Not necessarily a “must-try” post (although you definitely should have a go at poutine), but more an overview of some of the restaurants we tried during our stay. Spoiler: none of them was disappointing.
Vancouver has an impressive food scene. Entirely in line with Pacific Northwest-style cooking, the BC focus is on local and sustainable food (and seafood as a whole, of course), but usually with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Very good street food is available via many trucks and stalls as well, but we resisted the urge to try them as well.
On Granville Island, we had lunch at Granville Island Brewing (1441 Cartwright St, www.gib.ca) and sampled pretty much their whole range of beers (6 regulars and 4 seasonals: Vienna Fassbier, Big Day IPA, Watermelon Lager and a West Coast Saison), with their West Coast IPA and Northwest Pale Ale as our favorites. For food, we had some tasty burgers, served with a side salad(!), tempura vegetables, and made our first acquaintance with a Canadian food icon: Poutine.
The poutine originally hails from Quebec and consists of French fries covered with cheese curds and a slathering of gravy. So you have crunchy and slightly soggy fries, squeaky cheese curds that start to melt from the heat of the usually quite salty gravy on top. It could very well be one of the best late-night/hangover dishes ever… No wonder it goes down so well with a couple of beers! Artery-clogging and unhealthy stuff, but strangely addictive, so we tried quite a few poutines during our vacation. Some were excellent, but like pizza’s, even half-decent poutine is still pretty tasty. I loved poutine, the kids didn’t like the cheese curds all too much, and Chantal really dislikes soggy fries so always stole my crunchy ones.
Poutine definitely is a staple dish and you will find it on the menu of the bulk of Canadian menus. There are even quite a few restaurants in Vancouver that actually only serve poutines and get creative with various toppings. These “loaded” poutines are definitely getting traction elsewhere too as we have seen them ranging from meaty (like pulled pork, braised beef, taco mince, donair) to crunchy fried tofu.
With Vancouver’s population consisting of about 40% Southeast Asian ancestry, the quality of that type of food is also amazing. After having walked from East Vancouver to West End, we had a great lunch at Dinasty Dumpling House (1719 Robson St, dinesty.ca) where we saw dumplings being hand-made in the open-kitchen window while waiting for a table.
Dinesty is renowned for their steamed Xiao Long Bao, the soup-filled pork dumplings. We sampled the regular ones as well as those with XO sauce, and they were deeply gratifying, as were their signature Pan-fried Pork and Shrimp Potstickers. As the Green Vegetable and Egg Dumplings were sold out, we sampled the Chinese Toon Buns and Springrolls as vegetarian options. Also, a Chicken Wonton Soup was ordered. These were all good, but not as remarkable as the XLBs and potstickers. We washed the food down with some excellent Pale Ale and IPAs by Four Winds Brewing (Delta, BC) and while the kids had some refreshing, albeit slightly sweet, fruit teas delivered to order from next-door’s YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea.
For delicious woodfire pizzas, I can recommend Nicli Antica Pizzeria (62 E Cordova St, niclipizzeria.com). We tried the classic Margarita, the Cavolo Nero e Funghi (black kale, mixed mushrooms) and the Pesto (house-smoked bacon, tomatoes, pesto, fresh basil) as pictured below. Very tasty, thin, and crispy bases and high-quality toppings. No cutlery for pizzas here; just a pair of scissors to get creative!
No pictures, but an honorable mention goes out to Donair Dude (164 W Hastings St, www.donairdude.com) which has several outlets in Vancouver. To ease Koen, Erica, and Madouc into their jetlag, they dropped by at our Gastown AirBnB for some drinks. Not feeling like going out for dinner after a 10-hour flight, we decided to get take out. We ordered (lamb and chicken) donair as well as falafel pitas from almost next door’s Donair Dude. Overall, high-quality ingredients and freshly made, they were delicious. However, the thing that surprised us most was the size of their pita bread. At approx 25cm /10″, it is basically twice the size of pita bread ordinary in the Netherlands and also somewhat thinner. Our smaller pita bread is cut open at the top and filled to the brim and therefore hugely messy as the sauce trickles down and spills from the cracks in the bread at the bottom. These larger ones are brilliant because after applying the requested filling and topping to about 1/3rd to halfway, they fold one of the sides of the pita bread over the mixture and then roll it all into a snug parcel. This multilayering avoided spills despite the generous amounts of garlic and tahini sauces that were applied. Obviously, big pitas = big servings, so we had also secured some tasty leftover snacks for later on.😎
As our kids craved sushi and noodles (when do they not?), our last dinner in Vancouver was at nearby Momo Sushi (375 Water St #6, momogastown.ca). The multi-level Sushi/Japanese/Korean restaurant has a pretty basic interior (and limited storage space as we were sitting next to a couple of cases of Asahi beer), but the fresh food was very tasty and affordable. As starters, we had crispy, not fatty, vegetable tempura, garlicky chicken kara-age nuggets, and nigiri with big slabs of salmon. Then came huge bowls of chicken katsu and beef ramen noodle soups.
And my chicken katsu which was served on a searing hot cast iron pan, which gave a nice caramelization of the shredded cabbage underneath the super crispy chicken: