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For our cash, there’s no better French bistro in town, thanks to owner/chef Steeve Raye’s wildly creative cooking. His dinner specials shine, but go for weekend brunch, when you can meander off-menu with eggs Benny en français. Toasted baguette subs for English muffin under a rub of roasted shallot butter and a topping of whatever protein (house-made gravlax, pork confit) is at hand. Poached eggs follow, then lemon-caper beurre blanc. Who needs hollandaise?
2836 W. Fourth Ave., 604-733-2213 Caferegalade.ca
Despite expanding to 65 restaurants from Bellevue to Burlington, Earls has held focus on its upscale casual mission. Menu favourites have stayed right where they should (the brief Leroy’s Dry Rib absence was a cruel blip) but the seasons do bring new items. Case in point: technically, guacamole isn’t on the menu, but a wink and a nod will get you ripe avocados, lime, tomatoes, and jalapeños muddled fresh tableside in a lava rock bowl, served with fresh corn tortilla chips.
Various locations Earls.ca
The perfect pie starts with the perfect crust. Beyond Bread isn’t a 9-to-5 pizzeria, but head baker Monroe Webb’s expertise with beautiful, organic dough means tiptop thin-crust-if you know the trick. Book a week in advance and your group of 10-plus can sit in privacy after hours feasting on classics and unique specials (like this prosciutto/burrata/arugula) featuring stellar ingredients from Oyama Sausage and Benton Bros. Fine Cheese.
3686 W. Fourth Ave., 604-733-3931 Beyondbread.ca
Omakase (“to entrust”) is popular with Vancouver’s fine Japanese restaurants, but sometimes you want to know what’s coming. Chef Kazuki Uchigoshi’s “Special” five-piece temari sushi lives up to its promise. Orbs of sticky, perfectly seasoned rice are wrapped with a variety of complex pairings: buttery wagyu beef and herb salt, ika (squid) with plum sauce and shiso leaf, scallop and salmon roe with lemon zest, yellowtail with raspberry sauce, and maguro tuna with nori sauce and kaiware sprouts. Next time you’re craving rolls, try these flavour bombs instead. 1118 Mainland St.,
At this family of restaurants (Yaletown’s La Pentola, Kits’s La Quercia and next-door wine bar L’Ufficio) the focus is on food from Northern Italy, so bottarga-salted, dried mullet roe from Sardinia-isn’t featured. But chefs Lucais Syme and Adam Pegg know the briny, slightly iodine-y taste is superbly addictive, so they keep a stash under the counter. Ask for it finely grated over burrata or tossed in a simple spaghetti aglio e olio for a mid-Med umami kick.
350 Davie St., 604-642-0557 Lapentola.ca
Needing a full day of prep (call ahead), Beggar’s Chicken succeeds as both a delicacy and a dining spectacle. A whole chicken is marinated in soy and Shaoxing rice wine, stuffed with stir-fried pork and preserved (mui choi) vegetables, then sealed in a pastry casing with the marinade poured inside. Baked for five hours, it arrives at the table with a hammer to crack the dough and unleash the impossibly juicy bird.
Four locations. Kirinrestaurants.com