Editors’ Picks: The Best Things We Ate in 2023

Between the Restaurant Awards, our annual Things to Eat list and our on-going investigations into the best sandwiches in the city, we Vanmag editors like to stay well informed about Vancouver’s food scene… and well fed. Now that another delicious year of dining and dishing is through, here are the meals we can’t stop thinking about.

Editors’ Picks: The Best Things We Ate All Year

Photo: Maenam

Thai Cupcakes with B.C. Sidestripe Prawns from Maenam

If you’re going to take a moment at the end of the year to reminisce about all the great meals you had over the past 365 days, I don’t recommend doing it right before lunch. You’ll be absolutely devastated that your only option is the office cafe, and not the perennial Restaurant Award winner Maenam. Hopefully your imagination is strong enough to overtake the reality of your disappointing tuna melt and replace it with memories of chef Angus An‘s perfect amuse bouche. The bite-sized Thai cupcake features a juicy prawn sticking out jauntily from a souffle-like base, and then hits you with a whallop of complex flavours. Coconut, young ginger, chili, lime and peanut—that holy quintent of Thai cooking. Lunch may be ruined, but at least you’ve got some dinner plans now, right? —Stacey McLachlan, editor-in-chief

READ MORE: The Best Thai Restaurants in Vancouver

Photo: Leila Kwok

Shiitake Shinjo from Tojo’s

For our December/January issue, photographer Leila Kwok and I took on the most ambitious food story I’ve ever written. Due to a big idea but a limited amount of time, we visited five Japanese restaurants and had five Omakase meals in four days. At Tojo’s, I had all the feels for a number of reasons. It was the last restaurant we visited, so there was a more relaxed vibe. Tojo-san himself was chatty and hilarious—he reminded me of my late grandfather, which made me emotional. Oh, and there was also the small detail that I was getting married in three days.

The mushroom dish—shiitake with whitefish mousse, ankake sauce and panko tempura—was cozy and spectacular. It was the ultimate comfort food enjoyed in wonderful company during a time when I was feeling extraordinarily stressed out. I’ll cherish that meal almost as much as I cherish my own fun guy (sorry).—Alyssa Hirose, managing editor

BC Smoked Salmon Sandwich from Forecast Coffee

Forecast Coffee wasn’t really on my radar. I’d popped in here with some friends after what will go down as the weirdest yoga class I’d ever attended (let’s just say it’s the first time I’ve been asked to visualize a postal route and whether or not to accept a Christmas card that wasn’t intended for me as part of Shavasana). Forecast was close, busy, but had a table so we went for it. I got over my initial disappointment that they were past serving brunch (the Farmers Bowl of poached eggs and Two Rivers Sausage on potatoes sounded right up my alley) and deflated, opted for the BC Smoked Salmon sandwich. But boy was this more than the sum of its parts. I’m actually not a huge sandwich person—I’ll almost always opt for something else—but I couldn’t stop raving about this one afterward. Simple ingredients—smoked salmon, cream cheese, sprouts, cucumber—but the magic addition of everything bagel spice and ultra-fresh brioche elevated this from shrug to a can’t-stop-talking-about-it sandwich to remember. Just like that yoga class. —Anicka Quin, editorial director

Spicy Noodle Soup from Anh and Chi

I know soup isn’t the most exciting menu item but this soup is the Rolls Royce of soups. (Is that still considered a cool, fancy car? I’ve lost track!) The Bún Bò Huế or spicy noodle soup is the right mix of warm carb and spice—perfect for rainy days, or any day, really, why do you need an excuse to eat soup? The meats are meating (beef brisket, Vietnamese ham and pork hock) and the accoutrements are accoutrement-ing with fresh cabbage, cilantro and onions and the thick vermicelli noodle of my dreams. The spice is subtle but will get your nose running so extra napkins are a must. All in all, it’s always what I’m craving and, even if I try to make my own, I always long for its spicy lemongrass goodness. Don’t sleep on these noods people, it’s comfort food you can slurp.—Kerri Donaldson, associate editor

My Final Dinner at Oca Pastificio

It was late May and my daughter was home for the weekend and top of her want list was a visit to Oca. Since it opened it had been the family favourite, but I confess the huge crowds/no reservation combo meant we visited less than we’d have liked. But notwithstanding it was a sunny Friday, my daughter was pleading, so the three of us headed out to stand in line at blue-haired hour of 4:45. We just snuck in to one of the last tables in the first seating and the next 90 or so minutes were amongst the most enjoyable I can recall at any restaurant in any year in any city. I was so moved at how great the dinner was that I actually emailed them after (something I never do) to express our admiration. It said:

Hey Antoine and gang – just a quick note to say what a truly excellent dinner we had on Friday. My wife is encouraging me to offer more compliments so I’ll share with you guys what I said during dinner: Shortly before Covid I had an automotive story that took me to Modena and the Maserati factory (tough gig, I know). I ended up staying on for a few days on my own to visit some Lambrusco producers and was able to get a single reservation to Osteria Francescana where the menu that night consisted of Massimo Bottura’s greatest hits (although he wasn’t there). Even though it was Godawful expensive, it was a truly wonderful meal. But the pasta coming from that famed kitchen was easily equaled by Greg and the team last Friday.

So—one  person’s opinion—you all are really doing something special at Oca. Much thanks.

Well, anyone who loves food in town knows how the rest of the story sadly went. Chef Greg DiLabio tragically passed away 5 weeks later and Oca Pastificio as everyone knew it, was no more. I don’t know if Greg ever read the email—I only knew him to nod hello—but I stand by my assertion that the meal we enjoyed was easily the equal of the meal I had at the “greatest Italian restaurant in the world.” The silver lining is that the team from Oca is continuing on Greg’s legacy at Magari by Oca in the same spot, with the same maddening no reservation policy. I haven’t gone yet but many of the Restaurant Awards judges have and say it’s great, which I don’t doubt for a minute.—Neal McLennan, Wine & Spirits Ed.



READ MORE: Our Editors’ Favourite Meals of 2022