Want to shake up your regular dining routine? This list of under-the-radar bites and sips across the Lower Mainland is sure to invigorate your adventurous palate.
Chef J.C. Poirier’s regular menu at award-winning St. Lawrence is a playfully decadent marriage of dishes from his Québécois roots with classical French recipes. Those in the know, however, call ahead to preorder one of Poirier’s elegant off-menu sharing dishes for feasting in truly extravagant French style. There’s poisson en croûte—ling cod enveloped in a delicate pastry crust—or Cornish hen stuffed with veal sweetbreads for an indulgent main course à deux, while hearty rib-eye steak with sauce Foyot is perfect for three or four people. These specialty items require a week’s advance notice to prepare, but good things are definitely worth the wait.
Expertly crafted pasta and pizza take centre stage at Campagnolo Roma, but sous chef Campbell Hart steals the show with his sourdough bread. He bakes it fresh daily with a blend of organic spelt and red-fife flours milled by Vancouver-based Grain, and his passion for the noble loaf runs deep. “Bread is my first love all over again,” he says, acknowledging that his constant striving to produce a better version “is like a love letter that never ends.” Don’t hesitate to order it when you see it on the specials board. Its well-developed crust and crumb, and delicately nutty flavour, will keep you coming back for more.
Although South Burnaby doesn’t readily spring to mind as a locale for top-notch Japanese fare, chefs Tatsuya Katagiri and Yoshiaki Maniwa (of the now-closed and beloved Zest Japanese Cuisine) blew that out of the water by opening Stem Japanese Eatery on Rumble Street at Royal Oak. It’s more casual and neighbourhood-oriented than the couple’s previous Kitsilano digs, but it’s rapidly becoming a destination restaurant for their former Zest clientele. There’s definitely no compromise on sharp execution and high-quality seasonal ingredients with their izakaya-focused menu. Katagiri is quite an oenophile, and he’s especially proud of his tightly curated wine list that features noteworthy B.C. operations including Orofino and Pentage.
Chef Justin Cheung’s crispy chicken wings at Longtail Kitchen are the stuff that finger-licking cravings are made of. They’re lightly battered and seasoned with salt, sugar, chili powder, and a sprinkling of fried shallots—invariably the first dish to disappear from the table. But it’s his secret menu item that really takes the craving factor over the top; call or email Longtail a couple of days in advance and preorder Cheung’s sticky chicken wings. First crisp-fried, they’re glazed with an irresistible combination of palm sugar, pandan leaf, and fish-sauce caramel. One taste and you’ll be making the drive to New Westminster more often than you’ll care to admit.
While there is a plethora of Richmond restaurants to choose from, Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine is the latest dim sum darling. All the usual suspects are available with a little luxe twist; chef specialties include steamed dried seafood dumplings in soup, and a pyramid of truffle, gai lan, ginger, and egg white fried rice. But the unsung hero here is the deep-fried salmon skin tossed in salted duck egg yolk. An addictively crunchy umami bomb, it’s the Asian snack food that you never knew you needed.
Step outside of your comfort zone and try something different. Your taste buds will thank you for it.
UPDATE, December 2018: Campagnolo Roma has closed down.