Just returned from a trip to Vancouver and was most impressed with the food there. I regret that I did not have the time to go to any of the less expensive places or any great Chinese restaurant, but here is where I did go:
Tojo's. A quaint, busy little place with a nice view from most tables. Very simple decor with very earnest service. The food was spectacular. Aside from a la carte sushi, one can order various levels of chef's dinners ($55, $75, $100, and $100+). We had the $75 and every dish ranged from very good to truly excellent. Excellent value for the money. In summary, the best sushi I've had in Canada and it beats out my previous favourite, Hiro Sushi in Toronto.
Lumiere. What can I say about a restaurant experience that was virtually perfect? Everything about Lumiere exceeded my already high expectations. Even before the meal began I was impressed that the walls in the washroom and adjacent corridor were lined with beautifully framed menus from the great restaurants of the world (eg. Georges Blanc, Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Ducasse, Fredy Girardet, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Au Crocodile, Paul Bocuse, and who knows what else was in the women's washroom!). Many of these menus had been signed by the chefs with personal remarks to Rob Feenie (Lumiere's chef). This was a chef who clearly has been actively travelling to improve his skill.
The decor was very sophisticated with well spaced tables. The service was impeccable - friendly, prompt, and very knowledgeable. Every waiter seemed to have detailed knowledge about the preparation of each food item - they had clearly been well-trained by the chef.
Now the food... All food is served in one of 4 tasting menus (no a la carte options): a vegetarian menu ($80), a seafood menu ($90), the "chef's menu" ($90), and the "signature menu" ($125). We had the "signature menu" - 13 separate courses (including an amuse-bouche and after-dinner chocolates). There were too many unbelievable items to go into detail on them all, but some highlights: butter-braised lobster with marscapone risotto, seared scallops with blacck truffle beurre blanc, braised veal cheeks and roasted veal loin. We also had the accompanying flight of wines (additional $65) - generally well thought out with a few very pleasant surprises. In summary, I think this is the best high-end restaurant in Canada, with the caveat that I have not yet been to Eigensinn Farm or any high-end restaurant in Montreal. It certainly exceeds anything in Toronto.
C Restaurant. On any other day this would have been a phenomenal seafood experience. Unfortunately, I went the night following my virtually perfect Lumiere dinner. C is excellent and we all very much enjoyed our beautiful dishes. Service was very good. The view of the marina was quite nice (heartening for us from Toronto to realize that it is actually possible to have a good restaurant on the waterfront!). I had the warm lobster salad (very good) followed by the seared scallops wrapped in grilled octopus (awesome!).
Well, that's it. My sad conclusion as a Toronto native is that, at it's heights, I think Vancouver's best beats Toronto's best. I hope to return to see the depths of Vancouver's restaurant scene and try some less expensive places and, especially, some nice Chinese restaurants...
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