Here’s the dilemma: You’ve just arrived in Vancouver and want to sample the city’s acclaimed cuisine. But how do you find the best restaurants? Do you trust your guidebook? Do you do a quick Internet search? Do you quiz the concierge at your hotel?
Maybe. But there’s a better way, and her name is Mia Stainsby. Stainsby is the food critic for the Vancouver Sun. And she recently published an article called Metro’s 20 best restaurants. Read it; study it; memorize it. It’s like a concise little cheat sheet for understanding the best of Vancouver cuisine.
I’ve never met Stainsby, but I’ve come to trust her reviews wholeheartedly. Unlike many restaurant reviewers, she does her work anonymously. The restaurants she writes about never even know she’s there – so she never gets special treatment or dishes. And Stainsby has been writing about Vancouver food for a long time – long enough to know the flash-in-the-pan bistros from the real deals.
So who makes her top 20 list? Well, there are a few no brainers. Tojo’s, the Vancouver sushi institution, is on there. Chef Hidekazu Tojo has been around since 1971 and serves exactingly fresh fish prepared with an artistry rarely seen outside of Japan. And West, the old standby of West Coast cooking, is also listed. For visitors looking to experience some quintessential Vancouver cuisine – fresh, local fish and regionally sourced ingredients prepared with polish and elegance – West is a must.
But there are also some surprises (well, mild surprises). Stainsby praises L’Abattoir, for instance, a relative newcomer in Gastown that occupies the site of Vancouver’s very first jail. The restaurant has won wide acclaim for presenting very sophisticated fare in an informal bistro setting. Stainsby also singles out Maenam, the Thai place in Kitsilano. Maenam stands out for its adherence to tradition, use of fresh and finely balanced ingredients and, at the same time, its willingness to push the bounds of Thai cuisine.
The entire article, Metro’s 20 best restaurants, can be seen here.
Anything missing from Stainsby’s list? What’s your pick for Vancouver’s best restaurant?