Within days of opening, Ask for Luigi had a hungry line-up outside their Railtown door. This most likely had something to do with their housemade pasta, created from scratch in full view of customers.
Spaghetti Nero ($18), a new summer menu item, is a stand-out, made with organic semolina and flour sourced from Chilliwack. Piled high with saucy, black squid ink noodles, its portion size will leave the hungriest of humans satisfied. It’s the unique mix of flavours however, that render this dish memorable. With 24-hour wine-and garlic-braised octopus (sourced from the Juan de Fuca Strait or Haida Gwaii) and grilled jalapenos, it’s got visual appeal, texture and freshness. General Manager Matthew Morgenstern suggests washing it down with a glass of Pierre Breton Cabernet Franc.
Where: 305 Alexander St.
Locra De Zapallo Hash at Chicha
On any given weekend, when your pleasure center is demanding more excitement out of brunch, head to Broadway and Main where you’ll find an unassuming, modern Peruvian restaurant serving warm, house-made honey-quinoa bread, eggs bennies with a twist and a particular hash that you must add to your breakfast bucket list.
Corn and potatoes – staple ingredients of Peruvian cuisine – are naturally comforting with their high sugar content and creamy textures. Chefs Shelome Bouvette and Allison Flook added runny free-range eggs, roasted maple butternut squash and an aji amarillo chili hollandaise to this combo. The “Locra de Zapallo Hash” ($12.95) was born. It’s so unique and layered with textures that it deserves recognition. Try the cassava root fries with huancaina sauce for additional comfort.
Where: 136 E Broadway
Halibut and Chips at The Fish Counter
When a marine biologist and the grandaddy of Vancouver’s sustainable seafood movement (namely Mike McDermid and Rob Clark) team up to open a fish shop, you know the underwater delicacies they’re sourcing come from a good place.
Made from scratch in-house, Chef Clark uses Nextjen gluten-free baking blend to create a batter that is anything but cakey: “The more it shatters in my house, the happier I am,” he says. His bright, euro-style tartar sauce is outstanding, with ingredients that include French gherkins, tarragon shallots and a touch of dill. Spritzed with a few squeezes of lemon, it might be the best fish and chip dish Vancouver has ever seen.
Where: 3825 Main St.
Eggplant and Yam Perogies at Graze
Karen McCathy is an avid gardener, as well as, the passionate, plant-based chef behind Graze Vegetarian. Her vegan dishes are riddled with ingredients she grew and cared for in her Fraser Street restaurant’s backyard garden. But a plant-based menu needs the decadence factor too, and Karen’s nailed it with her creamy Eggplant and Yam Perogies ($16).
Years were spent fine-tuning her buckwheat-based, gluten-free dough. The end result is a tender vessel for her caramelized, roasted mess of veggies (accomplished without any hard fats, as Graze uses coconut or olive oil). The accompanying sauces – a smoky coconut-based cheddar with a hint of smoked paprika and rosemary-kissed spicy tomato jam – are so fabulously well-balanced you may want to purchase a jar for home (this option is coming soon). Crispy fried shallots put this creamy trio of dumplings over the top with their sharp, satisfying crunch.
Where: 3980 Fraser St.
Liege Waffle at Crackle Creme
Daniel Wong at Crackle Creme makes a liege waffle so fresh, so intoxicating, so deliciously perfect, that it might be remembered as one of the best bites of 2014.
Unlike many Belgian waffle shop owners, Daniel makes his to order. The honey and vanilla-scented dough, which spends 24-hours rising, is pulled from the fridge, rolled in chunky pearl sugar (ideal for high temperatures) and poured onto the sizzling waffle iron. The poofy dessert ($3.75) emerges golden brown with visible, nuggets of crunchy sugar. If you're feeling particularly dangerous, you could pair it with Daniel’s homemade hazelnut Bailey’s sauce, but it’s a winner on its own.
Where: 245 Union St.
Comfort 101: These Vancouver dishes are good for the soul
Whether it’s a hot bite of your mom’s honey-lathered cornbread or three mountainous scoops of salted pecan gelato at Bella Gelateria, food comforts the soul in a way a Bridget Jones rom-com can’t. Flavour and sustenance have a way when it comes to making you feel satisfied.
When in the mood for something more consoling than a bedtime back rub, get to one of these Vancouver restaurants for an ultra-delicious treat that will have you feeling right at home.
Food reporter Erin Ireland is a regular contributor for BCLiving, 102.7 The Peak, The Rush and CTV Morning Live. She is also the owner of To Die For Fine Foods, which is known for its To Die For Banana Bread.