Places to eat and drink in Vancouver

To the rest of Canada with its long winters, the temperate British Columbia West Coast is known as Lotusland. The nickname also arises due to Vancouver's tight connection with Asia that began with an influx of people from south China more than a century ago, and has now spread to include every Asian nationality.

Along with rarely having to push a snow shovel, one of the benefits Lotuslanders enjoy is fine food. Vancouver is a city full of great places to eat, ranging from the vendor who sells fresh buttered popcorn to pedestrians sauntering along the beachfront on English Bay to a whole series of internationally touted restaurants.

Asian diversity remains the city's biggest strength. As Chinese cooking authority Martin Yan of San Francisco puts it: "Chinese food in Vancouver ranks ahead of any North American city and is equal to Hong Kong."

The respect that the Chinese in Greater Vancouver have for fresh ingredients is reflected in the high quality of products available in the city. You can:

* Select a fish from tanks in the Asian supermarkets and have it deep-fried while you shop.
* Try the street food in Asian food courts in Richmond: Singaporean curries, Vietnamese pho, Northern Chinese dim sum, ChiuChow stir-fries, Hong Kong coffee-shop food, or Japanese yakitori.
* Order a Taiwanese pearl milk tea, or head to a Chinese tea shop for a complimentary ginger or ginseng tea (on tap), or share a private tea ceremony. There's even a Chinatown night market where you can brave an exotic snack.

This all comes under the general heading of West Coast or Pacific Northwest cuisine. (Canadians tend to call it 'West Coast', Americans tend to call it 'Pacific Northwest' because it groups British Columbia and Vancouver with Washington and Oregon - which is the 'northwest' to most Americans.) Either designation, however, means making the most of the freshest and finest local ingredients.

The Greater Vancouver area has made a strong - and multicultural - beachhead on the culinary map, and that makes the city's genre of restaurants quite unusual.

A dynasty of home-grown chefs has emerged in British Columbia, and they're leading the charge in Canada. They have access to the freshest, finest ingredients, and they reinforce the supply industry that provides it.

They're eager to make their mark; many have, and more are doing so each year. Culinary wizard Rob Feenie, of the restaurant Lumière, has garnered an international reputation, and a handful of Greater Vancouver chefs have been invited to cook at James Beard House.

Vancouver's hotels are home to some of the country's top hotel dining rooms, among them: Bacchus, Chartwell, Diva at the Met, Five Sails and Fleuri.

Wine, too, gets the attention it deserves in Asian restaurants - that's one of the ways North American and European cuisine in this city has influenced the Asian restaurants. In most good establishments-and Greater Vancouver has a lot of them - you'll find wide ranging international wine lists, the breadth and depth of which you seldom encounter.

Key Restaurant Areas
The following are areas in Vancouver where restaurants concentrate:

Denman Street, in the downtown core, is seven blocks long. There are more than 50 restaurants in those seven blocks.

There are over 200 specialty restaurants in the 52 blocks along Broadway Avenue between Alma Street on the West Side and Commercial Drive on the East Side, in what's nicknamed 'uptown' Vancouver.

Robson Street, which runs at right angles through the downtown core from Denman to Burrard, also has a seven-block cluster. In them, there are more than 40 restaurants, ranging from the super-chic CinCin Ristorante to plain hole-in-the-wall Japanese noodle houses.

Commercial Drive, in the few blocks around the intersection of East 1st in the city's East Side area, has about a dozen restaurants, most with a distinct Italian ambience.

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