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 and most essential restaurants. It’s decided four times a year by a panel of restaurant industry veterans and food experts, and then ranked in a poll that allows each reader to pick their top three restaurants. No bullshit. No politics. Just reliable deliciousness decided by people who know.
THE SCOUT 25 | SPRING/SUMMER, 2019
– the SCOUT 25 in alphabetical order –
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 – home to innovative and highly imaginative chef Brian Luptak – 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. If you can’t get in right away, cool your jets at sister restaurant The Arbor next door.
An exciting and especially good looking new Japanese/Peruvian fine dining entry from the same group that gave us Cibo, Uva, and the Beach Bay Cafe. Executive Chef Ricardo Valverde and Sushi Chef Yoshihiro Tabo collaborate in the most delicious ways, dreaming up stacked platters of sustainable sashimi and ceviche that relish in the bounty of our shores. Though the interior is breathtakingly attractive, the seawall patio still steals the show. Now with two locations.
Owner/chef Michael Robbins has become a real – if undersung – star in BC’s culinary firmament. Here, with the confidence and patience of an established artist and the skillset of a forward-thinking chef twice his age, he has carved out a niche that lets him – together with second-in-command Erin Searle – interpret modern Canadian cuisine as they see fit. 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. (You might want to also check out his newest spot, Their There, which transforms into a pretty fantastic burger joint at night)
A small, simple, charming, home run hitting Italian joint from the crew behind Pizzeria Farina, Pourhouse and Di Beppe. The restaurant’s Rockwellian, eastern seaboard aesthetic comes across loud and clear in the tight seating, black and white chessboard flooring and wooden wall panels, but its made modern by plenty of natural light and modish service staff. Best table in the house: #14.
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 overseen by 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 (and then celebration). Nightly line-ups best endured with a cocktail.
One of the jewels in the TopTable crown (see also Thierry, CinCin, West, Araxi, Bar Oso, Elisa) 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 that’s sadly been overrun by big box chains. Raw bar rivals the best sushi restaurants on the West Coast. Bonus: supreme people-watching patio.
Smoothly blowing the Pacific Northwest trumpet is Botanist, a spare-no-expense, Ste. Marie-designed stunner found on the mezzanine of the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Chef Hector Laguna runs the beautiful open kitchen (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner) while award-winning barman Grant Sceney oversees a visually-stunning cocktail program that is borderline over-the-top in its pursuit of awesomeness.
Home to some of the most exacting culinary talents in British Columbia (led by chefs Roger Ma and Canadian Culinary Champion Alex Chen), this high-end spot off the lobby of The Sutton Place is a testament to how good a hotel restaurant can be when the stars align. Precisely because it’s in a hotel, Boulevard doesn’t draw as many locals as it should. Use this to your advantage by pitching up without a reservation. Everything is on point and tightly executed here, from the value-driven happy hour in the well-served lounge to the more sumptuous dining room, where always exciting and au courant dishes await.
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.
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. Best table in the house: #60.
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 over 15 years. Today, the sprawling celebrity-magnet dishes outstanding food that almost always shines above the rest. It’s expensive, but it’s worth every cent.
This new addition to Gastown’s dining scene brings classic and sometimes inventive (but always reliably delicious) seafood dishes to the neighbourhood in a sexy, high-end but accessible environment. Keep it casual at the bar with freshly shucked oysters and prawn cocktails or get fancy in one of the soft, almost entirely enveloping booths with seafood towers and silky lobster risotto. Sister restaurant to L’Abattoir, which (to date) has never not been included on this list.
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. The dining room is chameleonic — it can feel both casual and formal, depending on the crowd. Lively lounge. Deep wine list. Superlative cocktails. Excellent service. Best of all? Ambition, and lots of it.
We know, the rotisserie chicken is so good at this reliable, edge-of-Yaletown spot that it’s an exercise in self-discipline to read around it on the menu. If you can muster that discipline, aim for the steelhead with brown butter and a side of charred broccoli, but only if you’ve already had the chicken more than once. If not, don’t be silly. Order the chicken! And finish with the peanut butter cookies made better with nutella cream. The design exudes the sort of casual self-assuredness that subliminally informs guests that they’re in capable hands, which they most certainly are.
This reliable remnant of a bygone era comes complete with thick carpets, wood-panelled walls and gilt-framed baronial portraits. The local institution has been around since the 1950’s and is home to some of our most professionally-minded (not to mention senior) service staff. 2016 renovations gave it a swanky upstairs bar. Caesar salads are still made from rolling carts and the Chateaubriand is sliced and French-served tableside. Hands down the best steakhouse in town.
Named 2016’s best new restaurant in Canada by enRoute Magazine, this gorgeous, jazz-inspired Italian/Japanese hybrid is the follow-up to Chinatown’s popular Bao Bei (and is very much its equal when it comes to food, cocktails, service and atmosphere). Fills up nightly with bar stools welcoming walk-ins. Arguably the most creative menus in Vancouver — there is bona fide genius in the pastas! Best table in the house: #43.
A 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. Best table in the house: #11.
A small, artful, seasonally-minded restaurant with a breezy chalkboard menu and a bar program built to be explored. Over the restaurants first few years, confident co-owner/chef Sean Reeve has proved masterful with BC ingredients, and it shows brightly on the plate. Order a la carte or explore the entire menu family-style. Off the beaten path address (facing Oppenheimer Park) doesn’t keep it from filling up, so book ahead.
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.
Sitting pretty on the Yew St. slope in the heart of Kitsilano, chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng have shown through hard work, perseverance, and plenty of critical acclaim that quiet and cool fine dining with style still has a pulse on Vancouver’s West Side. Given the quality of the ingredients, the imagination that goes into the French/Japanese plates and their respective deliciousnesses, both their $54 and $78 tasting menus are wicked worth it.
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 Melanie Witt’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. Best table in the house: #99.
A hugely creative and endlessly interesting fixture on the Downtown Eastside spinning predominately Japanese flavours with local and European accents. Diners can expect Executive Chef Wesley Young’s dishes to be elegant without being precious, pairing as appropriately with the tapped sake and soju as they do with Craig Stanghetta’s striking design. Best table in the house: #70.
This award-winner arrived in Railtown two summers ago to critical acclaim. Owner/chef JC Poirier serves up highly personal, borderline delicate love letters to staples from his home province of Quebec (think hearty tourtiere, terrines, etc.). The room is transportive and gorgeous, if tricky to find a seat in on account of its popularity.
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.
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. Best table in the house: #41.
(Multiple votes) Au Comptoir, Bauhaus, Bishop’s, Bistro Wagon Rouge, Cacao, Cafe Medina, Campagnolo, Cibo, CinCin, Cuchillo, Di Beppe, Espana, Fable, Farmer’s Apprentice, Fayuca, Gotham, Juniper, Kishimoto, Kirin, La Mezcaleria, La Quercia, Le Crocodile, Masayoshi, Miku, Minami, Nightingale, Pepino’s, Phnom Penh, Royal Dinette, Sun Sui Wah, Tableau, Tacofino, West.
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 over a dozen people of prominence working in the restaurant industry – the idea being that no one is a better judge of restaurants than the people who toil in 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, 2019 edition, just four restaurants changed; twenty-one remained the same. The panel included two sommeliers, one brewery owner, one restaurateur, one executive chef, two sous chefs, two servers, one operations manager, one bartender, and two citizen gourmands.
Only establishments that have been open for more than 6 months are considered.
THE FALL/WINTER SCOUT 25 ARRIVES ON September 23rd, 2019