After thousands of votes, the poll determining Scout reader picks for Vancouver’s best new restaurants of the year closed with the stroke of midnight. It turns out that your determinations weren’t all that far off from my own, which were laid out in my WE column last week.
There were 31 candidates that we considered worthy of your votes. We’ve cropped the results to show the Top 10 and the number of votes they received…
As for my picks, they’re as follows (courtesy of the Westender)…
The Top 10 New Restaurants of 2011
by Andrew Morrison
As per the happy norm, it was once again a busy year for Vancouver’s restaurant scene, with new restaurants of note opening every other week. Here are my personal picks for the very best of the 2011 crop. Long may they run.
1. Hawksworth | 801 West Georgia | 604-673-7000 | HawksworthRestaurant.com
No restaurant came even remotely close to beating this stylishly informal newcomer. From its beautifully rendered, West Coast-inspired dishes and airtight beverage program to its refreshingly expert service and stunning surrounds, it arrived alone in a class by itself and in a location that topped them all (the newly renovated Rosewood Hotel Georgia). Whether you land at its doors wrapped in jeans or a trapped inside a tux, the song of excellence remains the same. And boy do they ever know how to sing it. David Hawksworth et al, take a well deserved bow.
2. Boneta (v2.0) | Courtyard of 12 Water | 604-684-1844 | Boneta.ca
When the original, woody, character-heavy Boneta shut its 1 West Cordova doors to begin its move around the corner to its new location of seemingly cold concrete, glass and steel, I held my breath, not a little worried for the charms of one of my favourite establishments. Thanks to the transplanted staff (merry as ever) and the continued inventive prowess of chef Jason Leizert, the new Boneta is better than the original, with few rivals that I can think of in the sequel department (save, perhaps, for The Empire Strikes Back).
3. Black & Blue | 1032 Alberni | 604-637-0777 | GlowbalGroup.com/blackblue
This new, option-heavy steakhouse is the most mature of The Glowbal Group’s many offerings. Its soaring, well-appointed space suffers none of the insubstantial glam of the company’s other joints, nor any of the yawning that recently did in Morton’s and both locations of Pinky’s (three steakhouses that recently folded). The milieu’s overdue-for-redux, Mad Men-esque aesthetics have been subtly (finally) nudged into the 21st century here, and it looks fantastic. More importantly, they’re plating superbly prepared steaks, including those cut from PEI’s fabulous, potato-eating beasties.
4. Save On Meats | 43 West Hastings | SaveOnMeats.ca
If I visited one restaurant more than any other in 2011, it was the resurrection of West Hastings’ 50 year old Save On Meats. The blue collar, everyman fare and the clean but especially casual environment are much improved from the original, and the service kinks evident at the start are well ironed out (my only complaint in my review back in July). Faves remain the club sandwich, the burger, and the “chocolate chocolate awful awful” (a dessert so gross they named it twice). If my kids were writing this, it would have easily taken the #1 spot.
5. Ensemble | 850 Thurlow | 604-569-1770 | EnsembleRestaurant.com
It was a good year for Dale Mackay. After surviving the closure of Daniel Boulud’s ultra fancy Lumiere back in March, the young, super keen cook won the top prize on the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada show a few months after he opened his first ever restaurant, the critically-acclaimed and Canadian cuisine-focused Ensemble. The location is said to be cursed (it was an accessory to the ends of Saveur, Piccolo Mondo, and Corner Suite), but I’ll wager that the best food the address has ever enjoyed will finally exorcise that.
6. Tableau Bar Bistro | 1181 Melville | 604-639-8692 | TableauBarBistro.com
I thought Voya in the Loden Hotel to be a very promising fine dining restaurant when it opened in late 2008, but just a year later it lay prostrate and empty (moral: never time your fine dining restaurant opening with the onset of a brutal financial downturn). Its replacement – the French-accented Tableau – now packs them in for superlative French bistro fare, and still with talented Marc-Andre Choquette at the kitchen helm. The service glides with confidence, and so it should. In addition to the glories on the plate, it’s definitely one of the prettiest rooms to open in recent memory. Bonus: it now sports a cute little patio out front.
7. La Ghianda | 220-2083 Alma | 604-566-9559 | LaGhianda.ca
The boys from award-winning La Quercia opened this day-time only Italian off-shoot across the street to an immediate and devout almost a year ago to the day. It’s tiny and not a little cramped during rush times, and the lack of seating might frustrate the impatient and the particularly claustrophobic. Happily, though, table turnover is quick, and the food is every bit as authentic and delicious as it is at La Quercia, which means it’s well worth a little suffering. The menu changes daily, but you can’t go wrong with any of the daily pastas, piccattas or soups. If the Bolognese or Arrabiata are on offer, pounce.
8. Edible at the Market | 1595 Johnston Street | 604-682-6681 | EdibleCanada.com
Chef/tycoon-in-the-making Eric Pateman expanded his Edible Canada retail and culinary tourism headquarters on Granville Island last Spring to include this beautiful wood, glass and concrete full service restaurant. Showcasing local wines, beers and ingredients from artisan producers and suppliers without being the least bit preachy, it’s a restaurant that we can all be proud to take out-of-towners (to bask glibly in our own awesomeness). It’s also home to a killer patio that sprawls out into the bustling mayhem of Granville Island Market’s flank. Aim for the steelhead and the duck fat french fries that beg to be dipped in bacon aioli.
9. Campagnolo Roma | 2297 East Hastings | 604-569-0456 | CampagnoloRoma.com
The third effort from sommelier Tom Doughty and chef Robert Belcham (see also Campagnolo on Main and Refuel on 4th) is way out on East Hastings, and well worth the trip if you can score a seat. The always busy, casual restaurant focuses on the cuisine of the Eternal City, bowling flawless spaghetti carbonara and superb pizzas in addition to many affordable wines poured by the glass. Grab the high chairs overlooking the kitchen, where you can keep one eye on chef de cuisine Ted Anderson and his crew working their magic and the other on the flat screen TV showing the Canuck game.
10.Nicli Antica Pizzeria | 62 East Cordova | 604-669-6985 | Nicli-Antica-Pizzeria.ca
Hats off to Bill McCaig, owner of Vancouver’s first authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, for starting a trend that has since given us a half dozen others. Nicli Antica (so named after his Italian mother) serves up the best pizza we’ve ever seen in this city, all prepared a la minute in a voluminous wood-burning Acunto oven imported from Naples. One bite from any of the 10 pies on offer will be enough to sway you off the thick and gooey mangiacake “ham and pineapple” frisbees that you’ve had to endure for way too long.
5 Honourable Mentions: Pizzeria Farina, Nelson The Seagull, Hapa Umi, Peckinpah, Pronto.
Happy eating in 2012, and here’s hoping for another year in restaurants worthy of our appetites…