When chef Evan Elman isn’t dreaming up fine dining and cannabis pairings, he’s delighting in the food scene of Vancouver, British Columbia, his Canadian coastal home.
Vancouver, the British Columbia seaport, is a relatively new city. Only a little over 100 years old, it’s perched on a peninsula surrounded by the ocean, mountains and forests. Beyond its wealth of nature, hiking trails and ski mountains, Vancouver has become a veritable dining destination, too. The city is home to a wealth of cuisines: one of the largest Chinatowns awaits, replete with regional Asian cuisines, and in downtown Vancouver, Pacific Northwestern cooking coalesces with a thriving ramen culture.
Vancouver’s coastal location means chefs and restaurants are constantly experimenting with the bounty of the ocean; oysters, shellfish and fresh sea urchins abound. Chef Evan Elman, who hosts inventive, cannabis-infused fine-dining dinner pop-ups, couldn’t be happier to be working in this city, with its ready local supply of seafood, sweetcorn and leafy vegetables.
“Being able to have these unique ingredients enables me to really spread my creative wings,” Elman says. For his dinners, he often hosts out-of-town guests, where he introduces them to delicate hunks of fresh, local uni (sea urchin) and Japanese fish – ingredients endemic to Vancouver but trickier to find elsewhere.
The city’s restaurant scene is just as diverse as its produce, its national parks and coastline. Elman suggests that any first-timer visitor must hit a few culinary pit stops on their visit. He recommends sampling, sushi, Chinese food, ramen and Pacific Northwestern modern fusion fare along the way.
Elman makes frequent visits to Fanny Bay seafood market, to stop by the oyster bar and pick up provisions. “Fanny Bay is where I get all my oysters and the majority of my shellfish,” Elman says. “You’re talking about a place that has its own oyster plot in Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island. It doesn’t get fresher than this.” Load up on the slippery bivalves (served straight up, baked or fried), mussels, clams and beer-battered fish, soaked up with hand-cut fries.
On those mornings when only a big, hearty brunch will do, Elman insists there’s no better place than the chic Homer St. Cafe and Bar in downtown Vancouver. The rotisserie is the highlight here – chicken browned and crisped up, slick with jus and served in quarter, half or whole sizes. For something a little different, sample the very same chicken in a succulent savory cobbler, filled with double-smoked bacon, buttermilk biscuits and poached eggs. If you’re not a poultry person, the rest of the brunch menu is equally as indulgent, featuring lemon ricotta fritters, rotisserie wagyu beef pastrami and duck liver parfait.
For something a little fancier, Elman recommends The Mackenzie Room, Sean Reeve’s boundary-breaking Canadian restaurant. Order a la carte or opt for the tasting menu for the full farm-to-table experience, where you’ll feast on vegetables yanked straight from the garden, perhaps beef heart crowned with egg yolk, morels and aioli or chocolate mousse piped with mascarpone. Elman’s favorite dish here is the sea urchin pâté, ready to be mopped up with ink brioche. “They call it the chicken of the sea,” Elman says. “It’s one of the best dishes I’ve had in my life.”
To explore more of Vancouver’s trendsetting food spots, head to the trendy Yaletown area. Book into this hotel and you’ll find yourself minutes from the former industrial district, where you can wander through converted redbrick warehouses dotted with cocktail bars and restaurants that spill out onto the old raised loading platforms. Closer to home, the hotel has a traditional Italian restaurant which turns out traditional nose-to-tail meat dishes and impeccable plates of handmade pasta – all made with exquisite imported Italian produce such as prosciutto and burrata.
Save your cash for Elman’s cannabis-centric fine dining and book this modern motel-style stay. Between its lush palm-edged courtyard, throwback ’50s vibe and upscale in-room extras that you wouldn’t usually find in such an affordable hotel, The Burrard is exactly the sort of laid-back, low-key luxury you’d expect from Canada’s coolest city. Downstairs you’ll find faultless back-to-basics coffee at Elysian, and a menu full of munchie-appropriate comfort food at Burgoo – think Cubano sandwiches, gooey grilled cheese, tater tots, chicken pot pie and peach crumble.
Experience a different side of Vancouver’s culinary culture by heading out on a food tour of the historic Gastown district. The area was first founded around a single saloon, and is today renowned for its restaurants and bars. A local insider will guide you round the buzzy district’s best spots and you’ll get to sample a selection of local meats and cheeses along the way, all washed down with craft beer and excellent wine.
Exploring a new city can be hungry business, so why not kill two birds with one stone with a guided food and history tour of downtown Vancouver? Along the way you’ll partake in six food tastings (sampling quintessential Canadian classics like poutine and maple syrup), learn all about the thriving food scene in the city, and discover the area’s heritage.