October 2011

Northern Exposure Restaurants

  • BAO BEI
  • MAENAM
  • CHAMBAR
  • ENSEMBLE
  • CIBO
  • MARKET BY JEAN-GEORGES
  • MARKET BY JEAN-GEORGES
  • HAWKSWORTH

by MIA STAINSBY

L’Abattoir
604-568-1701 / labattoir.ca

Chef Lee Cooper is clearly a disciple of kitchen gods Heston Blumenthal and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Chicken salad? A marvel of mousse with paper-thin pickled cauliflower, foie-gras mayo and pink-shrimp crackers. And that same innovation is applied to cocktails.

Bao Bei
604-688-0876 / bao-bei.ca

This thoroughly modern restaurant is a bit of the old (retro-Chinatown neon sign and black-and-white photos of the owner’s relatives) and a big whack of the new, as it shape-shifts traditional family-size plates into singingly flavorful small plates. Cocktails play with Chinese herbs from Chinatown shops.

Café Régalade
604-733-2213 / caferegalade.com

The ooh-la-la here resides in the captive soul of classic bistro dishes: heavenly beef bourgignon, succulent duck à l’orange and juicy steak with frites. The son of the father-son operators worked as a pastry chef at Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier in London and with Meilleur Ouvrier de France patissier Olivier Bajard in Perpignan, France, so save room for his île flottante or tarte tatin.

Chambar
604-879-7119 / chambar.com

Any of Nico Shuermans’ establishments (Chambar, Dirty Apron Deli, Café Medina, ) would be worth a visit, but this is the siren, a standout in the casual-sophisticate category. A little bit Moroccan, a little bit Belgian...and a whole lot West Coast.

Cibo Trattoria
604-602-9570 / cibotrattoria.com

He might have left London’s River Café, but the River hasn’t left chef Neil Taylor, judging by his rustic, delicious Italian food. If you like the occasional offering of offal, he obliges with dishes like ox tongue with bone-marrow salsa. Next door, Uva (under the same chef) gives really good breakfast.

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
604-688-7466 / cioppinosyaletown.com

Giuseppe “Pino” Posteraro’s pricey but classic Italian food is the best in town, and the place is consistently given the “top formal Italian restaurant” accolade from Vancouver magazine. Veal, fish, gnocchi...whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong.

Ensemble
604-569-1770 / ensemblerestaurant.com

Life’s been turbulent for chef Dale MacKay. He survived Gordon Ramsay and dodged bullets as owners battled at Vancouver’s Lumière, only to see it close under super-chef Daniel Boulud this year. He competed in Top Chef Canada on Food Network and won. And here, all that fight is deliciously poured into his French-bistro food.

Feastro the Rolling Bistro
604-868-9339 / feastro.ca

Think street food with high-end goals. The operators are fierce about freshness, and the seafood is local: Bonzai prawns, fish and chips, oysters, tuna carpaccio and more. Bonus: It’s right near the postcard-pretty 2010 Olympic torches.

Hawksworth
604-673-7000 / hawksworthrestaurant.com

A glam room with exquisite food by A-list chef David Hawks-worth. Creative elements are plentiful (a sheet of shaved apple lolling in a salad, olive-oil cotton candy in a tomato gazpacho). And dishes—such as a 48-hour short rib with black-pepper jam, honeydew and papaya—are mouthwateringly good.

Jade Seafood
604-249-0082 / jaderestaurant.ca

In a city known for amazing Chinese food, this place shines. Grandpa’s smoked chicken, golden Dungeness crab and mushroom dumplings have actually won awards. And the dim sum is fantastic. If a trip to the burbs is off-putting, relax. It’s near the airport—have a last meal here.

Kingyo Izakaya
604-608-1677

In Japan, an izakaya is like a pub. In Vancouver, it’s where chefs create in rapid-fire mode, as evidenced by the buzz in this antiquey Japanese room. The food is pretty and delicious, from ebi with spicy mayo to pure sashimi. For diners without borders, how about beef tongue on a sizzling stone? And there’s a sister restaurant, Suika, farther afield on West Broadway (604-730-1678).

Maenam
604-730-5579 / maenam.ca

When ethnic food leaps beyond mom-and-pop level, things get exciting. Chef-owner Angus An cooked at Michelin-starred Nahm in London, and here he has elevated Vancouver Thai dining to new heights—refined and modern yet authentic and true to its roots. If stir-fried squid with chile jam or crispy ling cod dry curry sounds good, come on down.

Market by Jean-Georges at the Shangri-La
604-695-1115 / marketbyjgvancouver.com

For an absentee chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten makes his presence felt. Restaurant chefs follow his imaginative recipes and instructions to a T, and with Skype, you could say he’s sort of in the kitchen. Dishes range from the seemingly casual—amazing pizzas and burgers—to more fanciful foie-gras brûlée with roasted strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

Meat and Bread
604-566-9003 / meatandbread.ca

Small menu, big flavors define this cafeteria-style sandwich bar. Sit at the long communal table, let the juices dribble down your wrist and enjoy—especially the porchetta sandwich with salsa verde and crackling.

Nicli Antica Pizzeria
604-669-6985 / nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca

The narrow menu of a few salads and pizzas is really an indication of serious pizza. Authentic Neapolitan-style pies go from uncooked to rustically blackened in 90 seconds. Just fold and eat. Salads are beautiful, too. Note: This is located in an edgy block of Gastown but worth the trip.

Thierry Patisserie
604-608-6870 / thierrychocolates.com

At this Parisian-influenced café, you’ll note how apple tart is a popular way to break the fast. It’s chef Thierry Busset’s signature creation, made with house-made puff pastry. Pick up some scrumptious brioche and croissants for later on. At lunch, there are sandwiches on fresh baguettes and a daily gazpacho and vegetarian quiche. Psst, the Viennoise offerings are the real reason to go—macarons, bonbons and tarts. Remember this spot for a late-night treat, as it’s open till midnight.

Tojo’s
604-872-8050 / tojos.com

Hidekazu Tojo is a seafood maestro—he knows its secrets and unlocks them. The best way to dine here is to sit at the bar, order omakase (where the chef divines what you desire) and watch the showman at work.

Vij’s
604-736-6664 / vijsrestaurant.ca

“Easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world,” says the New York Times,” and the place consistently wins raves for its brave but authentic food. The wine-marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek-cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes is so popular that taking it off the menu could cause mayhem.