Vancouver's North Shore has new flavour with restaurants serving ramen, Vietnamese food, and diner fare

Wooden Fish Vietnamese, Hachiro Ramen Bar, and Douce Diner are among the newcomers to North and West Vancouver, with more to follow

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      The North Shore is getting tastier.

      Several restaurants have opened their doors recently or are soon launching; here are a few to check out.

      Grilled baby octopus and crispy spring rolls are among the dishes at Wooden Fish.
      Gail Johnson.

      Wooden Fish Vietnamese restaurant (1403 Marine Drive, West Vancouver) is a joint project of friends Uyên Nghiem and Betty and Leng Nguyen (wife and husband).

      With each haling from a different area of Vietnam, the three have come up with a menu that’s regionally diverse and includes many of their favourite foods from childhood, dishes rooted in tradition with modern touches.

      Their motivation to launch their own restaurant was simple.

      “We all love eating,” Nghiem says with a laugh in an interview at the bright corner space with the Georgia Straight. “Every time we go out, we eat way too much. We want to bring something more authentic to Vancouver, and we bring our enthusiasm and passion into our food.”

      Take the crispy spring rolls, which are made with a specific type of rice paper imported from Vietnam (lighter and far more textured and interesting than so many spring-roll wraps). They have ground pork with shrimp, taro, jicama, carrot, wood-ear fungus, shitake mushroom and vermicelli. Baby octopus is grilled with satay sauce and served with salted daikon and tamarind dipping sauce; Vietnamese escargots are steamed, chopped, and mixed pork paste, lemongrass, and ginger, to be dunked in ginger fish sauce.

      We love the Saigon salad roll with steamed prawns and the five-spice duck confit on garlic fried rice with pickled veggies. Then there’s the deeply flavourful and even more comforting pho Hanoi, the Northern-style beef broth having simmered for 12 hours with peppers, garlic, ginger, onion, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and celery seed, and other herbs and spices.

      Everything comes with a selection of house-made condiments, including pickled garlic; chilis and vinegar thickened with carrots and tomato; hot Thai-pepper dressing; and a sauce of ginger, onion, lemongrass, and chilis.

      Hachiro Ramen Bar specializes in tonkotsu ramen.
      Hachiro Ramen Bar.

      Hachiro Ramen Bar (104 16th Street West) is one of the first dedicated ramen bars in North Vancouver.

      Opening June 3, it’s run by siblings Stephen and Brooke Naito, who grew up on the North Shore and wanted to celebrate their Japanese heritage through food.

      "We grew up spending every summer in Japan visiting family," Stephen tells the Straight. "Our father was born and raised in Osaka, and he moved to North America when he was 18 to attend university. However, most of our extended family still live in Japan, and we jump on every opportunity we can to visit them. We credit much of our love for food through these summer trips and the Japanese influence that followed us home, as our family grew up noshing on authentic Japanese food thanks to our mom, who perfected many Japanese dishes through our paternal grandmother’s recipes."

      In fact, Hachiro takes its name from the pair's grandpa. The restaurant also pays homage to their late father, Shuhachi, and uncle, Shigehachi, who both passed away five years ago.

      Stephen, who'll be helming the kitchen, recently spent months in Japan learning from some of the country’s most celebrated ramen chefs. Hachiro will specialize in a Kyushu-style tonkotsu ramen, with a creamy pork-bone broth.

      "My absolute favourite place in Japan is Fukuoka, the birthplace of tonkotsu," he says. "Tonkotsu is my favourite broth because it is incredibly rich, and it has a unique and distinct flavour that separates it from any other type of ramen. We are both so excited to bring this authentic style of ramen to the North Shore."

      North Van's Douce Diner is industry vet and Top Chef Canada competitor Dawn Doucette's pro take on diner classics.
      Douce Diner/Instagram.

      Top Chef Canada competitor Dawn Doucette has opened Douce Diner (1490 Pemberton Avenue), an old-school spot that puts a premium touch on its “rise-and-dine” breaky, brunch, and lunch menu.

      Doucette, who has years of experience catering and consulting for heavyweight brands such as Earls and Caffe Artigiano, among many others, uses topnotch ingredients like locally raised grass-fed beef and grain-fed, free-run chicken; Ocean Wise fish; and seasonal, organic produce.

      The Breakfast Sammy has a fried egg, arugula, smoked-paprika aioli, and vintage cheddar on a toasted brioche bun, while the house-made buttermilk waffle comes with seasonal compote, house-made vanilla crème fraiche, and whipped butter.

      Yes, there is avo toast, with vegan mayo, black-sheep smoked-vouda cheez, and little gem tomatoes, and sprouts; weekends call for challah French toast with lemon curd and mascarpone cream, fruit, and real maple syrup (none of this high-fructose corn syrup crap).

      Look for other classic diner items like sundaes, banana splits, and hand-spun milkshakes (with optional malt!).

      Stay tuned for more North Shore updates, including the Shipyards’ opening this summer. The massive waterfront development in Lower Lonsdale will include JOEY, Nook, JamJar Canteen, Larry’s Market (an organic, vegetarian grocery shop), Caffe Artigiano, Main Street Honey Shoppe, Welcome Parlour Ice Cream, and more.