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Best Vancouver Restaurants

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Seafood, local products and a fusion of European and Asian culinary influences are the ingredients for the regional food philosophy known as West Coast cuisine, for which Vancouver is the capital. Local chefs at the best Vancouver restaurants have included Iron Chef competition winners, James Beard honorees and Canadian best-chef winners, and all of them have adopted and advanced the West Coast philosophy. A quintessential example was the tea-steamed whole rockfish served with bok choy and jasmine rice at C restaurant, Robert Clark’s path-breaking seafood mecca on False Creek. Most chefs in town subscribe to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise sustainable seafood campaign; look for the logo on the menu. Fresh seafood is invariably best, if the menu doesn’t specify what the catch of the day is, ask.

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar

Neighborhood: Yaletown Price: Expensive
The signature item at this Yaletown seafood shrine is the appetizer tower, a stacked-plates array of marine delicacies ranging from sashimi to salmon roe to raw oysters to crab cakes. The glimmering metal fixtures and rich wood trim lend a snazzy atmosphere, the sushi bar is always packed, and the main course entrees range from Arctic char with seaweed to scallops with Manitoba wild rice. For the best people-watching seats, get a balcony table that overlooks the action.

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C Restaurant Jesse Winter

C Restaurant

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Robert Clark’s visionary, glamorous approach to marine foods, octopus-bacon wrapped scallops, caviar with gold foil, whole steamed fish, revolutionized seafood in Vancouver. The simple furnishings indoors shimmer in the high-window light, and the outdoor patio facing False Creek and Granville Island is one of the cheeriest spots for dinner in Vancouver; call far ahead for an outdoor table.

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Vij's Restaurant Jesse Winter

Vij's Restaurant

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
One of the highest-profile and most distinctive chefs in the city, Vikram Vij melds the flavors of the Indian subcontinent with the ingredients and ethos of Vancouver; you might find goat curry with BC vegetables, beef short ribs braised in yoghurt, or sablefish in a mango reduction. Vij’s doesn’t take reservations, doors open at 5:30PM, and the line is often around the block by then. Plan to wait, but it’s worth it.

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West Jesse Winter

West

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Seasonal and regional are the keywords here. The menu focuses almost exclusively on BC ingredients such as sablefish, halibut, Fraser Valley duck and lamb, even Pemberton Meadows (as opposed to Alberta) beef. Preparations are hearty, bacon-wrapped rabbit, for example, or sweetbreads with portobello mushroom. The atmosphere is sheer glamour, with leather chairs, white linen tablecloths, mahogany-tone woods and innumerable sparkling recessed lights.

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The Mill Marine Bistro Jesse Winter

The Mill Marine Bistro

Neighborhood: West End Price: Moderate
New-wave tavern food leads the way at this gourmet pub poised just above the Coal Harbour Promenade; the outdoor patio overlooks the marina and Stanley Park. On the menu are tuna and smoked-salmon sliders, halibut salad, lox pizza and the traditional cedar-plank salmon with maple mustard glaze. The salmon burger is one of the best in BC. The wine list is heavy on BC vintages (especially whites, a rarity in Vancouver restaurants), and if you don’t finish your bottle, they’ll re-cork it so you can take it with you. Eight kinds of vodka “lemonade” lead the cocktail list.

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Italian Kitchen Jesse Winter

Italian Kitchen

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
Shareable platters of pasta are the centerpiece of the menu at this ever-buzzing West End bistro. The dishes themselves don’t really break new ground, pasta preparations rely heavily on tomatoes, chicken, sausage and garlic, but the execution is flawless, the atmosphere is convivial and the tab is within reason. The signature platters of pasta, meats or fish usually suffice for two, and the people-watching is choice.

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Floata Seafood Restaurant Jesse Winter

Floata Seafood Restaurant

Neighborhood: Chinatown Price: Moderate
Close to a thousand diners can squeeze into this dim sum shrine at the south edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown. That makes it the largest such place in Canada, but what recommends it is the steady stream of expertly made dumplings, spring rolls, taro balls and other tasty delights, “dim sum” roughly translates as “touch your heart,” wheeled past your table by the waitresses. You won’t always know exactly what you’re eating, but that’s part of the fun.

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Medina Cafe Jesse Winter

Medina Cafe

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
Film industry types flock here mornings for the luscious, filling country French breakfasts, two eggs with braised short ribs and caramelized onions, fried eggs and cassoulet, and huge omelettes. With high, exposed-beam ceilings and a 20-foot recycled glass bar countertop, the small space is almost always packed and high-energy. The cafe opens at 8AM on weekdays and 9AM on weekends.

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Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna Jesse Winter

Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna

Neighborhood: West End Price: Budget
Heaping economical plates of filling Greek food, that’s what Stepho’s has been serving residents and visitors in Vancouver’s West End for decades, and the restaurant just keeps plying its trade. Food fads come and go, booms and recessions come and go, and still you can go to Stepho’s and stuff yourself with the roast lamb platter (potatoes, salad, rice and tender lamb) all for less than $15. Lines go out the door most nights; get ready to wait. And don’t expect gourmet fare, the lamb is, um, cooked and cooked some more; the potatoes too, and the rice is starchy. But, oh, the value.

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Granville Island food court Jesse Winter

Granville Island food court

Neighborhood: Kitsilano Price: Budget
Occupying a long hall at one side of the island’s public market, the dozen food stands here offer everything from sandwiches to sushi. Meals can be had for less than $10 and the choices seem infinite. The fresh-made soups at The Stock Market are always hearty. Kaisereck Delicatessen serves Austrian-style sandwiches, and a dozen different kinds of Ukrainian food rolls can be found at The Perogy Place. Lunch in hand, head to the outdoor plaza facing False Creek, where there are invariably buskers entertaining the crowds.

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