It's safe to say all living things like food, but maybe not as much as Chef Victor Bongo does. Recently transplanted from Africa, a young Victor worked as a dishwasher, but the siren call of the culinary scene lured him. He navigated from one kitchen to another, learning to cook, achieving the position of head chef, and eventually studying with three-star Michelin Chef Edmund Liew-On.
Today, Chef Bongo helms Daniel's Restaurant, where he puts his considerable talents to work blending internationally beloved spices into local seasonal and organic ingredients. He places pan-seared scallops into seas of pureed parsnips or submerges bison filet mignon in blueberry-port-wine sauce. His culinary ministrations earned his new restaurant the accolades of local press, including Straight.com's 2012 Golden Plate award for Best New Restaurant Outside Vancouver.
Chada Thai Fine Cuisine—named after the traditional headpiece in a Thai classical dance—prepares platefuls of pan-seared tiger prawns, chicken blanketed in curry sauce, and pad thai noodles. Around the dining room, elaborate headpieces adorn walls, and sculptures sit near the entrance, high-fiving patrons as they walk in.
Nando's Flame-Grilled Chicken, founded in South Africa in 1987, brings Portugal's peri-peri flame-grilled chicken to the Vancouver area with only the bare minimum of laser lights and smoke-shrouded, two-way mirrors. Discovered by Portuguese explorers in Africa in the distant days of maritime exploration, peri-peri is a fiery chili pepper that adds a kick of capsaicin to any cuisine, clucker-related or not. Nando's fresh chicken breasts luxuriate in their peri-peri marinade for 24 hours, resulting in dishes with a slate of Scoville-scale-scorching spice levels—mild lemon and herb, medium, hot, and the daredevil-only extra hot. Step up to Nando's counter to order from the menu of sandwiches, pitas, wraps, salads, and peri-peri chicken. Enjoy a grilled-to-order peri-peri half-chicken with a side ($11.39) such as spiced rice or hearty coleslaw, or bite around basted bones with a dozen peri-peri chicken wings with a side ($9.99). Nando's also sports peri-peri chicken breast sandwiches or pitas ($8.49–$10.79), chicken or veggie whole wheat wraps with a side ($8.49–10.79), and veggie burgers or pitas ($8.49–$10.79), as well as salads and salad meals ($3.99–$9.99) for lovers of leaves of lettuce.
An evening at The Giggle Dam begins as a typical night out, until a zany cast member delivers your appetizer. That's because the theatre treats the dinner and performance portions of its shows as one and the same; rather than only using printed menus, the cast sings the dinner selections to the audience, and rather than postponing the entertainment, the entrée delivery is part of the show. Every plate of the four-course meal—which features rotating dishes such as roast beef and gravy, salmon, and vegetarian pasta—is crafted by award-winning chef Pieter Van Meenen, who incorporates seasonal ingredients and fresh techniques in each of his inventive creations. As the audience dines, the actors float around the room and converse with every table while hamming it up with their impressions and gags.
Once the actors are familiar with the audience members' names, hometowns, and shampoo preferences, they hit the stage and engage the audience in an outrageous and politically incorrect original musical comedy show accompanied by an eight-piece band. Every performance is a Giggle Dam original written by the members of the diverse cast who all bring something different to the table, whether it's singing in musical theatre, touring with a rock band, or performing in burlesque shows. The Giggle Dam cast pulls from these experiences to create shows full of laughs, music, and willing audience participation. To keep things fresh, the company swaps out the shows four times a year, premiering a new display every three months to feature more vibrant characters, catchy songs, and side-splitting laughs.
In 1999, Ray Russell opened the first FreshSlice Pizza location in British Columbia. In the ensuing decade, that maiden franchise blossomed into a Canadian institution, growing to encompass more than 70 locations across the country. As is the case in any business, the key to FreshSlice's growth was a desire to put the customer first, an emphasis on pizza served fresh, and the development of healthy options such as multigrain dough and low-fat pies. Though the menus vary by location, the franchises offer gourmet combinations such as the barbecue chicken and classic staples such as pepperoni. They also let clients select toppings to create their own pizza or mix-and-match a pie by bringing together eight slices of a different type, an ability usually available only to rainbows.
Since 1997, Big River Brewing Company has created its craft beers on the banks of the historic Fraser River. At the brewer's restaurants, you can pair their 8 distinctive brews with hearty pub food. In some cases, that pairing is taken care of for you?the chicken burger is marinated in Sidewheeler blond ale, and there are beer-braised onions, crisp bacon, cheddar cheese, and a special sauce on the Big River classic burger. Sauces are another specialty here?a cajun basil pesto amps up the chicken quesadilla; meanwhile, Frank's red hot sauce coats the brewhouse wings and the fingers of everyone who eats them. The Coquitlam location has an open kitchen, so you can watch at the chefs incorporate ales and lagers into their dishes and sauces.