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Best dining bets in Vancouver

Foodies, take note: Vancouver is one of North America's top dining cities, right up there with New York, San Francisco, and any other food capital you can think of. Estimates are that the city has anywhere from two to five thousand restaurants.
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Foodies, take note: Vancouver is one of North America's top dining cities, right up there with New York, San Francisco, and any other food capital you can think of. Estimates are that the city has anywhere from two to five thousand restaurants. What's undeniably true is that Vancouverites dine out more than residents of any other Canadian city. Outstanding meals are available in all price ranges and in many different cuisines, with a preponderance of informal Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants. There are also top restaurants that for preparation, taste, and presentation of Pacific Northwest cuisine can compete with the best anywhere. Sushi lovers are in heaven here because superlative sushi is available all over for a fraction of what you'd pay south of the Canadian border.

Over the past few years Vancouverites have come to expect top quality, and yet they absolutely refuse to pay the kind of stratospheric prices restaurant-goers pay in New York or London. For discerning travelers who love to dine out and dine well, Vancouver is a steal. There's a cadre of top dining places where Vancouver's trendy, glamour-seeking food acolytes gather to see and be seen.

Most of the top restaurants offer tasting menus, and if you're into food, I recommend that you try them. In particular, the tasting menus at West, C, Raincity Grill, and Cin Cin will give you a brilliant sampling of the best, freshest, and most creative cooking in Vancouver. Keep in mind, too, that Vancouver is perhaps the West Coast's pre-eminent city for seafood. You can dine on fresh oysters and superbly prepared local fish for much less than you'd pay in any other city.

Best Spot for a Romantic Dinner: Raincity Grill, 1193 Denman St. (tel. 604/685-7337), with its low ceiling, crisp linens, windows overlooking English Bay, and fabulous food, is a place that makes you want to linger.

Best Pacific Northwest Cuisine: For amazingly fine dining that utilizes absolutely fresh local seasonal ingredients, you can't go wrong with West, 2881 Granville St. (tel. 604/738-8938), a culinary highpoint of the city and winner of Vancouver Magazine's Best Restaurant award in 2005.

Best Spot for a Celebration: Cin Cin, 1154 Robson St. (tel. 604/688-7338), serves superlative Italian cuisine in one of the city's loveliest and most comfortable dining rooms; the covered, heated patio is wonderful, too.

Best View: For a combination of top-notch food and a killer view of mountains, Burrard Inlet, and Stanley Park, try Lift, 333 Mencions Mews (tel. 604/689-5438).

Best for Kids: Romano's Macaroni Grill at the Mansion, 1523 Davie St. (tel. 604/689-4334), has a huge kids' menu, high chairs, and a great old mansion to explore -- kids will love it.

Best Chinese Cuisine: The best Vancouver Chinese at the moment remains Sun Sui Wah, 3888 Main St. (tel. 604/872-8822). It's definitely worth the trip.

Best French Cuisine: For several years, Lumière, 2551 W. Broadway (tel. 604/739-8185), won the top spot in the yearly Vancouver Restaurant Awards. You won't be disappointed.

Best Service: Owner John Bishop of the eponymous Bishop's, 2183 W. Fourth Ave. (tel. 604/738-2025), makes every customer feel special.

Best Seafood: The creativity of the chef, the quality of the ingredients, and the freshness of the seafood all combine to make C, 1600 Howe St. (tel. 604/681-1164), the best seafood restaurant in Vancouver.

Best Tapas: Bin 941 Tapas Parlour, 941 Davie St. (tel. 604/683-1246) was serving tapas before the trend hit, and this tiny hangout still does it best.

Best Newcomer: Sanafir, 1026 Granville St. (tel. 604/678-1049), opened in May 2006, is already a scene-stealer with its opulent Silk Road theme and cuisine.

Best Italian: At the wonderful Cin Cin, 1154 Robson St. (tel. 604/688-7338), the menu is divided into Old World and New World and everything tastes divine.

Best Japanese: The most sublime of sushi is at Tojo's Restaurant, 202-777 W. Broadway (tel. 604/872-8050). Just remember to take out an extra mortgage beforehand.

Best Late-Night Dining: Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar, 1079 Mainland St. (tel. 604/602-0835), in trendy Yaletown, is the place to be seen sipping and snacking late into the evening.

Best Outdoor Dining: For unsurpassed ocean views, reserve a table under the trees at Sequoia Grill at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, Ferguson Point (close to Third Beach; tel. 604/669-3281). This patio also doubles as best sunset spot.

Best Oysters: In the heart of the Robson shopping area, Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House, 777 Thurlow St. (tel. 604/669-1940), has the best raw oyster bar in town, plus fresh seafood served without a lot of culinary intervention.

Best Vegetarian: Annapurna, 1812 W. Fourth Ave. (tel. 604/736-5959), has flavorful food; a cozy little room; and the most reasonable wines in town. Who says you have to sacrifice when you're a veggie eater?

For complete listings and reviews of Vancouver's restaurants, visit Vancouver online.

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