Favourite Canadian restaurants of 2015

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Posted June 10, 2015 by Adrian Brijbassi in Alberta
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The plates at The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn are beautifully presented and delicious, thanks to the talents of executive chef Warren Barr. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Column by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Founder 

On Monday, Vacay.ca will announce its fourth annual Top 50 Restaurants in Canada rankings. It’s a survey of elite diners, industry experts, and leading travel and food journalists who take the pulse of the nation’s dining scene. My experiences during the past 12 months indicate that there is a significant leap in quality as chefs push their talents further and some restaurateurs recruit international talent to lead their brigades.

Two Michelin-starred chefs made notable entries in the Canadian dining scene in the past year. At TOCA at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Oliver Glowig has reinvigorated the restaurant with a menu focused on Italian cuisine. In the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver, Stefan Hartmann was recruited from Germany to helm the kitchen at Bauhaus. Coming soon, “Iron Chef” star Masaharu Morimoto, whose Japanese cuisine has won over fans in the United States, will open a restaurant in downtown Toronto’s new Theatre Park building.

More competition should mean a good thing for diners. It can also mean a larger cut of the $72-billion restaurant industry for the most successful names. A continuing trend across the country has been the expansion of some of the nation’s leading chef-driven brands. In Toronto, Rob Gentile’s Buca has a third restaurant, Buca Yorkville. In British Columbia, Vikram Vij has added both My Shanti, in suburban Surrey, and Sutra, a small eatery inside the Victoria Public Market. Also, the bustling Tacofino brand opened a second restaurant in the middle of Vancouver’s Gastown. In Calgary, the CharCut team is expanding with CharBar, and the Model Milk group has just opened Pigeonhole. Daniel Costa, one of Edmonton’s leading chefs, has debuted Bar Bricco next to his well-regarded Corso 32 and Scott Bagshaw in Winnipeg has replicated his success at Deseo Bistro with his newest venture, Enoteca Wine Bar.

It’s an ever-changing and exciting time to dine out across Canada. Here is the list of the 20 best restaurants I tried during the past 12 months. Eight of them will make it onto the 2015 Top Restaurants in Canada rankings. Can you guess which ones?

1. Joe Beef, Montreal: What makes Fred Morin and David McMillan’s place a must-dine in North America is the absolute lack of pretentiousness. The food and service are immaculate. Joe Beef, recently named No. 81 on the World’s 50 Best List, is now an icon of Canadian dining.

2. The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC: Is there a better setting for a meal in Canada than the dining room at The Pointe? Likely not. With executive chef Warren Barr, the main restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property, has elevated its cuisine to match its ambience.

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Bauhaus has made a big impact on the Vancouver dining scene since opening in May 2015. (Herman Chor/Vacay.ca)

3. Bauhaus, Vancouver: The chef’s tasting menu evokes all the aspects of hallmark European cuisine. Poached veal tenderloin is remarkably succulent, the onsen egg is paired with a Parma ham crisp, and the white-wine foam atop the Arctic char is a testament to Hartmann’s range and skill. A great restaurant that’s only getting started.

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Ravioli Caprese gets the high-end treatment at TOCA, the flagship restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

4. TOCA at the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto: Rome-based chef Oliver Glowig arrived in late 2014 with two Michelin stars in tow and transformed the Ritz’s flagship restaurant into a fine-dining experience worth indulging in. Several of the menu items are sensational.

my-shanti-ceviche-tamarind-shot

Among the inventive dishes at My Shanti are these Peruvian/Indian ceviche balls. They’re served in a crisp, bite-size bread bowl and with a tamarind shot. (Herman Chor/Vacay.ca)

5. My Shanti, Surrey, BC: Vikram Vij calls My Shanti, “My baby.” It is the embodiment of the Indian restaurant he has always wanted to own. My Shanti serves dishes that give you a culinary tour of India unlike any other restaurant in Canada.

6. Hawksworth, Vancouver: Consistently brilliant, Hawksworth not only delivers some of the best dishes in Canada, it is home to what’s likely the nation’s leading service and sommelier team.

Black Pig Bistro features two of Calgary’s leading chefs and an inviting casual-dining scene in the city’s Bridgeland area. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

7. Black Pig Bistro, Calgary: Delectable plates with an Iberian influence are created by chef Alison Bieber, who has recently been joined in the kitchen by her husband, the acclaimed John Michael Macneil.

8. Hotel Herman, Montreal: A wonderful casual restaurant on Saint-Laurent Boulevard that features a range of creative plates like razor clams set on a bed of black bread crumbs and a salad of milkweed flowers.

9. Pastaga, Montreal: Chef/owner Martin Juneau’s restaurant delivers contemporary takes on Quebec favourites in an elegant bistro setting.

10. Chambar, Vancouver: Excellent Belgian dishes and a stellar beer list in this warm, inviting restaurant.

11. Bar Isabel, Toronto: Whole grilled octopus and inventive Spanish flavours have made this one of the hottest restaurants in the city.

Hudsons-on-First-Duncan-BC-oyster

Locally sourced oysters are a specialty at Hudson’s on First, a fantastic restaurant in the Cowichan Valley, about an hour’s drive from Victoria. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

12. Hudson’s on First, Duncan, BC: If this Vancouver Island restaurant run by British chef and owner Daniel Hudson were in a larger city, you would be hearing plenty more about it. The dishes are flawless and Hudson’s on First should be on your Canadian dining bucket list.

Boulevard-Restaurant-Vancouver

Beef tenderloin with roasted vegetables and a red-wine reduction is among the entrees you’ll be tempted to order at Boulevard. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

13. Boulevard, Vancouver: In the Sutton Place Hotel, chef Alex Chen has turned this year-old fine-dining restaurant into one of the best on the west coast. You’ll also enjoy the terrific oyster bar with a range of fresh options.

14. Hopgood’s Foodliner, Toronto: The one restaurant I always make sure I visit when I’m in Toronto. It never disappoints.

15. Bao Bei, Vancouver: Great atmosphere, intriguing Chinese fusion dishes and delicious flavours make this spot in Chinatown hugely popular.

16. Segovia, Winnipeg: The Duck Confit Paella ($16) is a must and so is the Chorizo and Gala Apples in sherry vinegar ($7).

17. Tacofino Taco Bar and Tacofino Commissary, Vancouver: For casual dining, you can’t beat the Tacofino brand. The new Taco Bar in Gastown also features a patio on Blood Alley.

18. Shiki Menya, Calgary: Likely home to the best ramen in Canada, Shiki Menya turns out 150 bowls of homemade noodles per day, pleasing eager diners who venture to Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood.

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Filleted Humboldt squid is a popular dish at the Wolf in the Fog. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

19. Wolf In the Fog, Tofino, BC: Chef Nick Nutting, formerly of The Pointe, has opened a masterful establishment in the heart of Tofino. It showcases the rich flavours of the Pacific coast.

20. CinCin, Vancouver: A lovely restaurant with a terrific wine list and Italian dishes, CinCin kindly hosted a very special meal for me earlier this spring.


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
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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.

 
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