2014 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada: Raymonds in Newfoundland is No. 1

raymonds-st-johns

The elegant dining room in Raymonds Restaurant offers guests a world-class dining experience in an exquisite setting overlooking St. John’s Harbour in Newfoundland & Labrador. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Co-Founder

2014 Top 20 Restaurants in Canada
1. Raymonds, St. John’s
2. Bar Isabel, Toronto
3. Maison Publique, Montreal
4. Farmer’s Apprentice, Vancouver
5. Vij’s, Vancouver
6. Hawksworth, Vancouver
7. Buca, Toronto
8. Le Vin Papillon, Montreal
9. Joe Beef, Montreal
10. Ayden, Saskatoon
11. Mallard Cottage, St. John’s
12. Bar Buca, Toronto
13. L’Abattoir, Vancouver
14. CHARCUT, Calgary
15. Hopgood’s Foodliner, Toronto
16. Hotel Herman, Montreal
17. Fleur de Sel, Lunenburg
18. Deer + Almond, Winnipeg
19. Model Milk, Calgary
20. Segovia, Winnipeg
Full Top 50 List is Below

In 2010, good friends Jeremy Charles and Jeremy Bonia realized a vision to elevate Newfoundland cuisine and create a world-class restaurant in the provincial capital they call home. Raymonds has been revered since it opened and the acclaim has now reached a pinnacle. The restaurant  in a historic building overlooking the exquisite harbour of St. John’s has been named the best restaurant in Canada by a roster of judges that includes several of the nation’s finest chefs.

The third-annual Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Dining Guide published on Thursday includes selections from:

In all, there were 54 voters who determined the rankings and several of them also vote for the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. None of the judges could vote for restaurants they own or are employed by. [Click here to see the full list of judges.]

“I can’t believe it. It’s exciting and humbling, especially when you know who voted for it,” Bonia said when I informed him of the honour during the Terroir Symposium in Ontario last week. Coincidentally, we were speaking at Ravine Vineyard, the property near Niagara-on-the-Lake where Bonia was married and where Charles stood up for him as his best man.

Five years ago, the two Jeremys — whose fathers share the same name, Raymond — spent months renovating a historic 4,500-square-foot building, turning it into a marvel of fine dining. Raymonds is a landmark that has not only taken advantage of the boom times in St. John’s, but has become a symbol of that economic might. In 2010, the unemployment rate in the city was over 8 per cent, it’s now down to just 5.9 per cent. Citizens as well as visitors can afford to dine on $40-plus entrees, including the delicious Newfoundland cod ($45) that is beloved in the province. Charles, the executive chef who has worked as a private chef for the Molson and Bronfman families, pan sears the cod and serves it with a corn puree, cabbage, roasted artichokes and braised pork.

”We’re all very fortunate in the restaurant business to be in an economy right now that can support us and what we are doing in the city and in the province. Newfoundland has changed a lot and it is booming,” Charles told me when I visited the restaurant a year ago.

While St. John’s had two entries (including No. 11 Mallard Cottage), Montreal led all cities with 12 selections in the Top 50. Toronto had 10 restaurants in the list while Vancouver placed seven and Calgary landed six.

In 2013, the Vacay.ca vote was determined by a mix of public and judges’ selections. More than 10,000 people voted for their favourite restaurants and when the judges’ votes were added in, Montreal’s Joe Beef ranked No. 1. [Click here to find links to last year's full list and video compilation.]

In 2012, Vij’s was the top selection in a similar mix of public and jury voting. [Click here to see the full 2012 list.]

For 2014, Vacay.ca decided to turn the judging over to the nation’s top chefs and the results are significantly different than previous editions. There are 26 restaurants in this year’s Top 50 list that have not previously appeared on the ranking. Of them, 14 are restaurants that were either not open when the judges’ picks were submitted in 2013 or were less than three months old at the time, including three restaurants that ranked in the top five:

  • Bar Isabel, owned by chef Grant van Gameren and featuring Spanish tapas fare, was the No. 2 restaurant overall and the top restaurant in Toronto.
  • Maison Publique, a restaurant co-owned by chef Derek Dammann and British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, ranked third and was the favourite restaurant in Montreal.
  • Vancouver’s Farmer’s Apprentice, a 17-seat space in the city’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, overtook Vij’s for the best restaurant in the city, ranking fourth in the nation.

Only Vij’s, which ranked fifth, remained from the top five a year ago. Joe Beef placed ninth, while its Le Vin Papillon wine bar (No. 8) also landed in the Top 10. Raymonds went from 10th place to first, receiving votes from 14 judges. The Jeremys’ devotion to building a great establishment that’s a destination restaurant as well as a local’s favourite has pushed it to the top of the dining landscape in the nation. More than any other restaurant in the country, it blends exquisite flavours with world-class service, a top-notch wine list and a magnificent setting. When people romanticize about dining out, Raymonds is the sort of place they envision.

“Raymonds is continuing to develop Newfoundland regional cuisine, and doing so at a world-class level. The fish and seafood are just simply amazing,” says judge John Winter Russell, a Montreal chef who will be opening a new restaurant this year.

The Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide was created to celebrate Canadian cuisine and the chefs who produce it, while also serving as the finest resource available for diners travelling through the country and seeking the best places for their dining dollar.

NOTE: For followers of the Vacay.ca Top 50 list, there will be more content about the 2014 rankings in coming weeks. Due to a family emergency that affects key members of the Vacay.ca organization, there are delays in publishing video content related to this year’s rankings. Thanks for your understanding.

2014 TOP 50 RESTAURANTS IN CANADA

1. RAYMONDS, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador 

Jeremy Charles Raymonds chef

Jeremy Charles is the chef who leads Raymonds, the No. 1 restaurant in Canada. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Jeremy Charles (co-owned with Jeremy Bonia)
Website: www.raymondsrestaurant.com. Cuisine: East Coast, Canadian
Telephone: 709-579-5800. Twitter: @Raymondsnl
2013 Rank: 10
Price Range: A seven-course tasting menu runs $125 ($75 with wine pairing) and a five-course menu is $100 ($55 with wine pairing). A la carte entrees range from $40-$45 on the current menu.
You Must Order: Rack of Lamb, roasted rack, local merguez sausage & braise, creamy polenta, roasted red peppers, eggplant purée, grilled zucchini, gremolata, and tomato sauce ($45).
Need to Know … from CHARCUT Executive Chef Connie Desousa: “Jeremy Charles drives farm to table so well with his restaurant. I love that the majority of his menu items are either grown with his bare hands or fished or hunted. He is a great ambassador of Canadian cuisine.”

Chef Jonathan Gushue, Principal, Gushue Hospitality Inc. says: “Quietly becoming the benchmark for regional Canadian cuisine. Not many take terroir as serious as this restaurant providing a unique look into North Atlantic cuisine like no other. To say they are serious is an understatement, using up to 1,200 square feet of storage facilities to keep their foraged product for year-round use. Commitment in giving everyone who walks into Raymonds the best experience possible.”

Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance Executive Director Rebecca LeHeup says: “Incorporating the freshest seasonal ingredients in their kitchen, outstanding service in their dining room and impeccable style in their waterfront space. Jeremy Charles, Jeremy Bonia and their dynamic team deliver an authentic ‘taste of place’ that reflects the culinary culture of Newfoundland, Labrador and Canada . They are truly deserving of national recognition in being award the Top Canadian Restaurant from Vacay.ca.”

Vacay.ca Co-Founder Adrian Brijbassi writes: “If the spirit of Newfoundland is wild and unwieldy and rambunctious, Raymonds is its grown-up, sophisticated alter ego. … Inside the circa 1916 building, light floods through a bank of windows in a way that will remind you of a Napa Valley spa restaurant, if not for the view. The Narrows and the harbour catch your gaze again and you wonder what kind of food Charles can manage to pair with this sight. Turns out, the cuisine is just as spectacular as the view.”

Click here to see the Vacay.ca video and read the rest of the article on Raymonds. 

2. BAR ISABEL, Toronto, Ontario

bar isabel toronto

Bar Isabel has become a Toronto favourite in less than a year. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Grant van Gameren
Website: barisabel.com. Cuisine: Spanish
Telephone: 416-532-2222. Twitter: @BarIsabel797
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $6-$59; primarily share plates
You Must Order: The Grilled Octopus ($34 for half; $59 for whole).
Need to Know … from Executive Chef Lucais Syme of La Pentola della Quercia: “Simply presented food with awesome flavour made of great combinations. Great style and interesting.”

Executive Chef Paul Brans of Artisan says: “Great sharing plates that take you back to those crowded tapas bars in Barcelona. Perfect.”

Writer Gizelle Lau says: “Whether you’re stopping in for a drink and a couple bites or you’re splurging on the big shared dishes, Bar Isabel’s Spanish-taverna buzz is one of the coolest in the cities.”

Little Room President Joseph Caturay says: “Go for the charcuterie and cocktails; stay late for the fried chicken. Check out your fellow diners; chances are they are some of the top chefs, bartenders and servers in Toronto.”

3. MAISON PUBLIQUE, Montreal, Quebec

maison publique montreal

The menu board from Maison Publique, which serves upscale gastropub fare in Montreal. (Maison Publique photo)

Chef/owner: Derek Damman (co-owned by Jamie Oliver)
Website: www.maisonpublique.comCuisine: British-inspired Gastropub
Telephone: 514-507-0555. Twitter: @maisonpublique
2013 Rank: 57
Price Range: $8-70
You Must Order: Steak Delmonico for Two, $70
Need to Know… from Terroir Symposium Director Arlene Stein: “Since Derek opened this upscale Northern British pub in the middle of the Plateau, I dream about visits to Montreal to eat at his restaurant. The flavour profiles and combinations of his dishes are exceptional. It also has a brilliantly organized and naturally focused wine list.”

Chef Ross Munro of PEI Culinary Adventures: “Food, flavours, tastes are spot on. Balance, umami and a tingling reverence take over your mouth when you eat here.”

Segovia Tapas Bar & Restaurant Executive Chef Adam Donnelly says: “I was here last summer and met some friends for brunch and I had to go back for dinner the same day. I loved sitting at the bar and talking to the staff. Very inviting atmosphere and the food was so tasty.”

4. FARMER’S APPRENTICE, Vancouver, British Columbia

farmers apprentice-vancouver

Farmer’s Apprentice has surpassed several Vancouver favourites in its first year of existence. (Farmer’s Apprentice photo)

Chef: David Gunawan (co-owned with Dara Young)
Website: www.farmersapprentice.ca. Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Telephone: 604-620-2070. Twitter: @gunawan_dave
2013 Rank: New entry
Price range: $4-$18; small plates
You Must Order: Menu changes weekly, but try the Curried Carrots ($13) if they’re on the menu.
Need to Know … from Journalist Kasey Wilson: “Singapore-born, David Gunawan, is part of the new breed of young Vancouver chefs; he has been classically trained, has a European pedigree and is using that knowledge to break the boundaries of the familiar Vancouver dining scene. Must try: everything on offer.”

Sophia Cheng of Cheng PR says: “Believe the hype. The Farmer’s Apprentice is a refreshing and new restaurant spearheaded by Chef David Gunawan. The menu changes daily in accordance with what is fresh and new with local produce and ingredients. My favourite is the honey- lacquered aged duck dish when it is available on the menu – simply divine. Also try the oysters, squab, and halibut when in season.”

Vancouver Magazine’s Lee Man says: ”A complete game-changing restaurant. The food really has a sense of discovery and curiosity – but grounded in hyper local ingredients and formal techniques. There is an underlying Asian restraint that brings forth flavors that personally, for me, are awash in nostalgia. The room and service really set the tone that this is more than a restaurant meal, but a dialogue between the David Gunawan and the diner.”

Segovia’s Adam Donnelly says: “I had an amazing dinner here last year in September. The menu is very innovative and the food was amazing, some of the best I’ve ever had. The flavours were so vibrant and powerful and pair together so thoughtfully.”

5. VIJ’S, Vancouver, British Columbia

Vikram-Vij-lamp-popcicle

Vikram Vij prepares one of his restaurant’s most popular dishes, the famous Vij’s Lamb Popsicles. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chefs/owners: Vikram Vij, Meeru Dhalwala
Website: www.vijs.ca. Cuisine: Indian, Fusion
Telephone: 604-736-6664. Twitter: @Vijs_restaurant
2013 Rank: 3
Price Range: $24-$28.50 for main courses.
You Must Order: The famous lamb popsicles, which are a rack of lamb served with curry and meant for eating with your hands using the rib bone as a stick. ($28)
Need to Know … from Journalist Kasey Wilson: “Vikram Vij set the pace for a renaissance in Indian cuisine sourcing local ingredients and near-mythical spice mixtures prepared by an all-female Punjabi kitchen staff. Must try: B.C. ruby trout in coconut, braised beef short ribs with roasted okra, walnuts & jellybeans.”

Vancouver Magazine’s Lee Man says: “Vij’s continues to marry Indian flavours with a West Coast eye towards lightness and freshness. Restraint is the key here — a balanced hand with spicing that emphasizes delicate West Coast ingredients rather than overwhelm them. This is no pastiche of fusion, but rather a genuine reflection of the journey of immigrants and their flavours, and how they find a home in Canada.”

Toronto Life’s Renee Suen says: “Just special. And matched by incredible hospitality. To visit Vancouver and not pay a visit to Vij’s would be an unfortunate error. Likely the continent’s best modern Indian fare.”

Click here to see a video of Vikram Vij cooking in Niagara, Ontario, and read about what being named Vacay.ca’s No. 1 in 2012 meant to him.

6. HAWKSWORTH, Vancouver, British Columbia

hawksworth oysters

Fresh, sweet oysters are a treat at Hawksworth, a restaurant of refined cuisine and service. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: David Hawksworth
Website: www.hawksworthrestaurant.com. Cuisine: French, Pacific Northwest
Telephone: 604-673-7000. Twitter: @HawksworthRest
2013 Rank: 12
Price Range: $29-$40 for main courses
You Must Order: Pacific Sablefish, lap cheong, soy braised daikon, pickled shiitake, crispy yam ($38)
Need to Know … from CHARCUT’s Connie Desousa: “David is the king of fine dining on the west coast. His food is stunning and tastes great too … it is often hard to achieve both. It is always a special treat to dine at Hawksworth.”

Sonora Resort Executive Chef Terry Pichor says: “Hawksworth restaurant is top of my list. The food is innovative without compromise and dedicated to utilizing the best of Pacific Northwest ingredients as they come into season. The wine program and service combined with the food and the luxurious room make it one of the best dining experiences in Canada.”

ABC Chicago’s Steve Dolinsky says: “Exquisite presentation that doesn’t overshadow the care and delicacy of the food.”

7. BUCA, Toronto, Ontario

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Buca is in a lovely space in Toronto’s King West neighbourhood. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Rob Gentile
Website: www.buca.ca. Cuisine: Italian.
Telephone: 416-865-1600. Twitter: @bucatoronto
2013 Rank: No rank; 2012 ranked 31.
Price Range: $19-$49 for pasta dishes, entrées and pizzas.
You Must Order: Artisanal Pomodoro e Tartufo Pizza, with truffled burrata cheese and uncinato truffles ($29).
Need to Know from … Executive Chef David Hawksworth of Hawksworth: “Chef’s menus are stuffed full of classics with a killer twist – during my last visit to Toronto I had the pleasure of enjoying a superb ingredient-focused modern Italian meal there and the service is spot on.”

Sophia Cheng of Cheng PR says: “Amazing Italian food in Toronto. Simply love all the dishes, especially the hand-cut pork blood pasta and selection of pizzas. I especially like the scissors for cutting up the pizza — efficient and clean way of slicing them up. Stellar wines, too.”

Artisan’s Paul Brans says: “Love Rob’s twists on the classics, always has amazing specials, and his charcuterie is fantastic.”

Modern Culinary Academy’s John Placko says: “Creative Italian menu with some modern cooking techniques to elevate this menu to perfection. The uniqueness of this menu makes it a gem with a brilliant chef in Rob Gentile.”

8. LE VIN PAPILLON, Montreal, Quebec 

Frederic Morin and David McMillan

Frederic Morin and David McMillan are the owners of two of the Top 10 restaurants. (Joe Beef photo)

Chef/owners: David McMillan & Frederic Morin
Website: vinpapillon.comCuisine: Vegetable-Focused Small Plates, Boutique Wines
Telephone: None (no reservations taken). Twitter: @VinPapillon
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $6-20 per plate
You Must Order: Roasted Cauliflower ($13).
Need to Know… from Devour! Food Fest Executive Director Michael Howell: “Full-flavoured vegetables, you say? Masterful treatments of humble ingredients in this hipster hangout run by the Joe Beef team.”

Food Guy Montreal’s Dustin Gilman says: “The third restaurant in the Joe Beef empire, Le Vin Papillon makes excellent use of in-season vegetables and fresh ingredients, while pouring the very best vino you can get. By the glass is the way to go here.”

Terroir Director Arlene Stein says: “One of the most sophisticated new restaurants in Canada. Focus on vegetables and an excellently curated all-natural wine list.”

9. JOE BEEF, Montreal, Quebec

Joe Beef montreal

Joe Beef was ranked first overall in 2013. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chefs/owners: David McMillan and Frédéric Morin
Website: www.joebeef.ca. Cuisine: Steak, Seafood, French
Telephone: 514-935-6504. Twitter: @joebeef
2013 Rank: 1
Price Range: $31-$50 for main courses.
You Must Order: Anything and everything — even if it says it’s made with SPAM. But if the Double Down foie gras is on the menu, go for it.
Need to Know … from Patrice Patissier Executive Chef Patrice Demers: “The place where I bring people I what to impress. The one and only!!!”

ABC Chicago’s Steve Dolinsky says: “A historical tour de force for all things Quebecois with an eye toward the occasional luxury ingredient. The kind of place I want to eat at least once a week.”

Read about Joe Beef, the 2013 No. 1 restaurant in Canada

10. AYDEN KITCHEN & BAR, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Dale MacKay ayden

Dale MacKay is the owner/chef of Ayden in Saskatoon, one of the country’s hottest new restaurants. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Dale MacKay (Executive Chef Nathan Guggenheimer)
Website: www.aydenkitchenandbar.com. Cuisine: Contemporary French and Italian, Charcuterie
Telephone: 306 954 2590. Twitter: @aydenkitchenbar
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $19-$26
You Must Order: Classic Ayden Butcher Burger ($25).
Need to Know … from CHARCUT Executive Chef John Jackson: “I had the opportunity to have three meals at Ayden during my recent visit. It is fantastic to see Dale’s fresh approach to seasonally changing menus with his own unique twist.”

Vacay.ca Co-Founder Adrian Brijbassi writes: “Perhaps there is no greater endorsement of Saskatoon and its rise in stature as a destination than what prodigal son Dale MacKay has chosen to do. MacKay was the first winner of Top Chef Canada, he had established himself among Daniel Boulud‘s successful brigade of proteges, and he was living in Vancouver, a city in proximity to many of the exceptional products coveted by cooks. A chef with MacKay’s achievements would have no shortage of choices, in Vancouver or anywhere else. MacKay, though, opted for Saskatoon. Not only that, he managed to convince some of his closest and most talented friends to join him. … It all adds up to one of the best restaurants in Canada.”

Read more Vacay.ca coverage of Ayden

11. MALLARD COTTAGE, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

Chefs/owners: Todd Perrin (chef), Stephen Lee (sommelier)
Website: www.mallardcottage.ca. Cuisine: Newfoundland
Telephone: 709-237-7314. Twitter: @Mallard_Cottage
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $7-$12 for appetizers, $24-$27 for main courses.
You Must Order: If you are not accustomed to ordering duck, then Mallard Cottage is an excellent place to begin a new habit. Get things started with the NL Duck wings ($9). For the main course, try the seared duck breast, braised duck, squash beet, and greens ($27). The duck leg curry, potato, cauliflower and chick peas ($24) is also a good choice.
Need to Know … from CHARCUT’s Connie Desousa: “Todd Perin hit it out of the park with Mallard Cottage. Food is top notch and very affordable. Love the comfort food feel with his menu as well.”

Devour! Film Fest’s Michael Howell says: “Chef Todd Perrin is combining rusticity with refinement beautifully. Local ingredients, local knowledge, casual historic setting make this cozy restaurant a joy to visit.”

12. BAR BUCA, Toronto, Ontario

Chef/owner: Rob Gentile
Website: www.barbuca.com. Cuisine: Italian.
Telephone: 416-599-2822. Twitter: @barbucatoronto
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $3-$14, small plates and snacks
You Must Order: Polpette di Capra ($14), which is Sicilian-style goat and ricotta meatballs.
Need to Know … from Hopgood’s Foodliner Executive Chef Geoff Hopgood: “Proof that Italian food is more than just pasta and pizza. The food here is delicious with lots of variety, it’s inexpensive and open late.”

Little Room’s Joseph Caturay says: “Toronto’s best Italian-style apertivo food and drink served in a stunning warehouse setting in the heart of King West. Perhaps the best resto in a condo anywhere in the world.”

13. L’ABATTOIR, Vancouver, British Columbia

shaun-layton-labattoir-cocktails

Shaun Layton mixes it up at L’Abattoir. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Lee Cooper
Website: www.labattoir.ca. Cuisine: West Coast
Telephone: 604-568-1701. Twitter: @LABATTOIR_VAN
2013 Rank: 23
Price Range: Small plates, $13-$29.
You Must Order: Warm Steelhead and Potato Salad ($15) — and a few cocktails from bar man Shaun Layton.
Need to Know … from Ayden Kitchen & Bar Executive Chef Dale MacKay: “Great food and ambiance. Run by professionals who strive to do their best in every aspect of the restaurant. From the food, to the cocktails, to the service, it’s refreshing to walk into here.”

Segovia’s Adam Donnelly says: “I’ve been to this restaurant four times since it’s been open and it’s been incredible every time. The food is awesome, the cocktails are perfect and the service is amazing.”

Read Vacay.ca’s report on L’Abattoir.

14. CHARCUT ROAST HOUSE, Calgary, Alberta

Chefs/owners: Connie DeSousa, John Jackson
Website: www.charcut.com. Cuisine: Charcuterie.
Telephone: 403-984-2180. Twitter: @CHARCUT
2013 Rank: 5
Price Range: $19-$26
You Must Order: Rotisserie Chicken Salad Sandwich. With pancetta, arugula, DeSousa family piri piri aioli-$15
Need to Know … from Chef Vikram Vij of Vij’s: “Connie’s passion and love of food reflects in her cooking.”

Ayden’s Dale MacKay says: “Urban rustic cuisine done extremely well. All-around great restaurant led by John Jackson and Connie Desousa. It’s a talented team at the front of the house and back — and it shows.”

15. HOPGOOD’S FOODLINER, Toronto, Ontario

snow crab hopgoods foodliner

Snow crab legs are delectable at Hopgood’s Foodliner. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Geoff Hopgood
Website: hopgoodsfoodliner.com. Cuisine: East Coast.
Telephone: 416-533-2723. Twitter: @chefhopgood
2013 Rank: 30
Price Range: $10-$28 for entrees, many of them superb.
You Must Order: Noma chef Rene Redzepi called Hopgood’s snow crab ($28) from Cape Breton “one of the best mouthfuls I have eaten in North America.” That should be all the direction you need.
Need to Know … from Top 50 Restaurants Chair Janine Kennedy: ”The menu is small and to the point. It’s also very creative with dishes like house-smoked mackerel served on homemade oatcakes (both Nova Scotian staples, but never, in my experience, served together, $10). The Halifax Donairs ($14) are the best I’ve tasted outside of Halifax — and are something I’ll be coming back for. Hopgood’s mother’s homemade crab dip recipe ($15) comes served with Triscuits. The dip is creamy, nicely herbed and irresistibly spreadable with lots of fresh crab meat folded in.”

Segovia’s Adam Donnelly says: “I sat at the bar at this restaurant with a couple of friends and we ate through the entire menu. Everything we ate was amazing. It was familiar but inventive and the flavours were so clean.”

Read more Vacay.ca coverage of Hopgood’s Foodliner

16. HOTEL HERMAN, Montreal, Quebec

Chefs/owners: Marc Alexandre Mercier, Dominic Goyet, Ariane Lacombe
Website: hotelherman.comCuisine: French
Telephone: 514-278-7000. Twitter: None.
2013 Rank: 90
Price Range: Share plates, $5-$18 each
You Must Order: Marinated Trout, with smoked creme fraiche, buckwheat, and trout roe ($16) is their top-selling dish.
Need to Know… from Will Travel for Food’s Mayssam Samaha: “Everything at this hip Mile End restaurant is carefully thought out, from the selection of natural wines to the local, sustainable products included in every beautifully plated dish and all the way down to the irreproachable service.”

Chef Patrice Demers of Patrice Patissier says: “A great restaurant that keeps getting better after each visit. Creative food using great products. Nice wine list.”

17. FLEUR DE SEL, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia 

Chef/owner: Martin Ruiz Salvador
Website: fleurdesel.netCuisine: French, Seafood.
Telephone: 902-640-2121. Twitter: @FleurdeSel_NS
2013 Rank: 21
Price Range: $21-$39 (tasting menu)
You Must Order: Lunenburg Scallops ($26)
Need to Know … from EatHalifax.ca’s Kathy Jollimore: “Traditional French cuisine meets Nova Scotia’s finest in Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador’s intimate  seasonal restaurant. It’s classic yet innovative, a picture perfect display of Nova Scotia’s culinary landscape.”

Chef Ross Munro of PEI Culinary Adventures: “Martin Ruiz Salvador has to be the most underrated chef in our country … period. Beating to his own drum, he uses ingredients wisely and without hesitation. Bold or subtle, he hits the mark.”

18. DEER + ALMOND, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mandel-Hitzer-deer-+-almond-winnipeg

Mandel Hitzer’s deer + almond is the top restaurant in Winnipeg. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Mandel Hitzer
Website: www.deerandalmond.com. Cuisine: Contemporary, Fusion.
Telephone: 204-504 8562. Twitter: @deerandalmond
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $7-$28; share plates.
You Must Order: Kale and Kelp Beignets ($7), with hemp aioli and nori salt.
Need to Know … from Segovia’s Adam Donnelly: “I love eating at this restaurant on my days off. The food is always inventive and tasty and Mandel, the owner and chef, is always very hospitable. It’s really fun food to eat.”

Vikram Vij of Vij’s says: “Chef Mandel Hitzer is a very good chef, using lots of local ingredients and creating very simple food.” 

Vacay.ca’s Manitoba Chair Deborah Son says: “The food is always a stunning array of colours, tastes, and textures. Consistently fresh-tasting and high-quality dishes that burst with creativity.”

Read the Vacay.ca article on Deer+Almond and its frozen pop-up, RAW: almond

19. MODEL MILK, Calgary, Alberta

Chef: Justin Leboe
Website: www.modelmilk.ca. Cuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 403 265-7343. Twitter: @ModelMilkBistro
2013 Rank: 7
Price Range: $19-$32 for main courses
You Must Order: Brome Lake Duck Confit Duck Leg, Cotechino, Smoked Meat, Truffle ($29).
Need to Know … from Writer Gizelle Lau: “Model Milk is a great example that great food can be had in a casual, hospitable setting without sacrificing flavour, technique and innovation.”

Pastaga Executive Chef and Owner Martin Juneau says: “Justin Leboe is so talented.”

20. SEGOVIA TAPAS BAR & RESTAURANT, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Adam Donnelly of Segovia serves up delicious plates of tapas in Winnipeg. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Adam Donnelly
Website: segoviatapasbar.com. Cuisine: Spanish.
Telephone: 204-477-6500. Twitter: @SegoviaTapasBar
2013 Rank: 98
Price Range: $6-$21; share plates.
You Must Order: The Chorizo & Apples ($7), a delicious appetizer that blends two beloved flavours.
Need to Know … from Journalist Robin Summerfield: “Since opening in late 2009, this Spanish-style tapas bar and restaurant has been an endearing favourite. Chef/owner Adam Donnelly and his wife Carolina are the talent and brains behind this 45-seat hotspot. Simple ingredients, divinely prepared is Donnelly’s forté. Sauteéd wild mushrooms and arugula on a grilled crostini and topped with a perfectly poached egg and a crack of black pepper is a dish burned into memory. Plates are to be shared but you’ll find yourself getting territorial with your favourites. Order the daily special, whatever it is. You won’t be disappointed.”

Read more about Segovia and Winnipeg’s food scene

21. RACINES, Montreal, Quebec

Chefs/owners: Jorge da Silva, Simon Mathys
Website: www.racines.caCuisine: Modern.
Telephone: 514-544-0444. Twitter: @Racinesmtl
2013 Rank: New entry
You Must Order: Veal Tartar with Mustard Cream ($15)
Need to Know… from Chef Patrice Demers of Patrice Patissier: “A new restaurant like no other. Superb decor and setting. Amazing food, very minimalist in its approach but very creative at the same time. Simon Mathys is a great chef with a lot of potential.”

Renoir Executive Chef Olivier Perrett says: “Local food – very good chef!”

22. WEST, Vancouver, British Columbia 

Chef: Quang Dang
Website: www.westrestaurant.com. Cuisine: West Coast.
Telephone: 604-738-8938. Twitter: @WestRestaurant
2013 Rank: No rank; No. 17 in 2012
Price Range: $29-$55 for main courses; $58 and up for tasting menus.
You Must Order: Haida Gwaii Smoked Sablefish ($36).
Need to Know … from Vacay.ca Co-Founder Adrian Brijbassi: “Quang Dang is a tremendously knowledgeable chef who is also a champion of Canadian cuisine. West is a South Granville favourite that has been a choice for elegant meals in Vancouver for more than a decade.”

Read Vacay.ca coverage of West

23. ATELIER, Ottawa, Ontario

sebastian-and-pinchy-atelier

Sebastian and Pinchy is a crab-and-lobster dish that you may find on the menu at Atelier. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Marc Lepine
Website: www.atelierrestaurant.ca. Cuisine: Microgastronomy, Modern.
Telephone: 613-321-3537. Twitter: @MarcLepine
2013 Rank: 4
Price Range: $110
You Must Order: The menu changes daily. Dinner usually averages around three hours in length; there is a wine pairing available every evening ($60) of nine or 10 wines. The pairing is optional, and an extensive list of wines by the bottle and glass, as well as other drinks.
Need to Know … from Taste & Travel Magazine’s Janet Boileau: “On a par with the best international restaurants; outstanding cuisine and an extremely reasonable price for a tasting menu of this calibre.”

Modern Culinary Academy’s John Placko says: “Precision in terms of flavour combinations, modernist techniques and skillful plating with a playful edge makes this a destination restaurant worth the drive.”

Vacay.ca’s Adrian Brijbassi writes: ”The service is first rate; the kitchen is smaller than what you’d find in some Toronto condominiums yet it turns out plate after plate of mind-blowing dishes. The other aspect of Atelier you will remember is that the imaginativeness doesn’t stop with the food. Each dish has a name that attempts to be clever. A cold pea soup puree is called Give Peas a Chance (and you should, it’s delicious), a crab-and-lobster dish is named after characters in both the ‘Little Mermaid’ (Sebastian the Crab) and ‘The Simpsons’ (Pinchy the Lobster), and a peach dessert gets tagged with the title Impeachment. The servers appear chagrined and apologetic when they pronounce some of the names, which only adds to Atelier’s lack of pretentiousness.”

Read Vacay.ca coverage and see a video of Marc Lepine talking about how he was inspired to start Atelier

24. THE POINTE RESTAURANT AT WICKANINNISH INN, Tofino, British Columbia

Chefs: Warren Barr (executive chef) and David Sider (restaurant chef)
Website: www.wickinn.com/restaurant.htmlCuisine: Pacific Northwest.
Telephone: 250-725-3100. Twitter: @WickInnBC
2013 Rank: 41
Price Range: $28-$36 for dinner entrées; four-course tasting menu for $80.
You Must Order: Tofino Halibut ($36), served with wild rice, celery, black garlic, and Bamfield seaweed broth.
Need to Know … from Chef Jonathan Gushue: “Dinner at The Pointe Restaurant by chef David Sider offers a look into new West Coast cuisine. Much of the fresh seafood is fished from the very waters overlooked by The Pointe, and a longstanding focus on locally sourced, high-quality ingredients is evident. A talented young man to watch.”

Read more about what to enjoy at the Wickaninnish Inn

25. TOQUE!, Montreal, Quebec

Chef/owner: Normand Laprise
Website: www.restaurant-toque.comCuisine: French
Telephone: 514-499-2084. Twitter: @RestaurantToque
2013 Rank: 15
Price Range: $42-$52 for main courses.
You Must Order: Duck Magret ($46).
Need to Know … from Nova Scotia Chef Andrew Stevens: “Topnotch food quality, service, ambiance and wine list. Consistently one of the best restaurants in Canada and Chef Normand Laprise is consistently one of Canada’s best chefs.”

26. CLUB CHASSE ET PECHE, Montreal, Quebec

Chef: Claude Pelletier
Website: www.leclubchasseetpeche.com. Cuisine: French.
Telephone: 514-861-1112. Twitter: None.
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Prices range from $17 – $40.
You Must Order: Start your adventure with the sweetbread, crab, apple, horseradish, sorrel ($19). After that, we suggest the suckling pig, white turnip, fiddlehead, marrow, cherries ($40). Enjoy with a glass of Jean-Marc Vincent, Santenay 1er cru ‘’le Beaurepaire’’ 2011 ($16.50).
Need to Know … from La Pentola della Quercia’s Lucais Syme: “All courses are very well crafted. Flavours are spot on with interesting dishes showing great creativity and ability.

27. LANGDON HALL, Cambridge, Ontario

langdon hall sitting room country estate cambridge ontario jonathan gushue restaurant

The parlour where guests can sit and enjoy their cocktails is one of Langdon Hall’s many elegant spaces. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Jason Bangerter
Website: www.langdonhall.ca. Cuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 519-740-2100. Twitter: @Langdon_Hall
Price range: $34-$49 for main courses.
You must order: White-tailed Ontario Deer with Chestnuts, Smoked Venison Bacon, Anjou Pear and more ($49).
Need to know … from Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles: “The food is always top notch at Langdon Hall. I was there for one of the Friday Night Barbeque series dinners in 2013 and it gave me an opportunity to try several different creative dishes at once.”

Modern Culinary Academy’s John Placko says: “Thoughtful menu development, foraged ingredients, perfectly cooked food and brilliant presentation makes this restaurant my first choice.”

See photographs of Langdon Hall

28. AUBERGE DU POMMIER, Toronto, Ontario

Auberge-du-Pommier-chef-marc-st.-jacques

Marc St. Jacques turns out wonderfully delicious entrees at his north Toronto restaurant. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Marc St. Jacques
Website: www.oliverbonacini.com/auberge-du-pommier.aspx. Cuisine: French
Telephone: 416-222-2220. Twitter: @Oliver_Bonacini
2013 Rank: 84
Price Range: $38-48 per main course
You Must Order: Foie Gras Mousse with Black Sesame Genoise, $27
Need to Know… from Vacay.ca Voting Academy Chair Janine Kennedy: “Marc St. Jacques, formerly of Michael Mina in Las Vegas, has taken this 20 plus-year-old French eatery to new heights with vibrant flavours and flawless execution. The service is perfect — attentive but not ‘in your face’ — with staff that really know their food and wine.”

29. CHIVES, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Chef/owner: Craig Flinn
Website: www.chives.caCuisine: East Coast, Contemporary French.
Telephone: 902-420-9626. Twitter: @ChefCraigFlinn
2013 Rank: 20
Price Range: $23.99-$28.99
You Must Order: Moroccan-Spiced Braised Nova Scotia Lamb, with dried fruit cous cous, root vegetable tagine, wild cucumber yogurt and pistachios ($28.99).
Need to Know … from EatHalifax.ca’s Kathy Jollimore: “There is no other restaurant in Halifax that’s been doing it right for as long as Chives. Chefs Craig Flinn and Darren Lewis continue to shine a spotlight on the best our province has to offer with a menu steeped in Canadian cuisine. Whether it’s the local duck confit or the seasonal fish dish, you’ll be treated to a truly memorable meal, expertly prepared, perfectly balanced dishes that feature only the freshest of local ingredients.”

Read more about Chives in Vacay.ca

30. IMPASTO, Montreal, Quebec 

Chefs/owners: Stefano Faita, Michele Forgione
Website: impastomtl.caCuisine: Family-inspired Italian
Telephone: 514-508-6508. Twitter: @IMPASTO_MTL
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $24-$49 per main course
You Must Order: Porchetta del Nonno ($26)
Need to Know…from PEI Culinary Adventures’ Ross Munro: “The chef of the decade. Forgione is staggeringly amazing and deft at so much in his realm. This guy enjoys food and Impasto shows this in so many ways.”

Food Guy Montreal’s Dustin Gilman says: “Easily, the BEST Italian restaurant in Montreal. No nonsense, unpretentious, and down-right delicious.”

31. ESPANA, Vancouver, British Columbia

Chef/owner: Neil Taylor (co-owned by Edward Perrow)
Website: www.espanarestaurant.ca. Cuisine: Spanish tapas.
Telephone: 604-558-4040. Twitter: @espanayvr
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Small plates, $7-$12 for most dishes.
You Must Order: Grilled Octopus & Chorizo ($12), with sun-dried olive and caper bread salad.
Need to Know … from Bartender Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir: “I’ve never had a bad dish here. From service, value, food quality, service, atmosphere and beverage, arguably the best in the city.”

32. MAENAM, Vancouver, British Columbia

Angus-An-chef-longtail-maenam

Chef Angus An is a master of traditional Thai cooking. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Angus An
Website: maenam.ca. Cuisine: Thai
Telephone: 604-730-5579. Twitter: @maenam
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Chef’s Menu (five courses) costs just $32.50 per person and a Royal Thai Dinner (nine courses, served family style) costs $47.50 per person. A la carte options range from $15-$28 for dinner entrees.
You Must Order: It’s not on the regular menu, but the Crab and Betal Leave Wrap is one of the best things you may ever eat. The sweetness of the crab is complemented, not overpowered, by An’s spicy touch.
Need to Know … from Executive Chef Lucais Syme of La Pentola della Quercia: ”Always impecable balance to the dishes. Great use of interesting ingredients and presentation. Flavours are soothing and refreshing. Satisfying all senses.”

Journalist Kasey Wilson: “Angus An does for Thai food at Maenam what Vikram Vij does for Indian cuisine at Vij’s — both layer and balance intense flavours with vibrant seasonings. Must try: the ‘otherworldly’ Mussamen braised beef curry and eight-spice crispy ling cod.”

Read more Vacay.ca coverage of Maenam 

33. PRAIRIE HARVEST CAFE, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Chef: Mike McKeown
Website: prairieharvestcafe.com. Cuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 306-242-2928. Twitter: @PHCafeSK
Price Range: Less than $20 for most dishes.
You Must Order: PH Lasagna, a signature dish made with local braised pork belly, braised beef short ribs, and lean ground beef with a variety of local vegetables.
Need to Know … from Taste & Travel Magazine Publisher Janet Boileau: “Hidden find. Funky, casual vibe, great food, proudly local focus.”

Lucky Bastard Distillery Co-Proprietor Cary Bowman says: “Chef Michael McKeown’s little restaurant can be summed up in three words: creative, local and rustic. He has balanced all of these in the atmosphere, the menu and the service. They source as much local ingredients as possible, which is apparent in their ever-changing menu.”

34. MOMOFUKU SHOTO, Toronto, Ontario 

Chefs/owners: Mitchell Bates, Sam Gelman, David Chang
Website: momofuku.com/toronto/shoto/Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Telephone: 647-253-8000. Twitter: @momofuku
2013 Rank: 35
Price Range: $95-$150 depending on tasting menu
You Must Order: The Tasting Menu ($95-$150)
Need to Know… from Writer Gizelle Lau: “Easily one of the best tasting menus in the city, proving to naysayers that it’s not just about the Momofuku name, but they’re here to create some incredible, innovative dishes and let the experience speak for itself.”

Chef Jonathan Gushue says: “Shōtō’s tasting menus are still some of the country’s best. Based on market availability and seasonality, guests are treated to a unique experience in Toronto. The counter and being served by the chefs provides another element of value for price paid. This restaurant is full of pride and passion.”

35. CANOE, Toronto, Ontario

Executive Chef: John Horne
Website: www.oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx. Cuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 416 364-0054. Twitter: @Oliver_Bonacini
2013 Rank: 9
Price Range: $40-$49 for main courses.
You Must Order: New Brunswick Sturgeon-Braised Spring Creek Beef Cheeks, Savoy Cabbage, truffled potatoes ($42).
Need to Know … from Judge Renee Suen of Toronto Life“A local favourite, and nationally recognized for celebrating the best of Canadian ingredients in a room 54 floors above the city. While the menu is full of great dishes, it is executive chef John Horne’s changing tasting menu that will wow the crowds.”

Saint John Ale House Executive Chef Jesse Vergen says: “With all the new spots opening in Toronto, Canoe still raises the bar with its Canadian cuisine.”

36. PATRIA, Toronto, Ontario

Chef: Stuart Cameron
Website: patriatoronto.com. Cuisine: Spanish.
Telephone: 416-367-0505. Twitter: @PatriaTO
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Dinner menu is $14-$68. Brunch ranges from $10-$12.
You Must Order: Three-course brunch ($30), featuring several outstanding dishes, including Riojanito Y Hueves de Cordorniz and Tortilla de Patatas.
Need to Know … from Vikram Vij of Vij’s: “Very high-quality Spanish food with great wine list and great service.”

Modern Culinary Academy’s John Placko says: “Small plates with big flavours. Patria takes you to an authentic dining experience in Spain. The dishes are simple but the execution and flavours are outstanding.”

Journalist Kasey Wilson says: “This big, sumptuous room has a kind of ‘Spanish Inquisition-era meets high design’ opulence, but the only torture involved is selecting dishes from the extensive tapas-bar menu. Must try: Ibérico pork flank and a cheese selection that will have your palate traipsing all over the Spanish countryside like Don Quixote.”

37. BONAVISTA SOCIAL CLUB, Upper Amherst Cove, Newfoundland & Labrador

Bonavista Social Club newfoundland

The Bonavista Social Club serves wholesome food on a property overlooking Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Katie Hayes
Website: bonavistasocialclub.comCuisine: Salads, Pizzas, Sandwiches
Telephone: 709-445-5556.
2013 Rank: 26
Price Range: Less than $20 for menu items.
You Must Order: Any one of the pizzas, topped with ingredients cultivated in the Bonavista Social Club’s garden.
Need to Know … from Fixed Coffee & Baking’s Jon Howse: “Sit near the window and watch the gardeners harvesting heavy robust tomatoes, watch the goats grazing, the ocean swelling, and chef/owner Katie Hayes saucing fresh pappardelle or throwing pizzas into the wood-fired oven, and perhaps you might just see how beautiful and rewarding the world of food can be.”

Mallard Cottage Sommelier Stephen Lee says: “Simple, wholesome and rustic. An oasis in the middle of rural Newfoundland, with an emphasis on home-grown produce and house-raised animals.”

Read Vacay.ca’s coverage of the Bonavista Social Club

38. SPLENDIDO, Toronto, Ontario

Chef/owner: Victor Barry
Website: www.splendido.ca. Cuisine: Contemporary French and Italian.
Telephone: 416-929-7788. Twitter: @Splendido_TO
2013 Rank: 51
Price Range: $39-$45 for main courses; $125 for tasting menu.
You Must Order: Roasted Rack of Lamb ($45)
Need to Know … from Toronto Life’s Renee Suen: “Our country’s gem, and the place to return to time and time again for top-notch cooking, white tablecloths but unpretentious service. The cooking currently coming out of Splendido’s kitchen and led by owner/executive chef Victor Barry has taken the restaurant to levels where it has the potential to be Canada’s best representative on the international stage.”

39. LE SERPENT, Montreal, Quebec

Chef: Michele Mercuri
Website:
www.leserpent.ca/en/. Cuisine: Italian.
Telephone: 514-316-4666. Twitter: None.
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Lunch is from $19-$25. Dinner ranges from $18-$29.
You Must Order: Pasta. Several choices to choose from, including Linguini with almonds, cauliflower and truffle brunoise ($19-$28), Beet Macaroni ($16-$22) and Agnolotti ($17-$26).
Need to Know … from Renoir Executive Chef Olivier Perret: “Great local food with a good wine list.”

40. CHANTECLER, Toronto, Ontario

Chef: Jonathan Poon
Website: www.restaurantchantecler.caCuisine: French.
Telephone: 416 628-3586. Twitter: @ChanteclerTO
2013 Rank: 18
Price Range: $15-$21 for main courses
You Must Order: Spicy Shrimp ($13)
Need to Know … from Judge Gizelle Lau of Toronto Eats: “If you can get a reservation for the tasting menu, you’re in a for a treat. The Asian-comfort-food-inspired brunch is also killer. But the lettuce wrap meals are pure comfort and the service is top notch.”

Judge Renee Suen of Toronto Life says: “The limited available tasting menu helps define what is quintessentially modern Canadian: multiculturally influenced, fun, unpretentious and just plain delicious.”

41. LE BREMNER, Montreal, Quebec 

Chefs: Chuck Hughes (executive chef) and Danny Smiles (chef de cuisine)
Website: crownsalts.com/lebremner. Cuisine: Seafood & Steak
Telephone: 514-544-0446. Twitter: @lebremnermtl
2013 Rank: No rank; No. 43 in 2012
Price Range: Price Range: $8-$30 for dinner items.
You Must Order: Kimchi Snow Crab on Crispy Rice Cake, $22
Need to Know… from Saint John Ale House Executive Chef Jesse Vergen: “Chef Danny Smiles is knocking out wicked eats in this seafood restaurant. “All Dressed Halibut Gravlax” — one of the best things I ate last year.”

Read the Vacay.ca report on Le Bremner

42. ARAXI, Whistler, British Columbia

salmon-oyster-veloute-araxi-whistler

BC Smoked Salmon is splashed with an oyster veloute, a delicious combination at Araxi. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Chef: James Walt
Website: www.araxi.com. Cuisine: West Coast, Contemporary Canadian.
Telephone: 604-932-4540. Twitter: @araxirestaurant
2013 Rank: 25
Price Range: Large plates range from $24.50-$42.50, and include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices.
You Must Order: Saffron-crusted halibut caught in Haida Gwaii ($36.50), featuring a seafood and herb foam with chili oil.
Need to Know from … Vancouver Magazine’s Lee Man: “Year after year — chef James Walt produces food with superb vigour and freshness, drawing from the Pemberton Valley that neighbours Whistler.  Could easily rest on the cliché’s of ski resort dining, but avoids those big gun mistakes in favour of sophisticated rusticness, underpinning great ingredient with unrelenting French technique.”

Read more Vacay.ca coverage of Araxi

43. RIVER CAFE, Calgary, Alberta

Chef: Andrew Winfield
Website: www.river-cafe.comCuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 403-261-7670. Twitter: @RiverCafeYYC, @ChefWinfieldYYC
2013 Rank: 22
Price Range: Main courses range from $28-$49.
You Must Order: Olson’s High Country Bison Striploin ($48), served with smoked potato emulsion, huckleberry and bordelaise jus.
Need to Know … from Vacay.ca Prairie Region Chair Jody Robbins: “Calgarians didn’t know what slow food was until River Café began their tasty tutorials. The restaurant continues to be ahead of the culinary curve, introducing Calgarians to best practises (like Ocean Wise) while supporting local farmers. It’s never just a meal here, but an experience engaging all the senses.”

44. NORA GRAY, Montreal, Quebec

Chef: Emma Cardarelli
Website: noragray.com. Cuisine: Modern Italian.
Telephone: 514-419-6672. Twitter: @noragraymtl
2013 Rank: 42
Price Range: $19-$39 for main courses.
You Must Order: Deer Tartare appetizer ($14).
Need to Know … from Writer Gizelle Lau: “The 60′s bar/lounge setting is the perfect hideaway to showcase the Italian-inspired cuisine of Nora Gray: seemingly simple ingredients are turned into dishes that are cause for excitement.”

45. LOT 30, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Dessert-Trio-Lot-30

Desserts are divine at Lot 30. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Gordon Bailey
Website: www.lot30restaurant.ca. Cuisine: Contemporary French.
Telephone: 902-629-3030. Twitter: @Lot30resto
2013 Rank: 89
Price Range: $23-$32 for main courses.
You Must Order: Butter-poached cove head lobster with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon beurre blanc (market price).
Need to Know … from Atelier Executive Chef Marc Lepine: “I make a point of eating at Lot 30 every time I’m in Charlottetown. It’s consistently delicious and fresh, and they’ve got a great team.”

Annie’s Kitchen Table Executive Chef Norm Zeledon says: “100% in-house made food. Fresh PEI ingredients, with no freezer or pre-bought products. Beautiful presentation.”

Read more about Lot 30 and Charlottetown 

46. HOI TONG SEAFOOD RESTAURANT, Richmond, British Columbia

Yiu Tong Leung is the 70-year-old chef of Hoi Tong Restaurant. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef/owner: Yiu Tong Leung
Website: None. Cuisine: Chinese (Cantonese)
Telephone: 604-276-9229. Twitter: None
2013 Rank: 81
You Must Order: Alaskan King Crab Served Three Ways (market price)
Need to Know from … Vacay.ca Co-Founder Adrian Brijbassi: “Yiu Tong Leung has operated his restaurant for five years, serving dishes that originated during his time cooking in Hong Kong’s Exchange Square. The 70-year-old owner and chef says it is visual appeal that helps to differentiate his food.”

Vancouver Magazine’s Lee Man says: “The absolute epitome of Hong Kong-style, cultured Cantonese cuisine. The flavours are pure and tight — with technique that brings forth the natural sweetness of top-notch ingredients. Clean and pristine on the palate, Hoi Tong never weighs down taste with heavy-handed sauces.”

Toronto Life’s Renee Suen says: “Incredible cooking that is not only impressive, but on another level compared to similar Cantonese-focused restaurants within North America. The room is small, and the specials may require pre-ordering, so plan in advance and go with a group. There isn’t anything here that won’t impress.”

Read more about Richmond’s dining scene 

47. MARKET, Calgary, Alberta

market-calgary

Deconstructed chicken pot pie is a lunch favourite at Market. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Chef: Dave Bohati
Website: marketcalgary.ca. Cuisine: Canadian.
Telephone: 403-474-4414. Twitter: @MARKET_Calgary
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $23-$66 for dinner entrees.
You Must Order: Wagyu Beef Sirloin ($32)
Need to Know … Vacay.ca’s Adrian Brijbassi: “Among the in-house ingredients are cheese, cured meats, syrups and even sodas. This is an excellent restaurant that loves to keep it local when it comes to the products it uses, but reaches to Europe and the United States for inspiration for many of its recipes.”

Vacay.ca Prairie Regional Chair Jody Robbins says: “Taking the farm-to-table movement up a notch, Market makes as many ingredients in-house as possible. From curing meat to churning out butter and cheese, Calgary’s latest culinary hot spot features eclectic entrees while sticking to their wholesome roots.”

48. LA SALLE A MANGER, Montreal, Quebec

Chef: Samuel Pinard
Website: lasalleamanger.ca. Cuisine: Seafood.
Telephone: 514-522-0777. Twitter: @lasalleamanger
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $15-$29 for dinner entrees.
You Must Order: Try the Blood Pudding and Sausage ($25) or the Venison Steak with butternut squash purée, bacon, onions, berry sauce and greens ($29).
Need to Know … from Bistro Nolah Executive Chef Richard Taitt: “The food is always interesting. Truly a spot for foodies; presentation and flavour profile are very good.”

49. NOTABLE, Calgary, Alberta

Chef: Michael Noble
Website: notabletherestaurant.ca. Cuisine: Gourmet casual.
Telephone: 403-288-4372. Twitter: @NotableCalgary
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: Lunch and brunch menu prices range from $8-$24. Dinner prices are between $8-$37.
You Must Order: The Innisfail Lamb Sirloin, spring cassoulet, natural jus, pistou ($37). Another outstanding choice is the Grilled Alberta bison flank ($33).
Need to Know … from Vacay.ca Prairie Regional Chair Jody Robbins: “Under the helm of Chef Michael Noble, this busy Bowness neighbourhood bistro serves up comforting, classic fare using choice ingredients. Naturally, their burgers are out of this world, as is the daily rotisserie meat. And get this, every single dessert item is gluten-free, though you wouldn’t know it  by the flavour.”

50. RAW BAR BY DUNCAN LY, Calgary, Alberta

Chef: Duncan Ly
Website: www.hotelarts.ca/dining/raw-bar. Cuisine: Asian Fusion.
Telephone: 403-266-4611. Twitter: @HotelArtsYYC
2013 Rank: New entry
Price Range: $16-$27 for large plates.
You Must Order: Spicy Salmon and Tuna Tartar ($14), served with avocado, shredded lettuce, Asian pear and a puffed rice cracker.
Need to Know … from Dan Clapson of Dan’s Goodside: “I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: making ‘refined’ Vietnamese cuisine is a hard sell. When pho is, well, plentiful at a minimal cost, you have to do something really amazing with those robust Asian flavours to make diners pay attention. Ly’s menu at Raw Bar sees him tapping into his Vietnamese roots and presenting dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. It also doesn’t hurt that Raw Bar’s general manager, Christina Mah, shakes and stirs some of the best cocktails in the city. Killer combination.”

For more about the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Dining Guide, visit the Vacay.ca page devoted to the rankings.


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
avatar

Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and his articles are frequently syndicated by the Huffington Post and appear in the Globe & Mail. He makes regular appearances on CTV News, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction, and has visited more than 30 countries. He is also a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in April 2012.

  • Hmmmmm

    kinda wonder what cities they have visited. Really? None from
    Edmonton or Hull? just wondering if you had even bothered to visit those place… curious…

    • JerrybK

      Really…I mean honestly no Restaurants from Edmonton. This reviewer needs to travel more me thinks.

      • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

        Hi Jerry,
        The list was selected by 54 judges and travel writers from across the country. Edmonton had four restaurants that ranked between 51-100 (http://vacay.ca/top-50-restaurants/#6). There was also a public vote in 2013 and Edmontonians didn’t get out and vote for their favourites. We look forward to seeing Edmonton get behind its restaurants and creating buzz for visitors travelling to your wonderful city.

        Vicky

  • Sigh.

    No Corso 32? No three boars???? No red ox inn? Visit some cities outside of your comfort zone. This list misses a lot of great Canadian cuisine.

  • Hangry

    Disappointed that only major Canadian cities were visited. Let’s look for some flavour off the beaten path; those big boys in big places already get a lot of limelight.

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi Meredith,
      The list includes restaurants from: Upper Amherst Cove, Newfoundland & Labrador; Richmond, B.C.; Tofino, B.C.; Cambridge, Ont.; and some of the smaller cities. If you have restaurants you recommend us trying, please let us know and we will have a team member visit. We also have the 2013 list that was voted on by more than 10,000 Canadians.

      Vicky

    • http://vacay.ca/ Vicky Vacay

      Hi Meredith,
      The list includes restaurants from: Upper Amherst Cove, Newfoundland & Labrador; Richmond, B.C.; Tofino, B.C.; Cambridge, Ont.; and some of the smaller cities. If you have restaurants you recommend us trying, please let us know (vote@vacay.ca) and we may have a team member visit. We also have the 2013 list that was voted on by more than 10,000 Canadians.

      Vicky

      • Alex

        You keep mentioning the 10,000 voters VV. Did you factor population distribution? I just wonder if that’s why so many of the restaurants listed are from T.O. and Van. Maybe a better approach is to split the survey by the 10 provinces and take the top 5 from each. Or you could do a different type of algorithm based on number of restaurants per province, etc. Just a thought.

        • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

          Hi Alex,
          We love your egalitarianism! We’ll consider your idea. However, on first blush, the idea of anointing five restaurants per province doesn’t seem fair to the chefs in places like Montreal and Toronto. Based on population distribution, the Top 50 list is in line with Canada, where Ontario, B.C. and Quebec account for 2/3rds of the population. Please participate in our public vote and share your favourite travel photos and stories — you may win a travel prize!

          Vicky

  • Larry Wellspring

    Charcut best in Calgary? Not even top 10
    I guess Connie Desousa was on the board voting

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi Larry,
      Connie and John were among the judging academy, but neither was able to vote for their own restaurant. Last year, CHARCUT ranked fifth overall, in part due a ton of public support. So, there’s lots of love from all over Canada for this fabulous restaurant. We hope you give it another try.

      Vicky

    • http://vacay.ca/ Vicky Vacay

      Hi Larry,
      Connie and John were among the judging academy, but neither was able to vote for their own restaurant. Last year, CHARCUT ranked fifth overall, in part due a ton of public support. So, there’s lots of love from all over Canada for this fabulous restaurant. We hope you give it another try.

      Vicky

  • Opinionated

    hmm…lots of amazing restaurants missing from this list…and of course biased…vij is one of the judges and his restaurant comes in 5th!!!…how about having the average person rate the restaurants? Also break them out by price range. I’ve been to Auberge and Canoe in Toronto..and yes food is really good..but not the best I’ve had..plus in both places I spent a small fortune and yet went to McD after as I was still hungry!!!…at Auberge everyone at my table received precisely 5 green beans…can’t forget that….plus it’s a taste thing…what I like may not be what another person likes…so too subjective here, not worth the paper/screen it’s written on!

    • Amazed

      How can you go to Canoe and then to McD’s in the same night?

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi Nina,
      In 2013, more than 10,000 people voted for the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada. We hope you were one of them who offered your opinion. You can find that list by scrolling down on the Top 50 Restaurants page (http://vacay.ca/top-50-restaurants). Vikram Vij was one of the judges this year and his restaurant ranked lower than it has in 2012 (when it was No. 1 overall) and 2013 (when it was 3rd). As the article states, no judge was allowed to vote for a restaurant he/she is affiliated with. Happy dining!

      Vicky

    • PHANYXX

      If you’re going to Rotten Ron’s after eating at restaurants like that, you’re doing it wrong. Just one man’s opinion.

  • Kate

    This is best in Canada or only select cities? Seems like it’s only the upscale pricy restaurants. I’ve been to L’Abbatoir and I have to say that place is way over rated. Saw more of my plate than any food on it so we left starving after a 3 course meal. Serrvice was terrible too. Never going back.

  • http://www.drinkvicariously.com Shiney

    Also an overemphasis on continental-inspired cuisine, no?

  • Lol every year

    Why are there never any Victoria restaurants on these lists? There is no fucking way that the best restaurants in Vic aren’t even 50th best in Canada. I am assuming that the judges don’t even ever come here. Because we def clean up over Calgary’s offerings, that’s for goddamn sure.

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi,
      Zambri’s ranked 85th in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide. It was a public vote with more than 10,000 people letting the world know about their favourite places to dine. We hope you participated in that vote, or will make sure you do so the next time we put out the word!

      Adrian

    • http://vacay.ca/ Vicky Vacay

      Hi,
      Zambri’s ranked 85th in the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide. It was a public vote with more than 10,000 people letting the world know about their favourite places to dine. We hope you participated in that vote, or will make sure you do so the next time we put out the word!

  • Edmonton

    You mean no one has heard of the Unheard Of restaurant in Edmonton?

  • Disagree

    What a shame. I’ve been to several of the so called ‘top’ restaurants in Calgary (ie. Notables) – very disappointed. Its obvious to me that those judging are elitist types and not real food lovers. Go to Rea’s or Il Chianti or even Earls or Broken Plate – maybe not the fanciest or ‘weirdest’ (ie. duck comfit) types of food, but some of the best quality and consistently flavorful food around. They should have actual food lovers doing the judging – not some uptight, judgmental, ‘better than thou’ types.

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi,
      You must be aware of the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which was determined by a public vote. More than 10,000 Canadians participated. We hope you were one of them. We’ll do it again for 2015 and look forward to reading your selections!

      Vicky

    • http://vacay.ca/ Vicky Vacay

      Hi,
      You must be aware of the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which was determined by a public vote. More than 10,000 Canadians participated. We hope you were one of them. We’ll do it again for 2015 and look forward to reading your selections!

      Vicky

  • Realale44

    How can Sushi Kaji and Au Pied Cochon not be on this list??

  • Enjoy Food

    Not the top fifty restaurants at all.
    Mainly over-priced fads appealing to judges who aren’t that adventurous.
    Edmonton ignored, Ottawa and Halifax just one each, none from Victoria or
    elsewhere in BC but Vancouver, none from anywhere in Quebec but Montreal; the
    entire provinces of PEI and New Brunswick overlooked. Not a very inspiring
    list!

    • http://vacay.ca/Vacay2011 Vicky Vacay

      Hi Cat,
      There are several restaurants on the list with menu prices of less than $20. There are restaurants from Tofino and Whistler, not just Vancouver. Lot 30 from PEI was a deserving entry in the Top 50. Edmonton has five restaurants in positions 51-100. New Brunswick places Savour in the Garden and the Rossmount Inn. A number of the restaurants have been around for a very long time. Perhaps you would like to take a closer look at the list.

      Vicky!

 
Top 50 Restaurants in Canada
 
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