Vancouver’s food landscape constantly changes with a revolving door of restaurant openings and closings, so it’s hard to stay abreast of what’s best. Luckily for you, these four newcomers come with our seal of approval.
David Hawksworth, chef-owner of the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Hawksworth Restaurant at the Five-Star Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, recently opened his long-awaited second eatery downtown. Nightingale’s two-level dining room in a revamped heritage building somewhat continues with the glamour for which Hawksworth is known with details like double-height ceilings, clerestory windows and a library-style bar that draws you into the space. Yet, the equally creative Nightingale sets a more casual vibe, starting with gin and tonics on tap and the house Nighting-ale that is produced in partnership with a local microbrewery.
The lengthy menu begins with vegetable-friendly sharing plates, like meaty maitake mushrooms dusted with pecorino; wild salmon ceviche with shaved radish and crispy quinoa; and oven-roasted cauliflower spiced with green harissa.
Nightingale is already building a reputation for its pizzas, with toppings like tomato confit, fermented chili, basil, summer squash, egg and taleggio cheese. More substantial dishes — from Pacific octopus with blistered capers and the fried chicken with preserved lemon yogurt to the grilled hangar steak with chimichurri — should sate the entire table. It’ll be hard to save room for the salted caramel pot de crème or the strawberry shortcake ice cream sandwich, but you should give it your best effort.
A Japanese-Italian hybrid located in Vancouver’s Chinatown? Why, yes. The team responsible for Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has launched the undeniably eclectic but stylishly fun Kissa Tanto in a second-floor space on East Pender Street.
The vintage décor in the lounge-style dining space channels 1960s Tokyo jazz clubs, while the sharing plates ramble from Asia to Europe and back. Try dishes like millefoglio tonkatsu (a crisp cutlet of pork and squid, paired with soy pickled asparagus); a fish crudo seasoned with shiso vinaigrette, olives and mustard greens; or house-made pasta with a pork and sake kasu sauce.
To drink? Look for cocktails like Tanuki’s Night Out (pisco, sherry, apricot brandy and smoked pear bitters) or a nonalcoholic brew such as the Dawn and Dew, which blends lemon, spiced honey and ginger beer.
While many of Vancouver’s Vietnamese eateries are of the traditional mom-and-pop variety, a young brother-and-sister team is taking their Asian culinary heritage to a new level. Victoria and Patrick Do have opened House Special, a modern Vietnamese restaurant in Yaletown.
Start with a classic “house special” — their version of pho, the ever-popular noodle soup — and move on to more inventive dishes. You might sample a “son-in-law egg,” soft-boiled inside a crispy panko crust and served with tamarind-chili jam, or “fry bread,” a sesame bun stuffed with duck confit or sautéed mushrooms and Asian slaw. Good for nibbling are the spicy-sweet Uncle Hing’s chicken wings, based on what the menu cheekily calls a family recipe “from the remote village of Houston, Texas.”
A selection of local craft beers and cocktails, like the Saigon in 60 Seconds (blending tequila, cassis, salted lime and bitters), reflect the establishment’s classic-meets-contemporary theme.
Fanny Bay Oyster Bar
Calling itself the city’s first “tide to table” oyster bar, this downtown seafood spot, located within shouting distance of the B.C. Place arena, is Vancouver’s newest destination for bivalve lovers. Taylor Shellfish Farms, a well-known west coast shellfish producer, operates this smart-casual seafooder, with a long bar (better to watch the shuckers at work) and a simple from-the-sea menu.
Fresh west coast oysters are an obvious choice here, from a rotating selection that might include kusshi or mattaki from British Columbia or kumamoto or shigoku from Washington State. Ceviche, crab cakes, a smoked seafood platter and sashimi-style geoduck clams are among the smaller plates, while those with heartier appetites might dig into the fish and chips, pan-roasted salmon or a bowl of bouillabaisse.
And if you’re looking for a seafood-centric souvenir of your Vancouver visit, head for the market, where you can find tiny cans of smoked oysters or T-shirts with the joint’s motto, “Shuck, Slurp, Repeat.”