Best of Vancouver - Critics' Choice

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Munch, Savour, Crunch, Nibble, Bite, Chew, Gobble, Lick, Taste, And More (A Food Writer's Work Is Never Done)

Angela Murrills

Best fine-dining restaurant

West Restaurant and Bar
2881 Granville Street
604-738-8938
David Hawksworth's plates and technique are faultless but don't make you feel that your stomach should be on a pedestal. He's imaginative but not willfully so, and dishes always make sense. This is passionately made food made to be relished. (I'm thinking of that chicken-liver/foie-gras thing.) The bar is a sexy, glamorous delight, an ideal pretheatre, mood-elevating stop if you're off to the Stanley.

Best new restaurant

Cassis Bistro
420 West Pender Street
604-605-0420
Décor was done on a shoestring, location is off the beaten track, but this little place rocks. Simple fare is the hardest to do, but using the best ingredients he can get his hands on, young chef Ben Coté consistently pleases with his grandmí¨re menu, including a bouillabaisse that knocks spots off every other version in the city. I just wish they gave you more of those croutons to sop up the juices.

Best ethnic restaurants

Kedah House
5750 Fraser Street
604-325-9771

Pondok Indonesia
2781 Commercial Drive
604-872-8718

Catch me next week and it could be Ethiopian or Hunan. The ethnicities I'm currently enamoured of are Malaysian and Indonesian. No, I'm not going to recommend any dishes. Grab a server, convince him or her that you are willing, nay eager, to take gustatory chances, and ask for a meal to be put together for you.

Best restaurant bathroom

La Régalade
2232 Marine Drive, West Vancouver
604-921-2228
French magazines and a French-linen nightie hanging on the back of the door; at least, last time it was there. If it isn't still, it's time I went back, plus it's time for another omelette. (This is a place that knows what baveuse means.) Bonus points for the jolly burst of accordion music when you log on to www.laregalade.com/.

Best specialty bread shop

Those who do anything for the right dough will go to Terra Breads (Granville Island Public Market, 604-685-3102, and 2380 West 4th Avenue, 604-736-1838) for its cookies, Pane From Heaven (1688 Cypress Street, 604-736-5555) for the fruit-and-nut scone, Mix the Bakery (4430 West 10th Avenue, 604-221-4145) for the triple-chili loaf, COBS Bread (various locations) for those piquant dried-apricot scones...among others. Aren't we the lucky ones?

Best food and/or beverage festival

Feast of Fields
Different farm location each September
604-730-0450
Some Sundays back, had you been at Westham Island Herb Farm, you could have scarfed your way through--and let's have a deep breath here and note these are in no particular order--sablefish croquettes from Le Gavroche, a "Ladner fisherman's terrine" from La Belle Auberge, and sweet-corn buttermilk ice cream from Aurora Bistro. Wines? Aplenty. Plan your life around this annual FarmFolk/CityFolk fundraiser.

Best independent coffee shop

Caffí¨ Artigiano
Various locations
It feels Italian in a high-heeled, Armani-suited way, as if Marcello and Sophia might walk in at any moment, but mostly this is my place because of the high-octane espressos and the pretty tree design in the foam on the cappuccinos.

Best pastry shop

Notte's Bon Ton Pastry & Confectionery
3150 West Broadway
604-681-3058
How did they manage to move this landmark in its entirety and still retain that slightly refined teashop quality? The creamy little bijoux here are small, perfectly formed, and exactly as they were in the 1930s.

Best place to eat meat

Time to get some serious blood on my fingers. I had a quick taste of some absolutely sensational short ribs at the opening party for One Restaurant Lounge (1 West Cordova Street, 604-408-1600), and I know Neil Wyles takes a manly approach to meat at Hamilton Street Grill (1009 Hamilton Street, 604-331-1511), and, of course, I'm still a major fan of Memphis Blues Barbeque House (1465 West Broadway, 604-738-6806, and 1342 Commercial Drive, 604-215-2599). The steak houses? I can grill steak at home. To be honest, I'm getting more than a little irritated at places that charge serious bucks for a baked potato. Besides, do I really want to be around a clientele (my daughter's words, not mine) that's mostly "old guys with blond accessories"?

Best place to veg out

The Naam
2724 West 4th Avenue
604-738-7151

The Foundation
2301 Main Street
604-708-0881

One is gentle and retro; the other is spicy. Depends on my mood.

Best all-day (hangover) breakfast

The Kitsilano Restaurant and Sushi Bar
2394 West 4th Avenue
604-734-3715
One order of bacon, one order of sausage, eggs sunny side up, and whole-wheat toast, $3.95. Bottomless cups of coffee extra. It's right next to Book Warehouse, so one of us nips in for Saturday's Globe while the other orders. New location, improved service. It's Kits, but not for your SUV crowd.

Best lunch

Le Crocodile
909 Burrard Street
604-669-4298
That onion tarte. That calves' liver. That feeling that you'll step outside and be in Lyon or Strasbourg. Oh, it's got to be here, and it needs to be more often. More romantic than most other restaurants.

Jurgen Gothe

Best fine-dining restaurant

West Restaurant and Bar
2881 Granville Street
604-738-8938
Still cutting-edge creative cooking, fine wine list, great sit 'n' eat bar, and, when it's happening right, outstanding service.

Best restaurant patio

Il Giardino di Umberto Ristorante
1382 Hornby Street
604-669-2422
When the old man's in residence and Bobby C. is running the room, there's not a nicer spot under the stars for serious pasta.

Best new restaurant

Coast Restaurant
1257 Hamilton Street
604-685-5010
Cool spot, fine fish (love the skate), likable room. The "party table" can be fun on the right night.

Best restaurant wine list

Bishop's Restaurant
2183 West 4th Avenue
604-738-2025
You have no idea what's lingering in that cellar. Not sure even John Bishop does, but worth a call-ahead request...

Best B.C. red

La Frenz Naramata Bench Shiraz 2002
Just try to find some.

Best B.C. White

Focus Okanagan Riesling 2002
I'm sticking with Roger Wong's world-class winner.

Best B.C. beer

Gulf Islands Brewery's Mayne Sail Ale
Big bottle full of fabulous flavours; the perfect brew for a Melton Mowbray pie.

Best food and/or beverage festival

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival
www.playhousewinefest.com/
The best. Especially next year, when South Africa gets the spotlight. Expect surprises.

Best independent coffee shop

Caffí¨ Artigiano
Various locations
The Piccolo brothers' award-winning latte emporium.

Best specialty bread shop

Terra Breads
Granville Island Public Market
604-685-3102

2380 West 4th Avenue
604-736-1838

Mary Mackay still bakes rings around just about everybody.

Best pastry shop

Le Pic-Nic French Breads and Pastry
1443 Clyde Avenue, West Vancouver
604-925-2880
New bakeries keep on coming, but this one holds its lead, especially for the fruit pastries.

Best place to eat meat

Memphis Blues Barbeque House (1465 West Broadway, 604-738-6806, and 1342 Commercial Drive, 604-215-2565) for barbecue; La Régalade (2232 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, 604-921-2228) for real French stews and casseroles; 900 West (900 West Georgia Street, 604-669-9378) for steaks. This is the same as last year; nothing's happened to topple that triumvirate for me.

Best all-day (hangover) breakfast

Paul's Place
2211 Granville Street
604-737-2857
Extraordinary omelettes. Paul Van Werkhoven should do an instructional video...

Best lunch

Hermitage
1025 Robson Street
604-689-3237
Hervé Martin's assiette Lyonnaise, with a side of fabulous frites--of course with mayo; the man's been to Belgium!

Best dinner

Bishop's Restaurant
2183 West 4th Avenue
604-738-2025
For the charm of the place, the panache of the kitchen, the skill of the service staff. And for gentleman John himself...

Most European-feeling restaurant

Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge
845 Hornby Street
604-608-5319
Three sips into your drink and you feel you're on the Continent, at least until your bill comes and now you realize no European restaurant would ever give you that much for so little. (It's all relative, of course...)

Best wine trend

Stelvin (screw cap) and Crown (beer cap) closures. Liberate your corkscrew.

Best cheese shop

Les Amis du Fromage
1752 West 2nd Avenue
604-732-4218
Nobody does it better (although more and more are trying, which is a good trend). Home of a nice little Cornish Yarg.

Best meal of the summer

Quattro on Fourth
2611 West 4th Avenue
604-734-4444
The 10th-anniversary 10-courser, with Patrick Corsi's wine choices. I couldn't handle a 25th, though...

Best Indian restaurant

Rubina Tandoori
1962 Kingsway
604-874-3621
Krishna Jamal is the consummate chef, and not above trying something new, as in the family's Tamarind Bistro (1626 West Broadway, 604-733-5335).

Best after-dinner eaux-de-vie list

Parkside
1906 Haro Street
604-683-6912
And furthermore, it had the best Dine Out Vancouver menu last February.

Most coddlesome space

Le Gavroche
1616 Alberni Street
604-685-3924
Surrender to cellar, service, and whatever's the special du jour. That Manuel Ferreira is--still--on to something.

Best liver

Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill
1133 Hamilton Street
604-685-8462
If you haven't had it since your mother made you stay at the table till you finished your plate, come here and find out what a treat it can be when someone knows how to do it right.

Best buffet

William Tell Restaurant
765 Beatty Street
604-688-3504
The sensational Swiss Farmer's Buffet Sunday nights only, from 5:30 on.

Best place to blow a bundle on booze

Cioppino's
1129 Hamilton Street
604-685-8462
The country's only Dom Pérignon Room, and all the bubbly that entails...

Best Julia Child tribute

Aurora Bistro
2420 Main Street
604-873-9944
Chef Jeff Van Geest's Crepes Julia, August 23rd's dinner special: crab, morels, truffled sweet-pea sauce. Every single table ordered it that night.

Best underappreciated restaurant

ShowCase in the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel
1128 West Hastings Street
604-684-1128
Bruce Knapik and Morgan Wilson quietly present some of the city's most brilliant cuisine, night after night. And flawless, unweird martinis.

Best winemaker's-dinner series

Chartwell
791 West Georgia Street
604-689-9333
The one that started it all and still the classiest of the lot. Book well ahead.

Best night out for music and food

O'Doul's Restaurant and Bar
1300 Robson Street
604-661-1400
Chef Ray Henry's glorious mixed grill, abutted by seriously fine French fries, a little Garry Oaks Pinot Blanc by the glass, and Saul Berson's trio playing "My Funny Valentine". All's well with the world, sometimes.

Judith Lane

Best fine-dining restaurant

Blue Water Café and Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton Street
604-688-8078
Yoshi Tabo turns out superb, delicate sushi and sashimi while Frank Pabst handles the hot kitchen, cooking uncomplicated yet interesting dishes. The smoked black cod is a stand-out.

Best patio

Go Fish
1505 West 1st Avenue
604-730-5040

Galley Patio and Grill
1300 Discovery Street
604-222-1331

Great views from both patios: one of fish boats from the False Creek Fisherman's Wharf; the other, ocean, mountains, city skyline, boarders, and boaters. Recommended sustenance? Go Fish (just opening at press time): fish tacos and the grilled-sockeye sandwich (they're cooking what the fishermen catch); at the Galley: cold beer and a burger.

Best new restaurant

Cru
1459 West Broadway
604-677-4111
Cru's colour-coded food and wine menus make pairing a snap. Small plates (wild-mushroom crostini and Syrah-braised short ribs) are lovely, or you can step up to a well-priced three-course prix fixe for $34.

Best ethnic restaurant

Shiru-Bay Chopstick Café
1193 Hamilton Street
604-408-9315
This newcomer is a great place to say hi to izakaya. The Zen cocktail (matcha tea and vodka), ebi-chili-mayo prawns, and asparagus gyoza are outstanding.

Best restaurant bathroom

Rangoli
1488 West 11th Avenue
604-736-5711
Bollywood videos on the small screen in Rangoli's sleek loo rocket this one into another dimension.

Best restaurant wine list

Le Gavroche
1616 Alberni Street
604-685-3924

Memphis Blues
1465 West Broadway
604-738-6806

1342 Commercial Drive
604-215-2565

Le Gavroche's sublime wine list is but a small sampling of owner Manuel Ferreira's vast cellar; Memphis goes minimalist with a chalkboard assortment of ever-changing interesting wines: rosés are $5 a glass; reds and whites, chosen for their affinity for succulent, smoky barbecue, run $6.

Best B.C. red wine

Just one? Too tough. Here are three. Nichol Vineyards Syrah tasted as a barrel sample 12 years ago continues to lop me off at the knees; winemaker Howard Soon's 2001 Sandhill One, part of his Small Lots program (best in-barrel wines are earmarked for glory) intrigues; and Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc is our house wine.

Best B.C. white wine

Can't pick a single, but here are two. Poplar Grove Pinot Gris tastes of the Naramata Bench: minerally yet sweet and easy with lots of crisp green apple. See Ya Later Ranch's SYL Brut sparkler is a fine occasion wine, perfect for celebrations and when words just aren't enough. A bon-voyage gift? Dumping a deadbeat employee? Giving a lover the kiss-off? And for showing houseguests who've overstayed their welcome the door.

Best B.C. beer

Storm Brewing Hurricane IPA. Beer writer Stephen Beaumont says it best: "a complex, flavourful and fascinating ale...lies just on the edge of being totally out of control".

Best local microbrewery

The East Side's seven-year-old R & B Brewing. Play spot the tap handles in any Vancouver pub or restaurant and you'll likely spy Red Devil Ale, Raven's Cream Ale, or Sun God Wheat Ale.

Best food and/or beverage festival

Too many, but here goes: the excellent Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, with hundreds of wines to taste; Whistler's Cornucopia; and September's sudsy Vancouver Autumn Brewmasters' Festival.

Best independent coffee shop

Caffí¨ Artigiano
Various locations
You know you're in for a good cup of coffee when your barista, co-owner Sammy Piccolo, is the best in the country and second best in the entire world.

Best specialty bread shop

Mix the Bakery
4430 West 10th Avenue
604-221-4145
The secret to Mix's excellent baguette is in the mix: lots of water. Also worth seeking out: three-chilies loaf (ancho, chipotle, and jalapeño) and an amazing dried-apricot-and-white-chocolate bread.

Best pastry shop

Viva Fine Foods and Bakery
1555 Yew Street
604-738-8482

Sen5es Bakery and Restaurant
801 West Georgia Street
604-633-0138

Viva's strong suits are ethereal croissants, pretty princess cakes, and the city's best cinnamon buns. Sen5es delivers intensely flavoured jewel-like fruit jellies and world-famous sparkle cookies.

Best place for cheap eats

T & T Supermarket
Various locations
T & T's Chinese takeout is not only a cut above, it's cheap. Three selections (enough to feed two) are $4.99. Service stops at 6 p.m., and what's not sold is packaged as "hot food" and marked down to $2.99 or $3.99. Recent scores: chili-fried tofu and duck.

Best place to eat meat

Memphis Blues
1465 West Broadway
604-738-6806

1342 Commercial Drive
604-215-2565

Mm-mmm. Memphis Blues Elvis Platter: slabs of smoky ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, and chicken, all spice-rubbed and slow-cooked till it falls apart.

Best place to veg out

Ripe Café
3514 West 4th Avenue
604-734-7078
Everything is 100-percent organic and made in-house. Fresh squeezed-to-order juices (beet, carrot, and ginger), the African green-lentil soup, and the Caprese panini are tops.

Best all-day (hangover) breakfast

A bowl of steaming congee, phí´, or avgolemono.

Best brunch

Provence Marinaside
1177 Marinaside Crescent
604-681-4144
Sunshine seems to be an ever-present accompaniment to brunch at Provence Marinaside. A shrimp-and-tomato omelette made with free-range eggs as bright as the oranges on the plate will kick-start any day.

Best lunch

Cook Studio Café
374 Powell Street
604-696-9096

The Art Institute of Vancouver ­Dubrulle International Culinary Arts
609 Granville Street
604-639-2055

Lunch at these cooking schools is rewarding indeed. One teaches keeners (Dubrulle's Culinaria); the other, street kids. Culinaria's must-try? Gorgeous asparagus-and-white-truffle vinaigrette. Cook Studio Café? Smoked-turkey melt served with pride, spirit, and face-splitting smiles.

Best dinner

Dine Out Vancouver
Various locations

Aurora Bistro
2420 Main Street
604-873-9944

Dine Out Vancouver's end-of-January promotion (three-course dinners, $15 or $25) and Aurora's midweek Your Food, Your Wine @ Aurora summertime dinner deal: three courses, paired with B.C. wines, for a modest $40.

Best place to dine at 3 a.m.

My house. There's a big stash of Hon's chicken pot stickers in the freezer ready to nuke. Dip in chili sauce and feast. Sweet treats: frozen Girl Guide cookies and baseball-sized rum balls to gnaw on.