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After 12 months of dining out, the results are in! Our judges tell you the dishes, the rooms and the chefs you need to visit this year.
It’s finally here! Our 2017 Restaurant Awards celebrate the hottest new rooms, the top chefs and most creative menus in the city. Plus, the coveted title of Restaurant of the Year. Hope you’re hungry.
Vancouverites are nuts for brunch, a fact celebrated by this new category. We won’t cross the street to see George Clooney save a child from a speeding bus, but for Café Medina’s legendary tagine—we’re happy as a clam to stand in the rain for an hour. Ditto dishes like silver winner Burdock and Co.’s crispy fried chicken or Au Comptoir’s (Bronze) authentic omelette aux fines herbes.
Café Medina780 Richards St.medinacafe.com
Burdock and Co.2702 Main St.burdockandco.com
Au Comptoir2278 W 4th Ave.aucomptoir.ca
Honourable MentionsJam Café, Ask for Luigi
Kingyo bounces back to its previous Gold status after last year’s Silver (for Casual Japanese), thanks to the perennial excellence of dishes like its stone-grilled beef tongue. “It introduced izakaya in an elevated setting that hadn’t been seen in Vancouver before,” says one judge. “The subtle nuances in their dishes took izakaya from cheap and cheerful to elegant and refined.” Guu (Silver) has always impressed our judges with inventive dishes like deep-fried chicken knee cartilage, and Rajio’s heavenly skewers and hot stone crab bibimbap are only a few of the many dishes that have earned this hip pub a Bronze.
Kingyo871 Denman St.kingyo-izakaya.ca
Rajio3763 W 10th Ave.rajiopublichouse.com
Honourable MentionsZakkushi, Suika
We have such a high concentration of exceptional, multifaceted Japanese restaurants, we thought it was time to break the genre down to its component parts. But it turns out, for the most part, our judges think the Best Japanese restaurants are also the Best Sushi spots: with the now-dominant Zest taking Gold in both categories for its elegantly classical approach, and Fraser Street’s small and zoned-in Masayoshi nabbing both Silver medals. The Bronze goes to Davie’s tiny (10 seats) sushi-only Bar Maumi.
Zest2775 W 16th Ave.zestjapanese.com
Masayoshi4376 Fraser St.masayoshi.ca
Sushi Bar Maumi1226 Bute St.
Honourable MentionsKishimoto, Minami, Miku
This new category taps into one of the big trends grabbing the city right now. The winner is scant surprise: since it opened in 2012, Shira Blustein’s The Acorn has not only defined the category in Vancouver, but also across the entire country. And a city of hungry vegetarians and non-vegetarians agree—a line snakes out of this spot almost every night of the week. More surprising is the Silver medal winner—but Richmond’s Spicy Vegetarian Cuisine underscores the fact that our Chinese restaurants nailed no-meat cooking long before it became fashionable. Bronze goes to Victoria Drive’s Chau Veggie Express, which is bringing them in in droves with its Vietnamese take on (mostly) vegan cuisine.
The Acorn3995 Main St.theacornrestaurant.com
Spicy Vegetarian Cuisine4200 No. 3 Rd.,Richmond
Chau Veggie Express5052 Victoria Dr.chowatchau.com
Honourable MentionsBandidas Taqueria, Zend Conscious Lounge
Notwithstanding this is a new category, it’s a familiar face that topped our judges’ ballots. Whether we call it best pastry chef or best bakery, Thomas Haas, he of the double-baked almond croissants, quark danish and sparkle cookies, remains on the top of the bread basket for all things leavened. Grabbing the Silver is Fraser Street’s paean to a classic boulangerie, Bâtard, while Bronze goes to the exquisite chocolates and viennoiserie of Burnaby’s Chez Christophe.
Thomas Haas2539 W Broadwaythomashaas.com
Bâtard3958 Fraser St.batard.com
Chez Christophe4717 Hastings St., Burnabychristophe-chocolate.com
Honourable MentionsFratelli, Beta5 Chocolates
In its second year, Royal Dinette earns top marks from our judges as “a place of real, quiet creativity.” Chef Jack Chen (now relocated to L’Abattoir) cooks with a “true sense of fun and purpose, articulating local ingredients with confident clarity.” Lunch and dinner services “successfully balance the tricky tightrope between more mainstream midday diners and adventurous foodies in the evening.” At Farmer’s Apprentice (Silver), David Gunawan has “taken a reductive path” with his dishes, “delving into ingredients with more depth and honesty and stripping them away to express the core of their true flavours.” Chef Andrea Carlson “cooks good food with honesty and integrity” at Burdock and Co. (Bronze), creating “comforting dishes that are rooted in the classics with flavours that are luscious, rounded and balanced.”
Royal Dinette905 Dunsmuir St.royaldinette.ca
Farmer’s Apprentice1535 W 6th Ave.farmersapprentice.ca
Honourable MentionsHawksworth, Latab (closed)
The judges were unanimous in their love for gold winner Kissa Tanto. This 80-seat Japanese-Italian restaurant, designed by Ste. Marie Art and Design, is atmospheric perfection: a glossy domed ceiling pearls with light; pink vinyl banquettes invite tête-à-têtes; and modernist tilework is inspired by the cover of a Haruki Murakami novel. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Kissa Tanto263 E Pender St.kissatanto.com
Savio Volpe615 Kingswaysaviovolpe.com
Honourable MentionsNightingale, Juniper
Two things are true: for an oceanfront city, Vancouver doesn’t have nearly enough seafood restaurants…but the ones we do have are amazing. To wit, Blue Water Cafe, which has owned this category since 2008, again tops the judges’ ballots for its blend of consistency and creativity, typified by chef Frank Pabst’s continual pushing of the seafood boundaries with his use of limpets and jellyfish. But hot on its heels is Silver winner Ancora, led by chef Ricardo Valverde, who blends his native Peruvian cuisine and Japanese influences with local B.C. ingredients to great effect. Taking Bronze is the elegant Boulevard, with its ever-present seafood towers and oysters galore.
Blue Water Cafe1095 Hamilton St.bluewatercafe.net
Ancora1600 Howe St.ancoradining.com
Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar845 Burrard St.boulevardvancouver.ca
Honourable MentionsGo Fish, Tojo’s
Not that long ago we were expecting food trucks on every block, but the realities of licensing, maintenance and having to make hay, mostly at lunch, mean that our three winners are the forebears of the business and all have bricks-and-mortar establishments to help defray the costs of the truck. Taking gold is our paragon of trucks—the born-in-Tofino legend that is Tacofino, where their take on fish tacos continues to set the standard. Close behind is Le Tigre, with its Chinese and West Coast mash-up typified by the legendary crack salad which hasn’t slipped despite their growth into a restaurant (Torafuku). Bronze is Vij’s Railway Express, where the high prices are offset by attention to detail and high-end ingredients uncommon on four wheels.
Vij’s Railway Expressvijsrailwayexpress.com
Honourable MentionsChickpea, Feastro
The mountain version of the Hatfields and the McCoys is again the theme of this year’s Whistler category, with Araxi (winner of the award every time but once since 2000) and Bearfoot Bistro (the “but once”) presenting their different takes on high-alpine fine dining. Gold is Araxi: its supreme consistency and flawless presentation continue to impress our judges. But there’s also love for the controlled excess of silver winner Bearfoot, where the steady hand of chef Melissa Craig keeps the high-wire operation in check. Bronze was snagged by newcomer (and Top Table stablemate to Araxi) Bar Oso, where authentic Spanish tapas, a vibe-y room and a much lower price point than the other medallists make it the hardest table to get right now.
Araxi110-4222 Village Squarearaxi.com
Bearfoot Bistro4121 Village Greenbearfootbistro.com
Bar Oso150-4222 Village Squarebaroso.ca
Honourable MentionsAlta Bistro, Christine’s on Blackcomb
The Okanagan food scene has exploded in the past few years, but, in the eyes of our judges, no one has yet ascended to the level of unseating chef Mark Filatow as the Valley’s top dog—this is Waterfront Wines’ eighth consecutive win in this category, but it remains perhaps the most unpretentious fine-dining spot in the province. Nudging in second is chef Jeff Van Geest’s beautiful room Miradoro, attached to Oliver’s Tinhorn Creek winery, where the former Aurora Bistro owner serves up his take on the local bounty of the Okanagan. Nabbing Bronze is the stunning Old Vines located at Quails’ Gate.
Waterfront Wines1180 Sunset Dr., Kelownawaterfrontrestaurant.ca
Miradoro537 Tinhorn Creek Rd., Olivertinhorn.com
Old Vines3303 Boucherie Rd., Kelownaquailsgate.com
Honourable MentionsCraft Corner Kitchen, Salted Brick
It’s a wholesale changing of the guards in Victoria as an entire new slate of young’uns captures the podium this year. First up is the tiny Agrius, where Cliff Leir presides over a jewel box of a room. In the words of one judge: “A young, unpretentious, ingredients-focused team sources local and focuses on flavourful, and is also home to the best bakery in the capital city (oh, the breads). Cocktails are sharp, and the wine list is naturalist; this is the hippest room in town.” Silver goes to Part and Parcel, an ultra-low-key, supremely wallet-friendly Quadra Street spot that also zones in on the local, while bronze sees the Island’s reigning whole- food champ Nourish show its leafy chops.
Agrius732 Yates St.agriusrestaurant.com
Part and Parcel2656 Quadra St.partandparcel.ca
Nourish Kitchen and Café225 Quebec St.nourishkitchen.ca
Honourable MentionsStage Wine Bar, Pizzeria Prima Strada
There’s no corner of this city where you can’t find some good eats, and these winners took home the trophies in their ’hoods. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Together, Sid and Joan Cross have raised the bar for what was possible for B.C.’s hospitality industry. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Sid and Joan Cross
Lisa Haley brings a passion for natural and authentic wines, a scholarly bent and some Montreal savoir faire to Vancouver’s wine scene. READ MORE ▸▸▸
Our Bartender of the Year brings an elegant sense of balance to her libations. READ MORE ▸▸▸
One might imagine that in a year that saw many key individuals spending time at chef David Hawksworth’s upstart Nightingale, the chef’s namesake restaurant might slip just a bit. Not a chance. Hawksworth, this category’s reigning champ (it’s won Best Upscale every year since it opened in 2011) continues to perfect a mélange of imaginative food, an amazing wine list and note-perfect service that make it the obvious choice when the occasion—be it a 50th wedding anniversary or an impromptu Tuesday night—demands that everything be just so. Silver goes to the resurgent CinCin, which proves that a dedicated team can turn any room around, while bronze goes to the often-overlooked Bauhaus, a restaurant that’s working hard to bring an elevated experience to uber-casual Gastown.
Hawksworth801 W Georgia St.hawksworthrestaurant.com
CinCin1154 Robson St.cincin.net
Bauhaus1 W Cordova St.bauhaus-restaurant.com
Honourable MentionsThe Pear Tree, Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca
Our chains are better than their chains. If we needed any proof of this, look no further than gold winner Cactus Club Cafe, who spent last year absolutely schooling our Toronto friends on how to run a hopping restaurant in the heart of the Big Smoke’s downtown. (They’re opening another T.O. outpost later this year.) The judges praised the chain’s infallible consistency, be it at the swanky Coal Harbour flagship or the Kamloops branch. Silver goes to the too-elegant-to-be-a-chain Kirin, whose four rooms never fail to disappoint, while Bronze belongs to the too-fun-to-be-a-chain team at Guu, who are likewise doing the turning-Toronto-on-its-head routine with their new Guu Izakaya location on Queen Street.
Cactus Club CafeMultiple locationscactusclubcafe.com
Honourable MentionsJoey, The Flying Pig
Vikram Vij’s shimmering My Shanti takes this year’s golden crown in true “over-the-top Bollywood style.” Judges lauded it as “fearlessly offering authentic flavours true to the subcontinent” with dishes ranging from reinvented Udaipur chaat to Kerala duck biryani. Now in its new Cambie Street outpost, Vij’s (Silver) returns to deliver “the combined vision of Vikram, host par excellence, and Meeru Dhalwala, the perfectionist in the kitchen.” A significant size-up from its previous digs, oftentimes with lineups to match, it’s still grounded in “brilliantly reimagined Indian food that pays tribute to its roots.” Rangoli (Bronze) continues to hold court (still in its original location at the time of these awards) as the Vij triumvirate’s remaining South Granville stalwart, its “intricately spiced,” smartly priced dishes especially popular with lunchtime diners.
My Shanti15869 Croydon Dr., Surreymyshanti.com
Vij’s3106 Cambie St.vijs.ca
Rangoli1480 W 11th Ave.vijsrangoli.ca
Honourable MentionsApna Chaat, Sachdeva Sweets
When you look at Japanese and Italian cuisine, there is a common sensibility between them that focuses on seasonality, incredible technique and balance. The seamlessness and finesse with which Kissa Tanto has integrated techniques and ingredients made it an easy choice for gold. The bold playfulness of the menu at Torafuku (Silver) has our judges lusting over the deep-fried mochi and “kickass rice.” It may focus only on one thing (Asian-style rotisserie chicken), but Freebird (Bronze) got multiple slow claps for its Hainanese poached chicken and umami-rich dipping sauces.
Kissa Tanto2635 E Pender St.kissatanto.com
Torafuku958 Main St.torafuku.com
Freebird810 Quayside Dr., New Westminsterfreebirdchickens.com
Honourable MentionsFat Mao Noodles, Phnom Penh
The Chef’s Table Society of B.C. helps with this award and member Chris Whittaker of Forage couldn’t stop in his love of bison. “ I have witnessed how they can transform fallow land into lush pastures and a much more diverse ecosystem than they began with, with increases in insects, birds and small mammal populations. They have restored the soil to a biodiverse state that allows the photosynthesis process to flourish, creating much more water retention and thus massive amounts of carbon capture. Beyond this, healthy pastures create less unwanted runoff into our salmon-bearing rivers and streams and, with proper plant forage diversity, eliminate the need for grai