Since returning from Vancouver last week, I’ve jumped rope each day in a vain attempt to work off the abundance of calories I consumed there. I ran down some of those dishes on Friday, but since a central focus of the press trip was the incredible food that this city’s chefs conjure, I had more than I could stuff into one post. I didn’t get a decent picture of a few memorable dishes: The incredible charcuterie inside Salt Tasting Room, a dim, romantic wine-and-cheese (and meat) tasting bar down Blood Alley, or plump, raw oysters and charred octopus at Boulevard, the see-and-be-seen oyster bar and restaurant inside the Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver. Yet here are a few more I managed to capture and are making me hungry as I remember them.
‘Tropical’ salmon at Chambar.
Chambar is a perennial Vancouver hotspot, pulling in the crowds with its extensive Belgian beer list and cuisine to match. Last year, they moved to airy new digs in Vancouver’s Gastown. On the bottom floor is a rustic, earthy private event space, and it was here that we were treated to a six-course tasting menu that showed off the mad skills of Belgian-trained chef Nico Schuemans. The dishes ranged from game to seafood, and included the luscious, exquisitely composed “Thon tropicale,” cubes of salmon marinated in pomegranate juice and then arranged with kumquats and puffed black rice atop a coconut-jalapeño remoulade.
Single-origin chocolates at East Van Roasters
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is famously Canada’s “poorest post code,” but it’s also a vibrant neighborhood dotted with inspiring social enterprises. On a walking tour of a few of those businesses, we met the crew of East Van Roasters, a chocolate shop and café that employs women in transition. Through glass walls, customers can watch the women winnow the fair-trade beans and then shape them into chocolates. Manager Shelley Bolton explained the process and social enterprise model to us over some rich café mochas and a tasting “flight” of single-origin chocolate bars made from beans sourced in Peru, Madagascar, and the Dominican Republic. Their flavors ranged from spice and berries to citrus and even hints of flowers.
Fennel-apple soup at MARKET by Jean-Georges
This was the moment before a barely-sweet fennel-and-apple soup was poured atop this artful arrangement of fennel fronds and slivered apples. It was part of the antioxidant-stuffed ‘Food For Thought’ tasting menu that chef de cuisine Scott Henderson created for us inside MARKET by Jean-Georges, the elegant, earth-toned restaurant inside the Shangri-La Hotel. Downstairs, the hotel’s lobby was filled with cast and crew for the shooting of an episode of Mistresses (starring Alyssa Milano). Upstairs, we feasted on steamed halibut, mackerel tartare and roasted duck with date sauce. Jean-Georges Vongerichten wasn’t in the house, but Henderson — who is passionate about sustainable seafood — did him proud.
Maple-seared sablefish in the Vancouver Convention Centre test dining room
One of the best dishes of the trip came — inside a convention center? Yep. Since 1991, the Vancouver Convention Centre has had a world-renowned chef behind the stick, Blair Rasmussen, who has helped shape a modern British Columbia cuisine that tends to fuse Asian touches and flavors with farm- (and ocean-) to-table ingredients. Nestled within the Centre’s massive kitchen is a private, white-tablecloth dining room where catering staff can test dishes out on potential clients. Coming off the crazed days of the TED2015 conference — for which he created 250 new dishes — chef Rasmussen (and his team) whipped up a scrumptious lunch that married unlikely ingredients in alluring ways. His seared sablefish, with just a hint of maple syrup clinging to its edges, was tender and buttery.
The humble Japadog food cart has been “making the world happy and alive through hotdogs” (their motto) for a decade now, topping fat bratwursts with morsels such as seaweed, miso, or deep-fried pork cutlets (katsu). As serendipity would have it, the Japadog cart did brisk business right outside the Sutton Place Hotel, where we were staying. On our last night in Vancouver, we dutifully trekked from our dinner inside Boulevard to the Japadog cart, one side of which is plastered with a pictorial menu and the the other, photos of celebrities enjoying Japadogs. On the recommendation of Amber Sessions, Tourism Vancouver’s manager of travel and trade media relations, we collectively ordered an oroshi dog. The weiner arrived on a charred bun topped with minced radish and soy sauce, but we slathered on some wasabi mayonnaise, too, and divvied it up. While the dog couldn’t quite hold a match to the outrageously delicious food we’d eaten for three days straight, a late-night Japadog definitely hits the spot.