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The bites and dishes that stuck with us.
Full disclosure: outside of Japanese restaurants, I’ve never ordered salmon from a menu in my life. It’s not that I don’t like it—I go fishing off Tofino a few times a year and eat my catch with anticipation throughout the year. But at a restaurant, it never seems to have that meaty texture that I love from the wild fish. So weirdly my most memorable in Vancouver last year, was the two times I had Chef Roger Ma’s fig-wrapped filet of wild Spring salmon baked in clay. The first time I had it was when Chef Ma welcomed Melissa Rodriguez, the executive chef at Del Posto in New York and his old kitchen mate from their days at Daniel Boulud. The dish comes out in fully set terracotta and is dramatically cracked open with a wooden mallet. Inside the fish was so delicately steamed that it seemed almost raw, the texture close to a foie gras parfait. But that night was a special (and pricey) dinner with a Michelin-starred chef—of course it was going to be good. So a few months later I was with friends who had bid on a whisky dinner at Whisky & Words and out it came again and it a revelation all over again (it’s since become part of their tableside service for $50/head). It’s just a dish that has everything: history, patience, local sensibility.—Neal McLennan, food editor
You know the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper? I’ve personally never seen it (Hollywood and I disagree dramatically about his charm as a leading man) but I’m under the impression it’s about a guy who has…. no limits. It reminds me of me, when I’m eating oysters, because I have never found out how many is too many and honestly am doubting this point there is one. I’m insatiable, a bottomless pit when it comes to bivavles. I only stop slurping them down when my oyster-eating companions have gently suggested we move on to something new, or my wallet puts an end to my shuck-happy ways. What is my limit? When will Hollywood make a movie about me?
All of this is to say, my fondest food memory of 2019 was snagging the corner booth at the tiny Oyster Express in Chinatown this summer during happy hour and squatting there with two game, seafood-loving companions until we had polished off six platters of ultra-fresh Fanny Bays together ($1.50 each! We couldn’t afford not to). We stopped our marathon only because we had a movie to catch and also the restaurant was clearly trying to close, but six months later, I’m still thinking about those plump little jewels, displayed on a bed of ice, ripe and ready for the slurpin’. I acknowledge there is almost no way to talk about oysters and make them sound appealing but trust me: of all of my moments of gluttony, this is the one I’m still thinking about six months later. Next time, I’m going alone—and taking it to the limit. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
Asking a bunch of people to spend $95 on a dinner is one thing; choosing a place that has little to no ability to accommodate dietary restrictions is another. But still, I’m glad that one of my best friends chose to celebrate his 30th birthday at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant. (And that I haven’t yet developed a gluten-allergy or a conscience.) Twenty of us ended up making the excursion to a decidedly odd restaurant setting (you’ll see what I mean) on Broadway and Willow and, when it was all over, everyone was very glad they did (and also extremely bloated).
Here is an approximate list of what was served (the menu was customized to my friend’s carnivorous instincts):
– Whole suckling pig
– Braised and grilled duck with mushroom
– Smoked shredded chicken w/ sugar cane
– Braised tender beef with black truffle
– Scallop and shrimp with veggies
– Wok-fried Dungeness crab with chilli salt, crisp garlic, and fried sticky rice (probably the highlight amidst a dinner of goddamn allstars)
– Garlic pea shoots
– Crispy noodle pancakes for dessert
Needless to say, my vegetarian girlfriend did not attend this dinner.
Dynasty is a mainstay on our Restaurant of the Year list and there’s a good reason why. —Nathan Caddell, associate editor
If you don’t like a convoluted fetishization of celebrities and food, stop reading now. I can tell you exactly which day I had this dish because it was the day my sixth grade dreams came true. On Friday, October 11, 2019, I saw the Jonas Brothers live (met every expectation) and I had the Koh Soi noodles at Fat Mao (exceeded every expectation). One might think it difficult, or even wrong, to compare a concert to a bowl of noodles, but I can confidently say I found both the musical trio and my dinner to be steamy. Both made me cry—the former during “Lovebug” and the latter because it was a little spicy. However, the rich soup, braised chicken leg and thick noodles were significantly more affordable than the Jobros, and notably, I was able to get a lot closer to one than the other. I’ll be content with these noods for now. —Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor
My choice may seem a little underwhelming compared to everyone else’s on this list, unless you’ve gone a couple of years without the joy of a toasted, buttered English muffin over a long, leisurely breakfast by the beach. Yes, I may be upping my desperation a wee bit, but I also didn’t realize just how much I’d missed them until I’d picked up a six-pack of these GF babies from a stand at my local West End farmer’s market. Soft on the inside, with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds that make them taste as if they’ve got wheat berries in them, and crispy around the edge as they’re toasted—damn, these are addictive. I immediately went to Marie’s website to figure out which markets she’d be at for the rest of the summer. And bought four packages to bring to our annual cabin vacation up in Power River. And made breakfast sandwiches (okay, Egg McMuffins) for everyone there, who also decided they were the best English muffins they’d ever had, glutenous or otherwise. Underwhelming? Pshaw.—Anicka Quin, editorial director