It’s not necessary to cross the ocean for incredible, authentic Asian cuisine anymore—all you need to do is head north to Vancouver and Richmond (just south of Vancoucer) in British Columbia. With an Asian population of about 50% and climbing—including those with Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Filipino backgrounds—the Metro Vancouver area is home to an authentic, mouthwatering food scene boasting a handful of veritable trails for specific ethnic and regional cuisines. To help navigate, we offer five distinct regional cuisines, from delicious dim sum to sizzling Sichuanese to ocean-fresh sushi.
Kick off your day with a dim sum breakfast at Golden Paramount (8071 Park Rd., Richmond, 604/278-0873), where the attention to freshness means you won’t feel weighed-down, even after eating dishes like crisp turnip spring rolls and pan-fried pork dumplings.
Located within a strip mall along Richmond’s main drag, six-month-old Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant adds a contemporary, upscale spin to the dim sum experience. This slick venue is a must-visit for its addictive black truffle, pork, and shrimp shumai; boneless chicken wings stuffed with goose liver and sticky rice; and pan-fried ginger cake.
For a dinner straight out of Hong Kong, award-winning chef Yiu Tong Leung’s Hoi Tong (160-8191 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, 604/276-9229) delivers impeccable yet unpretentious delicacies, including eggy fried milk with crab, crispy skin chicken, and sweet and sour pork. While this small space is dedicated exclusively to large, reservations-only parties for two seatings daily—6 and 8 p.m.—smaller parties can clamor for a 5–6 p.m. slot.
Reservations are well advised for weekend dim sum and seafood delights at Fisherman’s Terrace (4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, 604/303-9739) in Aberdeen Centre, a sprawling Asian-centric mall with brands from Taiwan, Korea, and elsewhere. Be sure to make time to browse Daiso, a two-level Japanese dollar store.
High-ceilinged and spacious, the upscale Golden Sichuan (170-3631 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604/288-9058) imports green Sichuan (sometimes spelled Szechuan) peppercorns from China for use in Instagram-ready, family-sized delights. Try the “meat laundry,” a wooden frame draped with thin-sliced pork and cucumber that you dredge in deep-red chili oil; chilled, free-range chicken in chili sauce (it’s not on the menu, so ask for it); spicy-but-not-fiery, peanut-less dan dan noodles; and seasonal fish served with dried chilis and oil.
Less resplendent, and comparatively inexpensive and homey, Golden Spring (4200 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604/273-3388) is equally toothsome. The “husband and wife slices” is a must: it features shavings of tripe and beef with generous helpings of cilantro, chili oil, green onion, and sesame seeds.
The dan dan noodles at Szechuan Delicious (6610 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604/276-1780) are intoxicating, while hole-in-the-wall Chuan Ku BBQ (8291 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, 778/297-5577) specializes in mouthwatering, barbecued skewers of meat, particularly lamb.
Those with a very high tolerance for chili and spice can test their limits at Bushuair (121-4600 No 3 Rd., Richmond, 604/285-3668), which serves up Sichuanese, as well as the fiery cuisine of Hunan. Here, entrees are offered in three levels of heat: small, medium, or big. (The “big” option has made even seasoned chili eaters cry for mercy, so consider carefully before ordering.) Try the dish known as “ants climbing a tree”—saucy glass noodles with ground pork—and blissfully mild, crisp, green garlic stems with fried preserved pork.
Sushi joints are ubiquitous throughout Vancouver, ranging from cheap roll and lunch spots to high-end, occasion-worthy venues. Hipster foodies gravitate to Gastown’s narrow Sea Monstr Sushi and feast on rolls like the ika ume shiso maki, with squid, sour plum, shiso, and daikon sprouts.
In progressive Kitsilano, a.k.a. Kits, cozy Octopus' Garden is a neighborhood favorite thanks to signature items like the uni shooter, a mouthful’s worth of custardy sea urchin, raw quail egg, dashi, shiso leaf, and fresh grated Japanese yam and wasabi root.
Fully compliant with Vancouver’s Ocean Wise seafood sustainability program, RawBar serves wonderful, seasonal sashimi, rolls, and deluxe takes on miso soup that feature additions like bacon and smoked sablefish.
Just nearby, the waterfront’s slick Miku, and its upbeat Yaletown district sibling, Minami, are exalted for Aburi Oshi-style sushi: rectangular slices of pressed rice and fish topped with seared, vibrantly flavored sauces. Another Yaletown gem, Bistro Sakana, pushes the fusion envelope with chef Etsuko Needham’s inventive creations like the caprese roll, made with hotate scallops, shiso-basil pesto, tomato, mozzarella, and balsamic reduction.
If you’re in the market for a splurge, the omakase menu at Fairview’s Tojo’s entails high-end creations from Vancouver’s most renowned sushi chef, Hidekazu Tojo. Tojo’s sake selection and sommelier are also top-notch. And although Richmond is best known for its Chinese fare, Sushi Hachi (8888 Odlin Crescent, Richmond, 604/207-2882) is destination-worthy for its straightforward sashimi, nigiri, and a few other Japanese specialties. As the restaurant is open just five days a week between 6 and 9 p.m., reservations are strongly recommended.
A bit sweet, mild, and rich, Shanghai's cuisine is probably best known for its xiao long bao, commonly called soup dumplings. Shanghai River (7831 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, 604/233-8885), Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen (8095 Park Rd., Richmond, 604/304-8288), Shanghai Morning (125-8291 Alexandra Rd., Richmond, 778/297-6098) and Su Hang (8291 Ackroyd Road, Suite 100., Richmond, 604/278-7787) all have their devoted fans. For a Taiwanese take on Shanghainese, the multi-location Dinesty Dumpling House serves dainty, fig-sized soup dumplings that boast a clean, light broth within.
Over in Vancouver’s Riley Park neighborhood, hole-in-the-wall Long’s Noodle House (4853 Main St., Vancouver, 604/879-7879) receives near unanimous raves for its dumplings' delicate skin, rich soup, and tender meat.
You can find a diverse range of Korean restaurants around Vancouver’s West End junction of Robson and Denman Streets (ditto for Japanese ramen joints, incidentally), where many Korean students live and study.
Translating to “mother-in-law’s house,” Jang Mo Jib serves traditional staples in family-sized portions, including yummy mahn doo dumplings, soups, hot pot, and charcoal-grilled BBQ.
Ma Dang Goul (847 Denman St., Vancouver, 604/688-3585) feels like a Korean take on a greasy spoon diner, with unglamorous yet tasty comfort fare. During winter, their casseroles are especially popular.
A Korean take on the izakaya, Damso (867 Denman St., Vancouver, 604/233-8885) presents inventive fare that goes well with beer, like a bulgogi burger, red-wine-glazed yam fries, hickory-smoked spicy pork bulgogi, and a crispy, waffle-ironed twist on seafood pancakes.
For an elevated, elegant dining experience imbued with the flavors and essence of Korean cuisine, visit Sura Korean Restaurant for highlights such as the samgye-tang, a sweet rice-stuffed young chicken simmered in a ginger, garlic, ginseng, and jujube fruit broth; a selection of vegetable pancakes (including kimchi); and jellyfish salad.