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VIEW THE NEWEST RESTAURANT AWARD WINNERS HERE!
In a year of change and challenge, the restaurants that thrived were those that nailed the basics: great food, smart pricing, and intuitive service. Here, we celebrate them. Plus, a look at timeless rooms, the culinary godfather, and dining fads of yore.
Click on category to view winners:
Restaurant of the Year
Chef of the Year
Best New Restaurant
Best Metro Vancouver Destination
Best Small Plates
Best Formal Italian
Best Casual Italian
Best Other European
Best Formal French
Best Casual French
Best Formal Japanese
Best Casual Japanese
Best Formal Chinese
Best Casual Chinese
Best Dim Sum
Best Other Asian
Best of the Americas
Best Casual Chain
Best North Shore
Best Vancouver Island
Best Resort Dining
Best Winery/Vineyard Dining
Best Last Course
Sommelier of the Year
Bartender of the Year
Design of the Year
Producer/Supplier of the Year
Ingredient of the Year
Rooms that Stand the Test of Time
Umberto Menghi: The Godfather of Vancouver Fine Dining
The Unluckiest Spots to Open a Restaurant
Our Judges and Methodology
Bronze: Blue Water Cafe
Honourable Mention: Cioppino’s/Enoteca & C
Value may bring diners in, but it’s service that brings them back. West holds Gold for its concentration on the little things: the delicately decanted wine, the petits fours that appear from nowhere, the carefully refolded napkin you find on returning from the washroom. John Bishop, this city’s consummate host, continues to instill his trademark grace throughout Bishop’s (Silver). Front-of-house, chefs, and sommeliers construct redoubtable service at Blue Water (Bronze), and Honourable Mentions go to the formal yet approachable Cioppino’s and C Restaurant, where owner Harry Kambolis sets a high bar for knowledgeable precision.
Honourable Mention: Salt Tasting Room & Boneta
The city’s posh lounge scene has always been vibrant, but recessionistas are making these economical alternatives to fine dining all the more popular. This year’s list is topped by Bacchus Piano Lounge at the Wedgewood Hotel (Gold), where a good pour of scotch and a supple leather wingback can take you to a place where markets don’t crash. “This,” summed up one judge, “is where grownups go to play.” The intimate Uva (Silver) is a favourite for by-the-glass wine selections (Sebastien Le Goff being the hero behind the list). And noisy, sexy Chambar (Bronze) will always have a place so long as they’re pouring those blue fig martinis; the Belgian beer list, smartly presided over by on-the-ball servers, doesn’t hurt, either. Honourable Mentions to down-to-earth Salt Tasting Room and the loose-and-loud Boneta, where “most of the city’s seasoned liquor enthusiasts can be found.”
Silver: La Belle Auberge
Bronze: Hart House
Honourable Mention: Sea Harbour & Globe@YVR
We’d walk on our knees to Hope if we thought a brilliant meal awaited. All these rooms rewarded travel. Burnaby’s Pear Tree (Gold) sets imaginative fare (braised Peace River lamb shank with pear risotto) in a winsome room. La Belle Auberge (Silver) wowed our judges for the unabashed old-school glory of thoughtful proteins knocking boots with endless butter and cream. Hart House (Bronze) picked up its game acquiring Edwyn Kumar to personalize a smart carte. Sea Harbour (especially for Dungeness crab and squash in black bean hot pot) and Globe@YVR took Honourable Mentions.
Broonze: Raincity Grill
Honourable Mention: Fuel & Chow
Let us now praise the bloodhound chefs among us. Andrea Carlson of Bishop’s (Gold) elevates the overlooked: obscure root vegetables, little-known artisanal cheeses, intriguing herbs and flowers. At C (Silver), visionary Rob Clark and playful Quang Dang turn dishes into regional short stories. Raincity Grill (Bronze) continues its love affair with the city through farm-to-table food and a skillful wine list; chef Peter Robertson’s tasting menus are West Coast 101. Fuel’s Robert Belcham and Chow’s JC Poirier (Honourable Mentions) revel in the bounty of our local farms and waters.
Silver: Bin 941/Bin 942
Honourable Mention: Nu & Tapastree
The Bins have dominated this category for years, but Cru (Gold) finally mixed things up: “They’ve got the most inventive small plates in the city,” said one judge. “Sleek, sexy, and sophisticated.” Try the duck confit robed in bacon if you need convincing. We always love noshing on beef Wellington at Bin 941 & 942 (Silver), but our judges were looking for a menu shakeup. Meanwhile, Kingyo (Bronze) delivers an ebi mayo that foodies still buzz about. The sleek Nu (now with comfortable chairs!) and unsung Tapastree share the Honorable Mention.
Silver: Il Giardino
Bronze: La Terrazza
Honourable Mention: CinCin & Cibo
A category rife with great rooms: Cioppino’s (Gold) leads the way with hands-on chef/proprietor Pino Posteraro in full command of a stellar menu and an energized but refined ambiance. Il Giardino takes Silver, thanks to what one judge called its “resurgent kitchen” and its deep wine list. La Terrazza (Bronze), which continues to refine a sometimes uneven menu, also boasts a wonderful list. CinCin is consistently good, if geared more toward the tourist trade, and Cibo nicely picks up on our city’s love affair with Italian cooking.
Silver: La Buca
Bronze: Gusto di Quattro
Honourable Mention: Osteria Napoli & Trattoria Italian Kitchen
Simplicity wins the day. La Quercia (Gold), low-key and intimate, made an instant name for itself this year with brilliant execution. Silver winner La Buca also turns out unfailingly excellent fare in modest surroundings. Gusto di Quattro (Bronze) nails it in North Van, and Osteria Napoli punches well above its weight on the East Side. Italian Kitchen fills out a roster that give lovers of trattoria-style Italian food plenty to cheer about.
Silver: La Bodega
Bronze: The Irish Heather/Shebeen Whiskey House
Honourable Mention: Senova
This category shelters unusual delights. Chambar (Gold) delivers welcome eastern Mediterranean and African alternatives to Pacific Rim ennui. Three decades in, José and Paco Rivas at La Bodega (Silver) still turn heads with kidneys, blood sausage, and offal. The new Irish Heather (Bronze) is one more reason to celebrate one-man-industry Sean Heather; leitao (roast suckling pig) Thursdays make us treasure Senova.
Silver: Bacchus Restaurant at Wedgewood Hotel
Bronze: La Belle Auberge
Honourable Mention: Le Gavroche & Five Sails
If consistency is a great chef’s hallmark, then Michel Jacob of Le Crocodile (Gold) is at the pinnacle of Vancouver haute cuisine. Bacchus’s Lee Parsons (Silver) raises local ingredients to the sublime (sweet corn velouté with chive chantilly and luxurious risottos studded with golden chantrelles and sweet peas)—the Relais & Châteaux designation also persuades. Pretend you’re driving to Grandmère’s in the country and drop into Ladner to Bruno Marti’s La Belle Auberge (Bronze) for fresh, imaginatively prepared dishes that range from the ridiculous (fois gras with plum compote) to the transcendent (wild boar with morel sauce). Honourable Mentions go to lushly romantic Le Gavroche and cosy, gracious Five Sails.
Honourable Mention: Coast & Go Fish
Competition is fierce in a town where pale salmon takes on an immoral stink. Happily, this produces seafood temples we all can worship at. Blue Water Cafe (Gold) delivers an embarrassment of oyster selections, plus immaculate sushi by Yoshi Tabo. Take your party into the 72-person private wine room and order three-tier towers of naked shellfish. See and be seen on the waterfront patio at C (Silver), where executive chef Robert Clark has championed sustainable seafood for years. And perennial sushi favourite Tojo’s (Bronze) continues to draw celeb guests and ordinary souls who happen to know what’s best. Honourable Mentions to Coast, for giving Yaletown a communal table where they can nosh on prawns, and that happy shack Go Fish (the opposite of a Yaletown joint), where couples park themselves on the seawall and poke through oyster po’boys and battered fish next to the boat that brought them in.
Silver: Raw Bar at Blue Water Cafe
Honourable Mention: En
Tojo (Gold) continues to redefine Japanese food in Vancouver, with a firm grasp of seasonality and local ingredients. (See Lifetime Achievement Award, page 85.) Yoshi Tabo’s offerings at the Raw Bar (Silver) “fit seamlessly into Blue Water’s menu in a way that makes you forget that the raw fish here is some of the best in the city,” said one judge. Newcomer Miku shakes up the Japanese scene in Vancouver with a scorched approach to sushi (otherwise known as aburi-style). “When Seigo-san visits,” advised one judge, “go. And blow the budget on the omakase dinner.” Honourable Mention to En for creative fusing of Italian and Japanese techniques.
Silver: Zest Japanese Cuisine
Honourable Mention: Yuji’s Japanese Tapas & Hapa Izakaya
Tight competition in a category where hundreds of sushi joints and plenty of izakayas clamour for top honours. Gold to Kingyo where “Koji Zenimaru and his raucous crew offer a playful take on Japanese small plates. Exuberance and a wild sense of fun are grounded in tight techniques.” At Zest (Silver), a serene and elegant room offers a modern backdrop for Yoshi Maniwa’s take on traditional Japanese dishes like soba crab rolls, a nori-wrapped duo of crisped buckwheat noodles and crab meat. At Lime (Bronze) there’s some serious culinary skill behind the sushi bar with executive chef Masaaki Kudo, formerly of Tojo’s and Blue Water Cafe’s Raw Bar, at the helm. “First-class sushi and sashimi finally arrives on the Drive,” said one judge. Honourable Mentions to Yuji’s for creative sushi rolls like the Kamonegi with grilled duck breast and black sesame seeds, and Hapa for introducing the city to the izakaya experience.
Silver: Sea Harbour
Bronze: Sun Sui Wah
Honourable Mention: Red Star & Shanghai River
Gold winner Kirin manages to get all the elements just right: top-notch food, great service, and smart menus. “The owners say that their goal is not to be the best Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant but the best Vancouver-style Chinese restaurant,” reported one judge—“and they’ve succeeded.” Sea Harbour (Silver) boasts the perfect mix of innovation and classic technique, best seen in its crab and kabocha squash hot pot. The Richmond location of Sun Sui Wah remains a bastion of local ingredients cooked with classic Cantonese and Hong Kong techniques. Its King crab promotion remains the best of the bunch, despite competition from all over the Lower Mainland (not to mention China and Hong Kong). Red Star gets an Honourable Mention for spectacular roasted meats (our judges loved the whole roasted suckling pig), as does Shanghai River for housemade Shanghainese classics.
Silver: Koon Bo Seafood
Bronze: Alvin Garden
Honourable Mention: Ho Yuen Kee & Shanghai Wonderful
The inevitable wait for a lunchtime table is a small price to pay for the Lower Mainland’s best xiao long bao (soup buns), freshly made to order and bursting with clean rich broth at Chen’s Shanghai (Gold). Don’t be fooled by the nondescript minimall location of Koon Bo Seafood (Silver); large families pack in nightly for well-executed Cantonese comfort food. House-made pickles brighten a stir-fry of beef and young ginger as well as the hand-shredded chicken salad with strands of jellyfish and crispy wonton skins. At Alvin Garden (Bronze), fiery Hunan fare, a flavour profile marked by the bright heat of Szechuan peppercorns, punches through the damp Vancouver weather to warm the soul. Honourable Mentions to Ho Yuen Kee for the out-of-sight crab dishes and Shanghai Wonderful for its deeply authentic Shanghainese cooking.
Bronze: Sun Sui Wah
Honourable Mention: Grand Honour Hot Pot
God is in the details, and Kirin earns Gold for seasonal changes to incorporate the freshest ingredients; Silver goes to Gingeri for simple dishes sharply executed. Travel to the Richmond location of Sun Sui Wah (Bronze) for excellent service, and to Grand Honour (Honourable Mention) to rub shoulders with well-heeled Hong Kong expats.
Bronze: Ashiana Tandoori
Honourable Mention: Chutney Villa & Akbar’s Own
Vancouver offers an excellent range of convincing alternatives for the nights you can’t get a table at Vij’s. Speaking of Vij’s (Gold), Vikram and Meeru Dhalwala kicked a ridiculously accomplished room up another notch with new dishes like beef short ribs in cinnamon and red wine curry; it may not be traditional Indian, but it’s the heart of our Indian culinary experience. Next door, Rangoli (Silver) dishes indisputable value for eating in (barring those pinchy chairs) and—a godsend—grab-and-go. Ashiana Tandoori (Bronze) continues to excel; Rick and Sonia Takhar remain two of the warmest hosts in the business. Honourable Mentions go to eclectic, innovative Chutney Villa and to Akbar’s Own, currying favour with heavy hits of flavour at every turn.
Silver: Jang Mo Jib
Honourable Mention: Cho Sun
Make the trek to Burnaby’s Hanwoori (Gold) for the bold, soothing flavours of Korean comfort food. Soups like the rich beef rib (kalbi tang) are a particular strength on the menu; authentic grilled ribs and spicy chicken are also excellent. Jang Mo Jib (Silver) offers classic Korean-style dining and L.A.-style kalbi; grilled dumplings and seafood pancakes are perfect for late-night snacking. At Insadong (Bronze), located at the nexus of Coquitlam’s Korean shopping and dining district, find bubbling hot pots like spicy gojuchang-based soondooboo jigae (creamy silken tofu and kimchi in a rich seafood broth) and steamed pork belly served with Napa cabbage and oyster-spiked kimchi. Loud, lively chatter is the backdrop at Cho Sun (Honourable Mention), where large groups of Korean expats and like-minded carnivores gather for generous portions and survival-of-the-fittest-style eating.
Silver: Montri’s Thai
Bronze: Sawasdee Thai
Honourable Mention: Chilli House Thai Bistro
The Burrard Street location of Salathai (Gold) is frequented by visiting celebrities and even the Thai royal family, but it’s the homey, family-style atmosphere of the Cambie Street location that has been popular with locals for over 20 years. The pungent sweetness of Thai basil elevates pad see-iew—a simple stir fry of rice noodles with your choice of meat—beyond the pedestrian. Tap