Eat The City: Keefer and Main

Bao Bei

163 Keefer St., 604-688-0876.

Smart sophistication and heartfelt updates on Chinese home-cooking classics have kept this new eatery bustling from day one.  Soft glowing lights, delicately washed-out signage, and touches of lucky red evoke Old Chinatown. Expertly composed cocktails play tangerine and plum against smoky bourbon and rye.

Most popular
Beef Tartar reinvigorates a steakhouse classic with preserved mustard root, ginger, and fried shallots.

Chef’s pick
Rekong beef noodles.

My favourite
The house-made crackling sesame Shao Bing flatbread, filled with luscious braised pork and crisp Asian pear—a balance of warmth and refinement that informs every delicious detail at Bao Bei.

Phnom Penh

244 E. Georgia St., 604-682-5777

The clatter of diners and simple décor are textbook Asian functionality, but there is real magic in the cooking. Phnom Penh’s owners will tell you that their noodle dishes, a specialty for three generations, are built on family roots. The dry egg noodles—a study in simplicity and detail—are tossed with shrimp, pork, liver, and a sprinkling of deep-fried garlic, and served with a bowl of beautiful clear broth on the side.

Chef’s pick
The refreshingly sour and spicy green papaya salad.

My favourite
Almost every table orders a plate of deep-fried garlic squid, and for good reason. Gloriously crisp and succulent, the dish is a marriage of savoury and sweet; the bracing lemon dipping sauce is seriously addictive.

New Town Bakery and Restaurant

158 E. Pender St., 604-689-7835

Comfortably grounded in the groovy orange hues of the 1970s, New Town serves up old-school Chinese food worthy of characters in a Wayne Wang movie. Chinatown locals start the day with a bowl of congee and a side of rice noodle rolls. The real treasures are in the pastry counter, waiting to be taken home or enjoyed with a cup of sweet milky Hong Kong-style tea.

Most  popular

Steamed barbecue pork or chicken buns.

My favourite
Some swear by the wonderfully soft coconut cream buns or the giant almond cookies, but it’s the apple tarts that are a Chinatown classic. Meltingly flaky pastry with a tart apple filling and a dusting of sugar, the freeform tarts satisfy to their very core.


180 Keefer St. 604-639-8875.

This brightly lit, modern room easily accommodates 1,000, making it a favourite for wedding banquets and the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy blowout. Dim sum is about the rhythm between small bites, pots of hot tea, and animated conversation.

Most popular
Steamed scallop dumplings; pork, peanut, and celery inflected Chui Chow dumplings.

My favourite
Talk ends when the rice hot pot arrives. Bowls of gently scented rice and tender chicken bring the meal to a comforting, sleepy-eyed close.

The Keefer Bar

135 Keefer St., 604-688-1983.

Sharply designed, slightly louche, and discretely mysterious, this room brings an urban edge long missing from Chinatown.  The bar menu reflects Asian flavours, but the focus is clearly on the cocktails. Drawing on neighbourhood influences, bar manager Danielle Tatarin has crafted house-made bitters and tinctures using traditional herbs and medicines.  

Most popular
Peking duck sliders.

Chef’s pick
The Fortune Teller—a selection of sliced Chinese sausage, spiced pineapple, spiced nuts, and marinated olives.

My favourite
Pretty Pink Dragon Fly—perfectly refreshing with a citrusy floral finish. VM


 Planning a visit to one of these restaurants? Click on this map to get a better idea of their locations:

Keefer & Main

We’re scoured a variety of neighborhoods for the best restaurants. Check them out here:

W. 1st and Cypress

Hamilton and Helmcken

Denman and Robson

Granville and Broadway