With the start of a new year, I look back at all different places and items I’ve tried in the Vancouver area over the past year and I wanted to recap the highlights and share with you my Top 10 Favourites in no particular order:
1. Bourguignon Baguette – Chez Meme Baguette Bistro, Burnaby, BC
Located in the Burnaby Heights neighbourhood, Chez Meme Baguette Bistro is a tiny French cafe with only a handful of tables and a few seats at the bar. It is a true hidden gem. They specialize in baguette sandwiches for lunch and have recently launched a different menu for dinner service as well. All the baguette sandwiches I’ve tried from there have been really tasty. But my favourite has been the Bourguignon baguette, which is filled with boneless braised beef short rib, caramelized onions, and horseradish. The meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and so flavourful. The fresh baguette is consistently airy and light with a soft center and crusty exterior. The sandwich usually comes with a choice of soup, salad or fries. I always choose to upgrade to a French onion soup for an additional $3. This onion soup has always been perfect. It’s been light, yet flavourful and not too salty. When I think of the most memorable sandwiches that I’ve had in Vancouver to date, Chez Meme’s is definitely on the list.
2. Pineapple Bun – Lido Restaurant, Richmond BC
I’ll admit that I’m more of a French pastry type of girl and I’m normally not a fan of Hong Kong-style pastries. But I decided to give the Pineapple Bun a try since Lido is famous for this item. I didn’t realize how popular these buns were until I had to make a couple of attempts before being able to successfully get one. They are pretty much sold out the moment they come out of the oven and Lido makes multiple batches throughout the day. For those unfamiliar, the pineapple bun does not actually contain any pineapple nor is it pineapple flavoured. Apparently, the name came to be because the sugary top crust is golden-brown in color and is supposedly checkered in appearance, which resembles the skin of a pineapple. The top crust on this Pineapple Bun from Lido was crispy, crumbly, and had a texture similar to a sandy sugar cookie. I loved how the crust just melted in my mouth. The bun on the bottom was soft, light, and slightly sweet though not as sweet as the crumbly topping. This was easily the best Pineapple Bun that I’ve tasted to date. They are definitely best when they are fresh out of the oven and still warm. I’ve now become addicted to them and will stop in at Lido every time I pass by to see if I’m lucky enough to get one.
3. Mango Square – Lucky’s Doughnuts, Vancouver, BC
When it comes to gourmet donuts, I’ve certainly sampled quite a few in the past year. I’ve tasted a good portion of the donut line up at Lucky’s as well as Cartems. And in the past, I’ve sampled quite a few from the famous Voodoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon as well as Jelly Modern Donuts in Calgary. But the one donut that has been really memorable for me has been the Mango Square from Lucky’s. When I first got the donut, I wasn’t sure what to expect as the glaze didn’t seem very mango-ey. After the first bite, I realized that there was mango filling all the way around the square. I thought this was an ingenious way for them to fill it so that you would get some mango filling in every bite. I really loved the filling as it had a really strong mango taste. The mango flavour tasted real and did not have any hint of artificial flavouring at all. I also liked that the mango filling was tangy and not overly sweet. If you’re a lover of all things mango like me, this donut is a must!
4. Prosciutto e Funghi – Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana, Vancouver, BC
With so many thin-crust and Neapolitan-style pizzerias that have opened up in the last two years in the Vancouver area, it’s not hard to do a comparison on technique and taste to figure out who makes the best pies. The favourite in my books by far has been Via Tevere. All the pies that I’ve had from Via Tevere have been really good. In particular, I really like their Prosciutto e Funghi, which is topped with a San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, prosciutto, and mushrooms. What I love is that the pizza has a light and fluffy, yet crispy cornicione (crust) with blacked blisters. The center has been thin and soft with the cheese perfectly melted just as I have come to expect from an authentic Neapolitan pizza. The pizza is always nicely charred on the bottom and has the leoparding (leopard-spotting) throughout that the pizza aficionados look for in a well-made pie. The ingredients are always very fresh and the flavours well-balanced.
5. Vanilla Cupcake with Lemon Curd & Raspberry Frosting – Cookievonster, Vancouver, BC
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes as I generally find them to be too sweet. This Vanilla Cupcake with Lemon Curd & Raspberry Frosting, however, was just perfect. I loved the tartness and bright flavours of the lemon curd against the vanilla cake. And I could really taste the raspberry flavour in the frosting. I was impressed that the raspberry frosting actually was a bit tart and not overly sweet. This was easily one of the most memorable cupcakes I’ve had in a long time. I wish Cookievonster would have a storefront as I would go there every time I’m in town to indulge in one of these cupcakes. Unfortunately though, Cookievonster is online artisan bakery where you can order home-baked specialty goodies for pick up. If I were in the Vancouver area and needed to order baked goods for an event, Cookievonster would be my top choice.
6. Blue Fico – Notturno Paninoteca, Vancouver, BC
When it comes to the most memorable sandwiches, another place that comes to mind is Notturno Paninoteca in Gastown. My favourite there has been the Blue Fico. It comes filled with blue cheese aioli, caramelized fig, walnut, black olives, and wilted greens. Since I love blue cheese and fig, this was the perfect panini for me. To me, it had just the right balance between savoury and sweet although it was actually a little more sweet than savoury because of the caramelized fig. It was kind of like the “dessert” panini. I loved the contrasting flavours – the creaminess of the blue cheese, the crunchy walnuts, the sweetness of the caramelized fig and the brininess of the black olives. And to top it off, the crispy yet chewy bread encasing all this yummy goodness!
7. Garam Masala Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms in Porcini Cream Curry – Vij’s, Vancouver, BC
When most people think of Vij’s, their signature dish, the Wine-Marinated Lamb Popsicles in Fenugreek Cream Curry, is the first thing that comes to mind. While I agree that the lamb popsicles are pretty amazing, another dish that I really love is the Garam Masala Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms in Porcini Cream Curry. The sautéed portobello mushrooms really had that wow factor. They were really juicy and flavourful and the porcini cream curry was heavenly. This dish is a must order item every time along with the lamb popsicles.
8. Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi – Miku, Vancouver, BC
I’m a creature of habit so whenever I go to Miku, I automatically order the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi as that is one of their signature items. Don’t get me wrong, the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi is absolutely amazing. And it even made it on to my list of The Best Things I Ever Ate… In Vancouver for 2011 . But on my last visit to Miku, I decided to be adventurous as I was curious about their Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi, which I’d always seen on their menu. The Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi consisted of ebi pressed and dressed with house made ume sauce and finished with lime zest. Normally, I’m not even a fan of ebi (cooked shrimp on sushi) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m really glad we decided to try it as this tasted amazing! I don’t think the ebi itself lends well to flame-searing as it doesn’t contain much fat. It is the flame-searing of the creamy house made ume sauce along with the lime zest really makes the dish while the ebi is there more for texture. For me, the Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi has become a must order item on future visits along with the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi.
9. Beef Short Rib – Suika Snackbar, Vancouver, BC
When I think of Suika, I think of it almost like an izakaya snack bar. I would never have predicted that they could make such an outstanding beef short rib dish. The beef short rib at Suika was fried and tossed in a sweet balsamic sauce and served with a scoop of mashed potato. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and just fell right off the bone. Though the sauce was sweet, it was not cloyingly sweet. In fact, it was very well-balanced and complex in flavour. This was actually one of the best short rib preparations I’ve had in a very long time. The short rib and sauce were executed perfectly. The flavours were unique and fresh. This is definitely a must-try dish at Suika.
10. Normande Mussels – Biercraft Tap and Tapas Bar, Vancouver, BC
I’ll admit that I didn’t have high expectations of the food from Biercraft initially when my friends suggested the place. It looked like another ordinary pub that I’ve been to many times before. And usually, at most pubs, the food is typically alright but nothing really memorable. The mussels at Biercraft can be prepared in a variety of different ways. We chose the Normande, which included apples, mushrooms, bacon, shallots, Calvados, and cream. I was amazed how well these ingredients worked with the mussels. The flavours were spot on. I hadn’t been wowed by a dish of mussels since the ones that I had from Chambar years ago. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised as I never expect Biercraft to put out such a stand out dish. I’d definitely be back again for these mussels.
Chez Meme Baguette Bistro
4016 Hastings Street
4231 Hazelbridge Way
2902 Main St
Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana
1190 Victoria Drive
280 Carrall St
1480 W 11th Ave
#2 – 1055 West Hastings Street (Guinness Tower)
1626 W Broadway
Biercraft Tap and Tapas Bar
1191 Commercial Dr