Vancouver's food industry experts pick the best places to eat

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      Chef Joël Watanabe is the co-owner and culinary mastermind behind the critically acclaimed eatery Kissa Tanto, which offers a menu that seamlessly blends Italian and Japanese flavours.

      His restaurant has scooped up plenty of awards over the past few months, so it’s no surprise that his Vancouver peers have voted him best chef of the year and awarded Best New Restaurant to his Chinatown establishment in the Straight’s Industry Insiders survey of more than three dozen local chefs and restaurant managers.

      Watanabe came up with his menu concept by drawing from his own heritage. His father is Japanese and his mother Corsican, with a portion of Italian behind that Corsican background.

      “Aesthetically, I find the two cultures similar in the sense of when it comes to food,” explained Watanabe to the Straight in a phone interview. “It has simplicity, is ingredient-driven, and is very local.”

      Some people may categorize Watanabe’s culinary creations at Kissa Tanto as fusion because of their marrying of two different food cultures, but he’s against using that word.

      “To me, fusion is not a great word not just because it was done so terribly in the ’90s, but also because it kind of gives a sense that you are forcing two things together as opposed to commingling two things together,” said Watanabe. “When it works for us, it feels natural and comes together naturally.”

      Does he see this cooking trend expanding in the city? Yes.

      “The world is being so globalized, and chefs, as opposed to when I was very young, where you trained in very specific kitchens, now have more opportunity,” explained Watanabe. “More and more young cooks and chefs don’t want to be pigeonholed into cooking something that they had to learn when they were younger. They want to cook foods that come to their imagination and things that inspire them when they travel.”

      If food lovers want to try some of his Japanese-Italian dishes in the near future (such as the porchetta agnolotti that Watanabe really enjoys), they will have to adjust their preferred dining schedule. That’s because reservations at this popular spot have blown up ever since it accepted a couple of high-profile restaurant awards—by “blown up”, we mean getting 500 reservations within a 24-hour time span.

      But don’t dwell on having or not having dinner at 10 p.m. at Kissa Tanto, because there are several other great restaurants that industry insiders have picked for 2017. From Italian to French to Indian categories, they include long-time favourites (Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, Le Crocodile, Vij’s) and new establishments (Masayoshi, Cacao, Savio Volpe) that are making a mark in the city’s food scene.

      Here are Vancouver's industry insider picks for 2017:

      Chef of the year

      1. Joël Watanabe (Kissa Tanto)
      2. Phil Scarfone (Nightingale)
      3. Andrew Richardson (CinCin Ristorante + Bar) (tie)
      4. J-C Poirier (Ask for Luigi) (tie)

       

      Kissa Tanto

      New Restaurant

      1. Kissa Tanto
        263 East Pender St.
        778-379-8078
      2. Savio Volpe
        615 Kingsway
        604-428-0072
      3. Cacao
        1898 West 1st Ave.
        604-731-5370

       

      Ask for Luigi

      Italian

      1. Ask for Luigi
        305 Alexander St.
        604-428-2544
      2. La Quercia
        3689 West 4th Ave.
        604-676-1007
      3. Cinara (tie)
        350 West Pender St.,
        604-428-9694
      4. Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca (tie)
        1133 and 1129 Hamilton St.
        604-688-7466

       

      Au Comptoir

      French

      1. Au Comptoir
        2278 West 4th Ave.
        604-569-2278
      2. Le Crocodile
        100–909 Burrard St.
        604-669-4298
      3. L’Abattoir
        217 Carrall St.
        604-568-1701

       

      Bauhaus Restaurant

      Other European

      1. Bauhaus
        1 West Cordova St.
        604-974-1147
      2. Chambar
        568 Beatty St.,
        604-879-7119
      3. España (tie)
        1118 Denman St.,
        604-558-4040
      4. Cinara (tie)
        350 West Pender St.,
        604-428-9694

       

      Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

      Chinese

      1. Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
        163 Keefer St.,
        604-688-0876
      2. Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
        108–777 West Broadway
        604-876-8388
      3. Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant (tie)
        Various locations
      4. Dinesty Dumpling House (tie)
        Various locations

       

      Masayoshi 

      Japanese

      1. Masayoshi
        4376 Fraser St.
        604-428-6272
      2. Toshi Sushi
        181 East 16th St.,
        604-874-5173
      3. Zest Japanese Cuisine
        2775 West 16th Ave.,
        604-731-9378

       

      suiikii

      Indian

      1. Vij’s
        3106 Cambie St.
        604-736-6664
      2. Sula Indian Restaurant
        1128 Commercial Dr.
        604-215-1130
      3. House of Dosas
        1391 Kingsway
        604-875-1283

       

      Maenam

      Other Asian

      1. Maenam
        1938 West 4th Ave.
        604-730-5579
      2. Phnom Penh Restaurant
        244 East Georgia St.
        604-734-8898
      3. Mr. Red Cafe
        Various locations

       

      marcusckkwan

      African

      1. Simba’s Grill
        825 Denman St.
        604-974-0649
      2. Fassil Ethiopian Restaurant
        5–736 East Broadway
        604-879-2001
      3. Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant
        2149 Commercial Dr.
        604-216-1060

       

      lamezcaleriayvr

      Latin American

      1. La Mezcaleria
        Various locations
      2. Cacao
        1898 West 1st Ave.
        604-731-5370
      3. Cuchillo
        261 Powell St.
        604-559-7585

       

      La Taqueria

      Cheap Eats

      1. La Taqueria
        Various locations
      2. Tacofino
        Various locations
      3. Hawker’s Delight
        4127 Main St.
        604-709-8188

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