It may seem hard to improve on the simple appeal of beer-battered fish, but consider 131 Water Kitchen & Bar's particularly artisanal approach: beer-battered haddock, hand-cut fries, and house-made tartar sauce. It's one of several ways the restaurant manages to work beer into its high-concept pub cuisine; the menu also sneaks beer into other signature dishes, including Guinness meatloaf and smoked-cheddar poutine made with stout-infused bacon.
When the kitchen can't physically blend a brew with a bite, a variety of local and craft beers facilitates easy pairing. Ales from breweries such as Parallel 49 are a natural fit with the burgers, especially the patty of house-made bratwurst topped with blue-cheese aioli and pear-and-onion relish.
But before you've settled on what you'd like in your sandwich, you'll have to decide where to eat it. The main dining room screens sports on its HD televisions, but the people-watching on Water Street?viewable from the gigantic front windows and the wraparound patio?can prove just as entertaining. There's also a courtyard patio, whose quiet allows dates to whisper sweet nothings over dinner and drinks.
For an even swankier vibe, the restaurant's mezzanine level beckons larger parties to settle into its low-lit booths. Don't schedule your book club meeting on a Wednesday night, however?that's when team trivia gets heated downstairs.
In the dining room, the rhythmic pounding of a bodhrán hand drum mingles with the joyful melodies of a tin flute, flooding every inch of the space with an ebullience punctuated by onlookers’ clapping hands and tapping feet. The diners have left the feasts spread across their tables mostly untouched, their attention glued to the band in the midst of their lively song. Such moments aren't a rarity at Donegal's Irish House, but are an almost nightly occurrence at the jovial eatery that brings locals together to make new friends and share in internationally inspired meals.
Champions of fostering an atmosphere of community and friendship, the affable staff goes out of its way to make guests feel welcome, thanks to attentive service and an ever-changing calendar of events that keep inviting guests back. On select evenings, patrons can convene at Donegal's to watch a Canucks game or to see local bands. As guests chat and mingle in the dining room, the kitchen buzzes with chefs concocting Irish standards such as shepherd's pie and international cuisine that includes perogies and sausage, jambalaya, and butter chicken. Donegal's signature dish remains the whopping blarney stone burger, a 7.5-pound charbroiled Canadian beef patty that gets its eater a commemorative T-shirt and a place on the wall of fame if it's eaten within two hours with no help. Unsuccessful competitors, meanwhile, find their snapshot displayed on the wall of shame, under the most personal entry from their dream journals.
Ken Hueston grew up with a penchant for bones. According to the Goldstream News Gazette, he began his formal education in pursuit of paleontology, but he soon found that although his instincts were correct, they were slightly misguided?his place was not among dusty and brittle dinosaurs, but in the steam of a kitchen. There, his commitment to local ingredients, handmade cuisine, and chef education would earn him the B.C. Chamber of Commerce's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008, a spot on enRoute's Best New Restaurant list, and a 2012 feature on Food Network Canada's You Gotta Eat Here.
Today at Smoken Bones Cookshack, after a brief absence, Ken is back as head chef, bringing with him a fresh dose of creativity and heeding the traditions of artisanal cooking, forming his menu's burgers, cheeses, and bacon by hand, without additives. Ken and his apprentices prepare everything on site, using scratch cooking techniques, including smoking food with local Vancouver island woods. Featured on You Gotta Eat Here, their pork and beef ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket stake out the spotlight, though the Cookshack has not forgotten seafood, chicken, and stacked sandwiches. The emphasis on all-natural methods also extends past the cuisine and into the smoking process itself, which employs wood from Vancouver fruit and alder trees.
The forest figures heavily into the restaurant's decor too: in between praising the venue's bacon ice cream, Heed the Hedonist recounts "exposed ducts and exposed wood everywhere, including a plywood bar that was fashioned from a Douglas Fir that had blown down during a windstorm." Big-screen televisions augment the natural appeal, broadcasting sports on game nights, and live blues music twangs during special events.
For nearly a quarter of a century, Oliver Twist Pub has provisioned patrons with to-go and bar-side libations alongside feasts of eclectic pub fare. Inside the welcoming two-storey pub or on the open-air patio, patrons sup on hearty burgers, steak, and seafood, or pastas and rice bowls inspired by cuisines from around the world, washing down meals with frosty brews on tap. As the Canucks complete blind passes and flawless toe loops and football and baseball players battle it out on the nine HDTVs, the air buzzes with the excitement of nighttime activities ranging from karaoke and DJ sets to poker tournaments and music bingo.
Oliver Twist’s attached liquor store equips on-the-go customers with a full range of lottery prizes, wines, liquors, and a walk-in chilled beer cave that mimics the Neanderthal frozen brew palaces of the Ice Age.
In Browns Socialhouse, backed leather stools and cushy booths flank tables. On the walls, oversize illuminated signs reading EAT and Liquor shine brightly against the cozily lit dining room. Mixing social-house comfort with a contemporary edge, the decor at Browns Socialhouse mimics the style of its food. Chefs hand cut and double-cook fries to pile alongside their steak sandwich or housemade, hand-pressed burgers. They've got an eye for detail—for example, they char-grill their dry-aged pepperoni before piling it atop pizzas with pepperoncinis and asiago. The selection ranges from international favorites—such as street tacos and shrimp-and-chicken pad thai, among other—to updated pub eats, such as fish ‘n’ chips featuring pacific halibut dunked in a Sapporo beer batter. Every Saturday, Sunday, and on holidays, the chefs set their roosters to crow earlier so they can rise and mix up batches of their own hollandaise for brunches. They crack only free-range eggs for their brunch dishes, which include corned-beef hash and prosciutto eggs benedict with goat cheese.
Aromas of spicy garlic, honey-roasted pork cheeks, and hot soups flood the dining room at Hakkasan Contemporary Chinese Cuisine, wafting an olfactory preview of the menu's contemporary Chinese cuisine past diners' tables. Although the chefs rely on traditional Cantonese spices and cooking techniques, their goal is to elevate Chinese fare—without masking the dishes' regional roots—by integrating eclectic ingredients such as foie gras and Berkshire pork loin. They also complement the Eastern flavours with Western presentations, carefully sculpting and arranging every entree on its plate to create a thoroughly refined dining experience, and one that has earned praise from the Richmond Review and the Vancouver Sun. In addition, Hakkasan won Best Service Award from the 2011 HSBC Diner's Choice Awards.
The restaurant's signature tasting menus rotate seasonally, which allows the chefs to incorporate fresh bounties of locally sourced produce, organic greens, and free-range chicken. Additionally, the à la carte menu tempts diners with its own selection of entrees, including a fragrant quail-and-fungus soup that double boils inside of a young coconut for three hours.