Long before it all became trendy, restaurateur John Bishop and former chef Denis Green made a commitment to serving only organic, sustainable cuisine when they opened Bishop's over twenty years ago. New chef Andrea Carlson continues the tradition, buying from small local purveyors and butchering pork and lamb herself for her elegant locavore dishes.
We loved: Berkshire pork with thyme-scented gnocchi.
Cactus Club at Bentall 5
The Cactus Club might be a restaurant chainwith five locations in Vancouver alonebut the company made two exceptional moves in 2008. It debuted a striking downtown location, filled with art by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. And more importantly, it hired the superbly talented chef Rob Feenie, formerly of Lumiere, who has reinvented his signature dishes like squash ravioli into larger portions'and lower prices'for all locations.
We loved: Sablefish and tuna tataki (seared on the outside but the the center is left rare).
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This culinary landmark open since 1971 is slated to close in March 2010 due to the city's new security measures regarding its unorthodox locationin the industrial ship docking zone of Coal Harbor. Perched on the edge of the waterfront, the Cannery affords stunning water and mountain views, but the main attraction is chef Wayne Sych's Pacific Rim dishes that emphasize local ingredients like roasted mussels with pine nuts and steamed fresh Dungeness crab.
We loved: Oysters baked with wasabi mayonnaise.
Cibo Trattoria/Uva Wine Bar at the Moda Hotel
When Uva Wine Bar opened in the Moda Hotel in 2007, the draw was local star sommelier Sebastien Le Goff and his personalized, Italian-focused wine list. A year later, the Moda Hotel has a strong culinary draw as wellCibo Trattoria, run by chef Neil Taylor (formerly of London's River Café) who cooks an Italian-inspired menu with dishes like housemade pappardelle with braised lamb shoulder.
We loved: Chestnut soup with venison bacon.
The most outstanding of the city's slew of izakaya restaurants is this West End spot, often bustling with homesick Japanese students and staff from other restaurants who hang out there after their own places close. The inventive small plates range from deep-fried prawns covered in a light tempura batter to the "Caesar salad"mizuna leaves and "croutons" of crispy tofu with a garlic-soy dressing.
We loved: Salmon carpaccio with garlic chips; sake-steamed mussels with bacon.
Insider tip: Try the Osake, a brand of locally-fermented sake.
Kirin Seafood Restaurant
Chef Allen Liu's exquisite way with seafood is one of the reasons Vancouver has earned its reputation for having the most stellar Cantonese food in North America. Kirin has five locations; the best is the dramatic, high-ceilinged original, open for over two decades.
We loved: Salt-and-pepper soft-shell crab; deep-fried, coconut cream buns.
The city's best street food cart, operated by Japanese husband-and-wife team Noriki and Misa Tamura, focuses exclusively on grilled-to-order hot dogs topped with Japanese condiments like nori seaweed flakes, grated daikon and miso-mayonnaise. Among the varied list of celebrities who've visited: chef Anthony Bourdain, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and rapper Ice Cube.
We loved: The Okonomi Dog, Kurobuta pork sausage with fried cabbage and bonito shavings.
Chef-owner Nico Schuerman's background shows throughout the menu at this small, narrow restaurant in the city's Crosstown neighborhood. The largely North African-inspired dishes like meatballs in a rich roast tomato sauce served in a mini tagine reflect his time living in Morocco; his Belgian roots show up in dessert waffles drizzled with sauces like fig-orange and lavendar-chocolate.
We loved: Duck and andouille sausage cassoulet served in a cast-iron pan.
Insider tip: Dinersoften with strollers in towline up as early as 9AM for the weekend brunch.
Chef-owners Adam Pegg and Lucais Syme chose their restaurant's nameItalian for a particularly enduring variety of oak treeto symbolize the deep Italian roots of many of the residents in their Kitsilano neighborhood. At the 32-seater, Pegg and Syme send out Northern Italian dishes including excellent housemade pastas and braises.
We loved: Beef cheeks braised in Pinot Nero; risotto for two, made with one-year aged Acquarella rice; lemon mascarpone cream tart.
Voya Restaurant and Lounge
Running the kitchen at this shiny new restaurant at the Loden Hotel is the terrific, though overlooked Mark-André ChoquetteRob Feenie's former right hand man at the now-shuttered Lumiere. Choquette's mostly European menu has hints of Southeast Asia, India and China.
We loved: Salmon with bok choy and cashews.