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Flavors of Vancouver and Victoria
For an entire year, 2005–2006, one Vancouver couple ate only food that had been raised within 100 miles of their Kitsilano home. Their project became a rallying cry for the region's emerging "locavore" movement—a philosophy that's come to define the current dining scene. So what's local in Vancouver and Victoria? Seafood is a good starting point, with salmon, Dungeness crab, spot prawns, oysters, and scallops fished from B.C. waters. Locally raised pork and chicken, handcrafted cheeses, and hazelnuts round out the protein options; mushrooms, greens, and, in summer, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are available produce. And to drink? B.C. wines, of course.
Yet even as local ingredients are all the rage, Vancouver and Victoria continue to look for culinary inspiration beyond their borders. British Columbia is the country's gateway to the Pacific Rim, and Asian influences abound. B.C. also draws on its European roots with many chefs updating continental cuisine.
Eating local has become almost a religion in Vancouver restaurants, and diners across the city are benefiting from the emphasis on fresh, locally sourced products. Restaurateurs often choose from local bounty, whether it's fresh fruit from the Okanagan Valley or fish from B.C.'s coastal waters.
Bishop's, Vancouver. Before "local" became fashionable, owner John Bishop was championing seasonal eating, and his Kitsilano restaurant still emphasizes regional products. Blue Water Café, Vancouver. Chef Frank Pabst often features underappreciated (and more abundant) varieties of seafood, many from local waters, at this fashionable Yaletown spot. Raincity Grill, Vancouver. Another early adopter of local ingredients, this romantic restaurant near English Bay offers a 100-mile tasting menu. Refuel, Vancouver. Chef Jane Cornborough not only cures her own bacon, but also lists on her menu the local, organic sources—from poultry farms to coffee roasters—where she obtains her ingredients. West, Vancouver. Contemporary regional cuisine is the theme at this chic South Granville restaurant, one of the city's most innovative spots.
British Columbia has a rapidly maturing wine industry, concentrated in the sunny and dry Okanagan Valley 400 km (250 miles) east of Vancouver. Vancouver Island also is a wine-producing area. In this region, many local restaurants are passionate purveyors of local wines, and wine bars pairing B.C. vino with artisanal cheeses and house-cured charcuterie are all the rage.
Cru, Vancouver. A lengthy by-the-glass list delights diners who flock to this stylish South Granville storefront for small plates and big wines. Salt Tasting Room, Vancouver. Hidden in Gastown's historic Blood Alley, this popular spot focuses on the essentials: flavorful cheese, cured meats, and wine. Uva Wine Bar, Vancouver. A hip downtown hangout for sipping and grazing, Uva offers plenty of local wines by the glass. Stage, Victoria. Packed with locals, this comfortable wine bar offers Victoria's take on small plates and B.C. wines.
Asian Fine Dining
Vancouver's large population of Asian expats and immigrants has created a demand for Asian fine dining that rivals the best of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei. Homegrown chefs, such as Maenam's Angus An, are getting into the act, too. His modern Thai bistro takes Southeast Asian dishes to new levels. Locals will tell you that the real Chinese restaurants are all in the nearby community of Richmond.
Kirin, Vancouver. One branch of this stylish restaurant specializes in northern Chinese cuisine; the others serve up refined Cantonese fare. Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver. With locations on Main Street and in suburban Richmond, these popular spots are favorites for dim sum. Vij's, Vancouver. This South Granville dining room is a Vancouver foodie institution and packs in the crowds for its innovative Indian creations. Glowbal Grill Steaks and Satay. Choice cuts of steak, Indian satay, spaghetti and meatballs, seafood. Yes, it's eclectic, and it's a Yaletown institution. Soak up the local culture as you dine with your finger on the city's pulse. Tojo's, Vancouver. Book a seat at the sushi bar, order omakase (chef's choice), and legendary chef Hidekazu Tojo will regale you with a parade of creative Japanese bites. Maenam, Vancouver. Local ingredients, fresh herbs, and vibrant seasonings spice up traditional Thai dishes at this Kitsilano bistro.
While Asian influences are common, recently local chefs are rediscovering European flavors, with classic French bistros, regional Italian dining rooms, and Mediterranean-style dishes taking on renewed importance.
Le Crocodile, Vancouver. A classic for French fare that's, well, classic. Mistral French Bistro, Vancouver. The sunny flavors of Provence light up this Kitsilano bistro, even on winter's longest days. Cibo Trattoria, Vancouver. This sleek, trendy trattoria makes Italian fare fun again. Campagnolo, Vancouver. Take the traditional dishes of Emiglia-Romana and Piedmonte, then perk them up with organic B.C. products. The result? An out-of-the-way eatery that's worth seeking out.Updated: 06-2013
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