Northern Exposure

Anh-Minh Le | August 2, 2017 | Story Further Afield Travel National

During a recent long weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, sure, Stanley Park—with its aquarium, gardens and totem poles—beckoned. As did the showroom of artist and designer Martha Sturdy, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, where the forest-themed works by British Columbia’s own Emily Carr are currently on view. A rental car allowed for the quick jaunt to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, while a kayak outing with Ecomarine provided exceptional views and a unique vantage point of the city. Upscale department store Holt Renfrew, as well as the Lululemon Lab—the activewear label’s concept space that carries limited-edition pieces—gave me ample opportunity to hand over some Canadian dollars.

But I’m the type of traveler who devotes as much time to planning snack stops and restaurant reservations as I do cultural activities. (Though one could argue that a destination’s food is a big part of its culture.) So it was Vancouver’s culinary landscape that had me wringing my hands in anticipation as I embarked on the two-hour flight from San Francisco. British Columbia’s largest city is an embarrassment of riches for those who love globally inflected foods—teeming with top-notch options, high and low. An afternoon at the Granville Island Public Market alone (1669 Johnston St.), which draws both locals and visitors, can easily satiate the international palate: Mexican, German, Italian and Japanese are among the cuisines purveyed in the stalls. (On Thursdays, through Sept. 28, there’s also a weekly farmers market on the island.)

I didn’t have to go very far, though, to enjoy one of the restaurants on my must-try list: Market by Jean-Georges (1115 Alberni St.) is located in the Shangri-La hotel, where I was staying. In addition to Jean-Georges Vongerichten classics—like the brioche French toast with roasted apples and crispy bacon (a great way to start the morning) and the earthy truffle and fontina pizza (on the lunch, dinner and poolside menus)—Market’s refined fare spotlights seasonal and regional ingredients while mining global gastronomy. Executive chef Ken Nakano is a Vancouver native who favors Canadian ingredients, sourcing from the likes of North Arm Farm, Barnston Island and Two Rivers Meat.

A few blocks down the street is another highly regarded hotel restaurant: Hawksworth (801 W. Georgia). Celebrated chef David Hawksworth’s namesake in the Rosewood serves up inspired contemporary Canadian dishes that deftly marry flavors and textures—for example, Alberta beef striploin with short-rib croquettes atop a buttery potato puree. During my visit, the creme catalana delivered a delicious finale: The custard was paired with aerated yuzu and grapefruit gelée, along with rice crackers that provided a wonderful crunch. An extensive wine list, complex craft cocktails and zero-proof drinks add to the reasons to dine here. (Hawksworth also opened a buzzy, more casual eatery, Nightingale, last year.)

Since Japanese cuisine is a favorite of mine, I was especially looking forward to my meal at Miku (70-200 Granville St.). The waterfront restaurant is known for its flame-seared, or aburi, sushi; the technique enhances the natural flavor and texture of the seafood. The much-hyped salmon oshi sushi—rice layered with B.C. wild sockeye salmon, the caramelized Miku signature sauce and jalapeno—did not disappoint. The herb-beer battered ebi fritter, silky miso-baked sablefish and green tea opera cake were also standouts.

On another evening, Bauhaus (1 W. Cordova St.) transported my taste buds to another part of the world: Germany. Dinner is served à la carte or as a tasting menu (CA$79 for four courses, CA$99 for six courses). I opted for the former because I wanted to try the Wiener schnitzel, ordered with potatoes and white asparagus. The breading—golden-hued, crisp and light—envelopes a tender slice of veal. The evening ended with a decidedly more fanciful item: a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, composed of tart lemon nuggets and creme fraiche ice cream, surmounting a wafer-thin cookie ring.

My daytime eating was reserved primarily for casual spots, like street-style tacos at La Taqueria and doughnuts from Cartems Donuterie, both of which have several venues in the city. Even though I don’t consider myself a sandwich person, when Silicon Valley contributing writer Carolyn Jung recommended Meat & Bread (multiple locations), I couldn’t not go. At the Cambie Street outpost, four sandwiches are available seven days a week: a porchetta, meatball, daily special and vegetarian option. The porchetta is composed of juicy, slow-roasted pork; plied with herbs and a salt rub; cloaked in a housemade salsa verde riddled with crackling bits; all tucked into a chewy ciabatta roll. Are you drooling? I am, just typing that sentence. While porchetta originated in Italy, fortunately, I only need to travel to Vancouver to satisfy my craving.

Originally published in the July/August issue of Silicon Valley

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