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Vancouver is a microcosm of international culinary culture, a mosaic of influences that’s been blended with West Coast flavors.  This makes the cuisine of British Columbia distinctive from the other provinces in Canada.

High end and expensive dining out had its glory days in Vancouver (like $45 Kobe beef hamburger) at a once upon a time bistro.  The stiff, traditional and over-priced haute cuisine went out of style.

But fine dining is on a comeback trail but with a difference. The food being served is not globally inspired and it defines the cultural diversity of Vancouver.  It is food that people are comfortable with and focussed on local and seasonal ingredients.  Communal tables are also popular and acceptable for social interaction.

If you’re Vancouver bound sometime this year, check out the following hip restaurants.

FAT MAO NOODLES – in Chinatown


This contemporary noodle shop is a 25-seat diner in the heart of gentrified Chinatown.  It is quite informal compared to the owner’s up-market Thai restaurant.  Fat Mao (no relation to Chairman Mao) serves a handful of signature noodle dishes until they run out.

The menu is a fusion of Thai, Taiwanese, Japanese and Singaporean cooking that is much appreciated by the Caucasians.

The specialty is scallion pancakes, soft boiled soy eggs and braised duck noodles.  Everything is made from scratch and the dishes are quite affordable.  No dish cost more than $12.

ROYAL DINNETE –905 Dunsmuir Street

royal d

More of a brasserie than a dinette, this new restaurant serves modern Asian food dashed with Pacific Northwest influences. Many of the dishes are Asian with a difference.

Examples would be beef shank with bok choy and spiced broth dashed with soy.  Or the sablefish with a hot and sour broth and oyster mushrooms.  Or carrots with curried lentil, tabneh, pear and cashew.  The restaurant owner and chef already made two popular restaurants, namely, Farmer’s Apprentice and Grapes and Soda in just a year.

MEET ON MAIN – 4288 Main Street

meet on main

This is a casual vegetarian restaurant that’s so successful that the owners are planning to open a second and third venues.  The most popular dish is Sweet Chili Cauliflower, deep-fried in beer batter and thickly glazed with chili ginger sauce.  The menu can be considered as comfort food and can be eater without guilt. Other dishes are raw, fermented and gluten free foods.  How about a meatless burger and salad on the side.

BIG TROUBLE –237 Union Street

big trouble

What’s in a name?  It is essential if you’re in the restaurant b

usiness.  Take “Big Trouble” for an example.  People will complete it by saying “in little China”, remembering the 1986 cult movie with Kurt Russell.

That’s exactly what the innovative chef did to a small restaurant in the heart of Chinatown.  It creates intrigue, curiosity and a sense of adventure.  Big Trouble is not a Chinese restaurant but a contemporary Asian Pacific Northwest venue serving only eight sharing dishes and a chef’s tasting menu.

Big Trouble offers a chic, affordable and unpretentious dining experience.  Expect lamb breast, wild spring salmon and dumplings with pine nut Thai curry.

TUC CRAFT KITCHEN  @ tucccraftkitchen  for reservation


Very popular with the brunch crowd and the offerings are not only delicious but highly original.  You can order Crispy Chicken and Waffles, traditional Okonomiyaki Japanese pancakes, Pork Hock and Eggs.  You can order morning cocktails – Cordova Michelada, Suburban Firecracker or Sunrise Mimosa.  It’s best to make a reservation because the place can be very crowded.

BAO DOWN – 12 Powell St.


It’s a modern siopao venue created by second generation immigrant cooks with free-range sensibilities.  Filipino Canadian Matthew Adolfo and his brother-in-law Greg Edwards are the owners.  Adolfo who grew up in Canada has not forgotten his foods from childhood from the Philippines.

The food is actually steam buns with a variety of fillings, similar to the buns popularized by acclaimed chef David Wong at his Momofuku Noodle Bar in east village in New York.

Bao Down’s most ordered dish is Chicken Bao Bao (free range chicken breast in a garlic, buttermilk and lemon grass marinade with a Vietnamese glaze and placed n a steam bun with marinated carrot strings and garlic scape mayo.

Bao Down is casual and affordable ($5 to $11).  We are waiting for Bao Down Adobo in the near future because new fillings for the bao is being introduced every week..

SARDINE CAN – 26 Powell St.


A tiny place serving rustic, affordable Tapas, Spanish style (patatas bravas, deconstructed  Paella Valencia rice). Customers are seated in communal tables and they are packed like sardines. It opens at 3:00p.m.and is open till early morning.  No reservation is accepted and there is discount if you pay cash.

And there is ESPANA on 1118 Denman St. This one is a sit-down Spanish restaurant serving bar snacks (Serrano ham, Iberico chorizo), crispy squid, Iberica lomo pork loin and other Spanish delicacies including freshly-made Churros and thick hot chocolate.  Espana opens at 5:00 p.m. and stays open till 2:00 a.m. on weekends, just like in Madrid,

There’s more new hip restaurants around town, so keep reading LIVING IN VANCOUVER.  Bye for now.


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