, Grilled Treviso, Sweet Onion—left a similar impression. Nice flavours, its spicy tomatillos playing well with the onion. But the pork itself (oven-roasted, we were told) was distinctly chewy, seemingly having been smoked before roasting. And it wasn’t clear that the elements needed each other. Was it really a “dish,” a comprehensible whole, or a one-off coalescence of ideas you won’t necessarily think about, much less crave again, in future?

Desserts closed the show in the same vein: fine flavours in unexpected combinations. Dark chocolate sorbet was served with poached pear, fresh cheese, sorrel, and pecan. Summer berries came with goat’s-milk jam and sorbet, lime curd, cubeb pepper sablé, and shiso. A lot of what Royal Dinette is about can be understood by considering this last creation. It’s typical of the menu, punctuated with offhand references to items your average dining enthusiast wouldn’t know: bagna cauda, colatura, Treviso, brassicas. A cubeb pepper is an Indonesian tailed peppercorn, used here to impart an almost imperceptible flavouring to a cookie crumble that tops the dessert. It tasted great, but was not so essential that I would have remembered it without taking notes.

And that, in the end, may be the big takeaway from the Royal Dinette experience. This is food from the school of High Eclecticism—a kind of anti-diner aesthetic where every visit is about the element of surprise, not the comfortingly familiar. And while menus built this way—upon ever-changing, improvisational plates—are sure to have sensory impact in the moment, they don’t necessarily linger long in the memory.

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Cactus Club Café http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/cactus-club-cafe/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/cactus-club-cafe/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/cactus-club-cafe/ Two years ago, Cactus Club opened its English Bay location, and with its killer view, elevated wine list, and take-out stand with perpetual lineups, it seemed like casual fine dining had its Mt. Olympus. Well, meet the new boss. The chain’s Coal Harbour location is in many ways more impressive, given the occasionally moribund neighbourhood […]

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Two years ago, Cactus Club opened its English Bay location, and with its killer view, elevated wine list, and take-out stand with perpetual lineups, it seemed like casual fine dining had its Mt. Olympus. Well, meet the new boss. The chain’s Coal Harbour location is in many ways more impressive, given the occasionally moribund neighbourhood it occupies. Despite its cavernous space (it seats 600) it’s always packed with acolytes of chef Rob Feenie’s sablefish or his barbecue duck clubhouse. The best part (other than the view) is the juiced-up wine list, which features such enticers as Caymus Special Selection at less than double markup.

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Cinara http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/cinara/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/cinara/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/cinara/ Even if you don’t know chef Lucais Syme and the approachable northern Italian fare he served at La Quercia and La Pentola della Quercia, you’ll know from the name of this Crosstown restaurant (Latin for ÒartichokeÓ) that simplicity is a core value. The room is casual (wood floors, exposed brick, grandmotherly mismatched china), the service […]

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Even if you don’t know chef Lucais Syme and the approachable northern Italian fare he served at La Quercia and La Pentola della Quercia, you’ll know from the name of this Crosstown restaurant (Latin for ÒartichokeÓ) that simplicity is a core value. The room is casual (wood floors, exposed brick, grandmotherly mismatched china), the service is friendly and prompt, and the menu matches the vibe. The menu Syme and his wife, fellow chef and co-owner Gillian Book, offer changes often to reflect what’s fresh and in season, so anything we might recommend likely won’t be available when you drop in. But their creations are always grounded in traditional European cooking, still emphasizing northern Italy but with a greater sense of adventure than before. In our 24/7 Diners, Drive-ins and Dives flavour-bomb era, the simplicity championed here might seem underwhelming, but when the kitchen makes the most of two or three familiar ingredients and presents with exemplary care and technique, it’s worth more than all the show-off cooking going on elsewhere.

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Revolver Coffee http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/revolver-coffee/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/revolver-coffee/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/revolver/ Few do coffee this seriously, and even better, they aren’t the least evangelical, despite their seven different brew methods and curated beans.

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A gorgeous chapel dedicated to the art of coffee-making from four brothers (Matt, George, John, Chris), scions all of the Giannakos family that begat West Vancouver’s always busy Crema. The room is a testament to how much vintage, woody charm can be squeezed into a diminutive, kitchenless 50-seater. Coffee and pastries are had on ceiling-suspended bench booths under three world maps painstakingly created with silver and copper-coloured nails. The crew love their classic vinyl, so expect to hear some. Few do coffee this seriously, and even better, they aren’t the least evangelical, despite their seven different brew methods and curated beans ground á la minute per order. It’s expensive but rapturous.

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Memphis Blues http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/memphis-blues/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/memphis-blues/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/memphis-blues/ If you want to prank vegetarian friends, take them to Memphis Blues and remove the blindfolds just as the Priscilla platter hits the table: a glorious, heaping mess of the usual smoked meats (pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, sausage), along with oysters, catfish, and shrimp. It’s enough to feed the starting lineup of a baseball […]

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If you want to prank vegetarian friends, take them to Memphis Blues and remove the blindfolds just as the Priscilla platter hits the table: a glorious, heaping mess of the usual smoked meats (pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, sausage), along with oysters, catfish, and shrimp. It’s enough to feed the starting lineup of a baseball team, and it’s the city’s best barbecue. The growth of the chain, from an outlet on Broadway to six locations today, attests to the winning combination of meaty fare, low prices, and an appealingly funky vibe. Video.Vanmag.com

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El Camino’s http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/el-caminos/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/el-caminos/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/el-caminos/ Nothing like a revolution to cure thirst and hunger translates the Spanish phrase emblazoned across the wall at El Camino’s. On Taco Tuesdays, a pinché taco duo sets you back only $5, try the pescado with fried baja cod. Arepas and bocadillos pair with a pint of Main St Pilsner for $10 on Wednesdays and […]

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Nothing like a revolution to cure thirst and hunger translates the Spanish phrase emblazoned across the wall at El Camino’s. On Taco Tuesdays, a pinché taco duo sets you back only $5, try the pescado with fried baja cod. Arepas and bocadillos pair with a pint of Main St Pilsner for $10 on Wednesdays and Sundays, respectively these crispy grilled masa pockets and Mexican-style sub sandwiches are perfect beer snacks, filled with juicy carnitas (achiote pulled pork), chorizo sausage, or carne guisada (braised beef short rib). Wine list focuses on Chile and Argentina, while Nick Devine’s cocktail list leans heavily on Latin classics backed by one of the city’s most comprehensive tequila selections.

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The Mexican Corner http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/the-mexican-corner/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/the-mexican-corner/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/the-mexican-corner/ What used to be a simple taco joint at the south end of the village is now a vibrant full-service restaurant at the base of Whistler Mountain with a killer margarita list. In a resort where not much exists between fine dining and fast food, Mexican Corner fills the gap admirably, as evidenced by the […]

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What used to be a simple taco joint at the south end of the village is now a vibrant full-service restaurant at the base of Whistler Mountain with a killer margarita list. In a resort where not much exists between fine dining and fast food, Mexican Corner fills the gap admirably, as evidenced by the constant line-ups (leave your number and they’ll text you when your table is ready). The kitchen prides himself on bringing modern twists to authentic pre- and post-Hispanic dishes, whether perking up guacamole with sparkling, jewel-like pomegranate seeds, or adding the crunch of pumpkin seeds to a tuna tartare. For a taste that will transport you straight to central Mexico, don’t miss the lamb mixote with pasilla and guajillo peppers, steamed in banana leaves. Washed down with one (or three) of those cocktails, of course.

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Wolf in the Fog http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/wolf-in-the-fog/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/wolf-in-the-fog/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/wolf-in-the-fog/ Chef Nick Nutting steers a hyper-local menu with global accents, big on seafood and creativity, and served on whimsical mismatched china. Oysters wrapped in crispy potato with corn puree and hints of truffle make a great start, followed by a revelatory take on beef tartare with North African spices and crunchy peanuts, or seared Albacore […]

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Chef Nick Nutting steers a hyper-local menu with global accents, big on seafood and creativity, and served on whimsical mismatched china. Oysters wrapped in crispy potato with corn puree and hints of truffle make a great start, followed by a revelatory take on beef tartare with North African spices and crunchy peanuts, or seared Albacore served with guanciale, espelette pepper, and orange. Sharing plates for the gang are the bomb: the ÒSpanish PicnicÓ sees a traditional Romesco sauce draped around squid, spot prawns, mussels, and pan-seared rock cod. A nice long bar offers fun cocktails that twist the classics a whisky sour with cedar-infused rye will have you howling at the moon, or keep the vibe convivial with a spirit-fueled punch bowl for two to six people. Start your morning in the main-floor den with locally roasted coffee and house-made pastries.

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Waterfront Wines http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/waterfront-restaurant-and-wine-bar/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/waterfront-restaurant-and-wine-bar/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/waterfront-restaurant-and-wine-bar/ One of our favourites in the Okanagan Valley, Waterfront Wines is not, in fact, on any body of water. It’s next door to its excellent companion wine shop and the nearby Prospera Place. The menu is a model of simplicity: choose from among 10 or so starters, such as potted foie gras or elk tartare. Main […]

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One of our favourites in the Okanagan Valley, Waterfront Wines is not, in fact, on any body of water. It’s next door to its excellent companion wine shop and the nearby Prospera Place. The menu is a model of simplicity: choose from among 10 or so starters, such as potted foie gras or elk tartare. Main courses range from duck breast with mushroom ravioli to ragout of sprouted beans peas with Romesco sauce.

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Nook http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/nook/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/nook/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/nook/ Riding the success of the original location on Denman Street (as well as sibling restaurant Tavola), Nook’s second home, in Kitsilano, has quickly become one of the neighbourhoods busiest spots. Easy to see why, with a formula aimed at keeping the uber-casual, beach-going clientele happy and well fed. There’s a dining room and a separate […]

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Riding the success of the original location on Denman Street (as well as sibling restaurant Tavola), Nook’s second home, in Kitsilano, has quickly become one of the neighbourhoods busiest spots. Easy to see why, with a formula aimed at keeping the uber-casual, beach-going clientele happy and well fed. There’s a dining room and a separate takeout space, allowing guests to wait for a table (no reservations) or just grab a pizza and salad to go. Mains are carb-based, but sides of meatballs in rich tomato sauce and daily salami keep the protein quotient up. Pizzas are great—nicely charred and authentically sparse of topping—while pastas like tonnarelli cacao pepe are simple yet effective.

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