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Vancouver’s Top 5 Haute, Hot and Hidden Restaurants

Get the inside scoop on Vancouver’s emerging, eclectic cuisine scene from a local foodie. Savor fare at obscure French restaurants, reliable Italian trattorias and trendy Japanese Izakayas.

 

It’s undeniable that Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So it’s no surprise that some of the world’s top business leaders, entertainment gurus and culinary masterminds flock here not only to visit, but also to make their mark. One of those men of culinary excellence is Daniel Boulud. It’s fair to say that with the arrival of chef Daniel (Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud in New York City; DB Bistro Moderne and Lumiere in Vancouver), in town, Vancouver has also arrived on the haute cuisine radar.

Rich in the typical West Coast “chill attitude” even surfers in San Diego would be proud of, and situated in somewhat hard to discover (some would say obscure) locations, here are five restaurant treasures that have managed to coat the pomp of formal dining with a blanket of simple originality most taste buds can appreciate.

Parkside

Tucked into the Buchan—a historic and boutique hotel in the West End—this French Mediterranean restaurant is hardly noticed by residents that live in the area. And if the owners have their way, it’ll stay that way. The staff is professional and the service is layered but void of pretense. A six-course tasting menu will cost about $65 without wine or water, but a la carte options exist. As the menu changes daily, recommendations are best kept for your server’s discretion, but if the homemade ravioli ($12 to $19), venison loin ($26) or the 48-hour short rib ($24) is available, get it!

1906 Haro St. Tel. 604-683-6912, www.parksiderestaurant.ca.

Le Faux Bourgeois

There is nothing fake about this authentic French bistro, imported French waiters inclusive. Guests feel a sense of camaraderie sitting side-by-side on wooden, earth-colored benches. The never-ending flow of vin rouges and blancs puts everyone at ease. For starters, the fois gras pâté avec cornichons ($7), the escargot bourguignon with fresh parsley ($8) and the mountains of sliced baguettes are magnifique. Main dishes come courtesy of hand-written scribbles on a blackboard. Fresh seafood and rich game ($20 to $25) dishes are available. The canard confit ($15) is a crispy duck leg with a wine-port jus reduction that needs to be experienced. Save room for the Michel Cluizel chocolate mousse dessert ($7).

663 E. 15th St. (at Fraser Street and Kingsway Street), tel. 604-873-9733.

Fraîche

This West Coast contemporary venue is a room with a view. Chef Wayne Martin’s menu mixes his past experience at the Four Seasons Hotel and marries it with the fresh, regional and seasonal ingredients of today. For starters, I’d recommend the beet terrine salad with two types of goat cheese ($14) and the roasted quail with truffle shavings, a truffle-cauliflower whip and a mushroom risotto ($16). As a main, the very rich and buttery soft sablefish ($38) over a layer of bacon and Brussels sprout sauce is enough for two. (The side of pumpkin gratin almost made me skip dessert.) But as they say, the proof is in the chocolate mousse and peanut butter dome, so I tried it. The side of homemade marshmallows sealed the deal.

2240 Chippendale Rd. (West Vancouver), tel. 604-925-7595, www.fraicherestaurant.ca.

Ping’s Café

The 30-seat restaurant is accented with gold and black lights, courtesy of designer Omer Alber. But don’t be fooled—this place was hand-built by owner Josh Olson. Olson’s Japanese aunt is behind the bar most nights at this small family affair. What puts the zing in Ping’s? Making classical American dishes—like hamburgers, hot dogs and fries—fashionable, and adding a Japanese twist. Sure, the tuna tataki ($8) and edamame ($6) aren’t typical, but it’s the Yoshoku cuisine, or westernized Japanese food, and the Izakaya atmosphere—that steal the spotlight. The Ping Dinner ($19) features them all: the Hambagoo (seasoned beef hamburger), Ebi Furai (prawn tempura) and pork cutlet are made for sharing.

2702 Main St., tel. 604-873-2702, www.pingscafe.ca.

La Buca

In Italian, la buca means hole or den. And since the section of the tawny Arbutus corridor this restaurant is located in dies out after 7 p.m. or so, this 32-seat trattoria—nestled between a bakery and a dry cleaner—has to be discovered. For adults: Try the insalata caprese (tomato and buffalo mozzarella; $11.50), scaloppine al limone (veal cutlets with potatoes; $23.50), brasato al vino rosso (braised shortribs with truffle risotto; $24.50) and the mind-numbingly fluffy-and-warm house bread drizzled with olive oil and crusted with sea salt ($6). For the kids: They’ll enjoy the bread sticks, pasta dishes and dessert.

4025 Macdonald Ave., tel. 604-730-6988, www.labuca.ca.

All prices in Canadian dollars.


Destinations: Vancouver

Themes: Culinary

Activities: Eat


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