Tannis Ling’s and Joel Watanabe’s Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie reinvigorated Vancouver’s Chinatown when it opened seven years ago. For their second act they transformed a nearby second-storey space into a jazz-age room that features a melding of Italian and Asian flavours – think lamb shoulder with Sicilian olives and tosaka seaweed. It was named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2016 by Air Canada, so reservations are a must.
Reservations are tough to score at this Fraserhood spot, thanks to the soaring, buzzy room and sophisticated takes on traditional Italian fare. (The bistecca fiorentina sells out every time it appears on the menu.) No wonder it was named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 by Air Canada.
The city’s most refined take on Cantonese cuisine is in the suburb of Richmond. Line-ups are common – especially for dim sum – but this is the closest you can get to true Hong Kong cuisine without leaving the country.
Located in a beautifully restored heritage building in Coal Harbour, Nightingale serves casual fare, like blistery thin-crusted pizzas and a rotating selection of local craft beer. Little wonder Chef David Hawksworth has the responsibility of crafting the menus for Air Canada Signature Class and Air Canada Signature Suite.
With a weatherproof name, this ice cream shop has developed a coterie of year-round devotees who can’t get enough of their Salted Caramel, London Fog or Blueberry Balsamic. They also dutifully line up for waffle-cone “tacos” filled with two scoops of ice cream on Taco Tuesdays.
Vancouverites revel in the Pacific Northwest trait of treating coffee like it was cold fusion. The myriad spots that employ beakers and atomically precise measurements in search of the perfect brew are endless, but the Matchstick mini-chain excels at making a great cup. It also bakes some of the city’s best housemade bread.
Perhaps no restaurant sums up Vancouver’s multicultural mélange better than TV personality Vikram Vij’s flagship spot. The food is an inventive take on South Asian cuisine that has few global rivals. Increasing the square footage has done little to change the famed lineups. (The restaurant has never taken reservations, as Hollywood stars and Prime Ministers have learned.) The Cambie Street locale features a dynamite rooftop patio—oddly a rarity for a city with such stellar views.
Sushi is so prevalent in Vancouver that it competes with McDonald’s for the grab-and-go crowd. This Yaletown spot goes one step further with their pioneering use of the aburi technique, which sees the sushi get quickly seared to elevate its texture and flavour.
If Vancouver is a foodie’s paradise, then Granville Island Public Market is its Mecca. Professional chefs, locals and tourists collide at one of the country’s best public food halls. Perched on the waters of False Creek, this is ground zero for 100-mile fare like terrines and sausage (Oyama Sausage Co. for juniper and wild boar charcuterie), fresh shellfish and small batch sake (Artisan Sake Maker for premium food pairings).
Find one of the largest contemporary art collections in the country housed in the Wing Sang building, Chinatown’s oldest structure. Thanks to its patron, real estate marketer Bob Rennie – one of the top 200 collectors in the world – works from Rodney Graham (named to the Order of Canada) to Turner Prize-winning artists Martin Creed and Simon Starling can be viewed in an intimate setting with a post-private tour discussion. (Tours, for up to 15 participants, are free.)
Squamish, once a pit stop on the way to Whistler, has become a destination in its own right. Flanked by majestic mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, its crowning glory is the Sea to Sky Gondola. Take in scenic views of Howe Sound at 885 metres above ground, hike or snowshoe through 12 kilometres of subalpine forest trails and enjoy wine-paired dinner at the top.
This lifestyle shop in the heart of Kitsilano is a delightful mash-up of new and old. Shop well-priced and unusual taxidermy, antique wind-up toys, old CP Rail monogrammed dishware, medical charts and new pieces that recall the charm of yesteryear. (Think bicycle print gift wrapping and apothecary jars.)
With yards of denim manufacturing street cred, Gary Lenett has turned his attention to a new project – a revolutionary concept in the athleisure market. They may look like jeans, but they act like yoga pants – and there’s a jungle gym in the flagship store to prove it. Test-run your duds with jumps, flips and stretches before cycling away in your fashion-forward tech trousers.
This 62-storey hotel houses three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s seafood-driven restaurant, Market by Jean-Georges; a holistic spa that offers Caudalie treatments; and an underground entrance favoured by visiting celebrities—all set in a sleek temple of minimalist design.
Featuring condo-sized rooms, this boutique hotel also offers amenities like a heated outdoor 15-metre saltwater lap pool and complimentary bicycle rentals for guests. It sits in the middle of the city’s shopping core in the Robson Street district, just blocks from the financial centre.
Enjoy views of the North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet from your in-room soaker tub; then book a table at Botanist, a garden/champagne lounge/cocktail bar and dining room inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s flora. Stanley Park’s trails and bike paths are a short walk away.
There’s no beating the oceanfront location of this ivy-covered hotel in English Bay or the stalwart that is the Sylvia Lounge – the city’s first cocktail bar when it opened in 1954 and still a bastion of old-school beverages. This pet-friendly hotel is steps from Stanley Park should your well-traveled pooch need some exercise.
This Georgian Revival landmark, whose storied guests run the gamut from Katharine Hepburn and Elvis to Frank Sinatra and the Queen, has been updated for a new generation of glamorous visitors. Discover works from one of the largest private collections of Canadian art viewable to the public, including Alan Wood’s Garden series and six tongue-in-cheek pieces by Douglas Coupland.
Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society (and pronounced “skwatch-eyes”), this boutique hotel offers easy access to Gastown bars and eateries. The circa-1906 building, restored in a striking aboriginal motif, includes a sweat lodge, smudge room and the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery.
This boutique hotel is steps from Robson Street shopping and a 20-minute walk from Stanley Park. The spacious suites, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and bathrooms equipped with dimmable lights and soaker tubs, may inspire you to linger indoors. Make use of your room’s Lululemon mat and start the day with the hotel’s yoga TV channel.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
The Canada Line connects the airport to the SkyTrain transit network, reducing the travel time to 25 minutes and the cost to $5. Cabs from the airport are a flat fee to various quadrants of the city (from $20).
The SkyTrain light rail network, which runs along Cambie to Richmond and includes the Canada Line, makes it a very efficient way to get around. translink.ca
If you want a taxi, it’s best to call for one; otherwise, you’ll spend 10 minutes trying to hail unless you’re right outside a hotel. Traveling by taxi can get expensive: One trip across a bridge runs up the meter dramatically and a 15% tip is usually expected. Uber hasn’t arrived in the city yet, but the Zoro app (Zoroapp.com) allows customers to book any cab in the vicinity from their mobile devices.
Black Top & Checker Cabs: 604-731-1111 MacLure's Cabs: 604-831-1111 Vancouver Taxi: 604-871-1111 Yellow Cab: 604-681-1111
When the sun sets in Chinatown, Kissa Tanto’s glossy ceiling shimmers like a rain-slicked Vancouver street. It’s Saturday night, and suddenly I’m starring in a film noir with Italian-Japanese subtitles. I’ve been cast as the undercover detective, sipping my ume-plum-salted amaretto sour in a dark corner. There’s jazz on the stereo. Purple neon light filters in through the second-storey balcony. One bite of dainty chawanmushi, egg custard towed under by dashi and Parmesan, and I’m in deep focus.
Tannis Ling and chefs Joël Watanabe and Alain Chow are the cool cucumbers who conceived this upstairs lounge. Styled on 1960s Tokyo jazz cafés, it’s fitted with dusty-pink leather banquettes, banker’s lamps and brass railings. Their French-Chinese brasserie Bao Bei, a couple of blocks farther west, ranked second on this list in 2010. Here Watanabe proves that Italy and Japan are natural bedfellows, married by a shared love of noodles, mushrooms and umami. He tosses chewy housemade tajarin egg pasta with butter-and-Marsala roasted shiitake and porcini and tops the dish with a grating of miso-cured egg yolk. It seems simple, which is ultimately what these two cuisines are all about, but his talent pushes that fusion into original mishmashes that speak a common language. These are Kissa Tanto dishes.
I take up lacquered chopsticks to pluck leaves of baby gem lettuce and bitter endive dressed with a bagna cauda that adds bonito to the traditional anchovy base. This East-meets-West salad is sprinkled with furikake seasoning and laced with cubes of homemade mortadella, pan-fried so that they’re nicely caramelized at the edges. Propelled deeper into the night by a creamy, unfiltered sake, I use my fingers to pick juicy opalescent cubes of flesh from a whole yellow rockfish, diamond scored and potato-flour-fried. I dunk those in soy and grated daikon between bites of chili- and sesame-studded rapini on the side.
Kissa Tanto’s ephemeral tiramisu could bring a ninja’s nonna to tears; tofu is whipped into the airy mascarpone that’s layered between ladyfingers soaked in plum wine and espresso. It’s dangerously easy to order one more cocktail for the denouement. The Peacock Baby crafted by Wendy McGuinness, who once bartended with Ling at Belgian bistro Chambar, is a frothy anise-forward coupe of pastis, sake and Maraschino. I take a long drink and scan the room. It’s Chinatown, and everything’s jake.