SMALL BUT MIGHTY CHABROL SERVES UP EXCELLENT SOUTHERN FRENCH CUISINE
The buttery, unforgettable tarte aux pommes.
Chef Doug Penfold knows Spanish food. For years he’s served some of the city’s best tapas at midtown institution Cava. Turns out he’s equally passionate about French fare, as evidenced by his cooking at Chabrol, a tiny bistro Penfold launched with Cava co-owner Niall McCotter. Set back from the bustle of Yorkville Avenue, it’s an elegant hideaway for unfussy indulgence. Order and aperitif and some oysters, then spoil yourself with the rich wild mushroom and artichoke ragout—plus the chef’s acclaimed tarte aux pommes for dessert.—Craig Moy
•90 Yorkville Ave., 416-428-6641; chabrolrestaurant.com
• Map and reviews
Sockeye salmon rolls, lobster rolls and assorted nigiri sushi, at Ki Modern Japanese + Bar. Photo by KK Law
These out-of-sight patios offer the ultimate in alfresco good taste.
1 Ki Modern Japanese + Bar (pictured) Superlative sushi and more are best enjoyed on the tony bamboo-clad rooftop terrace.
2 The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant This Granville Island rooftop deck features a fireplace and afternoon mussels-and-beer specials.
3 Crave Go early to feast on chef Wayne Martin’s casual West Coast bites on the sunny back patio.
4 Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar Well-matched wines and local fare are served in an intimate atrium.
5 Le Gavroche A duo of white-linen-clad tables (yes, just two) above the front door invites lunchtime lingering overlooking the street.
6 Reflections West Coast brunch or cocktails and tapas are served in style at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s gorgeously appointed fourth-floor outdoor lounge-bar.—Tim Pawsey
Roasted Pacific cod with ratatouille provençale and brandade croquette, at Le Parisien. Photo by KK Law
Le Parisien, John Blakeley’s remake of the much-loved former Café de Paris, pays homage in true bistro style. Locals flock to the West End hideaway for addictive smoked chicken liver and foie gras parfait, cassoulet, côte de boeuf, sweetbreads and just-crispy duck confit. Another tradition reborn: you can drop by for an early-morning cafe au lait and croissant, or for a full-blown weekend brunch, complete with boudin noir and crêpe Bretagne.—Tim Pawsey
L'Abattoir photo by KK Law
Who’d have thought that the site of Vancouver’s first jail would go on to house one of the city’s finest food destinations? Chic L’Abattoir, which nabbed the #3 spot in enRoute’s 2011 list of the best new restaurants in Canada, keeps diners coming back thanks to the French-influenced West Coast fare and scene-stealing decor. —Jennifer Patterson
Dinner is a fun affair when you head to Black Cat Bistro in Little Italy, starting from the moment you walk in the door. The décor is both chic and cozy, making it the perfect place for a special occasion or dinner with pals. The food is colourful, prettily plated, and pulls from classic French cuisine. And if you love hamburgers, we recommend “Burger Tuesdays,” which sees the creative minds in the kitchen whipping up a different burger every week. Save room for something sweet (the unique “Rocky Road” dessert is a must). 428 Preston St., 613-569-9998.
The Dirty Apron Cooking School
Kitchen newbies, confident gourmands and ready-to-go pros enjoy picking up new tips and tricks, not to mention stuffing themselves with tasty morsels, at downtown’s cool Dirty Apron Cooking School. Add a few West Coast recipes to your repertoire and try your hand at preparing the best of the Pacific Ocean (May 4, 5, 7, 16, 30, 31). Take a trip around the world and learn to cook Italian at the Mamma Mia classes (May 1, 9, 15, 19, 24, 28), or feel like a Parisian in French class (May 2, 10, 14). And don’t forget your mom! She’ll love the just-for-her courses (May 12, 13).—Jennifer Patterson
Poutine photo copyright LauriPatterson/Istockphoto
Poutine has arrived with a vengeance: West Coasters have fallen hard for Quebec’s favourite comfort food of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. Whether your tastes are traditionally inclined (Fritz or Dunn’s Famous) or you prefer poutine pimped out with truffle oil (La Brasserie) or lobster (Coast), chances are you’ll find some you like—especially if you’re staring down no less than 26 options at La Belle Patate. No frills here, but you can order everything from haché to Mexicana—although the Montreal smoked meat gets our vote.—Tim Pawsey
The bar and meat-aging cellar at Black + Blue. Photo by KK Law
Downtown’s newest steak emporium, Black + Blue (pictured) is a positive stunner with no shortage of buzz, wrapping prime beef and killer cocktails in a dazzling three-tiered setting highlighted by a glass-walled elevator. Uber-cuts from the Himalayan-salt-walled dry-aging room range from PEI Blue Ribbon and Canadian Reserve Angus to USDA RR Ranch and Wagyu, grilled precisely to taste and offered with a variety of sauces. Good sustainable seafood options cater to the less carnivorously inclined. Think high-energy protein palace…then multiply by 100. For a less contemporary though still very flavourful take on steak, wander down to clubby Hy’s Encore, established in 1962. For simple but flawless steak frîtes, and wines to go along, rendez-vous chez Bistro Pastis.—Tim Pawsey
Pork rack chop with Parmesan gnocchi and bacon jus, at Hamilton Street Grill. Photo by KK Law
4 Eco-Friendly Eats
Looking for a meal that’s as good for the environment as it is for you? These Green Table–certified restaurants are sustainable from top to bottom.
1 Hamilton Street Grill Warm and friendly, this converted Yaletown warehouse is known for certified Angus steaks and great seafood.
2 Raincity Grill Across the street from English Bay beach, regional-seasonal plates are paired with wines from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
3 Commune Cafe Right downtown, this minimalist cafeteria-style spot with a hipster buzz serves all things free-range, organic and sustainable, from dawn to dusk and beyond. (more…)
Boneta's new digs. Photo by KK Law
Gastown’s popular Boneta has moved—almost right next door. The edgy new spot, tucked in behind Gassy Jack’s statue, sports a French-inspired, locally grounded menu and a convenient back door off Blood Alley. Those seeking more traditional continental fare head to Water Street Cafe, while seafood lovers pack into Cork & Fin and hop hounds find the city’s best craft brew selection at cozy and casual Alibi Room.—Tim Pawsey
BONETA Bartender of the Year, Vancouver magazine 2011. This modern bistro serves artfully presented dishes on a constantly changing menu. Reservations advised. $$. D (M-Sa). 12 Water St. 604-684-1844. www.boneta.ca
WATER STREET Cafe Overlooks Gastown’s cobbled streets and trademark steam clock. Fresh seafood, veal, lamb and daily specials. Private dining rooms. Reservations recommended. $$. L/D (daily). 300 Water St. 604-689-2832.
CORK & FIN Casual seafood and wine bistro. Decadent seafood dishes, oyster bar and vegetarian items. $$-$$$. D (Tu-Su). 221 Carrall St. 604-569-2215. www.corkandfin.ca
THE ALIBI ROOM Trendy spot serves dishes inspired by the modern English tavern. Menu changes seasonally. DJs (F-Sa). $$. D (Tu-Sa), brunch (Sa-Su). 157 Alexander St. 604-623-3383. www.alibi.ca
The French Table photo by KK Law
Chef Hervé Martin, who closed his long-running Hermitage earlier this year, has resurfaced at Main and 23rd, just a short cab ride from downtown. The French Table (pictured), neighbourhood bistro in style, sports a menu hinging on classics such as coq au vin, duck confit, steak frîtes and pan-fried sweetbreads, along with an approachable wine list that still includes Martin’s family-estate Burgundy. Find more good Gallic fare at North Vancouver’s Chez Michel and at west side Mistral Bistro.—Tim Pawsey
The French Table, $$. L (M-F), D (daily), brunch (Sa-Su). 3916 Main St. 604-689-3237.
Chez Michel Restaurant, $$. L/D (Tu-Sa). 1373 Marine Dr., West Vancouver. 604-926-4913.
Mistral Bistro, $$. L/D (Tu-Sa). 2585 W. Broadway. 604-733-0046.