Top 10 Restaurants I Tried in 2015

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As 2015 is coming to an end, I thought it would be fun to look back at the restaurants that I’ve tried during the year to pick my top favourites. These are restaurants that I discovered in 2015 of which I personally enjoyed and now frequent or would love to revisit again in the near future. I couldn’t pick my top favourite so they are randomly ordered. I’d also like to take this chance to thank all the readers who have followed me this past year and I can’t wait to share my food adventures with you all in the new year! Happy New Year!

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Sushi by Yuji
Cuisine: Japanese (Sushi)

A hidden gem I discovered this year is this tiny Japanese run sushi spot offering fresh sashimi and eye-catching nigiris. Good quality and reasonably priced.

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Café Salade de Fruits
Cuisine: French

A longtime restaurant I only discovered this year is this cozy French bistro hidden inside the French Cultural Centre in the Fairview area. The mussels are plump and juicy and portions are generous.

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Tacofino Taco Bar
Cuisine: Mexican

Expanding past their burrito shop earlier this year, this taco bar is my go to place for a good taco and their must-order nachos. Fun ambiance with great food and drinks in the Blood Alley of Gastown.

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Chef Tony
Cuisine: Chinese (Dim Sum)

A new addition to the vast Chinese restaurants in Richmond in 2014, I only visited the restaurant this year and was very impressed. Elevating simple Chinese dishes by incorporating luxury ingredients like truffle and abalone, this spot is sure to impress your guests.

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Chatime
Cuisine: Taiwanese Bubble Tea

2015 marked the addition of this Taiwanese bubble tea chain which has expanded rapidly over the Greater Vancouver. They offer quality and consistency in their drinks as well as a large variety of choices. Also one of the few bubble tea shops that allow you to customize sugar and ice levels. The must order here is the grass jelly roasted milk tea!

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Hawksworth
Cuisine: Westcoast

Awarded Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants in 2015, David Hawksworth carefully prepares dishes which feature the best ingredients of B.C. With a stunning ambiance and exceptional service, this upscale restaurant is perfect for special occasions when you want to splurge.

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Pho 37
Cuisine: Vietnamese

This hidden gem in the Richmond Ironwood Plaza may look underwhelming on the outside but the clean, well-kept interior and friendly service always impresses me. It’s now my go to place in Richmond for pho.

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Yah Yah Ya Ramen
Cuisine: Japanese (ramen)

There are very few choices for ramen in Richmond, but I discovered this Japanese run ramen shop this year. They specialize in their pork bone broth. Diners are able to customize the firmness of noodles, heaviness of broth, and amount of oil. I find myself returning here whenever I want ramen but too lazy to travel Downtown.

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Temper Chocolate & Pastry
Cuisine: Desserts

Tucked away in the village of Dundarave in West Vancouver, this chocolate and pastry shop is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. Owner and chef, Steven Hodge trained under Thomas Haas, so you will find many chocolates and pastries inspired from his training there.

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Ask for Luigi
Cuisine: Italian

In a tiny white house past the bustling Gastown shops towards the Railtown area, you will find line ups at this spot at all times. Be sure to get here early or expect a wait at this casual Italian family style restaurant offering delicious fresh pasta and other goodies.

 

MoMa Contemporary Bistro

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For my birthday this year, I decided to do a small birthday dinner and wanted to stay in Richmond. The foodie inside of me told me that I needed to try something new though. And so I looked around and finally decided on MoMa Contemporary Bistro, which is in one of the oddest location hidden next to a printing company on Cambie Rd., hence most people don’t even know it exists.

The two chefs are Asian but have extensive culinary experience in Italian and French cuisine, so MoMa offers a fusion of that. The interior is small, but can fit probably around 30 diners. Simple ambiance and definitely bistro style. On a Friday night, it was rather empty. Service was a bit disappointing as our server was almost too quiet for our large group and was difficult to hear the specials. She also had to read off her paper, which didn’t seem too professional.

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Steamed Clams

Anyway, onto the food. Our server had warned us that the dishes are quite small, but are meant for sharing. How are you supposed to share when the dishes are so small though…? Well SF got the Steamed Clams and this had a sake-miso broth, wakame, and scallions. I almost wished this came with bread or fries, since it seemed like a rather small portion to get full. I had a taste of this and the broth was quite good with the clams being fresh.

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Prawn Fritters

MC and K shared the Prawn Fritters which are crusted with seaweed and came with a MoMa chili aioli. Again, the portion was quite small for around $11.

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Seafood Bouillabaisse

Their special of the day was the Seafood Bouillabaisse. It had clams, shrimp, and peas. My friends said this was just alright. I also found it sloppy that the rims of the dish wasn’t cleaned since they seemed to focus on appearance here.

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BC Sablefish

For myself, I shared with S a few dishes. The first dish was the BC Sablefish, which came with farmer’s vegetables, spaetzle, and a soy marinade. I really enjoyed the salad as the dressing was slightly sweet with a hint of citrus. The fish was cooked sous vide and was moist, but the portions were quite small given it was $25. Seemed more like an appetizer, but priced as an entree.

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Fresh Chorizo Linguine

A got the Fresh Chorizo Linguine which features their house made marinara sauce. He said it was good but quite average. Didn’t blow his mind.

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Slow Braised Veal Cheek Pappardelle

ML got the Slow Braised Veal Cheek Pappardelle, which was also an item I was eying. It’s topped with parmigiano cheese and he said it was quite good.

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Portions were quite small again though, but price was more justifiable at $17 since Ask For Luigi prices and portions are similar.

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Mushroom Tagliatelle

MC and K also shared the Mushroom Tagliatelle. It features truffle oil and a mushroom raga. Not bad.

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Scallops

Next, I shared the Scallops with SS and it was beautifully presented. For a dish like this, I don’t mind paying a little more if they take the time to plate it nicely.

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It came with a celery root puree, potato chips, peas, and MoMa bacon. The scallops were seared nicely and there wasn’t any gritty sand in it. I also quite liked the celery root puree and those homemade potato chips.

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Pemberton Meadows Beef Striploin

Lastly, SS and I shared the Pemberton Meadows Beef Striploin. The dishefeatures a 8oz grass fed natural beef striploin, roasted potatoes with snap peas and a black pepper jus.

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We asked for medium rare, but I felt that it was closer to a medium. I also really disliked how there were these fatty parts still stuck on the rims which were chewy. I ended up cutting most of that off. It was alright, but definitely not worth the $28 given the beef was rather chewy.

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Overall, my friends and I found MoMa to be quite disappointing based on that nights service. I came here knowing that portions were going to be small and pricey, but I would have been fine with it if the food was executed well. My favourite dish was probably the scallops, but many of the other dishes were just average and I wouldn’t pay that price for it. Service was also very disappointing since the server had took down our orders based on where we were seated, but for some reason, our dishes were being placed in front of the wrong people. There was also an 18% gratuity as we had a larger group, but when we gave her more cash than what was on the bill, she did not return any of our change until my friend asked. Quite a disappointment overall, but I guess they are doing something right since they have been around for a few years.

Pros:
– Most plates are presented quite nicely
– Some decent dishes and many dishes use local ingredients

Cons:
– Small portions and average food for high prices
– Felt that service we received that night was unprofessional

Price Range: $30-40

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 2 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 2.5 Overall: 2.5

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Sugarholic Cafe

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Sugarholic Cafe opened early this year in Aberdeen Centre. The location has been changing hands many times and it seems that the restaurants in this spot never stay long. The restaurant offers Asian styled Italian food and desserts.

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The interior is really girly, with fancy looking chairs and chandeliers. They offer afternoon tea, so I guess that’s why they have this sort of decor.

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Prawn Pasta with Creamy Rose Sauce

I chose the Prawn Pasta with Creamy Rose Sauce, which came on top of a bed of green salad. The pasta was a hint spicy, but very delicious. It was topped with seaweed to give it an Asian twist. The only problem I had with the dish was that some of the shell was still attached to the tail of the shrimp, so it was more difficult to eat. Would’ve been nice if the shell was completely removed.

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Miso Cream Risotto with Salmon Steak

S got the Miso Cream Risotto with Salmon Steak. The risotto is not like traditional risotto where it’s creamy. I found it more like rice in miso soup with tofu. It was topped with salmon, which S said was just alright. He said there wasn’t any crispy skin. S said that the food is pretty expensive for what you get.

Overall, the food is alright. Nothing too exciting, but I wouldn’t say it’s terrible. I’d like to come back to try their desserts. They are famous for their toast boxes and toast with ice cream.

Pros:
– Ambiance is quite nice

Cons:
– Average eats

Price Range: $15-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Parking: 3
Overall: 3

Sugarholic Café on Urbanspoon

Ask For Luigi

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I’ve been wanting to dine at Ask for Luigi some time now, since it’s the latest hype in Vancouver and everyone has said it’s a must try. However, every time I go at dinner time, the place is packed and there’s always at least an hour wait. This time, I went during lunch time, and was gladly surprised that there was no wait at all! It’s located on Alexander Street, far away from most of the other restaurants in a little white house. You wouldn’t expect a restaurant here, but people still manage to find their way here.

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The restaurant is very small and seats probably 20 diners or so. It’s a bit cramped, but I didn’t find it too bothersome. I hear that they don’t have air conditioning, so it’s quite hot to dine here in the summer. Might’ve changed by now though.

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The interior is quite hipster, with water in glass bottles and a tap that’s built into the wall.

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Pappardelle alla Bolognese & Fried Egg

On the weekends, they offer brunch, but they still have two pasta dishes. Since they’re famous for their handmade pasta, we had to get both of these. K got the Pappardelle alla Bolognese & Fried Egg, which was my favourite. the pasta was cooked to al dente and you could tell they were freshly made. The yolk of the fried egg was still runny and oozed out and tasted great mixed with the pasta. The bolognese sauce was slightly spicy, but not overwhelming. Very flavourful and I would definitely recommend this.

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Tagliatelle alla Carbonara & Poached Egg

For myself, I got the Tagliatelle alla Carbonara & Poached Egg. Again, the pasta was very fresh and cooked to al dente. There were some bacon bits in it to bring more flavour. I liked how it wasn’t as heavy as most carbonaras.

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The poached eggs were cooked perfectly so they were runny in the inside.

Overall, we were extremely pleased with Ask For Luigi. I would say that they are one of the best spots for pastas I’ve been to. Service is attentive and friendly and prices are quite reasonable. They aren’t the largest portions, like what you would get at chain restaurants, but it’s more than enough to fill you up. Parking isn’t too bad as well, as there are lots of street parking along the area.

Pros:
– Handmade pasta is delicious!
– Reasonable prices for quality eats

Cons:
– There are usually long waits during dinner time
– No reservations – must place name and number on the list on the day and they will call you

Price Range: $15-25

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4
Service: 4
Ambiance: 3
Parking: 3.5
Overall: 4

Ask for Luigi on Urbanspoon

Milano Coffee Roasters

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We were waiting for over an hour to get a seat at the Sardine Can, and since it was a bit chilly, we decided to head into Milano Coffee Roasters. I’ve actually walked past here many times but never noticed this coffee shop. They have several other locations, and this is their Espresso Lounge in Gastown.

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The inside is pretty basic. Simple decor but still gives you a cool hip vibe. They are well known for their espresso as their roots are from Italian roasting and blending.

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Hot Chocolate

We’re not coffee people, so we decided to try some of their other items. C got the Hot Chocolate, which came with chocolate flakes and wasn’t overly sweet. Usually hot chocolate can be really sweet, but this was perfect.

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Raspberry Mocha with Whipped Cream

K and I shared the Raspberry Mocha with Whipped Cream. I usually find mocha to be really strong and bitter, but this was the contrary! It was the perfect balance. You could taste the coffee, but it was smooth and light. However, I couldn’t really taste the raspberry. Really good though!

K says this is one of her favourite spots now. Well priced and the drinks are really good! I would guess that their coffee drinks are very good too.

Milano Roasters Espresso Lounge on Urbanspoon

Bella Gelateria (Yaletown)

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Bella Gelateria is my all time favourite for gelato, and I was excited when they opened their second location in Yaletown. It’s right by the water, so it’s quite nice on a summer evening. K and I decided to go there on the first day it opened, but ended up going pretty late. We were shocked to see a huge line up, but later realized the line was for gelato only. Phew! So we quickly got seated outside and our server was beyond knowledgeable. She was able to explain the menu thoroughly and gave us her personal favourite suggestions.

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The indoors is brightly lit with white decor. At the back, you can see the pizza chefs making the Neapolitan pizzas – which are one of their main features. Apparently, it only takes 90 seconds to bake the pizzas since the oven is very hot.

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They also have a showcase of desserts. There are ice cream sandwiches that another company sells here, some ice cream macarons, and the famous gelatinis! A very pretty display! There are also baked good in the morning for the brunch menu.

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Margherita – San Marzano (D.O.P.*) tomatoes, fior di latte, parmigiano-reggiano, EVOO, & fresh basil

The menu is quite pricey at Bella Gelateria, with our Margherita pizza being $12. It’s extremely thin, so one person could easily finish it. They use San Marzano Tomatoes (Protected Designation of Origin) which are plum tomatoes. The menu claims they are considered to be the best paste tomatoes in the world. I could definitely taste the acidity and freshness of the tomatoes. The parmigiano is aged for 36 months, rather than the typical 12 months and EVOO stands for Italian extra virgin olive oil. They definitely use the top ingredients. However, we were slightly disappointed that our pizzas didn’t come sizzling hot. When we told our server, she explained that they are made to order, so shouldn’t be. Not sure why ours was sort of cold, but she said she would let management know.

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Matcha Smash Gelatini

We couldn’t come to opening night without giving their gelatini a try. The Gelatini is something owner, James, invented, which is martini + gelato. Our server described it as sort of like an island, with the gelato being the island, and the martini being the ocean. We went for the Matcha Smash, which combined matcha powder with vodka and a tcouh of herbal Chartreuse. It was topped with a bit of lemon juice and a slice of lemon peel. Honestly, I thought it was really boozy! And our server said there was one that was way stronger. The vodka was almost too strong for me. I had to take a scoop of gelato before drinking the liquid to balance it off.

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The Wonka Coppetta

We also wanted to try their other desserts, so we got The Wonka Coppetta. Coppetta really just means a cup in Italian. The Wonka had Tahitan vanilla gelato, and was topped with a blueberry orange compote and a chocolate drizzle. I liked the balance of sweet and sourt from the blueberries. However, it’s quite pricey – coming at a price of $8. Would I get it again? Probably not. It reminded me of a sundae with fruits and chocolate sauce.

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If you go into the restaurant, you can see the kitchen where they make the gelatos. James is  here as well!

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I love how they incorporated the famous gelato truck inside. If you want gelato after your dinner, you can simply skip the line and order your gelato. I like how they’ve made the line begin outside the restaurant, so it doesn’t disturb the diners. Therefore, the line may look longer than it really is. To be honest, the lines at their original location are even longer since they start inside! Overall, I thought the pizza was mediocre. The gelatinis are interesting, but a little too boozy for myself personally. I’d love to give some of their other desserts a try. Still my favourite spot for gelato though! Now I have another location to visit if I want some of Bella’s gelato!

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Tom N Toms Coffee – Busan

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Tom N Toms Coffee is a South Korean coffee shop with multiple franchises. We saw plenty in Seoul, but we always ended up eating something else. We decided to get breakfast here since it was next to the metro station where we lived in Busan. We got take out so we could bring it on our train back to Seoul. Other than coffee and other beverages and snacks you would find at a coffee shop, they are also famous for their pretzels. Their pretzels are freshly made to order and you can see here the lady is rolling out our pretzels. Since it is freshly made, it does take around 10-15 minutes, so don’t get it if you’re in a hurry. We were almost late for our train!

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This is their menu for pretzels. There are definitely a lot of variety. From sweet to savory, there is something for everyone. You can also make it into a set, which comes with a drink.

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Parmesan Pretzel

K and I decided to share two pretzels. First, we got the Parmesan Pretzel, which we found to be our least favourite out of the two. The pretzel wasn’t a whole, and instead, was cut up into little bites. Tons of Parmesan cheese on it, so the flavour was really good. However, we found the texture wasn’t as soft as the other pretzel. We felt like it was a bit of a rip off compared to the other pretzels, since it was quite plain. Something you could get at a pizza shop too.

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Corn Pretzel

The Corn Pretzel was really good! A pretzel baked with mayo, sweet corn and cheddar cheese. The dough was super soft, and the stringy cheese along with the sweet flavour of the corn was a great match. I would definitely recommend this one! All in all, a great place to visit if you want some coffee and pretzels. A great change from the typical Starbucks menu. The pretzels aren’t cheap though, as they price around CAD$5-$7 each. You could definitely get a bowl of noodles at a Korean restaurant at this price. I guess anything that speaks American or European food in South Korea is pricier. Until next time Busan! Next up, back to Seoul!

Mercante

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Alla Salsiccia – chorizo, tomato, basil, oregano and mozzarella

Ever since coming back from exchange, I’ve noticed a new building at UBC when I drive towards the Henry Angus Building. My friends later told me that the building was called Ponderosa Commons. So when we had a final exam and were looking for a place to study and grab a quick snack, my friends suggested we go to Mercante. It’s a new Italian cafe and they offer a large selection of pastas, salads, pizzas, and soups. Their pizzas are also made ready to order and are baked in a stone oven. We chose the Alla Salsiccia, which was topped with tons of chorizo, tomatoes, basil, oregano and mozzarella. The dough was light and fluffy and they didn’t cheap out on the ingredients.

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Al Pesto – pesto, pancetta, zucchini, basil, mozzarella, and roasted artichokes

We also shared the Al Pesto, which had a pesto base, lots of pancetta, zucchini, basil, mozzarella and roasted artichokes. This was my favourite out of the two. I loved the addition of zucchinis in it! It felt healthy and again there was an abundant of ingredients.

Very affordable food as well, with most pizzas priced at no more than $10. Other than great food, they also have a really hip area for you to eat if you choose to dine in. I love the wooden tables and benches and the outdoor sunlight they rely on. Many students study here too. We then discovered that they had 3 study rooms! It seemed like you didn’t need to book them in advance and it was more like a first come first serve. Extremely nice rooms to study in, and the rooms are completely sound proof. I wish I discovered this spot earlier, but for anyone looking for a chill place to study at UBC, here’s another one!

Mercante on Urbanspoon