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Is There a Distinctly “Vancouver” Watch?
This Vancouver neighbourhood is giving Richmond a run for its money when it comes to the best Chinese restaurants.
Conventional wisdom says that Richmond is the centre of Chinese dining life, but a slew of ambitious restaurant openings have diners storming into Vancouver for the Lower Mainland’s best Chinese food—with even fussy, old-school regulars heading into the city for their daily dim sum fixes and dinner party blow-outs.
A cluster of highly regarded Chinese restaurants has established itself around the stretch where the Canada Line meets the Broadway Corridor, taking advantage of what will soon be a transportation hub once the Broadway Subway is complete. The Michelin Guide has also highlighted these superb Chinese restaurants, awarding one coveted star and two “recommended” statuses to restaurants in the area.
Of course, eating with family and friends is a cornerstone of Chinese culture, where part of growing up is learning the boisterous art of happy table chatter and the proper way to serve tea to your elders, and ensuring that your grandmother gets the first serving of the dish she likes best. Favourite restaurants are where the rituals of celebrating everyday life and special occasions become core memories for Chinese diners.
The following are some of the best places to dine in the neighbourhood right now—along with a few suggestions on what to order.
2808 Cambie St.
In China, the Quan Ju De brand is absolutely synonymous with Peking duck: founded in 1864, the restaurant is credited with bringing this hidden Imperial delicacy to a wider audience. The Vancouver branch is designed to create a sense of arrival befitting modern China, while also reflecting local ingredients and tastes (the ceiling features an inverted cityscape of Imperial Beijing, with the sails of the Vancouver Convention Centre set in the middle).
Fraser Valley ducks are raised to exacting specifications and roasted to order, which can take up to 55 minutes. Order the duck when you make your reservation to shorten the wait, because it’s a stunner: gloriously crisp lacquered skin, carefully rendered of fat, encases lushly succulent flesh. The coveted crispy breast skin is best eaten first with a dip of turbinado sugar, and tableside-carved duck slices are folded into thin crepes with julienned cucumbers, green onions and a heady hoisin sauce.
Let the duck take centre stage, and keep the rest of the meal simple: a beautiful bowl of duck soup, spinach braised in golden broth, citrusy mapo tofu with wagyu beef, and noodles. Vancouver’s Quan Ju De is the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in Canada, so, to state the obvious: reservations are a must.
955 W Broadway
Outside of Greater China, Vancouver has a strong claim to being the last bastion of truly fine Cantonese dining. Chef’s Choice practices its craft at the highest levels, with astounding technical details that yield beautiful, pure flavours. (Executive chef Tommy Pang has decades of experience, including opening the famed Chef Tony’s in Richmond in the ’90s.)
Cantonese steamed soup dumplings, swollen with soup and held together in a gossamer-thin skin, are a must order at dim sum. The Gold Coin chicken—rich pork belly sandwiching chicken liver—is a Hong Kong BBQ classic not seen in Vancouver in decades. Though the Michelin Guide recommends the black truffle chicken, it’s the chicken with sticky rice you’ll see on every table: deboned chicken is layered with sticky rice and pan-fried to a gorgeous crispness. If your pocketbook allows, this is the place to indulge in king crab: it’s supremely fresh and cooked to a perfect sweet tenderness. Served in three courses, including garlic steamed legs, spicy fried knuckles and Portuguese curried baked rice, it’s the ultimate special-occasion meal. The room and service echoes old-school Hong Kong restaurants: intimate, discreet and elegant.
777 W Broadway
Dynasty Seafood was originally a local outpost of Hong Kong’s legendary East Ocean Restaurant Group in the ’90s, when world-class Hong Kong Cantonese restaurants first opened in Vancouver. The restaurant excels in beautiful banquet-style dishes that are executed to tight standards, particularly vegetarian dishes. Whole stuffed napa cabbage is braised to a sweet tenderness; the giant vegetable “bao” is served tableside overflowing with shiitake mushrooms and black moss—a deeply meaningful dish conveying luck and prosperity.
The restaurant’s signature showstopper is the IG-famous tower called Typhoon Shelter Dungeness crab; it comes served over sticky rice and showered with fried garlic, spicy chilies and crispy breadcrumbs. Dim sum standouts include the truffled mushroom dumplings, pork and crab dumplings and baked minced pork pies with black pepper. The gregarious front-of-house team may be the most adept in the city at working with diners unfamiliar with Chinese food. Many of the dishes need to be pre-ordered, and reservations are recommended.
656 W Broadway
At first glance, A.Bento appears to be a Japanese restaurant (the name is a nod to their rice-based lunch boxes) but the menu from chef William Chen and co-owner Aaron Zhou is packed with innovative but deeply informed Taiwanese dishes. It’s a reflection of how Taiwanese culture holds tightly to its traditional values while embracing modernity with a smart ease.
The oyster-shrimp pancake is a glorious remix of the classic Chiuchow dish, lifted with wok-seared Taiwanese cabbage and a savoury-sweet sauce sharpened with miso and sriracha. Chinese cooking does not often use black pepper, but the night market-style beef short ribs employ fistfuls, resplendent with a heady floral bite. For those willing to swim in deep waters, the stew of pork intestines, pork blood and tender beef brisket thrums with pickled cabbage and soybeans: it’s a classic Taiwanese comfort dish reflecting an agrarian respect for whole-animal cookery. Creative cocktails mix traditional teas with whiskies, gins and just enough tropical juiciness to balance the deep richness of the food.
1108 W Pender St.
Well, this one didn’t survive the Broadway construction—at press time they announced their closure—but, fortunately, their original West Pender location thrives. Vancouver was once dotted with Chinese wonton shops that provided quick and accessible but well-made noodles and rice dishes. Heritage updates that tradition without sacrificing hand-crafted care.
The generously proportioned wontons have the proper snap of well-made alkaline noodles and the siu mai dumplings burst with juicy freshness. The house-roasted Chinese BBQ duck is one of the best in the city: tender and rich, and roasted throughout the day to ensure its fresh immediacy. The beautifully set ramen eggs have what the Chinese would call “sugar hearted” yolks, in reference to their melting, caramelly texture. Heritage Asian Eatery is not just making delicious food: it’s preserving traditional techniques and an approachable style of dining for future generations of Vancouverites.
READ MORE: The Best Chinese Restaurants in Vancouver