T+L File: Vancouver
Published: June 2009
By Bonnie Tsui
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.
Bruce (1038 Alberni St.; 604/688-8802), a two-year-old boutique, has fast become Vancouver's model for fashionable living, with everything from Jimmy Choos to street-savvy Gravis clothes. • Martha Sturdy Originals (3039 S. Granville St.; 604/737-0037; www.marthasturdy.com) is the gem of South Granville's "the Rise," a busy strip of great shopping. It's the only retail store of Canadian design icon Martha Sturdy; her line of housewares has recently extended to wall sculptures and jewelry. • Eugene Choo (3683 Main St.; 604/873-8874) carries work by local designers, including Victoria's own Smoking Lily, whose line is decorated with images from vintage science-book illustrations (weight lifters, dumbbells, anatomically correct hearts). • Inform Interiors (97 Water St.; 604/682-3868; www.informinteriors.com) sells furniture, lighting, and home accessories in a sleek, spacious store. Its walls are inscribed with lofty design-themed quotes, including one from Mies van der Rohe: "A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier."
Save It For a Rainy Day
Vancouver is the rainiest city in North America, measuring some 45 inches per year. Here, some places to duck into between puddle jumps. • Skoah Spa + Store (1011 Hamilton St.; 604/642-0200; www.skoah.com) offers a simple menu of affordable spa treatments. Owners Chris Scott and Jamie McKeough visited more than 30 New York spas to come up with their version of modern luxury: prompt, attentive service at half the price. • Light up legally and kick back in the private smoke room at La Casa del Habano (980 Robson St.; 604/609-0511; www.lacasadelhabanocanada.com), a cigar shop where photos of Fidel adorn the walls. • Retreat into Don't Show the Elephant Gallery & Café (1201 Hamilton St.; 604/331-1018) for a selection of fragrant imported teas (French raisin, blackberry-apricot, deep-roasted Japanese fruit) and a serene setting furnished with high-backed Scandinavian chairs.
This month's opening of the 97-room Opus Hotel (322 Davie St.; 866/642-6787 or 604/642-6787; www.opushotel.com; doubles from $185) completes the reinvention of the Yaletown neighborhood from run-down warehouse sector to trendy shopping district and restaurant-packed waterfront. Choose among different room "personalities," from Hollywood outré to modern minimalist. • Even after 26 years, the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (791 W. Georgia St.; 800/332-3442 or 604/689-9333; www.fourseasons.com/vancouver; doubles from $255) remains a paragon of service and style. The harbor, city, and mountain views from its 385 rooms make staying in and ordering room service a dream. • At the Pacific Palisades Hotel (1277 Robson St.; 800/663-1815 or 604/688-0461; www.pacificpalisadeshotel.com; doubles from $185), L.A. interior designer Cheryl Rowley colored the 233 rooms with a wild citrus palette. • Guests at the historic 1939 Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 W. Georgia St.; 800/441-1414 or 604/684-3131; www.fairmont.com; doubles from $186) are in good company. The hotel has played host to Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI, as well as such Hollywood royalty as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, and Katharine Hepburn.