Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

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

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      Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

      Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

      Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

      After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

      “I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

      Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town.

      He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

      It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

      “I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

      For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

      “When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

      One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

      “I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

      Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella.

      Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

      “He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

      Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

      “I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

      Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

      Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.


      Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef.
      Fairmont Pacific Rim


      1. Hector Laguna (tie)
      2. Ricardo Valverde (tie)
      3. J-C Poirier
        (St. Lawrence)
      4. Andrea Carlson
        (Burdock & Co.)


      Leila Kwok

      New Restaurant

      1. Elisa Steakhouse
        1109 Hamilton St.
      2. Ancora Ambleside
        1351 Bellevue Ave., West Vancouver
      3. Downlow Chicken Shack
        905 Commercial Dr.


      St. Lawrence


      1. St. Lawrence
        269 Powell St.
      2. Le Crocodile
        100–909 Burrard St.
      3. Au Comptoir
        2278 West 4th Ave.


      La Quercia


      1. La Quercia
        3689 West 4th Ave.
      2. Savio Volpe
        615 Kingsway
      3. Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
        1133 Hamilton St.



      Other European

      1. Bauhaus Restaurant
        1 West Cordova St.
      2. Como Taperia
        201 East 7th Ave.
      3. Chambar Restaurant
        568 Beatty St.


      Bao Bei


      1. Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
        163 Keefer St.
      2. Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
        108–777 West Broadway
      3. Mott 32 (tie)
        1161 West Georgia St.
      4. Kirin Restaurant (tie)
        Various locations


      Leila Kwok


      1. Masayoshi
        4376 Fraser St.
      2. Tojo’s Restaurant
        1133 West Broadway
      3. Miku Restaurant
        70–200 Granville St.




      1. Vij’s
        3106 Cambie St.
      2. Tasty Indian Bistro
        Various locations
      3. Palki
        116 15th St. East, North Vancouver




      1. Damso Restaurant
        Various locations
      2. Sura Korean
        Various locations
      3. So Hyang Korean Cuisine
        6345 Fraser St.


      Anh and Chi/Alyssa Dawson


      1. Anh and Chi
        3388 Main St.
      2. Phnom Penh Restaurant
        244 East Georgia St.
      3. Mr. Red Cafe
        Various locations



      Other Asian

      1. Maenam
        1938 West 4th Ave.
      2. Heritage Asian Eatery
        Various locations
      3. Long’s Noodle House
        4853 Main St., 604-879-7879



      Latin American

      1. Cacao
        1898 West 1st Ave.
      2. La Mezcaleria
        Various locations
      3. Fayuca
        1009 Hamilton St.


      Simba's Grill


      1. Simba’s Grill
        825 Denman St.
      2. Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant
        2149 Commercial Dr.
      3. Cafe D’Afrique
        363 East Broadway


      The Acorn


      1. The Acorn
        3995 Main St.
      2. Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant (tie)
        Various locations
      3. The Arbor (tie)
        3941 Main St.
      4. The Naam Restaurant
        2724 West 4th Ave.


      Downlow Chicken Shack

      Cheap Eats

      1. Downlow Chicken Shack
        905 Commercial Dr.
      2. Hawkers Delight (tie)
        4127 Main St.
      3. Harvest Community Foods (tie)
        243 Union St.
      4. DD Mau
        Various locations
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