Worth the Drive 2010

With such a diverse panoply of rooms to choose from, Vancouverites need a good reason to head out of town for dinner. In White Rock, you’ll find one on Marine Drive. Most spots on the beach strip compete with one another; Pearl on the Rock aspires to the polished service, wine knowledge, and fine-dining flavours of Vancouver’s best rooms—and nails it with dishes such as the house-made charcuterie plate and perfectly seared Qualicum scallops with spring pea and Alpine Gold agnolotti. Pearl trumps Giraffe as the best restaurant in White Rock; its sister room, Onyx, up the hill at Five Corners, is the area’s best steakhouse. A shorter tunnelling effort takes you to La Belle Auberge in Ladner, a rather dowdy converted Victorian house that makes up for its dated trappings with food expertly prepared and presented: flavourful lobster bisque, succulent osso buco, silken chocolate-hazelnut mousse. Chef/proprietor Bruno Marti brings a little touch of Europe to Ladner with a room that endures thanks to chef de cuisine Tobias MacDonald’s flawless execution of continental classics. In Burnaby, Scott Jaeger quietly goes about the business of filling his warm, tasteful, intimate room by turning out fastidiously original takes on poached free-range chicken, pan-seared rainbow trout, and Kettle Ridge beef tenderloin. Pear Tree ’s menu is brief but carefully focused, the service friendly but professional. And the desserts (especially the lemon tart) are stunning. This is a culinary oasis on an unlikely stretch of Hastings, well worth a visit. Eastward ho!