Best restaurants in Vancouver, according to Zagat
NEW YORK – With the 2010 Winter Olympics approaching, Zagat has released its 2010 Vancouver Survey, covering 298 of the city’s finest restaurants, nightspots, attractions and hotels.
The Survey is based on the input of 2,721 local consumers, and spans venues across Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver Island. It shows that although locals are feeling the economic pinch, there is no shortage of good deals or new hot spots in Vancouver.
“The commercial influx of tourism expected with the Games will no doubt stimulate the dining and entertainment industries throughout the region,” said Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat. “We hope that our new guide will serve as a useful tool for both locals and visitors who want to experience all that Vancouver has to offer at this special time.”
In preparation for the throngs of athletes, spectators and media, Vancouver has expanded its ever-growing culinary scene.
This year’s top-rated newcomer, Maenam on the West Side, promises a mix of “authentic, flavourful” Thai plates and “elegant service.” In addition, the city has welcomed a veritable “who’s who” of restaurant industry leaders, including New York’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with his Downtown Market by Jean-Georges and Daniel Boulud, who opened db Bistro Moderne and revitalized existing restaurant, Lumière.
Other exciting newcomers include affordable French Au Petit Chavignol, Downtown’s Cibo, West End’s Nook, and Les Faux Bourgeois on the East Side.
Local diners feeling the economic pinch may be more attentive to prices (30%) and eating at less expensive places (24%), but there is no shortage of good deals in Vancouver.
Leading the way is this year’s Top Bang for the Buck, Nat’s New York Pizzeria, a West End and West Side eatery that offers “superb” pizza at a modest price.
The presence of prix fixe menus at Cru and Pied-à-Terre will continue to entice weary spenders, as will Dine Out Vancouver, which has been pushed back until after the Winter Games. The small-plates trend is reverting back to Spanish-style tapas, highlighted by newcomer Mis Trucos, newly opened (December ’09) Café Barcelona and soon-to-open Judas Goat.
The West Side is the focus for new restaurants, starting with the previously mentioned Maenam (Top Newcomer).
Also on the West Side is the “local favourite” La Brasserie and Trattoria Italian Kitchen, a lower-priced sibling to Downtown’s Italian Kitchen. These affordable newcomers, along with aforementioned prix fixe menus, explain why 40% of surveyors say they’re finding better dining deals.
Since the guide went to print, Fuel has closed and reopened as refuel, with a more moderately priced menu. Elsewhere in the city are Granville Street’s The Edge and eco-friendly The Refinery, as well as Lebanese siblings Nuba Restaurant (Gastown) and Nuba Café (Downtown). The top ten Best Buys (in order of rating) include:
1.Nat’s New York Pizzeria
This year’s winner for Top Food is La Belle Auberge, located in Ladner and described as one of the “best-kept secrets” with “world-class” cuisine from chef Bruno Marti.
Following behind are Vij’s (winner for Most Popular in this Survey), Cioppino’s, Le Crocodile and ToJo’s. Queen Elizabeth Park serves as the backdrop for this year’s Top Decor winner, Seasons in the Park, and Bishop’s takes home the award for Top Service.
The full list of restaurant winners is as follows:
Vancouver Victoria/Vancouver Is. Whistler
Top Food La Belle Auberge Panache Bear Foot Bistro
Top Decor Seasons in the Park Empress Room Edgewater Lodge
Top Service Bishop’s Hastings House Bear Foot Bistro
Most Popular Vij’s Keg Steakhouse & Bar Keg Steakhouse & Bar
Plan Ahead: As an expected 2.3 million attendees will descend on Vancouver by mid-February, locals and visitors should plan for changing traffic patterns, enhanced security zones and extra travel time when maneuvering the city. Keeping this in mind, anyone who wants to make reservations over the phone would be wise to call ahead.
To Your Health:
The healthy dining trend continues, with 72% of surveyors favouring low-carb, low-fat, heart healthy menu items and 81% favouring organic, locally grown foods. Even more impressive is the fact that 68% are willing to pay more for these “green” menu items.
As for trans fats, an overwhelming 74% of surveyors feel they should be banned from restaurants. The locavore movement (born in British Columbia with the publication of 100-Mile Diet) continues to be trendsetting, with Raincity Grill offering a special tasting menu, as well as BC Wines, which promotes locally produced wines that are not only popular, but award-winning.
Diners Speak Out:
Vancouver diners eat out an average of 2.7 times per week, which is on par with Toronto and Montréal (2.7 and 2.8, respectively), but below the U.S. average of 3.2. When asked how their dining habits have been affected by the economic downturn, 32% say they are eating out less, while 19% are skipping appetizers/desserts and 17% are cutting back on alcohol. Service is still the weak link of the local dining scene, with 79% naming it their top dining irritant.
On the upside, since the economic downturn, 33% of surveyors feel their patronage is more appreciated, 25% are eating healthier and 19% are able to score hard-to-get reservations.
The 2010 Vancouver guidebook ($6.95 U.S.; $7.95 Canadian) was edited by Cynthia Kilian and Tim and Heather Pawsey, and is available in all major bookstores or online at ZAGAT.com.
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