Although Justin Trudeau is surely one of Canada’s yummiest offerings, when it comes to a proper sit down meal, we’ll take the city of Vancouver, BC. Here, Pacific Northwest freshness reigns, chefs showcase Canadian kitchen ingenuity, and incredible seafood and produce is always in season. With Vancouver (and neighboring suburb Richmond’s) sizable Asian population, a representation of many Asian cuisines, especially Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, also distinguishes the food scene here.
Fifteen minutes after I’ve put in a cocktail order, a female mixologist is visibly at work within a glass-enclosed booth, crafting a high-maintenance, elaborate libation. This is the Botanist’s Cocktail Lab, dubbed an “artistic studio with laboratory equipment…to deliver an elaborate drinking experience,” in which a trio of “experiential” cocktails is routinely crafted. As my guest and I witness the fascinating process, we’re presented with an “amusebooze” pre-cocktail cocktail. Finally, our Pretty Bird emerges from the lab. A mandarin orange-colored liquid infused with gin, berries, seeds, and bubbles, presented within a hollow glass bird perched atop a nest, a glass straw sticking out of the butt, it’s cheeky and yummy, and we haven’t even been moved from the bar to dining room yet. Fairmont Pacific Rim’s sublime new restaurant and bar opened to deserved fanfare in April 2017. Filling the hotel’s mezzanine level, with curvy banquettes, creamy tones, floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s an elegant yet unstuffy space, where chef Hector Laguna, formerly of Vancouver’s beloved Hawksworth, rules the open kitchen. His menus exploit the best of Pacific Northwest organic, sustainable bounty. Vegetables are fermented in house, and honey is sourced from Fairmont’s rooftop apiary. Kicking off every meal is a chewy housemade fougasse (beer bread), shaped like leaves, which gluten-philes can also buy to-go. For dinner, a “We’ll Take It From Here” tasting is offered at $85 per person, that features phenomenal flavors and artful plating meant to evoke earthiness. A prawn hidden under a pasta blanket was spectacular, as was a lemon-y, creamy on-menu tagliatelle with morels. It’s a must. Meat and fish alike came with vegetables and herbs that snapped of freshness, and sauces just bursting with essences. A superb terroir-driven wine program and lengthy, innovative cocktail menu incorporate floral and herbal, elements. While a wholly unnecessary lounge singer and loud ladies-night-out table distracted, Botanist easily warrants repeat visits. Fairmont Pacific Rim, 1038 Canada Place. Tel: 604695-5500.www.botanistrestaurant.com
MAK N MING
Vancouver loves its Asian fusion, and 2017 saw the opening of Mak N Ming in the Kitsilano neighborhood that features the culinary creations of husband and wife team Makoto Ono (whose previous outing, Japanese-French PiDGin, helped gentrify and transform Gastown into a buzzy gastronomic destination) and pastry chef Amanda Cheng, formerly of Hong Kong’s hit dessert bar, Riquiqui. Open for dinner all year, with a choice of three (Demi) or six course (Chef’s) tasting menus at $43 and $61, respectively, and weekend brunch during summer months, Mak N Ming has already landed on about every “what’s hot” list and received unanimous positive reviews (and word of mouth) for its Japanese/Asian meets West creations. Make reservations ASAP . Light wood tones and grey marble dominate the cozy, welcoming space, and the seasons drive the menu. Spring saw a lobster two ways presentation of bisque over split pea mash, featuring buttery lobster tail tossed with potatoes, seaweed vinaigrette, and spruce tips. In November, eggplant arrived hidden under a shiso-drizzled al dente pasta blanket. Seriously one of the city’s best new arrivals! 1629 Yew St. Tel: 604-737-1155. www.maknming.com
HERITAGE ASIAN EATERY
At Heritage, weekend brunch takes a tasty Asian-fusion detour. A late 2016 opening in the financial district, chef Felix Zhou’s fastcasual counter service 40-seater is all about clean Pacific Northwest ingredients and Asian flavors. During weekday lunches and dinners, hearty, flavorful bao (e.g. pork belly with kimchi daikon, crispy onion, and hoisin sauce) and rice bowls rule, plus fivespice rubbed (and gluten-free) crispy chicken wings, a well-dressed beef tataki, and several veggie options. Saturday and Sundays, however, see a dedicated brunch menu (Heritage closes at 3 P .M.), and it’s truly special. Got a hangover? Or woke up hangry? The Big One entails a scallion pancake topped with three poached eggs and silky hollandaise sauce, crisp potato rosti fingers, tender pork belly, duck, and a token sprig of greens. It’s decadent, rich, and hits more than just the spot. If that’s overkill, Benny Bowls add poached eggs and hollandaise over pork belly, lamb, duck, or mushroom ragout rice bowls, while the addictive, toothsome green onion pancakes are also available with a duck roll or vegetarian-friendly shitake roll. Fans of the savory rice porridge known as congee are in luck, with smoked oyster, pork belly, or char siu as protein. Craving something sweet? Order golden mantou: chewy, mildly flavored buns, with a side of matcha condensed milk for dipping, is possibly the comfort food you never knew you needed. Good news, mantou is on both menus. 1108 West Pender St. Tel: 778-737-1108. www.eatheritage.ca