Vegetarian Fine Dining

October 2, 2008

Bishop’s Fine Dining 2183 W. Fourth Ave., Kits, 604-738-2025. John Bishop’s impassioned commitment to local, organic ingredients means that his elegant temple to fine dining welcomes not just carnivores but discerning eaters of all stripes. Chef Andrea Carlson will adapt à la carte staples to accommodate most sensitivities, but the best strategy is to lay out your requirements then leave the kitchen to do the work. A recent trip resulted in the on-menu Celebration Salad (the tangy dressing is a santa rosa plum vinaigrette) and veggies on quinoa with a garlic jus. Servers appreciate and respect the full breadth of opinions that fall under the broad “vegetarian” rubric—and, more importantly, bar staff are happy to craft a flight of wines to accompany the ad hoc meal, all the way up to Kate Hultson’s divine (and sometimes egg-free) desserts.

The Flying Tiger  2958 W. Fourth Ave., Kitsilano, 604-737-7529. Modern Asian street food unifies this quietly exotic pan-Asian lair. Load the table with Eastern tapas like Sichuan green beans, roti canai (what is it with that Malaysian fry bread that we can never get enough?), and chaat masala. Still hungry? Slap the carnivores’ hands away (they can get their own grilled Korean kalbi ribs), then order the substantial tofu panang curry ($13). Sibling resto Abigail’s Party, just off Kits Beach, does a more muted neighbourhood-eatery thing with a half-dozen veg-friendly salads (including an antipasto plate featuring risotto balls) and camembert bruschetta keeping the sole veggie main (a burger) company. Maybe load up on appies then skip straight to dessert: we love the diner-kitsch appeal of doughnuts and coffee, and the caramelized bananas with bourbon mascarpone.

Vij’s 1480 W. 11th Ave., South Granville, 604-736-6664. Roughly 20 percent of India is vegetarian, so it’s no surprise that Vij’s can so handily accommodate a meat-free meal. (It helps that co-owner Meeru Dhalwala, wife of chef Vikram Vij, is vegetarian herself.) Paneer, eggplant, and green beans in tamarind curry will stir envy among the whole table, while khoa parantha may be less newsworthy than the new pancake sibling made with ground crickets, but is rich and tangy in its own right. Mains change seasonally but recently included yam curry served with rice pilaf and celeriac-orange salad, and a masala of cabbage, potato, and peppers on crispy noodles featuring unexpected notes of cilantro and blueberry.  

La Quercia 3689 W. Fourth Ave., Kitsilano, 604-676-1007. Gone, praise God, are the days when a meatless dinner meant steamed veggies on rice, and the ethnic alternative was linguine a quattro formaggio. Jericho upstart La Quercia, helmed by grads of Andrey Durbach’s Latin joint La Buca, joyously rides the new wave of fine dining spots that update regional classics for veg-friendly groups. The menu follows traditional divisions of antipasti, primi (pastas), secondi (meats and fish), and contorni (side dishes). Creative guests can construct a coherent, and sizable, meal around a pasta main with generous side dishes, like truffled zucchini and grilled rapini.

Restaurant Connor Butler 2145 Granville St., South Granville,  604-734-2145. While many fine dining establishments offer vegetarian tasting menus, it’s rare to find one that offers the same for vegans. Chef Connor Butler sources fresh and local ingredients (some of which come from his guerilla community garden situated by abandoned railway tracks near the restaurant) for his six-course vegan tasting menu, which might include dishes like deep fried soft tofu croquette with heirloom tomato and basil sauce, kuri squash soup with single-batch maple syrup, apples, and blueberries, or Aldergrove fingerling potato with black truffles and sunchoke succotash. Give him a few days notice and chef Butler can even conceive a full 13-course vegan menu (though if you visit in winter, chances are it’ll be centred around root veggies).

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