The Scout 25

The Scout 25 is what you should feel confident giving to anyone who asks “Where should I eat in Vancouver?” It’s our list of the city’s best, most consistent, and most essential restaurants. It’s decided four times a year by an esteemed panel of local restaurant industry veterans and food experts. No bullshit. No politics. Just delicious.

THE SCOUT 25 | SPRING 2016

– in alphabetical order –

* asterisks signify restaurants that were also named to the previous edition of the Scout 25

Acorn* | 3995 Main St. | Mount Pleasant | 604-566-9001 | www.theacornrestaurant.ca
Vancouver’s vegetarians are fortunate to have this innovative, conscientious, good-looking eatery on their side, and so are those who are red in tooth and claw. The cooking is so interesting and the results so palatable that the fact that there is no meat on the menu is inconsequential. The kitchen is in lockstep with the local seasons, as is the idiosyncratic cocktail program. Tables are hard to come by, but the service is mercifully swift. Chef de cuisine Rob Clarke stepped up when co-owner/chef Brian Skinner moved on last year.

AnnaLena* | 1809 West 1st Ave. | Kitsilano | 778-379-4052 | www.annalena.ca
Owner/chef Michael Robbins is quickly becoming a real star in BC’s culinary firmament. Here, with the confidence and patience of an established artist and the skill-set of a forward-thinking chef twice his age, he has carved out a niche that lets him interpret modern Canadian cuisine as he likes. The results are invariably as nice to look at as they are a pleasure to consume. Bright and breezy room with garage door frontage and playful motifs throughout.

Ask For Luigi* | 305 Alexander St. | Railtown | 604-428-2544 | www.askforluigi.com
A small, simple, charming, home run hitting Italian joint from chef J.C. Poirier, whose fine dining skills are expertly cloaked by uncomplicated cooking. The restaurant’s Rockwellian, eastern seaboard aesthetic comes across loud and clear in the tight seating (some of it rickety), black and white chessboard flooring, and wooden wall panels, but its made modern by plenty of natural light and modish service staff.

Au Comptoir* | 2278 West 4th Ave | Kitsilano | 604-569-2278 | www.aucomptoir.ca
This newcomer made an immediate impact in Kits by serving up classic Parisian cafe fare with style. Waiting table are young, first-time co-owners Maxime Bettili and Julien Aubi. With the help of chef Daniel McGee, they honour their homeland with superb treatments of croque monsieur (et madame), tartare de boeuf, duck confit, steak frites with roquefort — the whole neuf yards. Clever wine list. Smart staff uniforms.

Bao Bei* | 163 Keefer St. | Chinatown | 604-688-0876 | www.bao-bei.ca
A smash hit from its first service back in 2009, this self-styled “Chinese Brasserie” has since kept its cool with consistently imaginative (and invariably tasty) French-inflected Shanghainese cooking from chef Joël Watanabe and an atmosphere that has yet to shed a single glint of its cozy, transportive patina. Menu changes are cause for mourning (then celebration). Nightly line-ups best endured with a cocktail.

Blue Water Cafe* | 1095 Hamilton St. | Yaletown | 604-688-8078 | www.bluewatercafe.net
One of the jewels in the TopTable crown (see also Thierry, CinCin, West, Araxi) and inarguably one of the most exciting and daring seafood restaurants in Canada. Stands astride the same-same Yaletown maelstrom like a colossus; a refined bastion of excellence in a high rent neighbourhood overrun by big box chains. Raw bar rivals the best sushi restaurants on the West Coast. Bonus: supreme people watching patio.

Burdock & Co.* | 2702 Main St. | Mount Pleasant | 604-879-0077 | www.burdockandco.com
Former Bishop’s executive chef Andrea Carlson’s modern, affordable, and attractive expressions of BC ingredients. The small and minimalist (but nevertheless comfortable) dining room seats a nightly cross-section of neighbourhood locals and visiting gourmands. Vegan and vegetarian dishes tempt amidst the meatier options. Only “naturalist” (organic, biodynamic) wines crack the short but exemplary list.

Cafe Medina* | 780 Richards St. | Downtown | 604-879-3114 | www.medinacafe.com
Recently moved from its original Crosstown address (where it was umbilically connected to Chambar), this new and improved daytime-only looker is cheffed by Deniz Tarakcioglu, whose light touch with Levant-leaning Mediterranean fare keeps packing them in, and line-up be damned (it’s well worth the wait). Pro-tip: if the weekend brunch queue gets you down, opt to sit at the bar, where seats pop up often. Bonus: exceptional coffee.

Chambar* | 568 Beatty St. | 604-879-7119 | Crosstown | www.chambar.com
The casual, cool, perennially stylish Belgian-Moroccan hybrid expanded last year by moving two doors south, multiplying its seating capacity, and adding sumptuous breakfast and lunch options to its CV. From perfect waffles dipped in lavender chocolate to Mussels “Congolaise”, the kitchen earns most of its praise by sidestepping tradition with excellent results. Superb cocktail and wine programs. See: Chambar Effect.

Cinara* | 350 W Pender St. | Downtown | 604-428-9694 | www.cinara.ca
The cooking at co-owner/co-chef Lucais Syme’s smaller, more intimate restaurant (see also La Pentola) is Northern Italian in heart and soul, but he and partner Gillan Book allow for pan-European flavours and traditions to occasionally take starring roles. The small dining room is calm and capable. The mostly Italian wine list is amplified by a short selection of original cocktails worth trying.

Cioppino’s* | 1133 Hamilton St. | Yaletown | 604-688-7466 | www.cioppinos.wordpress.com
VPN-certified pizzerias and cool trattorias might abound today, but there wasn’t much in the way of “mentionable” Italian in Vancouver a decade ago (see also CinCin, Il Giardino). Chef Pino Posteraro’s legendary Yaletown icon has held the milieu’s fort down in this city down for 15 years. Today, the sprawling celebrity-magnet dishes outstanding food that almost always shines above the rest. It’s expensive, but worth every cent.

Espana | 1118 Denman St. | West End | 604-558-4040 | www.espanarestaurant.ca
This low-key, unpretentious tapas joint from veteran front man Ed Perrow and chef Neil Taylor is almost always packed, and for good reason. The Spanish small plates are dynamite — typified by electrifying flavours and punchy textural combinations that are occasionally Anglicized to delicious effect (eg. the Spanish-style Scotch Egg with spiced aioli). Likely to get better with age. Affordable. Light touch service. Tight wine list.

Hawksworth* | 801 West Georgia St. | Downtown | 604-673-7000 | www.hawksworthrestaurant.com
David Hawksworth’s eponymous, Munge & Leung-designed restaurant on the ground floor of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia raised the bar for hotel eateries in Vancouver by attracting a discerning, well-heeled, and largely local clientele out of the gate. Deep wine list. Superlative cocktails. Excellent service. Best of all? Ambition, and lots of it. Note: Chef de Cuisine Kristian Eligh won Gold at BC’s Gold Medal Plates in 2014.

L’Abattoir* | 217 Carrall St. | Gastown | 604-568-1701 | www.labattoir.ca
A reliable, modern, stylish, formality-free den of French-inspired West Coast fine dining in the heart of casual Gastown. Exacting co-owner/chef Lee Cooper’s knack for artful presentations often inspires diners to clog Instagram with their unequal renderings. Home to an always interesting list of wines and some of the best cocktails in town. Weekend brunches kick ass.

La Mezcaleria* | 1622 Commercial Dr. | The Drive | 604-559-8226 | www.lamezcaleria.ca
At once exotic, youthful, fashionable, and totally down to earth, this hopping taqueria and Mezcal bar on The Drive is a sensory delight of good-looking patrons, vernacular decor, crave-worthy flavours, and intoxicating smells. Must haves: magically restorative tortilla soup; revelatory queso fundido with chorizo; serrano-laced snapper ceviche; achiote-spiced and pineapple-sweetened Al Pastor tacos; Mezcal flights. Bonus: new brunch service is awesome.

La Quercia* | 3689 West 4th Ave. | West Side | 604-676-1007 | www.laquercia.ca
Far from the madding crowds of downtown, the West Side gem is worthy of the trek and the reservation (which you’ll most definitely need). Chef/owner Adam Pegg has a savant-like affinity for the cuisines of Northern Italy, so dishes here often have an ethereal, dream-like quality to them, especially in fall and winter. Tip: Pegg’s casual walk-in spot L’Ufficio is right next door (different room, same kitchen and chef).

Latab | 983 Helmcken St. | Downtown | 604-428-7004 | www.latab.ca
Undersung chef Kris Barnholden’s new, tiny wine and small plate restaurant has yet to get the attention it really deserves, so we’re glad and proud (but not in the least bit surprised) that our panelists were keen to bring it your attention. Local, sustainable, organic, and delicious, the dishes here are thoughtfully conceived, wine-paired, easy-on-the-eyes, and tasty consequences of people who really give a damn.

Maenam* | 1938 West 4th Ave. | Kitsilano | 604-730-5579 | www.maenam.ca
Owner/chef Angus An’s modern, sophisticated takes on the cuisine of Thailand is one of the best things to happen to Vancouver’s culinary scene in the past 25 years. Dinner is always an impactful affair, with each dish – from the ling cod decked in a multitude of spices to the selection of aromatic curries – lingering like bold statements. Shockingly affordable tasting menus and uncommon wine pairing opportunities.

Nook* | 781 Denman St. & 1525 Yew St. | 604-568-4554/604-734-3381 | www.nookrestaurant.ca
The original West End location of Nook was instrumental in turning Vancouver’s pizza fortunes around when it opened in 2009. It was so successful that they opened a second location – equally unpretentious and just as good – up from Kits Beach in 2013. Expect uncomplicated salads, traditional pastas, and a short list of first-rate pizzas at both locations, plus some of the best focaccia bread baked in Vancouver.

Osteria Savio Volpe | 615 Kingsway | Fraserhood | 604-428-0072 | www.saviovolpe.com
This casual, sexy, Italian-themed restaurant is designer Craig Stanghetta’s first-ever foray into ownership. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s the best-looking looking eatery to open on the East Side in many years. Chef/co-owner Mark Perrier’s constantly changing menus are designed with sharing in mind. Aim for any of the pastas (made in house daily) or the large format steaks. The all-Italian wine list is short but adventurous. Bonus: excellent soundtrack.

Phnom Penh* | 244 East Georgia St. | Chinatown | 604-682-5777
No restaurant typifies Vancouver’s melting pot more deliciously than Phnom Penh, the Cambodian-Vietnamese-Chinese family institution in Chinatown with the perennial line-up. The wait is worth it, with lemon-garlic fried chicken wings, green onion oyster pancakes, Chinese sausage fried rice, and butter beef being the chief rewards. A bland interior design gives the flavours extra pop. The anti-Stephos.

Supermarine | 1685 Yew St. | Kitsilano | 604-739-4677 | www.supermarine.ca
The boys from Wildebeest (a constant on the Scout 25 since it began) launched this good-looking, intimate, seafood-focused restaurant a block from Kits Beach in the summer of 2015, soon thereafter enticing Black Hoof chef Jesse Grasso back to Vancouver to oversee the kitchen. Menus are playful, original, and a joy to explore. Good cocktail program to boot. Bonuses: late night service, sweet patio, and weekend brunch.

Vij’s* | 3106 Cambie St. | West Side | 604-736-6664 | www.vijsrestaurant.ca
New location already firing on all cylinders. Possibly the best known and most universally respected restaurant in Vancouver, Vij’s is as famed for its innovative twists on traditional Indian fare as it is for its nightly line-ups and no reservations policy. Requires several visits to get to know, and we envy anyone who gets to try it for the first time. Try the wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream and saag paneer. Inspired wine list.

West* | 2881 Granville St. | South Granville | 604-687-6880 | www.westrestaurant.com
Once the mightiest power in Vancouver’s restaurant pantheon, West went through several chefs after the long reign of David Hawksworth, leaving it – in the public’s eye – a little rudderless for a spell. Its reputation has since stabilized with Quang Dang at the helm, who regularly conceives of some of Vancouver’s most beautiful dishes. Fantastic wine list backed by deep skills at the bar. Top tier service.

Wildebeest* | 120 West Hastings St. | Gastown | 604-687-6880 | www.wildebeest.ca
This informal, good-looking, good-times charmer with high standards does it all, from roasted bone marrow, chicken gravy poutine, and bison carpaccio to pappardelle in smoked quail ragu and addictive smoked castelvetrano olives. Good soundtrack serenades the professional service. Near the top of the standings in the brunch big leagues. Getting better with age. Bar program second to none.

VOTE!

Check out the reader rankings of the results here

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IN

Latab, Savio Volpe, Supermarine, Espana

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OUT

Homer St. Cafe, Bishop’s, Pidgin, Le Crocodile

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS

(Multiple votes) Ancora, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Bufala, Dock Lunch, Homer St. Cafe, Long’s Noodle House, Mackenzie Room, Miku, Mr. Red Cafe, Pidgin, Pizzeria Farina, Pourhouse, Royal Dinette, Torafuku, Tableau Bar Bistro, Tacofino.

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ABOUT THE SCOUT 25

The Scout 25 was inspired by the website Eater, which offers widely respected lists that detail the top 38 restaurants in every city it operates in. The “Eater 38” is an invaluable tool for food-loving travellers wary of online review sites. When the website closed its Vancouver outlet in 2014, we decided to develop our own version.

The Scout 25 is, of course, very different. Our list is developed in consultation with a dozen restaurateurs, chefs, line cooks, bartenders, sommeliers, servers, and gourmands – the idea being that no one is a better judge of restaurants than the people who work in them. Our panelists are free to disclose their involvement at their leisure, but we don’t publicize or promote their identities so as to keep the focus on the restaurants rather than the individuals who judge them.

The list of restaurants – and the group that decides it – changes four times a year, on the first day of each season. How much it changes, of course, is up to the panelists. For the Spring 2016 edition, only four restaurants changed; twenty-one remained the same. The panel included two journalists, three restaurateurs, two executive chefs, one bartender, one general manager, and three gourmands.

Only establishments that have been open for more than 6 months are considered (new locations notwithstanding)

THE NEXT SCOUT 25 WILL BE RELEASED AT THE START OF SUMMER: MONDAY, JUNE. 20

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .