Vancouver’s Chinese restaurants regularly rank among the best in North America, but how do you figure out where — and what — to eat?
If you’re ready to venture beyond egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork, check out the Vancouver Chinese Restaurant Awards, an annual critics’-pick list of the region’s top Chinese dishes. At this year’s recent awards ceremony, the judges named 20 must-try plates from restaurants across Vancouver and the nearby suburb of Richmond.
Since even 20 dishes can be a lot to digest, here’s our getting-started guide — five easy-to-navigate restaurants, their award-winning plates, and tips on what else to order.
The first-rate Cantonese dim sum in this spacious dining room comes with views of the downtown skyline. The don’t-miss dish? Baked lemon BBQ pork pie — sweetened barbecued pork punched up with tangy citrus and packed into a scrumptiously flaky pastry. Round out your meal with a mix of traditional and contemporary small plates, from classic har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) to Buddha’s feast (mixed vegetables). For dessert, try the unusual baked sago and black sesame pudding.
In a building opposite Vancouver City Hall, this high-end Cantonese restaurant took prizes this year for three elaborate creations: deep-fried boneless chicken with minced prawns, glutinous rice and chestnut paste; geoduck (giant clam) prepared two ways; and smoked live lobster with assorted mushrooms. But you can dine well on simpler fare, too; steamed whole fish and various Chinese greens are always impeccably fresh. If you’re still hungry, add a hearty platter of fried noodles.
This upscale Richmond dining room has earned more top-dish notices than any other local Chinese restaurant, for creative Hong Kong-style cuisine, ranging from pan-fried prawns with soy to fried squab to the inventive braised chayote squash with pork and preserved vegetable. You’ll find this year’s winning dish, deep-fried pumpkin sticks with egg yolk sauce, at dim sum, where the photo-filled menu makes it easy to order.
Bamboo Grove Restaurant
If you were hunting for a sophisticated Chinese restaurant, you’d walk right past this unassuming Richmond storefront. Step inside, though, for white tablecloths, polished service, a lengthy wine list and fine Cantonese fare. Its winning dishes are surprising, too; this year’s award went to the double-boiled almond chicken and pear soup. Pair this rich broth with addictive spare ribs in sweet vinegar sauce or meaty tiger prawns stir-fried with eggplant and salty minced pork.
New Spicy Chili Restaurant
Prefer fiery Sichuan fare? There’s plenty of heat in this modest Richmond eatery. Just don’t expect General Tso’s chicken or other westernized chow — its winning plate is sliced beef and beef tripe in “special spicy sauce.” If that sounds a little too bold, try the other Sichuan classics, such as nutty dan dan noodles, mapo tofu, or chili-laden “water-boiled” fish. Ask the staff for more recommendations (just tell them your heat tolerance), or look at what other tables are ordering. In North America’s best Chinese restaurant city, most diners are happy to share their food finds.
Photos Courtesy of Tracey Kusiewicz Foodie Photography