Vancouver is among the liveliest food cities in the world, and Vancouver Island, just a short ferry ride away, also has a thriving culinary scene. Their locations give them access to the rich fisheries of the area, and seafood and shellfish feature on almost every menu. Two of Canada’s leading wine regions — the Okanagan and Cowichan valleys — are close by. Here are four restaurants that we particularly liked.
Helmed by acclaimed chef David Hawksworth (of Hawksworth Restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia), Nightingale serves Mediterranean-inspired shared plates. Discreetly located behind a heritage façade that was preserved when a 19th-century brownstone was superseded by the 35-story MNP Tower, the dining room features double-height ceilings and walls of windows that flood the space with natural light. Aesop’s Fable “The Hawk and the Nightingale” was the inspiration for the restaurant’s name, and this story is echoed by iridescent origami birds hung in gilded cages. The menu highlights contemporary takes on regional classics with global inflections. We started with a refreshing ceviche of kanpachi (Hawaiian yellowtail) with lime, mezcal, avocado and habanero. My entrée of grilled arctic char served with lemon-braised potatoes and smoked roe was exceptional. We paired our mains with roasted cauliflower with sunflower seeds in a guajillo-and-charred-lemon dressing, one of several roasted-vegetable sides on offer. Many diners around us opted for the restaurant’s renowned pizzas. Though some may consider Nightingale to be little more than a casual alternative to the formal Hawksworth Restaurant, I found its lively ambiance and vibrant cuisine to be more in tune with the character of Vancouver itself.
1017 West Hastings Street. Tel. (604) 695-9500