An immensely popular tin fish shack with a ripped awning and four tables, on an inlet wonderfully named False Creek. Fried halibut and chips are incomparable. The Tacone—grilled wild salmon, sesame-scented Pacific Rim slaw, veggies wrapped in a decent flour tortilla—is almost as good. Long lines but a scenic wait; eat in the late afternoon to miss the mobs.
1505 West First Avenue; 604-730-5040
Market by Jean-Georges
The greatest hits from Jean-Georges Vongerichten's post-epicurean menus (JoJo, Spice Market, etc.), adapted to local products. Moderately priced dishes, somewhat elevated from original recipes. ("A little shinier," explains the chef, David Foot.) Everything's good, but go for slow-cooked arctic char or short ribs with soy glaze.
Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver, Level 3, 1115 Alberni Street; 604-695-1115; shangri-la.com
Cuisine that's remarkably close in style and execution to that at Daniel Boulud's celebrated Restaurant Daniel in New York. Modern French cooking prepared in a rarefied international style—c'mon in, Michelin Guide. Food so jewel-like, even the savory courses look like desserts. Labor-intensive cooking, elite ingredients, micro-everything. Expensive, but you'll know where your money went. Tiny room, too; instead of Lumière, a better name would be Lilliput.
2551 West Broadway; 604-739-8185; lumiere.ca
Huge space; hard chairs; Daliesque mirrors hanging from the ceiling; cheap, oversize art on the walls; tables made from recycled cardboard—but the owners couldn't be prouder. Intended to be a temporary Gastown-area (old-world, with vagrants) restaurant, but even with its inexpensive assemblage, it's so successful it lives on. Co-owner Neil Ingram calls it "a guerrilla restaurant." Kid chef Jeremie Bastien, barely 27, with real talent, demonstrates his Montréal roots—pork everywhere, including on the sashimi. Deconstructed pea soup, too. Inspired wine program. Not intensely local; the herring roe is shipped in from Spain.
1 West Cordova Street; 604-684-1844; boneta.ca
There's no more-beloved Indian restaurant in North America. No reservations, even longer lines than at Go Fish, but swell free pass-arounds for those who wait. I love everything but a few too-thin sauces and the watery raita. Addictive flavors. Signature dish is the lamb "Popsicles": rib chops with bones stripped clean. Customers are so loyal they're nearly a cult—two Vancouver friends are angry with me for preferring short ribs to lamb.
1480 West 11th Avenue; 604-736-6664; vijs.ca
The church of the blessed local fish. Simple, elegant, classic seafood setting overlooking water. Shiny flatware, white tablecloths, big tables, and wineglasses that cost more than the bottle I order. Dishes exhibit unrestrained, and sometimes puzzling, complexity. The sensational vegetables, despite being hothouse, are among the best in Vancouver—for example, memorable charred romaine, caramelized endive. Best for summer lunches—lovely setting, bargain prices, and the veggies dug from genuine dirt.
2-1600 Howe Street; 604-681-1164; www.crestaurant.com
Now I understand elegance. From John Bishop, local legend, comes sublime understatement: a calm, assured, quiet, correct, and timeless room in silver, teak, and white. Service to match. I recommend the deconstructed octopus terrine, a little forest of fish bits with pancetta crisps. Sautéed lingcod is startlingly and impossibly savory. No place can ever be considered too chic if it serves cornbread.
2183 West Fourth Avenue; 604-738-2025; bishopsonline.com
The Vancouver restaurant that's earned the most highbrow adjectives—"elite" and "exquisite," among them. My summary: Darned tasty, with laughs. I dressed up, only to find that my fellow diners had come directly from their compost heaps. Delicious dishes include tuna in secret sauce, sole in secret butter sauce, sablefish baked in Tojo's secret marinade. Inscrutable, for sure. Fine sushi, best accompanied by locally made sake. Unbelievably good dish: West Coast Dungeness crab with avocado and rice in a nori cone. Waiter, pouring soy, spilled some and quipped, "Bad Japanese technology."
1133 West Broadway; 604-872-8050; tojos.com
Salt Tasting Room
Love the locale, deep within a passageway long ago named Blood Alley. Perhaps not fundamentally changed, inasmuch as one of my guests says, "I once saw two guys fighting over a discarded mattress out front." A gastronomic version of snacking in winery tasting rooms. Cavernous, with brick walls, hanging Edison bulbs, wooden tables, hard stools, excellent service. Don't miss the Roaring Forties Blue cheese from Australia, or any of the cured meats from the local Oyama Sausage Company. Charcuterie, a western Canada tradition, was brought to British Columbia by European immigrants.
45 Blood Alley; 604-633-1912; salttastingroom.com
Everybody loves Fried Chicken Friday, a lunch special of buttermilk-marinated chicken with a jalapeño biscuit, coleslaw, retro brown gravy, and British Columbia beer. Good food, good deal, but even better are the house-made dried sausages, in particular the chewy, rich venison. An epicenter of the local-food movement—the only foodstuff served at our meal not from B.C. is the rice in my lemon risotto. (Too lemony, anyway.) Another treat: Call ahead to order chicken and waffles for dinner, the waffle batter enhanced with grated Jerusalem artichoke.
1944 West Fourth Avenue; 604-288-7905; fuelrestaurant.ca