Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2018

The Georgia Straight asked local restaurateurs and chefs to name the best eateries around town. Here are the results.

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      Chef J-C Poirier has many culinary accomplishments attached to his name, most notably Ask for Luigi, his humble Railtown Italian eatery, which seems to be perennially busy and was voted best new restaurant in 2015’s Golden Plates by local chefs and restaurateurs. His roster of dining establishments with his partners at Kitchen Table Restaurants (Pourhouse, Joe Pizza, Di Beppe) continued to expand over the years, but none hit close to home for Poirier until the debut of St. Lawrence last summer—his pièce de résistance that showcases Quebec cuisine and classic French cooking at its best.

      It was a highly anticipated project—a culmination of more than 20 years of culinary experience—that Vancouver greeted with open arms (and appetites). It should come as no surprise that Poirier’s local peers have voted him chef of the year and named St. Lawrence best new restaurant in the Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey of more than three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers.

      Born in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, the mastermind behind St. Lawrence has always toyed with the thought of opening a restaurant that served delicious dishes inspired by his hometown. “It was very easy for me to come up with the idea, and it’s been with me for a few years because it’s a cuisine that’s very much home,” Poirier explained to the Straight in a phone interview. “The concept of St. Lawrence is very much me, and it basically reflects who I am, where I come from, and the progression of my career.”

      Chef J-C Poirier hit upon a career apex with his Québécois restaurant St. Lawrence.
      Luis Alberto Valdizon

      As soon as guests step inside the Powell Street spot, they will be charmed by the homey décor, the French music playing in the background, and the energetic staff, who speak the romantic language to customers. “I want people to be surprised and make people feel like they’ve [been] transported to somewhere else,” he added.

      Classic French cooking with Quebec flair defines the menu concept at St. Lawrence. “I treat Quebec as if it were a region in France. The culture is still the same, but the surroundings and food are different,” Poirier said. “It’s like country cooking, a meat-and-potato kind of style. I do it in a more refined, elevated way, but it never seems pretentious.”

      The seasoned chef-owner understands and appreciates that many of his peers want to introduce innovative creations and new flavours to the city, but he wants to go in the opposite direction and reintroduce the traditional favourites. “I want to bring the good old classics back, like the classic French with all the sauces, the butter, the cream, the egg yolks,” Poirier said. “It’s great to give birth to new dishes, but if you can bring back something to life, then it’s even greater because then it’s magic.”

      Poirier’s favourite menu items (though it was hard for him to choose) include la terrine du jour (house-made terrine of the day); quenelle de poisson, moules, and sauce Normande (fish quenelle [creamed fish mixture with a light egg binding], mussels, and cream sauce); and tourtière de ville au cerf (venison traditional meat pie), among many others.

      St. Lawrence's menu draws inspiration from chef J-C's upbringing in Quebec.
      Glasford and Walker

      He’s conservative with the menu, partly because the response from guests has been overwhelmingly positive. But customers can expect changes to come when warmer weather begins to arrive—think more fish, lighter sauces, and more veggies.

      St. Lawrence will likely be Poirier’s last restaurant venture before he retires. (Don’t worry, there’s still many more years before that will happen.) “It’s almost like after cooking for 20 years, I’ve finally found myself and what I like to cook,” Poirier said. “From the execution to preparation to the plating, people can really taste the passion, love, and commitment that I put in there. For me to open another restaurant would probably make no sense, because this is it. This should be my last because I’m very much driven by this love and passion of my culture that I sort of created for me. It’s my masterpiece.”

      As you’d expect, it’s not an easy task to make weekend dinner reservations at this relatively new hot spot. Instead of waiting a month or two for a Saturday-evening seating, try going on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a better chance of getting a table.

      Besides St. Lawrence, Vancouver is home to several other renowned eateries that have been lauded by the city’s food-industry insiders for 2018’s Golden Plates. From flavourful cuisines like Korean and African (Damso and Simba’s Grill) to restaurant newcomers (Botanist and Mak N Ming), there’s no shortage of impressive places to dine in around town.

      Here are Vancouver’s food industry insider choices for 2018.

      Chef of the Year

      1. J-C Poirier
        (St. Lawrence)
      2. Alex Chen 
        (Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar)
      3. Hector Laguna
        (Botanist)

       

      St. Lawrence

      New Restaurant

      1. St. Lawrence
        269 Powell St.
        604-620-3800
      2. Botanist
        1038 Canada Place
        604-695-5500
      3. Mak N Ming
        1629 Yew St.
        604-737-1155

       

      St. Lawrence

      French

      1. St. Lawrence
        269 Powell St.
        604-620-3800
      2. L’Abattoir
        217 Carrall St.
        604-568-1701
      3. Le Crocodile
        100–909 Burrard St.
        604-669-4298

       

      Ask for Luigi

      Italian

      1. Ask for Luigi
        305 Alexander St.
        604-428-2544
      2. Savio Volpe
        615 Kingsway
        604-428-0072
      3. Cinara
        350 West Pender St.
        604-428-9694

       

      Vij's

      Indian

      1. Vij’s
        3106 Cambie St.
        604-736-6664
      2. Vij’s Rangoli
        1480 West 11th Ave.
        604-736-5711
      3. Chutney Villa (tie)
        147 East Broadway
        604-872-2228
      4. East Is East (tie)
        Various locations

       

      Bao Bei

      Chinese

      1. Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
        163 Keefer St.
        604-688-0876
      2. Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
        108–777 West Broadway
        604-876-8388
      3. Peaceful Restaurant
        Various locations

       

      Toshi Sushi

      Japanese

      1. Kingyo (tie)
        871 Denman St.
        604-608-1677
      2. Kinome Japanese Kitchen (tie)
        2511 West Broadway
        778-379-1925
      3. Toshi Sushi (tie)
        181 East 16th Ave.
        604-874-5173
      4. Sushi by Yuji (tie)
        2252 Kingsway
        604-434-0003
      5. Masayoshi
        4376 Fraser St.
        604-428-6272
      6. Octopus’s Garden
        1995 Cornwall Ave.
        604-734-8971

       

      Damso

      Korean

      1. Damso
        Various locations
      2. Sura Korean
        Various locations
      3. Haru Korean Kitchen (tie)
        324 Cambie St.
        778-379-9488
      4. So Hyang Korean Cuisine (tie)
        6345 Fraser St.
        604-729-0702

       

      Maenam

      Other Asian

      1. Maenam
        1938 West 4th Ave.
        604-730-5579
      2. Phnom Penh Restaurant
        244 East Georgia St.
        604-682-5777
      3. Kin Kao
        903 Commercial Dr.
        604-558-1125

       

      Chambar

      Other European

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

       

      Simba's Grill

      African

      1. Simba’s Grill
        825 Denman St.
        604-974-0649
      2. Addis Cafe Ethiopian Restaurant (tie)
        2017 Commercial Dr.
        604-254-1929
      3. Fassil Ethiopian Restaurant (tie)
        5–736 East Broadway
        604-879-2001
      4. Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant
        2149 Commercial Dr.
        604-216-1060

       

      Cacao

      Latin American

      1. Cacao
        1898 West 1st Ave.
        604-731-5370
      2. Fayuca
        1009 Hamilton St.
        604-689-8523
      3. La Mezcaleria (tie)
        Various locations
      4. Sal y Limón (tie)
        Various locations

       

      Boris Mann

      Cheap eats

      1. Hawkers Delight
        4127 Main St.
        604-709-8188
      2. Marutama Ra-men
        Various locations
      3. Bon’s Off Broadway
        2451 Nanaimo St.
        604-253-7242
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