Award winners – Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Finder http://vanmag.com/restaurants Your ultimate guide to dining out in Vancouver. Fri, 16 Feb 2018 22:16:53 +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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Burgoo http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/burgoo/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/burgoo/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/burgoo/ There’s nothing better on a rainy day than a steaming bowl of Burgoo’s hearty comfort food, like beef bourguignon, ratatouille Provenal, or even good ol’ mac and cheese with aged white cheddar. Big-cup soups like yummy carrot with cardamom and corn-and-chicken chowder with cilantro creme fraiche fill you up without emptying your wallet. The Main […]

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There’s nothing better on a rainy day than a steaming bowl of Burgoo’s hearty comfort food, like beef bourguignon, ratatouille Provenal, or even good ol’ mac and cheese with aged white cheddar. Big-cup soups like yummy carrot with cardamom and corn-and-chicken chowder with cilantro creme fraiche fill you up without emptying your wallet. The Main Street location has an excellent patio.

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Cibo Trattoria http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/cibo-trattoria/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/cibo-trattoria/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/cibo-trattoria/ This sexy Italian trat in the Moda Hotel turned plenty of heads even before enRoute named it Canada’s best new restaurant in 2009

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This sexy Italian trat in the Moda Hotel turned plenty of heads even before enRoute named it Canada’s best new restaurant in 2009

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Medina Café http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/medina-cafe/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/medina-cafe/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/medina-cafe/ Virtually since the day it opened in 2008, Medina has been one of the most consistently busy breakfast and brunch spots in VancouverÑrepeat visitors know to expect the sight of a queue out the door. But the wait (which is always worth it) should be less frequent following the relocation to a much larger space […]

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Virtually since the day it opened in 2008, Medina has been one of the most consistently busy breakfast and brunch spots in VancouverÑrepeat visitors know to expect the sight of a queue out the door. But the wait (which is always worth it) should be less frequent following the relocation to a much larger space off the lobby of L’Hermitage Hotel. The relative intimacy of the former room is gone (and with it any chance of a quiet meal), but the menu’s star attractions remain, plus some delicious additions: short-rib fricassée (or a vegetarian version with sherry roasted mushrooms), warm little Belgian waffles with addictive toppings (milk-chocolate lavender should be sold in bottles), poached eggs with spicy lamb meatballs, superb coffee. Service remains as polished as ever, and a full bar means you can now enjoy a civilized adult beverage with your midday nosh.

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Maenam http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/maenam/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/maenam/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/maenam/ Maenam (which translates as “mother water”) dishes some of the most authentic Thai food Vancouver has yet seen. Chef Angus An, who trained under chef David Thompson at the world’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant (Nahm in London), applies his affections for locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to the traditions of the Thai royal house. Beyond […]

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Maenam (which translates as “mother water”) dishes some of the most authentic Thai food Vancouver has yet seen. Chef Angus An, who trained under chef David Thompson at the world’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant (Nahm in London), applies his affections for locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to the traditions of the Thai royal house. Beyond the real-deal pad Thai, aim for the grilled Thai sausage with crispy rice, followed by whichever curry is currently being served (cross your fingers for duck).

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Suika Snack Bar http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/suika-snack-bar/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/suika-snack-bar/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/suika-snack-bar/ Fun Japanese food from the people who operate the much-admired Kingyo in the West End. Suika takes more kooky chances and has more of a contemporary, party atmosphere. Favourites include the Chinese poutine (topped with spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, and chili oil), and corn kakiage (organic niblets fried with cilantro, soy sauce, and butter). […]

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Fun Japanese food from the people who operate the much-admired Kingyo in the West End. Suika takes more kooky chances and has more of a contemporary, party atmosphere. Favourites include the Chinese poutine (topped with spicy ground pork sauce, mozzarella, and chili oil), and corn kakiage (organic niblets fried with cilantro, soy sauce, and butter). Few items are above $15 most are under $10.

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Zen Japanese Restaurant http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/zen-japanese-restaurant/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/zen-japanese-restaurant/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/zen-japanese-restaurant/ Aficionados cross the bridge to join West Van locals for innovative, artfully plated dishes. The Stuffed Tomato is a jewel-like lead-in, a nigiri-style wrap of ahi tuna around spicy scallop filling, topped with pearls of wasabi-infused tobiko. Tickle your taste buds with the Hamachi Peak, combining yellowtail, shiso, and green onion in a tempura-crisped tofu-crepe […]

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Aficionados cross the bridge to join West Van locals for innovative, artfully plated dishes. The Stuffed Tomato is a jewel-like lead-in, a nigiri-style wrap of ahi tuna around spicy scallop filling, topped with pearls of wasabi-infused tobiko. Tickle your taste buds with the Hamachi Peak, combining yellowtail, shiso, and green onion in a tempura-crisped tofu-crepe blanket drizzled with sweet soy reduction. Tails Up! is a small school of lightly battered kisu (Japanese whitefish) stuffed with spot-prawn p‰té, then halved and upended in pools of spicy saikyo miso sauce with balsamic reduction.

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The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/the-pointe-at-the-wickaninnish-inn/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/the-pointe-at-the-wickaninnish-inn/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/the-pointe-at-the-wickaninnish-inn/ A gorgeous cedar room tastefully appointed with art provides lofty views above Chesterman Beach and the crashing waves of Tofino. Accomplished land- and sea-based fare includes albacore escabeche with fennel, basil, and honey water and pig tail with soused cherries and licorice crumble. The wine list represents the shores of B.C., Baja, and beyond, plus […]

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A gorgeous cedar room tastefully appointed with art provides lofty views above Chesterman Beach and the crashing waves of Tofino. Accomplished land- and sea-based fare includes albacore escabeche with fennel, basil, and honey water and pig tail with soused cherries and licorice crumble. The wine list represents the shores of B.C., Baja, and beyond, plus there’s a formidable scotch list.

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Little Jumbo http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/little-jumbo/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/award-winners/little-jumbo/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/little-jumbo/ When revolutionary barman Shawn Soole set his sights on opening a restaurant in 2013, Victoria knew it would be something not seen locally before. This was, after all, the guy who put the city onto the international stage for its craft cocktail culture, and the bar was high. Now, down the hall at the foot […]

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When revolutionary barman Shawn Soole set his sights on opening a restaurant in 2013, Victoria knew it would be something not seen locally before. This was, after all, the guy who put the city onto the international stage for its craft cocktail culture, and the bar was high. Now, down the hall at the foot of Fort Street, this speakeasy-style restaurant is the place to enjoy imaginative, well-made drinks alongside comforting small plates made with locally sourced ingredients. Dishes change as often as the weather, and are based on the Peninsula’s producers and Victoria’s top curators. The sharp wine list favours B.C. and boutique, with numerous by-the-glass options.

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Damso Modern Korean Cuisine http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/damso-modern-korean-cuisine/ http://vanmag.com/restaurants/uncategorized/damso-modern-korean-cuisine/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://vanmag.com/restaurants/2015/04/15/damso-modern-korean-cuisine/ Translated from Korean, damso means having small conversation with friends and loved ones, and chef Eric Lee encourages guests to linger over his innovative dishes. If it’s tapas-style dining you’re after, choose from small plates like DFC (Damso fried chicken) coated with yangnyum-style chili sauce or panko-crusted calamari filled with spicy fried rice. Or roll […]

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Translated from Korean, damso means having small conversation with friends and loved ones, and chef Eric Lee encourages guests to linger over his innovative dishes. If it’s tapas-style dining you’re after, choose from small plates like DFC (Damso fried chicken) coated with yangnyum-style chili sauce or panko-crusted calamari filled with spicy fried rice. Or roll up your sleeves to tackle larger plates: kalbee osso buco is a hearty braise of AAA beef ribs, and Korean seafood bouillabaisse is a bubbling hot pot of lobster, prawns, scallops, squid, and mussels. An ice-cold Hite beer or a maple-yuju Korean mojito will quickly quench the flames.

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