Haute Cuisine in a Rain Slick
Haute salutes the eight Vancouver restaurants awarded a MICHELIN Star: AnnaLena, Barbara, Burdock & Co, iDen & Quan Ju De Beijing Duck House, Kissa Tanto, Masayoshi, Published on Main, St Lawrence.
And congratulations to Vancouver’s 12 Bib Gourmands: Anh and Chi, Chupito, Fable Kitchen, Fiorino Italian Street Food, Kin Kao Song, Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer, Lunch Lady, Nightshade, Oca Pastificio, Phnom Penh, Say Mercy!, Vij’s.
n 1899, two Frenchmen were selling tires to cyclists in Clermont-Ferrand and dreaming of breaking into the new automobile market. What could they do, the Michelin brothers asked, to make their new tires famous across France?
Being French, it occurred to them that drivers stopping in a new town or village would want to know where to eat a good meal and drink some good wine. So they distributed a little guidebook to hotels, restaurants and gas stations distributed free to motorists. The famous Michelin Guide was born. Then in 1926, the guide began awarding stars to the best eateries in Europe. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ninety-six years later, the little Red Guidebook comes to Vancouver. Actually, it’s now a little red app but the principle remains. It’s rumoured that 130 anonymous reviewers scour the globe for good food and wine — and some of them have descended on Vancouver to see if our city’s food scene is worthy.
Haute was at the recent Michelin Guide launch to see if any of our favourites were awarded the glittering prize or a Bib Gourmand. Here’s how our reviews of some of Vancouver’s finest feasts compare with the Michelin Man’s.
Hawksworth is actually a set of three rooms in one: the svelte entry bar mixes some of the city’s best drinkies, while the two dining rooms are equally sexy with a showcase chandelier and art by Damien Hirst and Rodney Graham.
The food, the whole food and nothing but the food
The antithesis of Vancouver’s ubiquitous laissez-faire, Hawksworth says leave the Lululemons and Arcteryx at home. Highbrow elegance is nevertheless unstuffy; ‘Hawks’ is suitable for a special birthday or for a serious ‘get-it-done’ business dinner.
David Hawksworth’s care and attention to detail and meticulous platesmanship are present in every dish. Always complex, thought-provoking, satisfying but never pretentious. The eponymous chef has a clear affinity for local, fresh and authentic.
The wine list is one of the widest and deepest in the city, while the cocktails are put together by a handpicked team of mixologists who deliver liquid gold in a glass every time. The best Corpse Reviver #2 will bring any banker’s or lawyer’s client back to life.
Even a swashbuckler like Cap’n Ryan seeks a safe haven of sophistication and refinement. Hawks is a perfect place to impress everyone — even your judgmental 14-year-old who just wants the best fries in the city.
Photo credit: Hawksworth Restaurant
A super-refined, modern, warm and authentic room dedicated to “the principles of botany,” Botanist is an homage to biophilia. Exhibit A: the luxuriant Garden Room. Like all things Pacific Rim Fairmont, Botanist is a place to eat-and-be-seen.
The food, the whole food and nothing but the food
The menu is local, aiming to deconstruct and reconstruct only the freshest ingredients. Because of proximity to my office I tend to go for brekkie meetings. My go-to: the brightest and biggest fresh berries, and easily the best French omelette in the city. I am a creature of habit: I have only ever had the Olive Oil Poached Halibut for dinner. But it never disappoints.
The long bar would feel at home in Berlin or Copenhagen. The mixologists push the scientific method with every drink. Try Smoke on the Water: mezcal, rum, lemon-birch sap and coconut oil under a thick cloud of cedar smoke.
Yves Saint Laurent rightly said: “We must never confuse elegance with snobbery.” While a good amount of spectacle is always present at the ‘Bots’, it’s always irreverent. The food approaches perfection like a YSL black dress while the room is painted by the artful hand of Mother Nature.
Photo credit: Fairmont Pacific Rim
rom the busy Chinatown sidewalk, it’s one flight of stairs into a time machine. Kissa Tanto takes its name from mid-century Tokyo jazz bars, a Japanese-Italian fusion that is hip and informal. With gorgeous art deco, highlighted by salmon-coloured banquettes and bar stools, Tanto is pretty and witty.
Going 50:50 means no half measures
My first visit to Kissa years ago was initially tinged with scepticism: Japanese meets Italian? But Chef Joël Watanabe really does channel Japanese and Corsican heritage, as well as Quebecois. To say this combo has real roots is no exaggeration. The slightly reserved Japanese traits coupled with the passion of the Italians might be clichéd in any other setting but the tajarin egg noodles with foraged mushrooms and miso-cured egg yolk suggest that the spaghetti/noodle DNA has been truly spliced.
As one might guess, Italian wines and Japanese saké make wonderful music together. A vast supply of amaro and specialty vermouth stretches before your eyes. I opted for a G&T Kissa-style with Nikka Coffey Gin, yuzu honey and Fentimans Tonic. A savvy twenty-something suggested my next quaff be their special Salaryman’s Song, a concoction of gin, yuzu cordial, yuzu juice and grapefruit oil. Delightful!
If I’m looking to downplay my previous 46 years of uncoolness, I go to the Land of the Rising Sun-dried Tomato. Even us ancient geezers can be fun if we head to the east of town, to a playful room staffed by the coolest kids, and drink the evening away.
Photo credit: food by Hakan Burcuoglu, interiors by Knauf and Brown
ublished and be crammed! Published had just been named the best restaurant in Canada. From sea to sea to sea. And it’s right here on our wee Main Street in Vancouver. I just had to go. First impressions confirmed that everything about this place is double-barreled, from the chef’s name (Stieffenhofer-Brandson) to the decor and menu (Pacific Northwest–Old Europa.)
The good, the great and the glorious
I fell on their schnitzel like a Black Forest wolf but it was the harissa cauliflower that had me howling for more. The menu is old wrapped in new, the known served in the sauce of the unknown. My companion was moved to remark that Published could make deep-fried woolly mammoth seem like the next big thing. When I say Published is good, I mean that if it doesn’t get a Michelin Star I will eat a Michelin tire.
This restaurant puts Vancouver on the world food map. It sings a song of the Pacific in a way that no other has done before. Their flavours are as young as Vancouver but their subtle combination is as old as the hills. And I cannot recommend their bar staff highly enough — their house Martini is a gift from the gods of distillation.
Photo credit: Sarah Anand