Perched on the coastline of the western reaches of British Columbia, the vibrant metropolis is uniquely positioned to access the finest ingredients from the surrounding waters, wilds, and farmlands. Chefs gleefully transform this bounty at a culture-spanning array of restaurants that cater to varying tastes and price points. These are the hottest restaurants in Vancouver right now, so make a reservation to taste the best this stunning city has to offer.
The Backstory: Executive chef Hector Laguna delivers New Canadian cuisine at an artfully appointed knockout inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
The Drink Situation: Their Cocktail Lab is a futuristic funland where the bar team uses a centrifuge, band saw, and roto vaporizer to craft insanely Instagrammable cocktails – like one that arrives inside a terrarium – while their eminently knowledgeable and supremely passionate wine director Jill Spoor excels at offering up pairings for your experience.
The Must-Order Dish: A twirl of tagliatelle topped with morels, mushroom “soil,” and shards of crisped up piave cheese.
Make a reservation at Botanist.
The Backstory: With a focus on the ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, chef Alessandro Vianello crafts dishes that are equally comforting and complex.
The Drink Situation: The Old Fashioned gets re-fashioned every which way possible, but it’s the unexpected Horseradish Sour – which manages to be equally savory, spicy, and citrusy – that steals the show.
The Must-Order Dish: Non-traditional goat and lamb lasagna hiding under a crispy sheet of pasta lavished with bordelaise sauce and mushroom-madeira puree.
Make a reservation at Wildebeest.
H2 Rotisserie & Bar
The Backstory: Situated inside the Westin Bayshore, it boasts superb views of the hotel’s gardens (home to three bee hives that produce honey for the restaurant), the marina in Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, and the mountains to the north across the harbor.
The Drink Situation: Sixteen local brews on tap, plus clever craft cocktails and a hardy whiskey library.
The Must-Order Dish: Executive chef Kamal Silva deftly showcases a slew of local seafood – lingcod, wild salmon, Salt Spring Island mussels, Dungeness Crab, and jumbo prawns – but it’s his golden rotisserie chicken that (rightfully) has the biggest following.
Make a reservation at H2 Rotisserie & Bar.
The Backstory: Chef Lee Cooper puts out some of Canada’s most memorable plates in a post-industrial space located next door to the city’s original butchery and at the center of the historic meatpacking district (hence the name).
The Drink Situation: Cocktails are crafted with care and creativity, such as a gimlet built with rosemary- and olive-infused gin and fresh avocado.
The Must-Order Dish: It’s a tie between chamomile-cured foie gras and duck glazed with a long pepper honey.
Make a reservation at L’Abbatoir.
Osteria Savio Volpe
The Backstory: Down home Italian cooking from chef Mark Perrier never fails to delight.
The Drink Situation: A strong selection of local beers from the likes of Brassneck Brewery, Strange Fellows, and 33 Acres, as well as winning housemade sodas (don’t miss the apricot).
The Must-Order Dish: A hot skillet loaded up with meatballs lavished with neck bone gravy and speckled with pine nuts.
Make a reservation at Osteria Savio Volpe.
The Backstory: Owned by Uwe Boll, director of such campy b-movies as BloodRayne and Rampage: Capital Punishment, the hipster Germanic outpost in Gastown is under the watchful eyes of co-executive chefs Tim Schulte and David Mueller.
The Drink Situation: An Old World wine list and creative cocktails, like a buttermilk margarita sweetened with orange jam and poppy seed lemon soda.
The Must-Order Dish: The tasting menu is the way to go here, though you can’t go wrong with any of the self-described “German comfort classics,” such as stroganoff, kassler, and wiener schnitzel.
Make a reservation at Bauhaus.
The Backstory: Chef Chris Whittaker is all about sustainability and responsible sourcing, so you can feel good about dining at his eco-conscious spot in the West End.
The Drink Situation: The extensive British Columbia wine list is a great resource for anyone looking to increase their knowledge of the region’s offerings.
The Must-Order Dish: Spot prawn and seafood chowder topped with chicharrones and a sunny quail’s egg split in two.
Make a reservation at Forage.
The Backstory: Located right on the waterfront, this second story stunner with exquisite harbor views offers the best sushi in town.
The Drink Situation: A strong sake selection, as well as umeshu (Japanese fruit wine) and shochu (spirits distilled from vegetables and grains, including barley, shiso, and sweet potato).
The Must-Order Dish: Slightly singed and served warm, the aburi salmon oshi sushi incorporates a spicy housemade mayo and a slender jalapeño round for kick.
Make a reservation at Miku.
Blue Water Café
The Backstory: Executive chef Frank Pabst has won nearly every culinary award the country has to offer for his stellar seafood preparations.
The Drink Situation: A wine list more than 1,000 bottles strong will keep even the most dedicated oenophile occupied for a lifetime.
The Must-Order Dish: White sturgeon in a pumpernickel crust is as inventive as it is soul shakingly delicious.
Make a reservation at Blue Water Café.
What are your picks for the hottest restaurants in Vancouver? Let us know here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, ononincluding Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Hamid Attie Photography (L’Abbatoir); John Sherlock (Blue Water Cafe).