Traveller Review: A food lover's Vancouver
A destination as active as Vancouver gives you plenty of ways to work up an appetite, which is a good thing given the city’s justifiably lauded dining scene.
Vancouver’s chefs use the region’s best seasonal ingredients and combine them with traditional techniques and multicultural influence to delicious effect. The seafood is especially outstanding – whether it’s a salmon barbecue or a sophisticated scallop ceviche, it’s not to be missed. Pair it all with international award winning British Columbian wines and micro-brewed beers to get a unique taste of the city. And don’t let the evening end when your plates are cleared: Vancouver has a vibrant cocktail scene worthy of exploration. Whether your preferences lean towards a jazz performance, dance clubs, catching a game at a sports bar, or a quiet nightcap, you won’t be disappointed.
STREET FOOD NAMED DESIRE
Vancouver has embraced the LA/Portland/New York love of street food, with its own take on sidewalk-side dining. While you stroll the city’s walkable downtown you will find approximately 40 operational food carts to nosh from, not including the ubiquitous hot dog carts. Most of the carts are clustered around the Vancouver Art Gallery and in the downtown financial district (Burrard and Dunsmuir streets). Some are in Yaletown, some down in Coal Harbour and even one in Gastown. For those inclined you can take a multistop tour of mobile eats.
I started with a yummy bowl of tortilla soup at Arturo’s Mexico to Go
, just outside my hotel near the waterfront, but was soon lured to the nearby dim sum truck for some shrimp dumplings. You can have a big pulled pork sandwich from the shiny silver Re-Up BBQ truck outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, get a Korean bulgogi and kimchi taco at Cartel Taco
or saunter down to the financial district for fried rice balls and Asian Duck Confit Salad at the spiffy red Roaming Dragon
, with a creative menu devised by local chef Don Letendre.
For hardcore locavores there’s Fresh Local Wild
– a street cart that specialises in serving wild mushrooms, seaweed, salmon and other local stuff (some that Chef Josh Wolfe even forages himself, as Vancouver is home to the 100 Mile Diet). PanDa Fresh Bakery
produces a perfect croissant baked in a yellow school bus in Yaletown. Or just stop for the old standby, a gourmet hotdog at JapaDog
, the granddaddy of Vancouver’s street food scene.
Fishing for compliments
Visiting the historic fishing village of Steveston Village just south of the city centre in nearby Richmond, I was salivating before I even arrived at the seafood restaurant. But when I looked at the menu created especially for the occasion at Tapenade Bistro, my appetite waned. Last of the Season Sardines was to start things off, followed by a Surf and Turf featuring lingcod. Sardines and lingcod? You’ve got to be joking, I thought, recalling that sardines are rather salty and lingcod could win an award for ugliest fish in the ocean.
But, I kept my mouth shut. Until, of course, I opened it—reluctantly—to taste both dishes.
What a delicious shock. Chef Alex Tung had pan-seared the sardines so they were crispy on the outside, yet moist and meaty inside. The sweet, white flesh of the lingcod was equally tasty.
Across the table from me, Frank Keitsch had a big smile on his face. Frank was a fisherman who may well have caught the very lingcod I was savouring. Over the next hour or so he opened my eyes to the way fishing—and dining on seafood—has changed for the better in Canada.
“It’s not about filling your boat every day,” he said. “That’s the old way of thinking. It’s what you do with the fish.”
“You don’t leave it lying on your deck for six hours,” he explained. “The fish is bled and chilled immediately. I always have four tons of ice on my boat.” Another big change is the length of time that fishermen stay out on the ocean. “We used to go fishing for ten days at a time,” Keitsch told me. “It could be 14 days by the time the fish got into restaurants. Now, three days is the longest we’ll stay out.” The result is a more sustainable fishery, with fewer fish being caught. Those that are caught are the highest quality, so when you order fresh fish, it tastes fresh.
The trend to fishing and dining sustainably has been supported by Ocean Wise, a conservation program run by the Vancouver Aquarium to educate diners and promote responsible fishing and eating. Member restaurants show the Ocean Wise symbol on their menus next to seafood items that are sustainably caught. Ocean Wise started in 2005 with just one founding member: C Restaurant in Vancouver. Today you can find Ocean Wise dishes at about 3,100 locations across Canada. One of the first restaurants to join Ocean Wise was Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar in Vancouver’s Yaletown.
Chef-guided culinary walking tours and cooking classes give foodies plenty to do away from the table. For the true cook, a visit to Granville Island is a must. The centerpiece of the island experience is Granville Island Public Market which houses a diverse array of vendors, green grocers, butchers, backers, fishmongers, cheese specialists, sweet stands and many more including Canada’s only artisan Sake distillery.
However, for the ultimate way to combine cuisine and sightseeing, try a floatplane “fly and dine” tour. Take in aerial views of the mountains, fjords and ocean before docking on the water and enjoying an oceanfront seafood dinner.
Of course, a visit to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without absorbing the relaxed spirit of the locals. The city’s beaches are favourite spots for contemplation – just grab a coffee and take a seat along one of the many logs or benches that line the waterfront to take in the unique view of sky-scraping buildings flanked by mountains and water. And it’s right here that you’ll reflect on the great meals you have had, understanding why this city is regularly ranked Canada’s top dining city and as one of the most liveable places in the world. Vancouver is an easy place to visit, but it’s much harder to leave.
Cinda Chavich and Suzanne Morphett
Package includes four nights at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (Fairmont Room), return taxi transfers airport/hotel/airport, Granville Island with Edible BC*, World's Best Street Eats, and Guilty Pleasures Gourmet.
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city, bordered by beautiful harbours and soaring mountains. Adventure World offers a number of flexible Vancouver packages, from self-drive itineraries to more customised accommodation and sightseeing options.
How to book:
To find out more or to enquire about a booking please contact one of our experienced travel experts to on AU: 1300 295 049 | NZ: 0800 238 368
Alternatively you can find out more about the vancouver culinary experience on the website:
AU: Vancouver Culinary Experience | NZ: Vancouver Culinary Experience