Celebrate a Special Occasion — Even During the Pandemic — at These Vancouver Restaurants

Cheersing to special occasions | Credit: Ancora

Vancouver restaurants are ready to help you celebrate, whether it’s a negative test result or a once-in-a-lifetime momentous occasion. Choose from fancy to fun and everything in between to make a toast to the fabulous food at these Vancouver restaurants, even if you choose to bring it home to celebrate. 

And don’t worry about matching your cocktail dress with your COVID mask. High fashion isn’t ever the norm in Rain City anyway, and if you’re eating outside on a patio — even those that are heated — you’ll want to dress warmly.

Here’s where to book in Vancouver for something special.

For Japanese-Peruvian fusion on the False Creek waterfront: Ancora

Award-winning Ancora expertly fuses Japan’s and Peru’s most celebrated dishes featuring Ocean Wise sustainable seafood. The ceviche’s leche de tigre is so perfect that you’ll resist drinking it up only because the dining room is so elegant. Draw your eyes away from Yoshihiro Tabo’s immaculate sushi to admire the sunset over English Bay.

Reservations for False Creek:

Reservations for Ambleside:

For creations both dazzling and delicious: Botanist at the Fairmont Pacific Rim

Executive Chef Hector Laguna creates magic with BC ingredients at Botanist. Come for theatrical signature drinks in the cocktail laboratory and exquisite dishes made from sustainably sourced local ingredients — botany inspires and morphs into a dining experience.

For farm-to-table gastronomy near the Granville Bridge: Farmer’s Apprentice

Next door to neighbourhood gem Grapes & Soda is the award-winning Farmer’s Apprentice, with constantly-changing menus based on whatever’s been delivered from the region’s organic and ethical farms. Mad-scientist-like smoked, dehydrated, or fermented creations are on view from David Gunawan’s open kitchen, which turns out plates both delicious and beautiful.

For steak and Champagne with live music Downtown: Gotham Steakhouse & Bar

Gotham’s sophisticated Art Deco dining room connects to its sunny patio via glass doors, and musicians entertain in the lounge Thursday to Saturday evenings, where lower-priced small plates are available, too. Lunch and dinner menus have an abundance of choice from tuna poke to dry-aged New York strip steak. Toast your special occasion with Gotham’s Champagne dinner (plan ahead: that one needs a reservation a week in advance).

Chocolate and banana layer cake

Honey Salt’s chocolate cake | Credit: Bill Milne

For all-day hospitality with decadent desserts: Honey Salt at Parq Vancouver

Just off the lobby at the JW Marriott Parq is comfortable-yet-sophisticated Honey Salt by wife-and-husband team Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla. Menus — which feature locally sourced ingredients — change throughout the day, and there’s also new Dine Outside lunch and dinner menus with optional wine pairings. Save room for fabulous desserts such as a chocolate cake with caramelized bananas, milk chocolate mousse, and dark chocolate glaze.

For fried chicken and innovative cocktails via Chinatown: Juke Fried Kitchen

Celebrate at home with Juke’s fried chicken, waffles, chicken strips, ribs, and wings, plus sides like fritters, fried pickles, Asian slaw, and corn on the cob. Almost everything is gluten-free, including the “Let’s Cluck” fried-chicken bouquets on offer exclusively for Valentine’s Day. When the hip dining room reopens, toast your occasion with an inventive cocktail such as the purple rain (black currant syrup, almond orgeat, and lime juice) or raspberry gimlet. Until then, simply order a couple of the make-at-home mixes. Takeout and delivery for now.

For West Coast cuisine and masterful wine pairings in Gastown: L’Abattoir

L’Abattoir is in a 19th-century heritage building at the site of Vancouver’s first jail, with a seasonal patio open until October 31, plus a 30-person private dining room for special events. The French-influenced menu features local ingredients like albacore, halibut, and duck, all paired with an award-winning wine list or craft cocktails. Chefs Lee Cooper and Yoann Therer have a new tasting menu debuting this fall.

For seafood on the water: LIFT Bar Grill View

It’s hard to beat LIFT’s waterfront views of Stanley Park, the north shore, and Coal Harbour, whether from the rooftop deck or through the floor-to-ceiling windows. LIFT’s menus feature lots of seafood, while weekend brunch has four kinds of eggs Benny and other savoury selections.

For aburi-style Japanese and innovative desserts: Miku Waterfront

Plates of sushi and raw fish

Aburi-style sushi | Credit: Miku

Miku’s Seigo Nakamura introduced Vancouver to flame-seared pressed aburi sushi back in 2008, combining Japanese and Canadian flavours into melt-in-your-mouth bites. Miku also offers à la carte Japanese selections, kaiseki multi-course dining, and stunning Japanese-Euro-influenced desserts. Right on Burrard Inlet Downtown, Miku Waterfront’s dining room and patio overlook the five sails of Canada Place.

For afternoon tea at the Fairmont: Notch8

Afternoon tea at any of Canada’s Fairmont hotels is always a treat. At the Hotel Vancouver, one lucky twosome per day gets to have their tea and tier of elegant pastries and sandwiches framed in the historic hotel’s front window, with fashion illustrator Mandy Lau’s streetscape backdrop behind them. Notch8 also serves inventive cocktails, classics, and regional dishes at lunch and dinner.

For Indigenous cuisine in Fairview: Salmon n’ Bannock

Salmon n’ Bannock is Vancouver’s only Indigenous-owned and -operated restaurant, with staff hailing from almost a dozen different First Nations. Traditional ingredients are turned into modern dishes such as sockeye salmon ceviche, bannock taco, and Ojibway wild rice risotto. The pot roast’s bison gravy is “good enough to drink out of a wine glass,” the menu boasts. Call to reserve.

For great views over the city from Queen Elizabeth Park: Seasons in the Park

Admire superb views of the Vancouver skyline at Seasons in the Park either from inside the dining room through floor-to-ceiling windows or out on the year-round heated patio. Come for brunch, lunch, dinner, or prime rib on Sundays. Menus feature Dungeness crab cakes, wood-fired meats, pastas, and more.

A table overlooks the Vancouver skyline

The view from Seasons at the Park | Credit: Seasons at the Park

For pan-Asian with local ingredients near Chinatown: Torafuku

Steve Kuan’s Torafuku grew out of his pan-Asian Le Tigre food truck. Torafuku’s menu is pan-Asian too, featuring local ingredients in innovative dishes such as chawanmushi (steamed Japanese custard) or short ribs with yuzu mashed potato. Celebrate your event — and Torafuku’s fifth anniversary — with the anniversary omakase on Fridays and Saturdays: seven courses for dine-in and four courses to take home.

For everything Italian at Yaletown’s latest: Tutto Restaurant & Bar

Brand new as of August 2020, spacious Tutto serves modern Italian from an open kitchen inside a 100-plus-year-old Yaletown building. Tutto — “all” or “everything” in Italian — features dishes from across il bel paese (the beautiful country); try the alla Fiorentina steak, grilled Humboldt calamari, Parmesan-encrusted halibut with black risotto, or Roman-style pizza.

For Canada’s most famous Indian food on Cambie: Vij’s

Meeru Dhalwala’s and Vikram Vij’s flagship restaurant can’t offer its trademark snacks and palate pleasers to diners waiting for their table during COVID, but they have supplemented Vij’s menu with favourites from the former Rangoli menu. Yes, the lamb popsicles are worthy of their reputation, but be sure to sample more widely whether you visit for lunch or dinner.

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer/photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism; follow her on Twitter at @TravelEater  and Instagram at TravelEaterJohanna.