Say, for whatever reason, you’re in Vancouver and you want to have a fancy meal at a nice restaurant. Good choice: there’s a great selection here. So, let’s do a run-down of ten of the best-rated restaurants in one of Canada’s prettiest cities.
10. Lupo Restaurant (869 Hamilton Street)
Lupo, which offers modern Italian cuisine in a more casual atmosphere than Cioppino’s (more on them later), is housed in a heritage building in the heart of Vancouver. Executive chef Julio Gonzalez Perini offers a traditional Italian menu with antipasti, first and second courses , desert and several group menus. It also has a private dining room for parties and other group functions. The wine list is accessible, with a focus on Italian wines and regional favorites. Dinner is served daily from 5pm onwards, and two can dine for about $100 (not counting wine).
9. Hy’s Encore Vancouver (637 Hornby Street)
Hy’s steakhouse has been a Canadian steak staple since the 1950s, with locations in Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa besides Vancouver, with the Vancouver location opening in the sixties. Hy’s consistently wins Best Steakhouse awards from Vancouver magazine, and the menu is classic steakhouse, with appetizers that could serve as meals, steak done any way you could imagine, and a seafood selection for those who don’t want red meat.
Some of the major draws on the menu include the gorgonzola filet mignon and the bourbon chocolate cake. The wine menu is extensive, and focuses on the reds, the better to match the steaks. Decorated in the style of the classic gentleman’s club, Hy’s is a destination dining experience, with a several private dining rooms available. This sort of luxury doesn’t come cheap, though, with the average meal for two coming to about $180.
8. Gotham Steakhouse (615 Seymour Street)
Gotham Steakhouse does not have a Batman theme, but is the sort of place Bruce Wayne would hang out. It’s possibly the best steakhouse in Vancouver, consistently on the Best Steakhouse list that Vancouver magazine puts out, and housed in one of Vancouver’s few remaining art deco buildings, sumptuously restored to glory. And more important than a Batman joke, all of its beef is prime 28 day dry-aged Albertan. The menu is classic steakhouse, offering big servings of beef and seafood, a handful of salads, rich desserts and a full wine list. It’s not a menu for anyone watching their cholesterol, but it might just be an anemic’s graceland. Open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 to 3:30, and dinner all week from 4:30-11, it’s a good place to escape from the busy downtown scene for a few hours. Dinner, with an appetizer, dessert and steak, costs around $160, not counting wine.
7. Kitsilano Daily Kitchen (1809 West 1st Avenue)
A lot of these restaurants are capital-f Fancy restaurants, the sort where there’s more than one fork per place setting, we all know that can be intimidating. Kitsilano Daily Kitchen, however, endeavors to avoid this, advertising itself as ‘a fresh approach to unpretentious west coast cuisine’. The real draw to Kitsilano Daily Kitchen is the Chef Brian Fowke’s menu.
Fowke’s menu changes daily, with four appetizers and entrees to choose from, or a six course tasting menu available. The environment is fresh, elegant but informal, with the focus staying on the food, which is top quality and prepared according to Fowke’s traditional training. Opening in 2010, it remained a hidden gem for about six months, before the secret got out. The wine list is concise, and full of versatile reds and whites, though there is also a BYOW policy, where diners can bring their own wine for a $25 corkage fee, unless the wine is from 1995 of earlier, or fits into one of the Monday categories. A meal, with wine for two runs around $110-30.
6. Cioppino’s (1133 Hamilton Street)
Cioppino’s is a Mediterranean style grill that uses cucina naturale, a method of classical cooking that emphasizes ingredient freshness and reduced use of fats and creams. This style of cooking has made Cioppino’s pasta dishes famous, with the usually heavy sauces featured in pasta tasting far lighter. Opened in 1999, Cioppino’s has remained under the control of Guiseppe ‘Pino’ Posteraro as both owner and chef. The menu is Italian in style, with a selection of antipasti, pasta and main courses, with all fish dishes certified as ocean wise by the Vancouver Aquarium, and has won Vancouver magazine’s ‘Best Formal Italian’ award for six years running.
The wine list is an extensive sixty-five pages, and the collection has won a Gold Glass Award from the International Wine Festival for the last four years in a row. Pino takes great pride in the wine collection, feeling that wine is as essential to the Mediterranean dining experience as the food itself. A meal for two, with appetizer, main and dessert, will set you back about $120-40, not counting wine. Though, with a sixty-five page wine list, there’s bound to be something to catch even the pickiest oenophile’s fancy.
5. Bishop’s (2183 West 4th Avenue)
Bishop’s has open since 1985, and been one of Vancouver’s premiere restaurants for about as long. The menu focuses on using the freshest possible ingredients, with the menu naming the homeland of each entree: duck from the Fraser Valley, beef from Pitt Meadows and Lamb from Peace Country, as examples. Under the management of John Bishop and executive chef Ron Shaw, Bishop’s has held firmly to its reputation as a home to exquisitely understated, palate-pleasing west coast cuisine.
Besides the menu, Bishop’s also offers culinary tours, from a recreation of the wine-tasting trip taken in the award winning film Sideways (without the complications) to an adventure through Irish history and cuisine. Bishop’s is open Monday to Saturday from 5:30 to 11pm, with a dining room that feels intimate but not crowded. The staff of Bishop’s is another draw, with reviews hailing them as friendly, but not overbearing. Not counting wine or tip, a meal including appetizers and desert for two costs $130-40 Canadian, and by all accounts, is worth every penny.
4. Vij’s (1480 West 11th Avenue)
Because not everything has to be European Cuisine with west coast flair when it comes to Vancouver’s fine dining scene, there’s Vij’s. Originally opening in 1994, and it quickly gained acclaim, winning Best Asian Restaurant (Vancouver magazine, march 1995). In 1996, to accommodate growing demand, Vij’s moved to a larger location. The innovative Indian menu stays away from the Tandoor oven meals that are prevalent in Vancouver’s Indian restaurants, in favor of other, less well known dishes. The kitchen does not use any pre-made products, and makes its own yoghurts, cheese and spice mixtures on a daily basis. The menu changes seasonally, based on local availabilities, and includes a range of curries, from a fenugreek cream curry (poured over wine marinated lamb) to a spicier cayenne and ginger curry served with pork tenderloin. Vij’s is open from 5:30, and does not take reservations, so it is first come, first served. Though, those that come second get to relax in the sumptuously appointed lounge area, with chai, snacks and bar service until their table’s ready, so there’s something to be said for coming second.
The wine list for Vij’s is not as large as some of the other restaurants on this list, but manager Vikram Vij is a certified sommelier, who has created a wine list focusing on crisp whites to complement the menu. Drink-wise, Vij’s also has its chai (tea mixture made and brewed onsite) and its ginger-lemon drink, a fresh-made daily specialty of the house. For two to dine, it will cost $80-90 Canadian, plus the price of wine and a tip.
3. Le Crocodile (909 Burrard Street)
Le Crocodile, celebrating it’s thirtieth anniversary this year, has established itself as a mainstay in Vancouver’s fine dining. scene On the menu, Chef Michel Jacob’s traditional French training meets up with innovative personal style, in a combination that has won the hearts and stomachs of Vancouverites and visitors since his start in the 80s. Le Crocodile has won the Four Diamond award six times, most recently in 2013, as well as a lifetime achievement award from Vancouver magazine. The menu is full of hot and cold appetizers, meat and fish entrees and luxurious dessert options. If you can’t decide, there are always the set menus, which include a five course chef’s tasting menu, four to five course menus for larger groups, and occasional special menus for events like Valentine’s Day.
Le Crocodile serves lunch on weekdays from 11:30 to 2:30, and dinner Monday to Saturday from 5:30 to 10:00 (staying open an extra half-hour on Saturday), and is closed on Sundays. The wine list is expansive, offering reds, whites and roses from both France and around the world, and the selection is impressive, with the most expensive bottle being a 1988 cote de nuits burgundy from Richebourg Grand Cru, selling for $2,800 Canadian a bottle. For two to try the chef’s tasting menu, it will cost $150, plus wine and tip.
2. The Pear Tree (4120 East Hastings Street)
The Pear Tree is a bit off the beaten path for Vancouverite foodies, but they all claim that it’s well worth the trip. Combining the downtown sensibilities of elegance and high cuisine with a sense of community and approachability, the Pear Tree’s been turning heads since 1998 under the capable hands of Scott and Stephanie Jaeger. Using organic, sustainable ingredients for a year-round menu, Chef Scott Jaeger has developed a menu of west coast high cuisine, with items like the ‘Local Prawn Cappuccino’ and the Berkshire Pork Belly, served with BC prawns and tomato cassoulet.
The Pear Tree is open from five-o-clock onwards every Tuesday through Saturday. Wine-wise, the Pear Tree has a 1200 bottle selection, so there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. For two to dine, plus a drink and a tip, the Pear Tree will cost you about $150 Canadian, but the reviews assure you it’s well worth the price.
1. West (2881 Granville Street)
Under the direction of executive chef Quang Dang and manager Brian Hopkins, West presents itself as ‘contemporary regional cuisine’, serving dinner from 5:30 til 11, and keeping the bar open til midnight. The menu is full of seasonal ingredients, that are used to provide modern spins on old classics. One such example is their updated Caesar salad, which is made with kale and Brussels sprouts alongside the traditional bacon and croutons, or the rack of lamb, which is served with charred eggplant.
The bar is home to West’s 500-label wine collection, as well as a cocktail selection overseen by David Wolowidnyk, who won Bombay Sapphire’s ‘Most Imaginative Bartender 2012’ with the Beldi, which is available alongside other West original creations and classic cocktails.
Dining here will set you back, though, since you’re paying for some of the best food in the city. For two people to enjoy an appetizer, entree and desert, it’ll cost about $125 Canadian, not counting the wine. And you’ll want to order wine- 2013 saw West taking the Wine List Award: Gold from the Vancouver International Wine Festival, and the ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.