25 Vancouver treats to try this year
We surveyed a selection of insatiable gourmands to find 25 local treats they reach for when temptation calls
August 18, 2015
1. RAJIO BAR SKEWERS
$1.50 TO $1.90
The Kingyo restaurant group’s homage to all things Osaka focuses on kushikatsu: the skewering of seemingly anything edible (from octopus balls to Camembert) and deep-frying it. Here skewers are served with a communal dipping jug full of umami-heavy tonkatsu sauce (and an admonition never to double-dip). Go for the Kurobuta pork sausage.
Rajio Public House
3763 W. 10th Ave.
2. LOIS LAKE STEELHEAD CEVICHE
The delicate flesh of the sea-run trout isn’t an obvious choice for a near-raw dish, but the preparation—little fillets, not cubes—and the addition of crunchy chayote, sweet lychee, bracing mint, and jalapeño turn this into a wonderfully complex take on a classic starter.
261 Powell St.
3. MATCHA PARFAIT
We’ve long been at a loss as to how we might describe the diminutive Shishinori, tucked beneath the Home Depot near the bustling Cambie/Broadway intersection. Its wildly inventive pan-Asian menu reaches its peak with this hilariously overappointed confection of matcha soft-serve, mochi balls, fruit, Pocky, and oh-so-much more.
4. GRILLED THAI SAUSAGE AND CRISPY RICE SALAD
Chef Angus An’s signature riff on traditional Thai yam naem khao tod. The house-fermented sausage, redolent of garlic and chilies, is tossed with cilantro, lemongrass, fried shallots, and crunchy curried rice puffs, delivering incredible depth of flavour and off-the-charts umami.
1938 W. Fourth Ave.
5. DUNGENESS CRAB
It’s hard to think of a more iconic West Coast summertime scenario than digging into sweet, cold Dungeness crab. Call ahead and the Fish Counter team will do the full prep for you. (Tip: the house saffron aioli or classic red-wine mignonette makes a perfect dipping sauce.)
The Fish Counter
3825 Main St.
6. REVOLVER COLD BREW
Vancouver’s most endearingly obsessive coffee dorks devote as much attention to their seasonal cold-brew concentrate as they do to their made-to-order espresso drinks. The result of 12 hours of brewing, the heady, complex elixir is bottled immediately. Enjoy it neat over ice or lightly diluted with milk.
325 Cambie St.
7. BUN CHA NOODLE SOUP
Light and refreshing, this North Vietnamese soup comes with vermicelli bundled in a basket stuffed with fresh lemon, mint, and cilantro—just help yourself. Ladle out the clear sweet-and-sour fish broth, bobbing with tender pork balls and smoky grilled belly. Season with salty nuoc cham and chili-infused rice vinegar. Bliss.
8. FRIED BAJA COD BOCADILLO
The banh mi has long proven that North America has failed miserably in terms of its submarine-sandwich ingenuity. Latin America’s variation, the bocadillo, is another pin in our balloon. At El Camino’s, beautifully fried cod is piled onto crusty bread with pickled cabbage, fresh lettuce and tomato, and a slick of smoked-chili tartar sauce. Eat this, Jared.
3250 Main St.
9. JAWS BAO
Thanks to Gastown’s newest dispenser of hifalutin fast food, our current addiction is the bao, described elsewhere in this issue as the Asian equivalent of the soft taco (see pg. 36). Especially good (and especially summer-appropriate) is this iteration, with coconut-crusted catfish, cabbage, microgreens, and the acidic kick of kimchi tartar sauce.
12 Powell St.
10. COLD NOODLE SALAD
When the weather’s hot enough to make hipsters doff their toques, Harvest’s specials board invariably features a refreshing cold noodle salad. Whether with soba, rice, or glass noodles, each slurp-tastic bowl includes a rotating selection of local ingredients accented by Japanese-inspired elements such as shiso, smoked tofu, and umeboshi vinaigrette.
Harvest Community Foods
243 Union St.
11. PUPUSA PLATTER
Locally, the addictive cuisine of El Salvador could rarely be found beyond the Drive until the Guanaco truck began roaming our streets. Yes, that is an actual Salvadoran matriarch tending the mobile kitchen; watch her make your pupusa—a thick corn tortilla stuffed with your choice of fillings (one word: chorizo)—and serve it alongside revelatory cassava fries and a palate-cleansing slaw.
12. POTATO BUNS
Summertime grilling calls for a superior sandwich bun. Earthy-tasting and pillowy-soft, these mini buns (from local company La Baguette et L’Échalote) come parbaked, which allows you to pop them into an oven or onto a barbecue and customize the texture: springy (to soak up the juices of pulled pork) or crusty (for, say, a burger with grilled tomatillo slices).
At specialty grocers, including Whole Foods (Wholefoodsmarket.com)
13. CULMINA UNICUS
As the Okanagan struggles to find its signature grape, Don Triggs’s new Culmina winery makes a forceful case for grüner veltliner. The Austrian grape may be little-known here, but this bottle, with its explosion of white pepper and lime peel, may just turn gru-vee (the grape’s terrible nickname) into the next big thing.
14. MS. MARY’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE
The texture is a fistful of childhood, but the flavour is grown-up decadence, thanks to brown butter infused with generous cinnamon and cardamom. All together, this sweet dazzler—named for the owner of the kitchen where it was developed—puts your standard Toll House in the shade. Match it with a Finnish pulla made from the same sweet base.
3699 Main St.
15. MUL NAENGMYUN
A classic Korean
dish: delicate buckwheat noodles served in an icy, clear beef broth sweetened with Asian pear and topped with cucumber, pickled radish, a thin slice of brisket, and a hard-boiled egg. Add a dab of hot mustard for a refreshing yet nourishing meal.
Royal Seoul House
1215 W. Broadway
16. HALLOUMI MEZZE
Halloumi is, without exaggeration, a miracle: nicely yielding to the bite, mild but not meek, the Cypriot cheese can be applied directly to a grill and emerges firm, golden, and gloriously crusted. Nuba serves it (at dinner only) with tomato, mint, and a pomegranate-nut dressing, providing a perfect acidic contrast.
17. DE LA LOUISIANE
There are few places we would select to escape summer’s unforgiving heat over the civilized environs of Coal Harbour’s Tableau. And our preferred order is this under-recognized cocktail from New Orleans: rye, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, absinthe, and Peychaud’s bitters. Like a herbaceous Manhattan—very adult, very strong, very delicious.
Tableau Bar Bistro
1181 Melville St.
18. JERK FISH DUO
Hot weather compels some of us to playfully challenge our tolerance for spice, and this dish was created for such creatures. The clean, sweet flavour of snapper and prawns is made to do battle with Caribbean jerk seasoning whose aggressiveness is, to our taste buds, blissful. Amp it up even more with some pepper sauce, then douse the flames with a house daiquiri.
428 Carrall St.
19. “BOOZE IT UP” OVALTINE MILKSHAKE
This ain’t your grandma’s malted milk. Chocolate Malt-flavoured Ovaltine is teamed with vanilla ice cream and Jim Beam for a thick, creamy shake that will curl your sandals. The malt-on-malt combination pops the bourbon’s spicy vanilla and sweet caramel notes for a surprisingly strong kick.
251 E. Hastings St.
20. AMERICAN CLASSIC BURGER
You can have too much of a good thing—to wit, the “extreme” burgers with which the likes of Guy Fieri have been having an indelicate (and potentially fatal) bromance for the past several years. This is a model of less-is-more virtue: two patties (organic), American cheese, and the basic condiments tradition prescribes.
The Cannibal Café
1818 Commercial Dr.
21. LONG TABLE DISTILLERY CUCUMBER GIN
Cucumber doesn’t come cooler than as a mellow botanical in this award-winning gin from the local micro-distillery. Spiced with juniper and crisply herbal, it’s best neat over ice, or in a G&T with lime and a slice or two of cuke.
Long Table Distillery
1451 Hornby St.
22. BUCKET O’ CHICKEN
$25 to $40
Fried chicken is deeply nostalgic, no matter where you grew up. (Ah, those nights when your parents parked you in front of the TV with a box of KFC.) Thanks to Score for upping the ante with its Bucket o’ Chicken. Pieces of free-range bird are marinated in “mango fire” hot sauce, crisped to perfection, and served on a wooden platter crowded with kale-and-cabbage coleslaw, fries, mac ’n’ cheese, warm jalapeño corn–bread, and spicy dipping sauce.
Score on Davie
1262 Davie St.
23. RARE BEEF SALAD
Thin slices of flank are massaged with freshly squeezed lime for this tender Cambodian rarity. A riot of fragrant herbs—mint, Thai basil, sawtooth, coriander, and shiso—mingle with lemongrass, bell peppers, red onion, and peanuts in a funky citrus fish sauce. Arrive early, though—it sells out quickly.
24. BLACK FOREST CAKE
Thomas Haas is a native of Germany’s Black Forest region—and it shows. His version of the eponymous confection is a sublime maelstrom of chocolate, sachertote, kirsch, Bavarian cream, and ripe Okanagan cherries. Only available during local cherry season (July to October), but its fleeting availability only adds to its irresistible allure.
25. JARRITOS TAMARIND SODA
Mexico’s most popular domestic soft-drink brand was the first in its homeland to create a soda from the pulp of tamarind pods. Its ingredient profile is impressively brief (including cane sugar and natural flavour) and its taste neither too sweet nor too tart. A home experiment revealed it plays very well with vodka or London dry gin, too.
At specialty grocers, including Dollar Grocers
(2210 Commercial Dr., 604-255-9933)