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Chef Notes for Vancouver

June 22nd 2017


Chef Notes for Vancouver

Discovering the Restaurant Scene in Vancouver

By: McCormick Canada Executive Chef Juriaan Snellen

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a week in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. There are many things to love about Vancouver: the stunning scenery; the unique historical neighbourhoods like Yaletown and Chinatown; Granville Island Markets and Stanley Park, to name just a few interesting places to visit.

But what I love most about Vancouver is the food scene.

The “farm-to-table” ethos is very much ingrained in the food culture in the city. There is an abundance of locally sourced, fresh food available for chefs and home cooks alike. From locally caught seafood (think B.C. salmon, halibut, trout, cod, clams and spot prawns) to beautiful, freshly picked strawberries from the Okanagan – Vancouver is blessed with local, seasonal ingredients.

The emphasis on local ingredients carries over to an emphasis on being green. Vancouver’s mission is to be the Greenest City by the year 2020. Restaurants focus on using the best of local products, but they also factor sustainability in their design, decor, and what happens to all the food that didn’t get eaten. Less waste overall is good for everyone.

Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. So, it is no surprise that here you will find Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and French restaurants, sometimes even within the same block! Vancouver is well-known for its excellent Chinese cuisine and high-quality sushi. This incredible range of global flavours is a true feast for the senses.

During my visit to Vancouver, I was fortunate enough to dine at several restaurants that showcase fresh, local ingredients and trendy flavours.  As I discovered, Vancouver is poised to become the culinary capital of Canada.

Chambar

One morning when I was in Vancouver, I was feeling adventurous. So, along with my colleague and dining partner, we decided to check out Chambar.

Chambar, run by chef Nico Schuermans, serves creative Belgian-based cuisine in a chic space. The team at Chambar is a strong advocate for environmental & social responsibility and thus, have positioned Chambar as a leader in sustainability in the Vancouver area.

This philosophy is reflected in the breakfast menu choices at Chambar. I opted for the Tagine, composed of Spicy merquez sausage, saffron tomato stew, fried pita, raita, poached egg, fresh herbs. The Tagine was so flavourful and came together so nicely.  My dining partner that morning had the Bon Matin, composed of Prosciutto, tomato, avocado, olive tapenade, soft boiled egg, brie, sourdough, and was quite pleased with the dish.

When paired with freshly poured coffee and orange juice, the breakfast at Chambar was an excellent way to start the day.

Nightingale

Renowned Vancouver chef David Hawksworth opened Nightingale in 2016. This establishment is very grand, contemporary and with a focus on modern Canadian cuisine.

The dishes were creative and full of unique flavour combinations. My dining companions and I ordered shareable plates, so we got to try many different dishes on the menu. Favourites included the Marinated beets, sumac labneh, orange, dukkah, mint; Grilled broccolini, sesame & cilantro dressing, za'atar spice; Crispy fried chicken, preserved lemon yogurt, dill, espelette; Burrata toasts, marinated fennel, leccine olive, white anchovy.

The dishes at Nightingale were all well-executed, beautifully plated – and delicious.

Tuc Craft Kitchen

Tuc Craft Kitchen is a restaurant and bar in Gastown. On their website, Tuc says “our food is elegant, rustic, honest … from classic, nostalgic flavours to new inspired dishes.” Based on my own personal dining experience at Tuc, I would have to agree with this sentiment.

Chef Roy Flemming’s menu is based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers. I suggest that you visit Tuc with a huge appetite, as several of the dishes are on the heavy side but still full of flavour.  The Starter menu highlights included Steelhead Cheviche & Chicharrón (Citrus cured Lois Lake steelhead, carrot ginger puree, pork rinds), Emperor’s Greens (hearts of romaine, shaved Pecorino Romano, toasted capers, lemon & anchovy dressing, Ficelle crisp) and Cherry Cola Glazed Ribs (Gelderman Farms pork side ribs, sour cherry pop).

For our main courses, my dining companions and I decided to share our plates. We split Surf & Turf (miso cured tri-tip steak, tempura soft shell crab, confit sweet potato, miso foam) and Beef Al Forno (braised 1846 beef shoulder, cheese curds, black bean salsa verde, chili parmesan crisp), with the Jardinière of Pickles and Crispy Bacon & Egg served on the side. The evening meal was capped off by a sublime, perfectly cooked Panna Cotta with Seasonal Fruit (fresh apricot, vanilla custard).

Tuc is just one more reason to love the restaurant scene in Vancouver.

Minami

Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Yaletown, Minami Restaurant delivers one of the most unique and innovative dining experiences to Vancouver. Minami offers a combination of Japanese and West Coast cuisine. Quite simply, Minami was sublime.

As we did throughout the entire Vancouver trip, my dining companions and I opted to share plates, in order to taste and experience all of the dishes. For Appetizers, we feasted on the most exquisitely prepared (and tasty) Salmon Oshi Bites topped with botan ebi, tako, Hokkaido scallop and Joshu wagyu. The Salmon Oshi Bites were so good that we ordered them twice more.

The Misu Sakekasu Sablefish & Crispy Prawn Dumpling entrée was another menu highlight of Minami. This dish consisted of sablefish and prawn dumplings, YK3 sakekasu, kaiso seaweed salad, umami soy vinaigrette, yuzu-sweet soy reduction, Asian microgreens, candy cane beets and ginger scallion wasabi relish. While it may sound complex, the flavours of this dish were clean well-balanced.

For dessert, we enjoyed the Green Tea Opera (green tea génoise, dark chocolate ganache, and matcha ice cream). It was light in texture and a great way to end the evening.

All in all, Vancouver’s food culture is unique and vibrant. I encourage anyone visiting to keep an open mind, and to get excited about tasting your way through this wonderful city – you will enjoy it!