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Opened last year, Nightingale diverges from the corporate and chain restaurants of Coal Harbour district to appeal to a wide clientele. The design-chic space, buzzing atmosphere and lip-smacking food make this the Vancouver restaurant of the moment. Well-known Vancouver chef David Hawksworth concentrates on the contemporary Canadian shared-plate concept, with dishes changing by the season; feature dishes only run for a few days. Simple heirloom-tomato salad and roasted cauliflower with harissa are sensational; save room for lamb cheeks with pickled mushrooms. Nightingale also serves Neapolitan-style pizzas with trendy toppings. The bar, especially lively on Friday evenings, serves cheeky cocktails and craft beers. See hawknightingale.com.
Stuffed animal heads draped in hats and scarves leer down from the exposed brick walls of this American tavern lodged incongruously in the heart of Chinatown. Its updated versions of classic American food, with zing-added Asian influences, are right on trend and designed to accompany cocktails based on bourbon, tequila or Guatemalan rum. Chow down on cornbread with jalapeno butter, blackened fish po'boy, or fried chicken with chilli honey, and finish with the chocolate-slathered Mississippi mud pie. The comfort food, eccentric decor and a relaxed vibe all make this a great spot to kick off the night over drinks and nibbles. See mamietaylors.ca.
Unrepentant carnivores will be very happy with this "whole-animal cookery" in Gastown, whose menu runs to bison carpaccio, venison Bolognese and elk loin with smoked potatoes. The really adventurous can tuck into horse tartare or "popcorn" duck hearts. The piece de resistance is a 32-ounce Angus rib-eye with foie gras and bone-marrow jus. The restaurant sits inside a refurbished 19th-century building whose industrial chic, worn timber tables and dim lighting complement the food. A front-of-house bar serves inventive cocktails, and an open kitchen allows you to see sizzling pans in action. Wildebeest also does great brunches. See wildebeest.ca.
NICLI ANTICA PIZZERIA
This apparently simple pizzeria may be named after the chef's grandfather, but happily eschews Italian retro style (or lack thereof) in favour of sleek white tiles, exposed brick walls and a long, curvaceous bar. Apart from a few entrees and desserts, it only does pizza, and that sparingly, with 10 choices. But the pizzas, thin-based and lightly loaded in the traditional way, are a wonder of blistered, wood-fired artistry in the authentic Neapolitan fashion. Ingredients sometimes veer into contemporary updates, such as fior de latte mozzarella with smoked bacon, or mushroom and black kale. See niclipizzeria.com.
Food-truck owners Clement Chan and Steve Kuan launched this space on Chinatown's fringes in 2015 and have been packing in the diners ever since. Canadians eat early, and queues form before sundown. You sit elbow-to-elbow in this 48-seat diner as woks flare from the open kitchen and tattooed waitresses circulate. The Asian-fusion cuisine leans heavily on Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese and Vietnamese influences; the experimentation provides many hits and a few misses. Favourites include spicy marinated chicken wings, and ramen noodles with glazed duck leg. The bar serves up interesting cocktails such as a spiced watermelon margarita and a strawberries-and-cream negroni. See torafuku.ca.
It's easy to walk past this Gastown establishment's darkened, unappealing windows, but don't. This is one very classy bar whose dim, dramatic interior and purple and pink mood lighting provide for intimate get-togethers or simply chilling out. Mosquito focuses on matching desserts (and a few savoury snacks) with matching champagne, champagne cocktails and sweet wines. The desserts are beautifully plated and beautifully tasty, ranging from a pumpkin-saffron creme brulee laden with orange liquor to a chestnut sponge with maple and caramel. If the sugar doesn't go to your head, the bubbles will, and you'll depart very happy. See mosquitodessert.com.
Brian Johnston was a guest of Destination British Columbia and Tourism Vancouver.
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