VanMag’s 2019 Restaurant Award Winners

It's been a year of great eating.

It’s been a year of great eating.

Ready, set, eat! Our 30th Annual Restaurant Awards feature is a result of a lot of eating by a lot of judges. The process starts as soon as last year’s awards are done and doesn’t stop until this issue goes to press. In the interim there are hundreds of meals, a few glasses of wine and plenty of heated debates. These are the results—dig in.

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St Lawrence. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Restaurant of the Year

Winning Restaurant of the Year back to back in 2018 and 2019 is truly exceptional, but St. Lawrence truly earned it. READ MORE ▸▸▸


St. Lawrence
269 Powell St.,

Chef JC Poirier. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Chef of the Year

Chef JC Poirier is a maestro in the kitchen, yet he approaches his job not as star but as workhorse . READ MORE ▸▸▸


St. Lawrence
269 Powell St.,

Stem Japanese Eatery. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best New Restaurant

The duo behind Stem Japanese Eatery are two scrappy upstarts with a dream. READ MORE ▸▸▸


Stem Japanese Eatery
5205 Rumble St.,


631 Commercial Dr.,

Ugly Dumpling
1590 Commercial Dr.,

Honourable Mentions
Elisa, Como Taperia

VIDEO: Vancouver’s New Restaurants

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Boulevard. (Photo: Christin Gilbert)

Best Upscale

This past year, Gold medal winner Boulevard promoted Alex Chen, 2018’s Chef of the Year, to executive chef for all of the Sutton Place Hotel’s brands and Roger Ma took more day-to-day control of the kitchen, but the quality, inventiveness and precision that saw them win this category last year have not waned in the least. When the two are working in tandem, there’s no one who’s cooking with more finesse or ambition. Taking Silver and reaffirming itself as one of the city’s elite rooms is Hawksworth, where David Hawksworth and executive chef Quinton Bennett are likewise turning out ingredient-driven treatises on locavorism in the most elegant room in town, usually packed with the city’s who’s who. Winning Bronze is the perennially solid and under-the-radar the Pear Tree, where Scott Jaeger continues to achieve nightly greatness in the shadow of the praise heaped on lesser rooms that don’t happen to be in Burnaby.


845 Burrard St.,


801 W Georgia St.,

The Pear Tree
4120 Hastings St.,

Honourable Mentions

Botanist, Bauhaus 

Downlow Chicken Shack.

Best Casual

We’ve resurrected this category thanks to the explosion of relaxed spots turning out some of the most buzzworthy chow in town. Take Gold winner Downlow Chicken Shack. Owners Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann closed their beloved but poorly laid out Merchant’s Workshop last summer and moved north up Commercial Drive with an idea of serving up Nashville hot chicken, and the crowds clamouring for their wholesome fare have been non-stop. And for fun, they morph into a burger bar on Mondays, producing the city’s best in that genre as well (and the concept will get its own spot shortly). More under the radar is the tiny—and, to be honest, sort of dingy—slice of authentic Mexican that is Silver winner Chancho Tortilleria. The minuscule menu is an exercise in minimalism: three types of pork and fresh (as in made two minutes before you eat them) tortillas all served on beat-up aluminum trays. It’s perfect. Rounding out the winners with Bronze is Angus An’s Fat Mao Noodles, a sliver of a room in Chinatown that keeps it authentic and casual with pan-Asian bowls like southern Thai beef laksa.


Downlow Chicken Shack
905 Commercial Dr.,


Chancho Tortilleria
1206 Seymour St.,

Fat Mao Noodles
217 E Georgia St.,

Honourable Mentions

Hey, Dumplings!, The Tuck Shoppe

Amber Bruce (left) and Shane Taylor kicking back at the Keefer Bar. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Bartender of the Year

At Keefer Bar, Amber Bruce manages the melee with grace and skill. READ MORE ▸▸▸

Sommelier of the Year

It was a shock to find out CinCin‘s Shane Taylor hadn’t won this award years ago. READ MORE ▸▸▸

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Burdock and Co. (Photo: Allison Kuhl)

Best West Coast

This year sees this at-times-unwieldy category finally settle down to recognize a trio of restaurants that truly encapsulates Vancouver locavorism. First up with Gold is criminally under­appreciated Burdock and Co, where chef Andrea Carlson transforms her jewel box of a room into a master course on taking the bounty of this area and moulding it into tiny, tasty treatises of what it means to create magic from sustainability. Taking Silver is Kits’s AnnaLena, a room that continues to be one of the hardest reservations in town since opening five years ago, in large part because chef Michael Robbins oversees a menu with gems like trout with roe and chive beurre blanc that have an unwavering sense of place. The Bronze goes to David Hawksworth’s Nightingale—another coveted reservation—where the famed chef and his executive chef, Phil Scarfone, are able to do the near-impossible feat of populating the big room by creating flawless dishes that have local provenance.


Burdock and Co 
2702 Main St.,


1809 W 1st Ave.,

1017 W Hastings St.,

Honourable Mentions

Farmer’s Apprentice, The Pear Tree

Bao Bei.

Best of the Neighbourhoods

These neighbourhood spots offer great food—and an insight into the locals who live there. READ MORE ▸▸▸

Wild Mountain. (Photo: Erika Arbour-Nevins)

Best Victoria

Our province’s capital continues to siphon both chefs and diners in search of more affordable housing and a slower pace, and the dining scene is exploding as a result. But Gold winner Wild Mountain isn’t interested in trends or chasing the next big thing. Instead proprietors Oliver Kienast and Brooke Fader use their Sooke outpost to celebrate food prepared in measured and handcrafted reverie (their house-made root beer prosciuttini is a charcuterie revelation). Silver goes to the relentlessly offbeat Part and Parcel, which operates out of the tourist flow from its Quadra Street perch but nonetheless effortlessly churns out show-stopping dishes like beet falafel with ricotta and grilled radicchio at prices that never get near the $20 mark. And Bronze is long-time fave Olo, where there’s been unwavering consistency coming from the kitchen of chef Brad Holmes since the space transformed from Ulla four years ago.


Wild Mountain
1831 Maple Ave. South, Sooke,


Part and Parcel
2656 Quadra St., Victoria,

509 Fisgard, Victoria,

Honourable Mentions

Agrius, House of Boateng

Alta Bistro. (Photo: Chris Brown)

Best Whistler

Well, sooner or later the local secret had to get out, and this is the year our judges decided to spill it: Gold winner Alta Bistro is the best restaurant in Whistler. Chef Nick Cassettari has been a model of overperforming for almost a decade now, somm Eric Griffith curates the most interesting list in town, and the young and carefree vibe has none of the formality that can affect resort dining. Silver goes to last year’s surprise winner, the Grill Room, where chef Derek Bendig shows that being attached to a hotel—the Fairmont Chateau Whistler—doesn’t mean that the food has to be expected and safe. And Bronze goes to the rock-steady Araxi, where even a trying year with chef changes couldn’t keep the perennial Gold winner off the podium.


Alta Bistro
4319 Main St.,


Grill Room
4599 Chateau Blvd.,

4222 Village Sq.,

Honourable Mentions

Bar Oso, The Red Door

Waterfront Wines. (Photo: Pinstripe Productions)

Best Okanagan

This is getting silly. This category has seen a pantheon of different judges over the years and no matter what the mix, the result is the same: Mark Filatow’s Waterfront Wines wins gold…for the 3,000th-time. (It’s actually only 11.) And this in a year where Filatow could have easily taken his eye off the ball with the opening of his casual lunch spot, Waterfront Café. But no—the food coming out of Waterfront’s kitchen—try ling cod and trout rye tempura for a sample—continues to wow our judges, as does one of the best-curated wine lists in the Interior. Silver goes to the only restaurant more iconic than Waterfront: Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao’s institution Raudz, where a reinvigorated menu shows that Butters can still throw down with anyone in the province. Bronze drops on Liquidity Bistro, where owner Ian MacDonald continues to shake up the old order of how wineries (and winery restaurants) are run, with chef Matt Martin offering an innovative take on a tasting-room menu with dishes like squab with cherry and shiso.


Waterfront Wines
1180 Sunset Dr., Kelowna,


1560 Water St., Kelowna,

Liquidity Bistro
4720 Allendale Rd., Okanagan Falls,

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Chef Tony. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best Chinese

It’s been five years since Gold winner Chef Tony opened, and its refined, bustling approach to Cantonese food continues to make it one of the busiest restaurants around, thanks to its elegant room serving standout dishes like sea cucumber soaked in vinegar and a liberal use of truffles. The Silver goes to Hoi Tong, a fitting tribute to the beloved 82-year-old chef Leung Yiu Tong, who recently retired and whose trailblazing touch with interpreting the Cantonese classics—his sweet-and-sour pork knew no equal—helped inform several generations of diners on what fine Chinese cooking can be. Rounding out the podium is former Gold winner Dynasty, where chef Sam Leung likes to push the envelope, especially with seafood, and where dishes like his deep-fried crab claws stuffed with shrimp paste cater to those not wanting to make the trip to Richmond for dynamite Chinese food.


Chef Tony
4600 No. 3 Rd. #101, Richmond,


Hoi Tong
8191 Westminster Hwy. #155, Richmond (closed)

108-777 W Broadway,

Honourable Mentions

Jade Seafood, Sanbo

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St. Lawrence. (Photo: Tanya Goehring)

Best French

It had to happen. After 11 years of having Le Crocodile atop the French throne (and 17 Golds in total), JC Poirier’s St. Lawrencehas earned the Gold with authentic but playful takes on the Paris-Brest, venison tourtière  and choucroute garnie that have made securing a table at the east-side eatery about as easy as winning the lottery. But once in the cozy blue-hued room, everything and everyone works in unison, and you’re transported to the Quebec food of chef Poirier’s youth (with a few welcome elevations). Michel Jacob’s Le Crocodile hasn’t gone far: its Silver, a testament to a level of focus and consistency that has no equal in town and a chef/owner for whom the word “legendary” seems insufficient. Securing Bronze is the Kitsilano arrondissement’s ode to the honest, inviting world of Parisian café culture, Au Comptoir, and its playful riffs on standards like a bavette with dauphinoise potatoes.


St. Lawrence
269 Powell St.,


Le Crocodile
909 Burrard St.,

Au Comptoir
2278 W 4th Ave.,

Honourable Mentions

Café Salade de Fruits, Tableau Bar Bistro

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Savio Volpe. (Photo: Ian Lanterman)

Best Italian

In choosing Savio Volpe as the Gold winner, our judges have aligned themselves with the public, who have made Savio perhaps the town’s toughest table to get since it opened three years ago. Its combination of atmosphere, affordability and a dialed-in but not doctrinaire take on regional Italian—suckling pig and chicken agnolotti with sage—has redefined Italian food in Vancouver. It feels like a neighbourhood joint…for the entire city. A surprise Silver goes to Umberto Menghi’s Giardino, showing that the legendary restaurateur can still deliver precisely made classics like bistecca alla Fiorentina that suit the type of locals who aren’t interested in chasing the next big thing but who want their food on point and on time. And Bronze goes to Robson Street’s CinCin, which keeps its mid-career renaissance going strong even as executive chef Andrew Richardson attends to the new Elisa steakhouse, in part thanks to a stellar wine program and wood-fired gems like lamb sirloin with salsa verde.


Savio Volpe
615 Kingsway,


1328 Hornby St.,

1154 Robson St.,

Honourable Mentions

La Qu