Fusion describes more than just the food in Vancouver. Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences bring global culture as well as cuisine to Canada's third-largest city. It's where urban sophistication (stunningly modern buildings, stylish boutiques, inventive new restaurants) meets clean outdoor living—where else can you hit world-class skiing, scuba diving, windsurfing, rock-climbing, and sailing in the same day?(All this is affordable, too, thanks to the American dollar's muscle across the border.) And with artists, fashion designers, and media upstarts seemingly popping out of the woodwork, this rapidly growing culture capital continues to attract worldwide attention. No wonder Vancouver, with its blend of city and country, is often called the Pacific Northwest's most livable town.
Tender is the operative word for beef tenderloin marinated in Demerara sugar and tamarind, a popular dish at Vij's (1480 W. 11th Ave.; 604/736-6664; dinner for two $50), the place to go for curry art. They don't take reservations, so head there early. • The Blue Water Café & Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton St.; 604/688-8078; dinner for two $96) employs a two-pronged approach to dining, with an open grill on one side and sushi bar on the other. The oyster menu spans the globe, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia to France. • The staff at Raincity Grill (1193 Denman St.; 604/685-7337; brunch for two $30) can tell you everything you want to know about wine, using their 10-year regional compilation from Pacific Northwest vineyards. They make a mean brunch, too; walk off that hazelnut brioche on a rolling green in nearby Stanley Park. • Wild Rice (117 W. Pender St.; 604/642-2882; dinner for two $35) is where you'll find updated versions of Chinese classics: wonton soup with blackened scallions, ginger and eucalyptus honey—roasted sablefish over rice noodles.
Once a certain kind of gentlemen's club, Lucy Mae Brown (862 Richards St.; 604/899-9199) has become respectable, but its air of smoky luxury remains. Slip into one of the restaurant-lounge's deep blue velvet banquettes for a Savoy Royale, a fizzy raspberry cocktail. • Alibi Room (157 Alexander St.; 604/623-3383) serves as a cool hangout and weekend dance club for night owls. But by day, it holds film screenings and jazz brunches. • Descend a sweeping staircase off Howe Street to the Element Sound Lounge (604/669-0806), in the basement of the Hotel Georgia (801 W. Georgia St.). Opened last fall, the bar is graced by 30-foot vaulted ceilings, admittedly less noticeable when the dance floor gets packed. • Stop in for a shot of glamour at Ginger 62 (1219 Granville St.; 604/688-5494), a lounge with a sexy red interior.
With its burgeoning population from across the Pacific, Vancouver is bound to have some delectable imports. •Watch master chef Hidekazu Tojo put on a show at Tojo's (777 W. Broadway; 604/872-8050; dinner for two at the sushi bar $110). Among his star attractions are cubed red albacore tuna dabbed with sesame sauce, and a lobster and asparagus hand roll topped with Pacific smoked salmon. •Ê The handmade sweets at Hidemi Japanese Confectionery (409 W. Hastings St.; 604/685-3731) are a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Candy girl Hidemi Kitano sells adorable creations imported from Osaka, including flower-shaped jellies and rice crackers packaged as tiny geisha dolls. •Ê The popular late-night Kita No Ya Guu (838 Thurlow St.; 604/685-8817; dinner for two $38) serves Japanese-style dim sum: hot pots, rice, deep-fried chicken drumsticks, and grilled beef plates.