Restaurant Awards 2023: Restaurant of the Year, AnnaLena

This Kitsilano restaurant's tasting menu is always changing—but it's also always extraordinary.

In the eyes of our Vanmag Restaurant Awards judges, our 2023 Restaurant of the Year walks a fine line: it’s innovative while remaining grounded, dependable yet still surprising, elevated but always approachable. One judge called 2023’s ROTY “the total package that I would recommend to absolutely anyone.” Another applauded its “unwavering creativity and consistency”; a third said the restaurant “captures the essence of thinking-outside-the-box.”

Photo: Allison Kuhl

That restaurant is AnnaLena, the Kitsilano room dreamed up by chef Michael Robbins and operations manager Jeff Parr. AnnaLena first opened in 2015—and while most restaurateurs will admit that their restaurants have evolved slightly since launch, Robbins says that the now Michelin-starred AnnaLena has transformed completely. “AnnaLena couldn’t have changed more—it opened as a share plate, casual restaurant, and now it’s a tasting-menu-only one-star,” says the chef.

Photo: Allison Kuhl

The tasting menu launched when the pandemic began. But while the darkest days of COVID are behind us, Anna­Lena’s thoughtful, inventive and celebrated multi-course tasting menu remains. The lineup changes once a month-ish, but here’s a peek at past menus: mushroom spaghettini with maple bacon and wakame, aged beef striploin with bleu cheese broccoli purée and torn bread with pecorino sweet onion broth and ricotta.

Chef Michael Robbins of AnnaLena. Photo: Tanya Goehring.

The nod from Michelin last fall brought a unique buzz to AnnaLena, and our judges celebrate this big win and more: notably, that local suppliers are championed in every dish, that the tasting menu is one of the most delicious and affordable ($98 per person) in the city and that the vibe remains welcoming and down-to-earth at each seating. “Tasting menus can be a lot, and service can be very stiff,” says Robbins, “and I think that AnnaLena is professional but casual: the service is warm and personable, the team is knowledgeable and educated, but we try to keep it approachable.”

Winning Restaurant of the Year makes three 2023 Restaurant Awards for AnnaLena (Chef of the Year and Best Contemporary complete the trio). It’s been an excellent year for Robbins, Parr and the team. To see what’s next, you’ll have to book a table (and fast—to no one’s surprise, reservations sell out quickly on the day they’re released, a month in advance).

1809 W 1st Ave., Vancouver

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