Vancouver Must-Eats for Autumn 2018

Snuggle season.

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“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall”—apt words from Oscar Wilde to capture the shift to cooler climes. Sweater weather is upon us, and with it come all of the seasonal cravings for comfort food.

Begin with Popina Canteen, which quickly became a culinary darling of Vancouver’s Granville Island when it launched in the summer. As the unique chef-driven brainchild of Angus An, Hamid Salimian, Robert Belcham, and Joël Watanabe, Popina’s menu of elevated fast-food favourites bears a unique flavour stamp from each one of these chefs. Along with the freshly installed patio heaters and awning, they’re also featuring a new slate of fall dishes that’ll warm diners from the inside out. Flavours of Mussels and Fries include classic white wine and thyme, coconut turmeric with lemongrass and makrut lime, and spicy tomato saffron, while made-to-order Black Pepper Crab offers a piquant palate punch. And gluten-free eaters will rejoice at the wealth of choices, including chicken-fried Humboldt squid and fish and chips that are both made with Nextjen Gluten Free artisan blends in a dedicated gluten-free fryer.

Of course, this weather calls for some seriously warming drinks as well. Bar manager Peter Van de Reep presides behind the wood at Upstairs at Campagnolo, where the chill speakeasy vibe and alternative hip-hop backbeat make it a favourite spot of cocktail devotees and post-shift industry folk alike. The drinks sheet focuses on booze-forward classics along with riffs on traditional recipes; Van de Reep lists a Corpse Reviver No. 2 and oak barrel-aged negroni alongside The Drink With No Name, the latter being an intensely roasty riff on a Boulevardier. With a Court of Master Sommeliers accreditation under his belt, Van de Reep also expertly curates the concise wine selection to feature his unique favourites such as Syncromesh’s 2017 Cachola cabernet franc, “a super delicious and crushable red” from his favourite Okanagan winery. Beer and cider lovers aren’t left wanting, either, with a choice selection of brews available on draught and in cans, including well-balanced Strange Fellows Talisman Pale Ale and crisp, dry Tod Creek Craft Cider. And one can’t overlook the Upstairs bar eats—the iconic Dirty Burger is a mainstay on a seasonally rotating menu, which features snacks like Chanterelle Mushroom Arancini and Beef Tartare along with heavy-hitting plates such as Whole Confit Duck and the one-kilogram Big Boy Pork Chop.

Over on Commercial Drive, regular dinner lineups at Kishimoto attest to the creativity and finesse with which chef Akira Kishimoto deftly elevates the neighbourhood dining experience. Check his fall specials list for seasonal Tempura of Matsutake Mushrooms and Japanese Squid with black truffle salt, and balanced Matsutake Chawan Mushi with pine mushrooms, prawn, chicken, and edamame. Kishimoto’s impeccably executed sashimi and sushi boast flawless knife work; nigiri standouts include Tai Kobujime, a rare preparation of sea bream cured with kelp and sea salt, and Ahi Zuke, red tuna marinated in wasabi soy (speaking of soy, Akira-san makes his gluten-free tamari-shoyu in house). His Smoked Oshi is delightfully served as a single piece beneath a cloche, perfuming the torched wild local salmon oshizushi with cherry-wood smoke. But Kishimoto’s Sous Vide Duck Soba is the ne plus ultra of autumn dishes. Yarrow Meadows duck breast is prepared sous vide to maintain its juicy tenderness, and it’s served in a warm soy-dashi dipping sauce with sliced leeks and toasted white sesame seeds, accompanying a tangle of matcha buckwheat soba sprinkled with shredded seaweed. It’s hearty yet elegant, packed with umami, and utterly delicious.

Further east still, The Pie Shoppe is a serene oasis that lovingly pays homage to local farmers and producers. Launching their business in 2012, sister duo Stephanie and Andrea French moved from teeny Chinatown digs to their current space on Powell Street in 2016. Salted Honey Pie is a regular menu favourite—the Frenchs’ nod to sugar pie that they grew up eating during their childhood in Ottawa. Working with beekeepers from all over the region to make it special, they’re especially fond of wildflower honey from East Van Bees. It’s the story behind their gluten-free Roasted East Van Plum Streusel, though, that is a particular testament to the incredible sense of community that Andrea and Stephanie nurture. Sons of Vancouver Distillery use The Pie Shoppe’s apricot kernels as noyaux d’abricot from which it makes its Amaretto; in turn, the sisters use this Amaretto to flavour neighbourhood plums from Mr. Ho’s back garden, and they make their streusel with spent almond meal from Nemesis Coffee’s almond mylk. There’s more than just sweet here, too: the 100 Mile Savoury Pie menu features three take-and-bake options that are ideal for easy weeknight suppers or holiday entertaining. Choose from Herb-Roasted Turkey with birds from Yarrow farm, Traditional Tourtière with pork from Two Rivers Meats, and Roasted Veggie with produce from Cherry Lane Farms, Late Bloomers, and Glorious Organics.

And just outside the city, Burnaby Heights is home to decadent pastries, viennoiseries, and award-winning chocolates made in the Swiss tradition. Christophe and Jess Bonzon have been indulging the palates of Lower Mainland sweet-lovers at Chez Christophe since 2013, and they recently expanded to a beautifully appointed new spot across the street that could accommodate the growing demand for their skillfully crafted treats. Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Dragées—toasted hazelnuts tossed in warm fall spices and pumpkin, and coated in caramelized white chocolate—are perfect one-bite morsels. And the Apple Pie Chocolate Bark is truly special, enrobing freeze-dried local apples and caramelized almonds in single-origin milk chocolate with hints of cinnamon. Finally, there is Chez Christophe’s Plum Danish: a wonderfully flaky, lightly sweet partner to a cup of tea on a chilly fall morning.

A little excess is the perfect antidote to fall’s grey, rainy skies. Immerse in some overindulgence this autumn.


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September 28, 2018