Vancouver is a foodie hotspot because of its proximity to the sea and while one a recent trip there, every meal we had was better than the next. Here’s our guide to our three favorite meals.
This exclusive, upscale Japanese restaurant is a splurge, but well worth it. The head sushi master, Hidekazu Tojo, is world renowned. He has made sushi for some of the world’s most esteemed people including Prince William and Kate, Steven Tyler, and Harrison Ford. On a recent Saturday, we were lucky enough to get the royal treatment from Tojo himself when we sat down to a private omakase experience at the restaurant.
First things first, Tojo is a lifelong innovator. He left Japan as a young man after learning about Japanese fine dining and began innovating on a centuries-old standard way sushi was made and served. Ever have a California roll? Well, you can thank Tojo. He created the California roll back in the 1970s and was criticized at the time for thinking outside the box. Now, that roll is ubiquitous worldwide.
If you visit Tojo’s, in addition to tried and true classic rolls, you’ll find creations that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, which makes it a truly unique experience.
We got to watch Tojo in action with his go-to Japanese headband at work behind the long sushi bar. After working diligently, he brought out a platter of creations for us to try. Among those was his famed California roll, smoke salmon, a quinoa (!) roll (yes, you read that correctly), an albacore tuna roll, and a crab roll.
Now, I usually use both wasabi and soy sauce with my sushi, but the quality of the fish as well as the way it was prepared made both of these accessories unnecessary. Let’s start with the salmon roll. Now, heading into this experience, I didn’t eat salmon because I never found it appealing. But, this salmon was world changing. The way the fish was smoked brought out a ton of flavor and it ended up being my favorite dish of the night.
Next, was crab wrapped in egg crepe and topped with fish roe. This was my boyfriend’s favorite roll. The crab has a ton of flavor and the roll it is in is hard to find outside of Tojo’s.
The quinoa roll was so different than anything I’ve ever tasted. It was tied for my second-favorite roll. It had a soybean seed wrap and was filled with quinoa, bell peppers, pickled cucumber, fish, asparagus and other flavors that really popped. It was truly a testament to Tojo’s innovation and his pulse on modern cuisine trends.
The tuna was lightly seared and then marinated in a secret sauce and topped with daikon radish, fresh ginger and onions. It pretty much melted in your mouth and had so much flavor.
I can’t believe I’m admitting this but even after ALL these rolls, Tojo sent us out two desserts, and we happily ate them. One was a sorbet and the other was an Asian crème brullee, both amazing.
After eating here, I can truly recommend that you make a reservation as soon as you book your flights so that you can guarantee a seat in the restaurant, which is frequently attended by actors, celebrities and politicians. It’s a hard table to secure but worth the effort.
If you are looking for the ultimate brunch experience, The Teahouse in Stanley Park should be on your “must” list. It’s the perfect way to spend the day and experience several of Vancouver’s tourist activities at once. It’s in the middle of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, which is a beautiful space that I spent a lot of time in during my stay. You’ll see in our prior guide, that we rented bikes to ride around the perimeter of the park and stopped halfway through at the Teahouse for brunch.
The building of the restaurant itself is super charming. It has indoor and outdoor seating, all of which has the water as the focal point. We went for brunch, but am also told that dinner is a great time to go and sit on the patio because it has great views of the sunset.
After a brisk bike ride in the park where we visited the famous totem poles and saw other sights, we parked our bikes at the restaurant and chose outdoor seating on the patio. After ordering brunch cocktails (mine: a gin cocktail with muddled cucumber, his: a bloody mary with shrimp cocktail garnishing) we set about exploring the menu.
Narrowing down the menu was near impossible because so many of the dishes sounded amazing. With a little help from our waiter, who was amazing by the way, we settled on some Teahouse classics. To start, we had their mussels, which were prepared with tomatoes, garlic, fennel and a white wine sauce. These mussels were ginormous and packed with flavor. Really loved the broth.
For our mains, I ordered the steak and eggs and he got the duck and waffles. The steak and eggs came with scrambled eggs, a New York strip sirloin and a cabernet demi-glace sauce. It was ridiculously good and I nearly finished it, which is big news for me. The boyfriend’s duck and waffles were equally good, and the amount of food could have fed three people. It came with duck leg confit, bourbon bacon jam, Belgian waffles and a sunnyside up egg. We couldn’t finish all the food even though we gave it a really good try.
I loved the ambiance of the patio. They have heat lamps and blankets if there is a bit of a chill, but luckily for us, the weather was cooperating that day.
So, while we had raised our white flags and surrendered after brunch, the kitchen sent out not one, but three desserts for us to try. (Sensing a theme here?). We both swore we’d only have a bite of each, but approximately fifteen minutes later there was barely anything left on the plate, which speaks to the skill of their pastry chef. We had the chocolate Milano cake (this was my favorite and I wasn’t even in the mood for chocolate). It had a chocolate mascarpone mousse on the inside and an almond wafer crust. We also had a Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulee (yep, two crème brulees in two days, because vacation) and a lemon tart with candied lemon that had the most perfect lemon curd filling.
Having brunch at the Teahouse was truly a lovely experience. The service was top notch, as was the food and setting. Highly recommend making a reservation and a day of it.
Tuc Craft Kitchen
In the charming Gastown part of town is Tuc Craft Kitchen, a great restaurant with a rustic feel in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Vancouver. The restaurant has an energetic vibe and communal feel and I really liked the decor with the exposed wood beams and lanterns.
The menu has tons of options. I went solo, so didn’t get to sample a ton, but loved everything I ate. The Cuban style breakfast sandwich was awesome. It could probably feed four people, so might be a good option to share. It had shredded pork shoulder, eggs and tomatillo cream. I went there the day after a wedding so was pretty hungover and craving bacon so I ordered a side of the bacon and wish I could have finished it because it’s exactly what I needed. Definitely appreciated the comfort food after a night out drinking and I’d also somehow gone on a four-mile run that morning miraculously, so felt OK eating carbs