VanMag’s 2019 Restaurant Award Winners

It's been a year of great eating.

April 29, 2019

By Vancouver Magazine

Ready, set, eat! Our 30th Annual Restaurant Awards feature is a result of a lot of eating by a lot of judges. The process starts as soon as last year’s awards are done and doesn’t stop until this issue goes to press. In the interim there are hundreds of meals, a few glasses of wine and plenty of heated debates. These are the results—dig in.

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St Lawrence. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Restaurant of the Year

Winning Restaurant of the Year back to back in 2018 and 2019 is truly exceptional, but St. Lawrence truly earned it. READ MORE ▸▸▸

★★★

St. Lawrence
269 Powell St.,stlawrencerestaurant.com

Chef JC Poirier. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Chef of the Year

Chef JC Poirier is a maestro in the kitchen, yet he approaches his job not as star but as workhorse . READ MORE ▸▸▸

★★★

St. Lawrence
269 Powell St., stlawrencerestaurant.com

Stem Japanese Eatery. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best New Restaurant

The duo behind Stem Japanese Eatery are two scrappy upstarts with a dream. READ MORE ▸▸▸

★★★

Stem Japanese Eatery
5205 Rumble St.,stemjapanese.ca

★★

Pepino’s
631 Commercial Dr., pepinos.ca

Ugly Dumpling
1590 Commercial Dr., uglydumpling.ca

Honourable Mentions
Elisa, Como Taperia

VIDEO: Vancouver’s New Restaurants

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Boulevard. (Photo: Christin Gilbert)

Best Upscale

This past year, Gold medal winner Boulevard promoted Alex Chen, 2018’s Chef of the Year, to executive chef for all of the Sutton Place Hotel’s brands and Roger Ma took more day-to-day control of the kitchen, but the quality, inventiveness and precision that saw them win this category last year have not waned in the least. When the two are working in tandem, there’s no one who’s cooking with more finesse or ambition. Taking Silver and reaffirming itself as one of the city’s elite rooms is Hawksworth, where David Hawksworth and executive chef Quinton Bennett are likewise turning out ingredient-driven treatises on locavorism in the most elegant room in town, usually packed with the city’s who’s who. Winning Bronze is the perennially solid and under-the-radar the Pear Tree, where Scott Jaeger continues to achieve nightly greatness in the shadow of the praise heaped on lesser rooms that don’t happen to be in Burnaby.

★★★

Boulevard
845 Burrard St., boulevardvancouver.ca

★★

Hawksworth
801 W Georgia St., hawksworthrestaurant.com

The Pear Tree
4120 Hastings St., peartreerestaurant.net

Honourable Mentions

Botanist, Bauhaus 

Downlow Chicken Shack.

Best Casual

We’ve resurrected this category thanks to the explosion of relaxed spots turning out some of the most buzzworthy chow in town. Take Gold winner Downlow Chicken Shack. Owners Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann closed their beloved but poorly laid out Merchant’s Workshop last summer and moved north up Commercial Drive with an idea of serving up Nashville hot chicken, and the crowds clamouring for their wholesome fare have been non-stop. And for fun, they morph into a burger bar on Mondays, producing the city’s best in that genre as well (and the concept will get its own spot shortly). More under the radar is the tiny—and, to be honest, sort of dingy—slice of authentic Mexican that is Silver winner Chancho Tortilleria. The minuscule menu is an exercise in minimalism: three types of pork and fresh (as in made two minutes before you eat them) tortillas all served on beat-up aluminum trays. It’s perfect. Rounding out the winners with Bronze is Angus An’s Fat Mao Noodles, a sliver of a room in Chinatown that keeps it authentic and casual with pan-Asian bowls like southern Thai beef laksa.

★★★

Downlow Chicken Shack
905 Commercial Dr., dlchickenshack.ca

★★

Chancho Tortilleria
1206 Seymour St.,  chancho.ca

Fat Mao Noodles
217 E Georgia St., fatmaonoodles.com

Honourable Mentions

Hey, Dumplings!, The Tuck Shoppe

Amber Bruce (left) and Shane Taylor kicking back at the Keefer Bar. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Bartender of the Year

At Keefer Bar, Amber Bruce manages the melee with grace and skill. READ MORE ▸▸▸

Sommelier of the Year

It was a shock to find out CinCin‘s Shane Taylor hadn’t won this award years ago. READ MORE ▸▸▸

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Burdock and Co. (Photo: Allison Kuhl)

Best West Coast

This year sees this at-times-unwieldy category finally settle down to recognize a trio of restaurants that truly encapsulates Vancouver locavorism. First up with Gold is criminally under­appreciated Burdock and Co, where chef Andrea Carlson transforms her jewel box of a room into a master course on taking the bounty of this area and moulding it into tiny, tasty treatises of what it means to create magic from sustainability. Taking Silver is Kits’s AnnaLena, a room that continues to be one of the hardest reservations in town since opening five years ago, in large part because chef Michael Robbins oversees a menu with gems like trout with roe and chive beurre blanc that have an unwavering sense of place. The Bronze goes to David Hawksworth’s Nightingale—another coveted reservation—where the famed chef and his executive chef, Phil Scarfone, are able to do the near-impossible feat of populating the big room by creating flawless dishes that have local provenance.

★★★ 

Burdock and Co 
2702 Main St., burdockandco.com

★★

AnnaLena
1809 W 1st Ave., annalena.ca

Nightingale
1017 W Hastings St., hawknightingale.com

Honourable Mentions

Farmer’s Apprentice, The Pear Tree

Bao Bei.

Best of the Neighbourhoods

These neighbourhood spots offer great food—and an insight into the locals who live there. READ MORE ▸▸▸

Wild Mountain. (Photo: Erika Arbour-Nevins)

Best Victoria

Our province’s capital continues to siphon both chefs and diners in search of more affordable housing and a slower pace, and the dining scene is exploding as a result. But Gold winner Wild Mountain isn’t interested in trends or chasing the next big thing. Instead proprietors Oliver Kienast and Brooke Fader use their Sooke outpost to celebrate food prepared in measured and handcrafted reverie (their house-made root beer prosciuttini is a charcuterie revelation). Silver goes to the relentlessly offbeat Part and Parcel, which operates out of the tourist flow from its Quadra Street perch but nonetheless effortlessly churns out show-stopping dishes like beet falafel with ricotta and grilled radicchio at prices that never get near the $20 mark. And Bronze is long-time fave Olo, where there’s been unwavering consistency coming from the kitchen of chef Brad Holmes since the space transformed from Ulla four years ago.

★★★ 

Wild Mountain
1831 Maple Ave. South, Sooke, wildmountaindinners.com

★★

Part and Parcel
2656 Quadra St., Victoria, partandparcel.ca

Olo
509 Fisgard, Victoria,olorestaurant.com

Honourable Mentions

Agrius, House of Boateng

Alta Bistro. (Photo: Chris Brown)

Best Whistler

Well, sooner or later the local secret had to get out, and this is the year our judges decided to spill it: Gold winner Alta Bistro is the best restaurant in Whistler. Chef Nick Cassettari has been a model of overperforming for almost a decade now, somm Eric Griffith curates the most interesting list in town, and the young and carefree vibe has none of the formality that can affect resort dining. Silver goes to last year’s surprise winner, the Grill Room, where chef Derek Bendig shows that being attached to a hotel—the Fairmont Chateau Whistler—doesn’t mean that the food has to be expected and safe. And Bronze goes to the rock-steady Araxi, where even a trying year with chef changes couldn’t keep the perennial Gold winner off the podium.

★★★

Alta Bistro
4319 Main St., altabistro.com

★★

Grill Room
4599 Chateau Blvd., fairmont.com/whistler/dining/grillroom

Araxi
4222 Village Sq., araxi.com

Honourable Mentions

Bar Oso, The Red Door

Waterfront Wines. (Photo: Pinstripe Productions)

Best Okanagan

This is getting silly. This category has seen a pantheon of different judges over the years and no matter what the mix, the result is the same: Mark Filatow’s Waterfront Wines wins gold…for the 3,000th-time. (It’s actually only 11.) And this in a year where Filatow could have easily taken his eye off the ball with the opening of his casual lunch spot, Waterfront Café. But no—the food coming out of Waterfront’s kitchen—try ling cod and trout rye tempura for a sample—continues to wow our judges, as does one of the best-curated wine lists in the Interior. Silver goes to the only restaurant more iconic than Waterfront: Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao’s institution Raudz, where a reinvigorated menu shows that Butters can still throw down with anyone in the province. Bronze drops on Liquidity Bistro, where owner Ian MacDonald continues to shake up the old order of how wineries (and winery restaurants) are run, with chef Matt Martin offering an innovative take on a tasting-room menu with dishes like squab with cherry and shiso.

★★★

Waterfront Wines
1180 Sunset Dr., Kelowna, waterfrontrestaurant.ca

★★

Raudz
1560 Water St., Kelowna, raudz.com

Liquidity Bistro
4720 Allendale Rd., Okanagan Falls, liquiditywines.com/Bistro

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Chef Tony. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best Chinese

It’s been five years since Gold winner Chef Tony opened, and its refined, bustling approach to Cantonese food continues to make it one of the busiest restaurants around, thanks to its elegant room serving standout dishes like sea cucumber soaked in vinegar and a liberal use of truffles. The Silver goes to Hoi Tong, a fitting tribute to the beloved 82-year-old chef Leung Yiu Tong, who recently retired and whose trailblazing touch with interpreting the Cantonese classics—his sweet-and-sour pork knew no equal—helped inform several generations of diners on what fine Chinese cooking can be. Rounding out the podium is former Gold winner Dynasty, where chef Sam Leung likes to push the envelope, especially with seafood, and where dishes like his deep-fried crab claws stuffed with shrimp paste cater to those not wanting to make the trip to Richmond for dynamite Chinese food.

★★★ 

Chef Tony
4600 No. 3 Rd. #101, Richmond, cheftonycanada.com

★★

Hoi Tong
8191 Westminster Hwy. #155, Richmond (closed)

Dynasty
108-777 W Broadway, dynasty-restaurant.ca

Honourable Mentions

Jade Seafood, Sanbo

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St. Lawrence. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best French

It had to happen. After 11 years of having Le Crocodile atop the French throne (and 17 Golds in total), JC Poirier’s St. Lawrencehas earned the Gold with authentic but playful takes on the Paris-Brest, venison tourtière  and choucroute garnie that have made securing a table at the east-side eatery about as easy as winning the lottery. But once in the cozy blue-hued room, everything and everyone works in unison, and you’re transported to the Quebec food of chef Poirier’s youth (with a few welcome elevations). Michel Jacob’s Le Crocodile hasn’t gone far: its Silver, a testament to a level of focus and consistency that has no equal in town and a chef/owner for whom the word “legendary” seems insufficient. Securing Bronze is the Kitsilano arrondissement’s ode to the honest, inviting world of Parisian café culture, Au Comptoir, and its playful riffs on standards like a bavette with dauphinoise potatoes.

★★★ 

St. Lawrence
269 Powell St., stlawrencerestaurant.com

★★

Le Crocodile
909 Burrard St., lecrocodilerestaurant.com

Au Comptoir
2278 W 4th Ave., aucomptoir.ca

Honourable Mentions

Café Salade de Fruits, Tableau Bar Bistro

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Savio Volpe. (Photo: Ian Lanterman)

Best Italian

In choosing Savio Volpe as the Gold winner, our judges have aligned themselves with the public, who have made Savio perhaps the town’s toughest table to get since it opened three years ago. Its combination of atmosphere, affordability and a dialed-in but not doctrinaire take on regional Italian—suckling pig and chicken agnolotti with sage—has redefined Italian food in Vancouver. It feels like a neighbourhood joint…for the entire city. A surprise Silver goes to Umberto Menghi’s Giardino, showing that the legendary restaurateur can still deliver precisely made classics like bistecca alla Fiorentina that suit the type of locals who aren’t interested in chasing the next big thing but who want their food on point and on time. And Bronze goes to Robson Street’s CinCin, which keeps its mid-career renaissance going strong even as executive chef Andrew Richardson attends to the new Elisa steakhouse, in part thanks to a stellar wine program and wood-fired gems like lamb sirloin with salsa verde.

★★★ 

Savio Volpe
615 Kingsway, saviovolpe.com

★★

Giardino
1328 Hornby St., umberto.com/giardino

CinCin
1154 Robson St., cincin.net

Honourable Mentions

La Quercia, Ask for Luigi

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Swad Indian Kitchen.

Best Indian

For over 20 years this was Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala’s category, either through their flagship spot, Vij’s, or their offshoots, Rangoli and My Shanti. In fact, since this category was founded, no one else has ever won it. But this year sees an end to that memorable reign in the unlikely form of West Van’s Swad, the two-year-old space that impressed the judges by offering a more intimate dining experience that “feels like a neighbourhood spot” and highlighting a variety of cuisines—Kashmiri, Bengali and Hyderabadi. But, of course, Vikram and Meeru are never far, and the glittering My Shanti takes Silver, ruling south of the Fraser with wildly inventive dishes like chattra sagar (wild boar and lamb kebabs) that perhaps the city sometimes takes for granted. Taking Bronze is Dosa Corner, a no-frills joint on the industrial stretch of deep south Fraser Street that knocks it out of the park with their take on Punjabi crepes.

★★★

Swad
1734 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, swadindiankitchen.ca

★★

My Shanti
15869 Croydon Dr., Surrey, vijs.ca/my-shanti

Dosa Corner
8248 Fraser St., dosacorner.ca

Honourable Mentions

Vij’s, Sachdeva Sweets

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Kissa Tanto. (Photo: Ian Lanterman)

Best Pan-Asian

This is a category that tries to capture the insanely high level of diverse cooking that takes its inspiration from that massive continent to the west, and there’s no more inspired cooking than what’s coming out of Joel Watanabe’s Italian-Japanese hybrid, Gold winner Kissa Tanto. This year saw even more consistency, and high-wire-act dishes like the spaghettini, which somehow manages to incorporate thyme pork sausage, soy pickled garlic, almond parsley pesto and ginger crumb and still seems totally in harmony. Silver goes to Felix Zhou’s no-frills Heritage Asian Eatery, where the simple menu focusing on baos and bowls wows in precise preparation and wonderfully low prices. Third place is way out in New West, where Angus An’s Longtail Kitchen takes things even further down the casual meter but where the devoted flock to devour high-end dishes for food court prices.

★★★

Kissa Tanto
263 E Pender St., kissatanto.com

★★

Heritage Asian Eatery
1108 W Pender St., eatheritage.ca

Longtail Kitchen
810 Quayside Dr. #116, New Westminster, longtailkitchen.com

Honourable Mentions

Torafuku, Penang Delight

Stem Japanese Eatery. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best Japanese

We can’t talk about this year’s winners without talking about Zest, the departed restaurant that, in 2014, ended Tojo’s unprecedented 22-year reign as the winner of this category. Zest enjoyed a four-year mini-reign before chefs Tatsuya Katagiri and Yoshi Maniwa left last year, whereupon it was rebranded as Yuwa and promptly won Gold on its own accord. But this year the chefs opened their own room, Stem, in a modest spot in the shadow of Metrotown, and they’ve earned Gold with dishes like Hotaru firefly squid and Hokkaido scallop with yuzu miso. But Yuwa is right behind with the Silver, thanks in part to its refined elegance and a wine list that is the best in the category by a wide margin. Here, precision in every dish—think chicken-thigh meatballs simmered in a shoyu dashi mirin stock and served with shimeji and oyster mushrooms—is the defining principle. Rounding out the group is the Fraser Street sliver of a room that is Masayoshi, chef Masa­yoshi’s tiny omakase-only spot, where you turn yourself over to the passion of the chef and are rewarded with a master class on nigiri.

★★★

Stem Japanese Eatery
5205 Rumble St., stemjapanese.ca

★★

Yuwa
2775 W 16th Ave., yuwa.ca

Masayoshi
4376 Fraser St., facebook.com/masayoshisushi

Honourable Mentions

Tetsu Sushi Bar, Dosanko

Molli Café.

Best Latin

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated—so said Mark Twain, but the sentiment could just have easily come from this year’s Gold winner, Molli Café, which, even when it won last year was under threat from a real estate-driven closing. But its survival is a boon for those who like their Mexican food authentic (their Saturdays-only lamb consommé and tacos are like a bat signal for foodies) but unpretentious. Channelling the authentic vibe even harder is Silver winner Chancho Tortilleria, the Seymour Street hole in the wall (we mean that in the best way) where owner Ernesto Gomez presents diners with essentially three versions of carnitas and one vegetarian choice—all coming with freshly made tortillas that will forever change the way you approach the corn discs. Bronze goes to the don’t-call-us-a-chain chain, La Taqueria, which, despite continued expansion, still seems to effortlessly nail the joy of an order of beef tongue tacos. 

★★★

Molli Café
1225 Burrard St., mollicafe.com

★★

Chancho Tortilleria
1206 Seymour St., chancho.ca

La Taqueria
Multiple locations, lataqueria.com

Honourable Mentions

Rinconcito Salvadoreno

Best Dessert

This year sees us resurrecting this category, which celebrates the restaurants which really nail the last course—and again it’s Boulevard, continuing a banner year with pastry chef Kenta Takahashi getting the Gold for creations like the genre-bending fromage blanc, a cheese mousse and soufflé mash-up topped with a shortbread crumble and served with fresh raspberry sorbet. A surprise Silver goes to Kitsilano’s Au Comptoir, where pastry chef Julien Salomoni oversees a compact menu but one with dishes like a perfectly executed passionfruit mont blanc. (Who needs more?) And Bronze goes to perennial standout Blue Water Cafe, where pastry chef Jean-Pierre Sanchez mirrors chef Frank Pabst’s ethos of controlled experimentation.

★★★

Boulevard
845 Burrard St., boulevardvancouver.ca

★★

Au Comptoir
2278 W 4th Ave., aucomptoir.ca

Blue Water Cafe
1095 Hamilton St., bluewatercafe.net

Honourable Mentions

Hawksworth, L’Abattoir

Best Korean

We rested this category last year, and this year it returns with a mix of old classics and up-and-comers. Gold winner Hanwoori is solidly in the old-classics realm—holding down on the same Burnaby stretch of Kingsway location for years—yet despite the drab exterior, this is a spot that routinely brings joy with its now-famous DIY Korean barbecue. Silver goes to another Burnaby spot, the out-of-the-way House of Tofu Soup, which is even more basic than Hanwoori but nails it with an eponymous dish that you can customize by dropping in raw eggs or rice, depending on your mood (and it’s spectacularly inexpensive). On the new(er) end of the spectrum is Lower Lonsdale’s Maru Korean Bistro, which is a few notches spiffier (and pricier) than its fellow medallists and channels a more modern, Momofuku-esque take on the classics.

★★★

Hanwoori
5740 Imperial St., Burnaby

★★

House of Tofu Soup
4563 North Rd. #1, Burnaby

Maru Korean Bistro
125 E 2nd St.,North Vancouver, marukoreanbistro.com

Honourable Mentions

Sura, Insadong

Uncle Tong (right) and his wife, Oi Lin Leung (Auntie Tong to friends). (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Lifetime Achievement Award

Chef Leung Yiu Tong is stepping back from Hoi Tong after 50 years in the restaurant business…and leaving a legacy behind. READ MORE ▸▸▸

★★★

Chef Leung Yiu Tong

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From left, Stephen Cachard, JP Potters, Miguel Quezada, Brigitte Rayé and Jesse Walters. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Premier Crew

Stephan Cachard, Blue Water Cafe

Each night he gives a master class on how to gracefully orchestrate the rhythms of a restaurant and curate memorable dining experiences for his guests. If you’re a repeat guest he’ll remember you, and if you’re new he’ll make it all seem special.

JP Potters, Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar

He juggles the myriad demands of a large hotel restaurant with ease, seamlessly shuttling back and forth between large group events and couples enjoying intimate chef’s tasting menus à deux, making sure all is on point and helping navigate the voluminous wine list.

Miguel Quezada, Savio Volpe

Savio’s vibe is the best in town, and he’s the maestro responsible for this energetic atmosphere who keeps the packed room running smoothly  yet relaxed feeling at the same time. And does the same for Pepino’s when needed.

Brigitte Rayé, Orto

From her start at her husband’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris to now working with her son at Orto, she is always the quintessential host, extraordinarily welcoming with an impeccable memory for faces and dining preferences.

Jesse Walters, Bistro Wagon Rouge

Enthusiastic barely covers it. His job is to make your day a bit better, and he definitely succeeds—with at-ease service and a wine list that makes you feel like you’re being let in on a secret every time you read it.

Producer of the Year

Glorious Organics

Are there two words that go together better than “glorious” and “organics”? It’s a phrase that in 2019 seems entirely logical, but when the precursor to this co-op—the Glorious Garnish and Seasonal Salad Company—was formed in 1986, embracing organic growing was a good way to be branded a kook by the mainstream. Twenty years later, five of the original members founded Glorious Organics, and since then they’ve become a benchmark for Vancouver farmers’ markets and an indispensable partner to restaurants like Bishop’s, Forage and Boulevard, where the chefs embrace their produce as a key building block of elevated cooking. Burdock and Co’s Andrea Carlson sums it up perfectly: “They advocate for sustainability in local food systems, and, among other things, they have been a part of creating BC Eco Seed—a completely local, GE-free, ecologically grown seed company. For chefs and market shoppers, they have always offered the highest quality of pristine and hearty produce.”Maru Korean Bistro
125 E 2nd St.,North Vancouver, marukoreanbistro.com

Honourable Mentions

Sura, Insadong

Pepino’s. (Photo: Ian Lanterman)

Best New Design

It takes a deft hand to make a space feel like it’s always been there without turning to Disneyish clichés—and so Gold for Best New Design goes to Ste. Marie for its work converting the 62-year-old institution that was Nick’s Spaghetti House into Pepino’s. The design of the warm red-sauce joint conjures the spirit of an era when the spaghetti was twirled high on plates and wood-panelled walls developed a gorgeous patina from time and many cigarettes. The high-tops and mosaic-tiled entry offer the perfect spot for a glass of Barolo while you wait with the crush for an in-demand table in the back, while the space itself feels as authentic as it gets, down to the ode-to-Goodfellas tabletop lights (rechargeable to eliminate unwieldy cords) and hand-drawn caricatures of former Nick’s regulars that now feature on the back wall. Silver goes to Elisa for turning the bold and brash steakhouse vibe on its head with a luxe space that features feminine details like a pretty marble bar and chevron tiling, while Coquille takes Bronze for a charming under-the-sea feeling replete with poppy fish-scale tiles and conch-shell-like booth seats.

★★★

Pepino’s
631 Commercial Dr., pepinos.ca

★★

Elisa
1109 Hamilton St., elisasteak.com

Coquille
181 Carrall St., coquillefineseafood.com

Honourable Mentions

Origo Club, Tacofino Ocho

Hy’s Steakhouse.

Best Steakhouse

This year saw this traditionally static category get a major shot in the arm with a splashy new opening. Yet ultimately the judges decided that the newcomer was just too new and again rewarded Hy’s, perhaps Vancouver’s most classic room, with Gold, in part because there may be no more comfortable place to be than sandwiched between an order of cheese toast and a bone-in rib-eye with only a gin martini to save you. The newcomer in question is Silver winner Elisa, which had been open only for a few weeks at the awards cut-off date but still wowed the judges with its voluminous steak list (the Holstein deserves special praise) and wood-fired oven overseen by chef Andrew Richardson. A surprise Bronze goes to the Parq’s Victor, the sole bright light in an otherwise underwhelming slate of restaurants at our new hotel and casino complex.

★★★

Hy’s
637 Hornby St., hyssteakhouse.com

★★

Elisa
1109 Hamilton St., elisasteak.com

Victor
39 Smithe St., parqvancouver.com/restaurants/the-victor

Honourable Mentions

Gotham, Black and Blue

The Acorn. (Photo:Tyson Fast and Sean David)

Best Vegetarian

We rested this category last year and boy, did we get an earful! And fair enough, as one of the hallmarks of dining in Vancouver is our mastery of plant-based cooking. In this realm no one touches Gold winner the Acorn, Shira Blustein’s perennially packed OG of high-end vegetarian cooking—always busy, in part because it attracts non-vegetarians with an I-wanna-order-everything menu that creates magic by making celeriac, halloumi and radish the stars of the show. Taking Silver is the Powell Street newcomer Aleph Eatery, where owner Tibo El Khatib offers a heartfelt take on Middle Eastern cuisine with dishes like enoki shawarma tacos and a menu that one notices is meat-free only well after ordering. Bronze goes to the trailblazing now mini-chain Virtuous Pie, which has silenced many a skeptic with its lineup-inducing vegan pizzas.

★★★

The Acorn
3995 Main St., theacornrestaurant.ca

★★

Aleph Eatery
1889 Powell St., alepheatery.com

Virtuous Pie
Multiple locations, virtuouspie.com

Honourable Mentions

The Arbor, Heirloom

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Grapes and Soda. (Photo: Christin Gilbert)

Best Bar

What the hell is a bar, anyway? Does it have to be able to accommodate a party of eight, for example? No, say our judges—all it has to do is make the most exquisite, thoughtful cocktails in town, and that describes Gold winner Grapes and Soda perfectly. Head bartender (and last year’s Bartender of the Year) Satoshi Yonemori curates a near-perfect cocktail and spirits list that invites thirsty travellers in for a journey that they never expected. Silver medallist Upstairs at Campagnolo has its own star attraction in bon vivant Peter Van de Reep, who’ll crank out a perfect negroni while giving a treatise on cru Beaujolais to another patron and still greeting the faithful by name as they enter this cozy local’s spot. The Bronze goes to Juniper, where the restaurant portion has never really found its footing, but where the bar program, created by Shaun Layton and continued by the recently departed Max Borrowman, hits all the notes: just the right amount of cool, a lovely lack of attitude, and magic with gin that knows few equals.

★★★

Grapes and Soda
1541 W 6th Ave., grapesandsoda.ca

★★

Upstairs at Campagnolo
1020 Main St., campagnolorestaurant.ca

Juniper
185 Keefer St., junipervancouver.com

Honourable Mentions

Trans Am, Shameful Tiki

Cactus Club Cafe.

Best Chain

The cornerstone of a good chain restaurant is the ability to replicate cooking and service elements in a disparate set of locales. The sign of a great one is that it delights and surprises the diner while still observing the repetition, and that idea describes Gold medallist Cactus Club to a T. Much of the year saw the chain continuing to steamroll the competition back east, but here it saw chef Rob Feenie continuing his incremental experimentation coming out of the Broadway and Ash test kitchen. Silver medallist Joey sometimes feels like it’s playing the Stones to Cactus’s Beatles: a little edgier, expanding south as opposed to east and poaching chef Matthew Stowe to join Chris Mills in its new state-of-the-art test kitchen just down from the hopping Bentall location. Bronze goes to the always-understated Nook, whose three locations (soon to be four) are always full with those looking for classic Napoli pizza and on-point pastas at a price point that always seems 20 percent lower than it should be.

★★★

Cactus Club
Several locations, cactusclubcafe.com

★★

Joey
Several locations, joeyrestaurants.com

Nook
Several locations, nookrestaurant.ca

Honourable Mentions

Tacofino, Earls 

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Golden Paramount.

Best Dim Sum

Few cities in the world do dim sum as well as we do, and finding magic in the crowded landscape is not easy for the uninitiated. Here’s a tip: start with chef/owner May Chau’s Golden Paramount. Non­descript doesn’t even begin to describe this Richmond strip-mall spot, but once you’re inside, the careful preparation and elevated ingredients (crab shines here) are anything but standard. If you require a little more flash and dash (and a little more attentive service), Silver winner Chef Tony is happy to oblige. But there’s more to this room than crystal chandeliers—a dish of shrimp and matsutake dumplings or flaky almond meat loaf sticks will make clear that this spot takes its food very seriously. Rounding out the trio and repping the west side is Bronze winner Dynasty, where chef Garley Leung is a master of the classics—the pastry on his barbecue pork pies is heavenly. 

★★★

Golden Paramount
8111 Anderson Rd., Richmond, goldenparamount.com

★★

Chef Tony
4600 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, cheftonycanada.com

Dynasty
777 W Broadway, dynasty-restaurant.ca

Honourable Mentions

Fisherman’s Terrace, Yue Delicacy

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Via Tevere. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best Pizzeria

The explosion of pizza joints over the past few years has now settled down, and this has allowed the judges to take a solid survey of who’s cranking out the best pies in the city. And they’ve decided that repeat winner Via Teverewill get another shiny Gold this year, thanks to a continued flawless approach to churning out perfect pies. JC Poirier’s purposeful hole in the wall, Pizzeria Farina, gets Silver, and make no mistake: beneath the casual and über-relaxed vibe, this is a kitchen that’s deadly serious about producing pizzas that knock it out of the park every time. And Bronze goes to the beating heart of the Kerrisdale food scene, Bufala, where the well-heeled celebrate that they don’t have to leave home to score some of the best-loved pies anywhere in town.

★★★

Via Tevere
1190 Victoria Dr., viateverepizzeria.com

★★

Pizza Farina
915 Main St.,pizzeriafarina.com

Bufala
5395 West Blvd., bufala.ca

Honourable Mentions

Corduroy Pie Company, Ignite

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Marutama.

Best Ramen

This is always a tough category, as even middling spots see lineups worthy of a new Avengers movie. But even in this crowded market, there are spots where the wait is worth it. Like Gold winner Marutama, where the expertly balanced chicken-based broth packs the perfect umami punch without heaviness and the noodles are made in-house. Silver goes to Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, where rich stock made with a tonkotsu base is simmered for 20 hours. The judges loved the toroniku ramen—thinly sliced pork cheek served on a separate platter along with traditional accompaniments. Tender, luscious, indulgent. And Bronze goes to Danbo, which specializes in Fukuoka-style tonkotsu ramen, and you can customize your own bowl with thickness and firmness of noodles, level of spiciness, thickness and richness of broth…build-a-bowl noodles, so to speak.

★★★

Marutama
Several locations, marutama.ca

★★

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
558 W Broadway; 1690 Robson St., santouka.co.jp

Danbo
1833 W 4th Ave., 1333 Robson St., ramendanbo.com

Honourable Mentions

Motomachi Shokudo, Ramen Koika

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Boulevard.

Best Seafood

Gold medal winner Boulevard does so many things right that it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s first and foremost a seafood restaurant. But our judges didn’t forget, and they rewarded chefs Alex Chen and Roger Ma (and perhaps the most talented team of sous-chefs in town) for their innovative take on all things fish, like the complex seared ling cod with mushroom relish, grilled shiitake mushrooms and bonito crème fraîche served in a ham hock dashi. A surprise Silver goes to newcomer Coquille, where staffing issues and a whole lotta hype didn’t detract from the magic that chef Lee Cooper and team can work when he crafts a deconstructed bouillabaisse. And rounding out the trio with Bronze is Landmark Hotpot, representing the school of thought that this city’s Chinese restaurants are where the truly great seafood resides, and this spot’s skill with geoduck might be Exhibit A.

★★★

Boulevard
845 Burrard St.,boulevardvancouver.ca

★★

Coquille
181 Carrall St., coquillefineseafood.com

Landmark Hotpot
4023 Cambie St., landmarkhotpot.com

Honourable Mentions

Oddfish, Blue Water Cafe



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