When people ask me what I like to do for fun I usually mumble something about reading and something about exercise, and then sneak in a mention of my true number-one activity: eating out. It’s a hobby if you put your mind to it!
Anyway, here are some of the really truly great things in Vancouver that I’ve had the pleasure of eating lately.
Kranky Cafe’s chocolate chip walnut cookie
While not billing itself as a bakery, Kranky Cafe’s sweet treats are secretly incredible. The entire cookie lineup (espresso chip; peanut butter; oatmeal) is delicious, but the chocolate chip walnut option is specifically stunning. Chewy, chocolaty, with a slight crunch from the nuts—come on now! This little Mount Pleasant gem is an unsung hero of the neighborhood. And in contrast to its name, the folks who work here are perhaps the nicest baristas in the city. (Tip: also order the croissant sandwich with ham and cheese if you need more sustenance.)
ARC Restaurant’s endive salad
Who says salads are for summer? The endive salad at ARC Restaurant in the Fairmont Waterfront is a perfect winter starter. Radicchio and endive are laid delicately on the plate, and are covered with roasted grapes, candied walnuts, and cubes of apple—making a delightful harmony between bitter and sweet. Add to that the blue cheese (or sub for goat cheese, as we did), and balsamic dressing, and it’s a delightful kick-off to the chillier months. (Tip: also order the Korean fried cauliflower for something saucy and tangy with a whisper of heat.)
T&T Supermarket’s barbecue pork buns
Hungry and on the go? T&T Supermarket has a surprisingly delicious hot-food-to-go section (that is delightfully affordable, too). Everything here looks good, but the barbeque pork steam bun is a particularly delicious item. The succulent meat with a hint of smokiness; the soft, chewy bun—so ideal. (Tip: also get the cold, perfectly chewy bean curd in sweet and spicy chili sauce, which is available in the premade cold section.)
Jungle Room’s tuna tartare
You might think, “Oh, look, another tuna tartare. It surely can’t be better than all the other tartares that I’ve had.” But it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. The version from Jungle Room, a new restaurant and bar in the West End, is truly inspired—our entire table thought so. Made with ginger emulsion, Sumatran salsa verde, chives, and ikura (red caviar) and served alongside taro chips, it is vibrant and complex. (Tip: also order the fabulous Lumpia pork spring rolls with tamarind-forward blind tiger sauce, butter lettuce, and cilantro.)
Sula Indian Restaurant’s chana masala
There is lots of good Indian food in this city, but my personal favourite spot might be Sula, which has locations on Main Street and Commercial Drive (each with its own menu). There is something about the depth of flavour in the way they cook their dishes—even the most accessible ones. The chana masala—chickpeas cooked with ginger, fresh onions, and spices—is pure comfort. Do yourself a favour and splurge on the coconut rice, which has actual shreds of coconut in it. (Tip: also order the aloo sag: a spinach, onion, and tomato curry with spiced baked potatoes. Sounds average, but tastes top-notch.)
Bravo’s pacifico striped bass
Fraserhood’s new seafood-forward share-plate eatery is serving up some exciting things, particulary with its onsite fish smoker. Occupying the former space of Ubuntu Canteen, Bravo’s small, intimate room is a gorgeous setting for digging into both raw and cooked seafood. The pacifico striped sea bass with fermented cabbage, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and a tamarind broth is succulent, warming, and elegant. (Tip: also order the hokkaido scallop crudo topped with apple, cucumber, and jalapeno for something fresh and lively.)
Bacchus Restaurant’s oven-roasted Heritage Farm organic chicken breast
Located inside the swish Wedgewood Hotel & Spa (which, as we’ve noted previously, has one of the city’s best washrooms), Bacchus Restaurant serves up a selection of French dishes from new executive chef Stefan Hartmann (who local foodies may recognize from previous stints at Bauhaus and Tacofino). Hartmann is brimming with excitement for this place, which is something of a hidden oasis in the city (“Someone told me it feels like the inside of the Titanic,” Hartmann muses with a smile, and they’re right—it’s all old-world luxury with dark woods and rich oil paintings). Anyways, the food: Hartmann’s rendition of roasted chicken is comfort on a plate—Heritage Farm organic chicken is oven-roasted to juicy perfection and comes with a deliciously salty, crispy skin. Paired with foraged mushrooms, crushed peas, and madeira jus, it’s succulent and warm and just the right amount of rich. (Tip: also order the deconstructed cheesecake if you’re in the mood for dessert; smooth and creamy, it comes with meringue, tonka bean ice cream, and raspberries.)
Ask for Luigi’s duck ragu pappardelle
Celebrating its 10th anniversary on the quiet corner of Alexander and Gore is Kitchen Table restaurant group’s beloved and bustling Ask for Luigi, which has launched a special birthday menu of classic favourites just for the occasion. Available until November 30, the whole thing is a treat, but a standout has to be the duck ragu pappardelle with crispy sage and pecorino. Perfectly al dente noodles, creamy and complex tomato sauce, salty chunks of duck meat, and a healthy dusting of cheese—this is true Italian foodie bliss. (Tip: also order the deliciously decadent crispy polenta, covered with a slice of taleggio cheese and served alongside wild mushrooms in cream sauce.)
Dine on, buddies.