Taste the West: Vancouver
Cross the border into B.C. for farm-fresh produce, trend-setting pie, and the best Chinese food this side of Shanghai
Located in the Shangri-La Hotel, the Market By Jean-Georges is just what you’d expect from star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten: balancing Asian-inspired French flavors to delicious effect (try the rice cracker–crusted raw tuna appetizer).
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Vikram Vij and his wife/business partner, Meeru Dhalwala, of Vij’s restaurant have become icons here for their brilliantly modernized renditions of traditional Indian food: Lamb "popsicles"―French-cut, wine-marinated chops in an addictive fenugreek-cream curry. Vij's also has a drinks menu with wines that make the perfect complement to your main dish. The couple recently transplanted their contemporary Indian fare to a sister restaurant, Shanik, in Seattle.
The once-gritty Gastown neighborhood is now more SoHo than Skid Row. Upping the bar: The swanky-industrial L'Abattoir (its name is French for "slaughterhouse," a nod to the location near a former butchers' alley). A see-and-be-seen crowd comes for cocktails, while the food is a happy marriage of modern French technique and local ingredients.
Richmond—Vancouver’s shiny Chinese outpost—is home to a dizzying number of dim sum places, but the Cantonese-style Empire Seafood Restaurant is a local favorite. “Empire’s dim sum is creative, but it also gets the basics just right,” says Richmond-raised food blogger, Lorna Yee. The translucent har gow (shrimp dumpling) is elegant, with the sweet, springy bite of shrimp inside. The barbecued pork bun comes topped with a crackling sugar crust. And while dim sum dessert can be forgettable, it isn’t here: Eat the three bite-size golden egg tarts while they’re still hot and quivering.
A key thing to know about Richmond is that there are some tasty treats hiding in its big, glassy malls. Each food court has a couple of standout vendors selling homestyle dishes like sand-pot rice or egg balls. Try the Rainbow Café—here, egg balls are baked in a rounded waffle iron–like device, and what emerges looks like giant golden bubble wrap. Eat it immediately to savor the contrast between its crisp exterior and its steamy, moist interior.
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Barbecue fans, listen up: Though the location of HK B.B.Q. Master just off a superstore parking lot, seems less than promising, the Cantonese roast pork is cooked beautifully: moist and tender, with a crisp, spice-covered exterior.
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Come lunchtime, queue up with a young 9 to 5 crowd at Meat and Bread sandwich shop. You'll be treated to the cozy aroma of herby roasted meat and the shop's addictive porchetta sandwiches—crusty rolls that give way to juicy pork loin and crispy cracklings.
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For a scenic after-hours drink, climb the dark stairs to the Diamond restaurant in downtown Gastown. This candlelit boîte has a speakeasy vibe, a bird's-eye view of Maple Tree Square (the epicenter of the neighborhood) and a clever cocktail menu with categories like "proper," "delicate," and "boozy" that gently guide you to your ideal drink.
The Public Market on Granville Island—a gritty-warehouse-district-turned-artisanal-heaven—is the mother ship of all things delicious. Our favorites from its 50-plus vendors include Oyama Sausage Company for the homemade charcuterie (including a standout elk-juniper salami); Granville Island Tea Company for spicy chai; and Edible British Columbia, which sells local goodies like birch syrup and black sesame sea salt.
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Aphrodite’s in Kitsilano was around way before the pie craze hit, and its slices filled with local organic fruit may be the most popular in the city. Enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner and then go for the ultra-tangy raspberry-rhubarb or the towering chocolate banana cream (bring a fork-wielding friend).