First, some background
One of the most disappointing things we faced after landing in Vancouver was the apparent lack of food diversity. Often promoted as an international hub, most of the restaurants around us seemed to be revolving around two or three cuisines instead of the expectation of an international variety and a different cuisine at every corner.
With the Covid pandemic limiting our inability to go anywhere outside the mainland, we decided to use 2021 as an opportunity to try and explore as many of Metro Vancouver and its surroundings and try as many cuisines from around the world as possible and basically, prove ourselves wrong!
Most of the restaurants are located in the West End, but we’ve had to go further out to cover more ground depending on how restrictions are varying.
To follow us through this project, bookmark this page or follow us on Instagram and learn about where we’re going next every Thursday!
Week 1: India
For our first cuisine of the year, we decided to start with an Indian restaurant in the West End called Kinara Indian Cuisine. Choosing from a varied menu isn’t easy, but we settled on choosing one curry and one option from the tandoor. The option of having a sizzler mix made things easier, as it contained a mix of prawns, chicken and lamb. For the curry, we chose the butter chicken combo with rice and the freshly made naan.
Week 2: Malaysia
We wanted to try Banana Leaf since we moved but kept postponing it for some reason. This project was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot! While they do have a few branches making it more of a chain than a restaurant, it doesn’t seem that they have branched out outside of Vancouver yet.
For starters, we went with the vegetable spring rolls and chicken satay skewers which were the lead-in to the tiger prawns sambal main. All were complemented with an order of pineapple fried rice.
Week 3: Thailand
Like Banana Leaf, Thai Basil is another Vancouver restaurant part of a local chain with restaurants around the area. We had tried it before and the crunchy spring rolls with a side of plum sauce were such a delicacy that they had to be on the order again this time. In addition to the rolls, we went for an all shrimp meal, opting for the prawn wraps and the shrimp pad thai.
Week 4: Greece
Being from the Mediterranean, Greek cuisine is actually quite similar to ours. Even the names are similar! The best way to get it right at a Mediterranean restaurant is by going for a mezze (or meza as we call it), which will offer a variety of small plates. A great way to try it all!
The Greek by Anatoli on Yaletown has the perfect plate for that during Happy Hour, simply called: the Mezze Platter. It has everything you need: hummus, spanakopita (a spinach and feta mixture wrapped in phyllo and baked), fried calamari, dolmathes (stuffed vine leaves), keftedes (meatballs in tomato sauce) as well as souvlaki with an option of chicken or pork. However, the meal wasn’t complete with a dessert I had been craving for quite a while: Loukoumades, which is a fried dough served with sweet syrup.
Week 5: Germany
We took a trip on the Seabus to get to our next restaurant, Jägerhof, as there weren’t many German restaurants nearby. As soon as we walked inside the restaurant, it felt as if she just left Vancouver and flew straight to Europe. The decor, the portraits, the music, everything felt different.
For the food, we both went for the schnitzel meals: the Jäger served with a mushroom sauce and pan fried potatoes, and the Expo which was stuffed with ham and cheese, along with a couple of German beers. We ended the meal with an Apple Strudel, with a cup of coffee and tea. That being said, it wasn’t your average cup of tea and coffee! They were boosted with the right amount of liquor to count as a second drink! It’s one place we’re definitely going back to.
Week 6: Nepal/Himalaya
In the two years we’ve been living in Vancouver, we’ve passed Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen multiple times going up and down Davie street, always saying that we should try it someday. This project was the perfect opportunity to do so!
I don’t think we went wrong with anything we ordered, from the fried momos (dumplings), to the Chatpate, a puffed rice salsa with lamb and the Nepali Bhojan, a traditional plate consisting of a protein of choice that’s served with lentil soup, spinach, rice, raita and naan bread. It is a meal we still talk about from time to time!
Week 7: Jamaica
The Loft Lounge is right around the corner from where we live. For some reason, we were rarely tempted to try closer restaurants because “we can try them at anytime”. With the stay in your region phase of the pandemic, and with the loft running a trivia night (currently on pause), it was a great opportunity to pop in and try out some Caribbean cuisine.
As it was more of a pub fun night, we went the appetizer and handheld route. For starters, your basic mozzarella sticks but also deep fried plantains which we had never had before. The taste was quite unique for us and definitely not what was expected. For the “main”, a crazy delicious Jerk chicken sandwich perfectly flavored in traditional coco bread. It was so good that we ordered it again the second time we went.
Week 8: Nigeria
Another around the corner small restaurant, Arike restaurant and cocktail bar, is the only restaurant offering Nigerian flavors nearby. We ordered take-out and picked up the Charred Pineapple Chicken and the Peanut and Coconut Curry with the beef shank. The flavor combinations were very unique and unlike anything we’ve had before.
Week 9: Japan
When one thinks Japanese food, sushi is the first thing that comes to mind… which is why we wanted to try something slightly different. It was hard to choose which place to try as there is a wide variety of Japanese restaurant in the West End alone, but we ended up on Kingyo Izakaya. For the appetizer, the sockeye salmon carpaccio and for the main meal, a bento box of grilled salmon and chicken karaage, Japan’s take on fried chicken.
Week 10: Lebanon
We cheated a little on this one, being Lebanese and all. Unfortunately, with the exception of Paramount Fine Foods in downtown, there are no really authentic Lebanese restaurants. Any good Sunday Lebanese lunch will include the tabbouleh salad as a start. For the main meal, we shared the taouk chicken platter and the chicken shawarma sandwich served in saj bread.
Fun fact: Adding rice to the shawarma and taouk is not a Lebanese thing and we have only seen it happening in Vancouver!
Week 11: Peru
Silvestre Deli & Bistro is a little restaurant in Gastown that offers Peruvian food. They had quite the diverse menu and we didn’t know what to choose! For the appetizer, we chose the Ceviche Mixto, being Peru’s national dish. It was everything but the size of an appetizer and I would have gladly had it for dinner alone without sharing. The add lime juice gave it that extra delicious kick. For the main dish, we went for the Lomo Saltado de Pollo a la Brasa, which consists of roasted chicken and vegetables served over fries with rice. The portions were really so generous that we ended up having leftovers for the next day!
Week 12: First Nations
What a great discovery of a place! Salmon n Bannock is at the moment the only owned and operated Indigenous restaurant in Vancouver. The staff, which comes from various nations, were very passionate talking about the restaurant, the food and the beautiful pieces covering the walls. We were lucky to have gone there before indoor dining was paused as the restaurant itself was beautifully decorated with a unique atmosphere we didn’t get anywhere else.
Now for the food… not sure where to start really. For the appetizers, the salmon mousse with bannock crackers as well as the mushrooms on toasted bannock that’s served with bison gravy. For the main platter, we went with the game sausage platter which has rotating flavours. Ours were the venison sausages with blueberry. The combination of flavours ranked really high on the list of just about everything we’ve had so far in Vancouver. The mushrooms on toasted bannock however outshone everything else that a big regret was having had to share it. We will be definitely returning for more!
Week 13: Ukraine
For a little taste of Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian Village on Denman was the perfect place for another culinary trip. The must order at this restaurant would be hands down the perogies. There are three different variations to choose from but you can mix and match, which is highly recommended. On the side, we ordered an extra Ukrainian sausage. For the main course, the Kiev cutlet, a breaded and deep fried chicken breast served with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables. To down it all down, there is a selection of Eastern European beers to pick from. We know we’ll be definitely returning, as this visit was not our first and definitely won’t be our last.
Week 14: Iran
When looking at the menu for Persian restaurants near us, it felt quite similar to your typical Lebanese cuisine barbecue. However, the similarities were mainly appearance wise as the spices used and presentation were different. For example, rice would not accompany grilled food, but the meals were delivered with a large portion of saffron rice.
From Khaghan restaurant, we ordered the Loghmeh, skewers of marinated ground beef as well as the Boneless Chicken. The meals came with sides of grilled tomatoes, onions and pickles.
Week 15: Spain
Around the corner from where we live is a tiny Spanish restaurant we never had the chance to try. The reason? It’s been always full! With indoor dining not being an option anymore, we opted for a takeout. Besides their regular menu which is more suited for in-restaurant, Espana offers a daily meal for two that changes every day. We of course, went for a Monday take out to give their seafood paella a try. And no regrets there! Over the saffron rice base, prawns, clams and squid combined for an exquisite culinary experience. What a great introduction to this restaurant!
Week 16: Chile
Covid has been extremely hard for restaurants this year as it is, let alone for newly opened ones like Puro Chile. It was great to hear about this new place as we were looking for international food in Vancouver. For our takeout order (no indoor dining still!), we got two varieties of Churrascos, which are beef sandwiches in ciabatta bread. One of them with caramelized onions, egg and BBQ sauce and the other with avocado and tomatoes. One the side, the Chorillana, a plate of french fries topped with beef, an egg and barbecue sauce. While we did over order, we couldn’t stop until it was all gone!
Week 17: Italy
With the newer restrictions requiring us to stay in the neighborhood, we had to look around for an Italian restaurant. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far, Tavola was the perfect restaurant for the week! For our dinner, we started with the crostini appetizer. There were three options to choose from so of course we got one of each. My favorite was the chicken liver spread. We didn’t know the past plates were made to share so it was a great surprise to see how they are served so we could both try a taste of each. The first plate was campanelle with mushrooms, prosciutto and lemon which was beyond delicious. But the truly special platter was on the daily special list, also a campanelle with double smoked bacon and ramp pesto. The pasta was homemade and will make you not want to eat pasta anywhere else. Of course, to accompany the meal, one can’t go wrong with a bottle of Italian wine.
Week 18: Australia
We went down under for our 18th week by ordering from Moose’s Down Under near Waterfront station. Looking at the menu, it was quite easy to decide what to go for: the kangaroo burger! We also ordered a typical Aussie burger with pineapple, beetroot and an egg as toppings. Both burgers were excellent and very juicy. The taste of the kangaroo meat was unusual and a first for the both of us. For drinks, they have a selection of Australian beers. We went with the Coopers sparkling pale ale and a Little Creatures pale ale. This meal was the closest we’ve ever been to Australia! We’ll definitely be going there again as soon as it’s possible to give the pies and chicken parmies a try!
Week 19: Korean
When we were asking for restaurant recommendations for this project, almost everyone’s first reaction was “how have you not tried Korean yet!”. There are so many Korean cuisine restaurants in downtown that it was hard to choose. We finally settled on Sura Korean Royal Cuisine restaurant in the West End.
We tried the Bulgogi, a stir fry of thinly sliced tender ribeye with mushrooms in house special marinade (oh so good!). We also got the authentic Korean style grilled mackerel, a small size of soy bean paste soup, a bowl of steamed rice, and various small side dishes.
Week 20: British
While not in the West End, we decided to drop by The Cheese Inn on Dunbar on our way to Pacific Spirit regional park for a hike. It had a neighborhood pub vibe where almost everyone around us sounded like regulars who are on first name basis with all the other regulars! In addition to the standard pub food, they serve British classics, which is the whole reason we went there!
To start, we each ordered a couple of beers including of course a Guinness. For food, we went for the British classics: trying the Bangers and Mash, sausages served with mashed potatoes and beans, as well as a Guinness Steak and Mushroom Pie. Both were extremely delicious and so hearty that we were close to canceling the trail and just go home and nap!
Week 21: Chinese
Another West End gem that was recommended to us was Nine Dumplings. It’s located inside the Robson public market on the 2nd floor and can easily go unnoticed if you’re just walking by looking for a place to eat. While their menu is quite varied including a truly filling fried chicken wrap, the specialty is what the restaurants name is: 9 different types of dumplings. Not sure which option to choose from? Well no worries because they do have a sampler plate where you can get one of each. Each of the dumplings has a different filling and color which makes the plate Instagram worthy. It is also as good as it looks!
Week 22: Mexico
Walking down Davie street, it is hard to miss our next restaurant on the list, Los Amigos Taqueria. It’s an explosion of colors, from the restaurant’s façade to the patio benches and chairs that are calling for you to sit down and enjoy your meal. There is a good variety of tacos to choose from, ours were the Al Pastor, Bistek and Tinga de Pollo. We also ordered chicken quesadillas which were today for with all the hot gooey cheese that we will be definitely coming back for.
Week 23: Afghanistan
Another excellent cuisine discovery and who knew Afghan cuisine would be so close to our Lebanese one too! For our dinner, we ordered from Afghan Horsemen near Granville Island.
We went for the Kabab combo which included three skewers of lamb, chicken and beef, Basmati rice, a feta cheese salad, chaka, a yogurt deep, and probably the best thing of the entire meal, Pakawra, batter fried potatoes. They were so good that we were glad we accidentally ordered an extra portion of it as a side and ate them all despite feeling full towards the end. We also had a side order of Sabzi Mast, cooked spinash with yogurt, that served as a refreshing dip.
One of the greatest things about this project is discovering places we’d want to go to again and this is definitely one of them!
Week 24: Russia
Located inside the food court, we may not have found the Russian Spoon Bakery by walking by. We didn’t know what to expect for the price so we ended up over ordering as the portions were very large compared to the price!
As a starter, we had the Borscht soup and rye bread. Although I’m not a fan of beets, the combination of flavor was such a unique experience. For the main meals, we had a baked chicken leg served with Russian-style potatoes and sauerkraut, as well as beef stroganoff over noodles. The meal would also not have been complete without a side of potato and onion perogies!
This is a great place for a healthy and hearty midweek take out meal!
Week 25: Indonesia
According to most Indonesian reviewers, eating at Bali Thai made them feel like they were home so it made perfect sense for us to try it! It’s a counter mom & pop store type located in a food court. The food is quite similar to cuisines in the area. For our order, we went for the Creamy Beef Soup which comes with steamed rice and the Chicken Noodle with beef ball soup.
Week 26: France
We saved French cuisine week for a special occasion (my birthday of course) and for that, we went to Au Comptoir, in the heart of Kits. Walking in, you are even greeted in typical French bistro fashion, instantaneously taking you (back) to Paris! We went during the brunch menu and are definitely looking forward to go and try the dinner menu.
For our later in the day lunch, we had the Ris de Veau, is roasted veal sweetbreads, morel mushrooms, asparagus and poached eggs as well as the Bavette d’Aloyau, a grilled beef bavette steak with roquefort sauce, fries and salad. Of course no meal is complete without a nice bottle of French wine. For this meal, we went with a bottle of Côtes Du Rhône white wine.
As it was a special occasion, we complemented the whole meal with a dark chocolate mousse and a Tarte Citron Meringuée.
Week 27: Brazil
What a great gem of a discovery this place is! When thinking of Brazilian food, people tend to focus on the barbecue and meat. However, we were recommended Boteco Brazil by Brazilian friends who promised us an authentic delicious meal. And delicious it was!
For the appetizers, we started with Coxinha, one of the most popular Brazilian snacks. Crispy potato-based teardrop shaped croquette stuffed with shredded chicken and spices. This one was such a delicious surprise! We also had the Calabresa, a dish of cured sausage with caramelized onion and sautéed kale, served with seasoned fries.
For the main, we shared a chicken Empada savoury shortcrust stuffed with traditional pulled seasoned chicken and cream cheese, served with mixed greens salad. Of course, a couple of glasses of white wine couldn’t hurt!
Week 28: Armenia
There is a very large Armenian community in Lebanon where we’re originally from and so we were looking forward to going to Lamajoun in Richmond. While the location of the restaurant was in what felt like more of an industrial zone, it was people were intentionally going there judging by the people who were eating there and picking food up.
We were very hungry as it took as about a bit over an hour to get there from the West End and so we had one signature Lamajoun each, a ground beef mixture on a thin dough, a pide basturma to share, a dough boat with cheese, an egg and basterma, a typical Armenian cured beef. With the above, we shared a plate of barbecue grilled chicken thighs wrapped in lavash flat bread. Since it was a very warm day and so a refreshing Ayran, a yogurt drink, was a must!
Week 29: Portugal
The restaurant we initially were planning to go to for our Portugal week was closed, but we ended up trying Barcelos, a larger chain of restaurants serving Portuguese food blended with an African ambiance. It’s always a good choice to go for a combo that will allow for a taste of everything which is why we went for the half pack, which includes half a chicken, two chicken skewer kebabs as well as four whole wings. For the side, we went for the standard coleslaw and must have Peri-Peri fries. In addition to that, we had the Espetada, which is a large skewer of chicken and grilled vegetables served on a vertical stand.
Week 30: Mongolia
We came across the Great Wall Mongolian BBQ while going through our country list and with the amount of ravings about portion sizes relative to cost and taste, it definitely went on the list. The restaurant is a buffet style so since it was a delivery meal, we added a little bit of everything to our order: chicken, beef, pork, veggies, noodles, rice and pineapples, as well as a variety of sauces. One combo was more than enough for two people especially that it also came with a soup and we complemented it with two grilled shrimp skewers.
We are really looking forward to trying it buffet style at the restaurant!
Week 31: Iraq
A staple meal of the gulf, we ordered kabsa from Baghdadcafevancouver on Seymour street. The plate consists of kabsa rice as well as lamb shank and comes with a salad side and pita bread. Along with it, we tried their shawarma wraps, one meat and one chicken. Delicious!
It was more than enough for two people and let’s say we had leftovers for the next day which is great considering the lower price point compared to other places!
Week 32: Syria
Yasma is a newly opened Syrian restaurant in Kitsilano and was the next place to try on our list. For starters, we had the Yalandji, grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, pepper, onion, mint. We also had Toshka, We also got the incredible Toshka, a grilled pita stuffed with minced lamb and halloumi cheese with a side of fries.
For the main course, Aleppo kabab, which is different from Lebanese kabab as a mixture, with the main ingredients being minced lamb, pistachios and peppers.
The portions were large enough that we would definitely had leftovers if we weren’t immensely hungry when we ordered!
Week 33: Morocco
What to say about Moltaqa restaurant! A true experience in itself: the music, the vibe, the food. For the starters, some Moroccan bread with Harissa hot sauce, as well as the classic Moroccan Harissa, a lentil, chickpea and tomato soup, and the roasted carrot, feta and lemon salad. Then, fFor the main courses, we went for the lamb shank with apricots as well as the duck with figs and pear tagine (with a side of couscous of course).
One of the greatest things about this project is that it allowed us to discover some great locations that will become part of our go-to restaurants, and Moltaqa will definitely be on that list!
Week 34: Argentina
We couldn’t find a full on Argentinian restaurant in Vancouver, so we went for the next best thing, trying the Argentina inspired menu items at Latin American restaurant Cuchillo.
First on the menu item, wild Argentine sea prawns, served on corn arepas with green apples and a spicy pipian verde, a pumpkin seed sauce. Next came the beyond next level Angus steak bavette asado, served on a chorizo and ptato mash as wel as a baby ceaser salad. The meat was on point and while it did come from BC, asado basically means to grill in the Argentinian manner.
The restaurant is perfect for a date night or for just one of those nights where you feel like dressing up for a special evening. We’ll be definitely returning!
Week 35: Ethiopia
There a few Ethiopian restaurants around town and we chose Harambe for week 35. The minute we set foot in the restaurant, the vibrant colors, the music, the art on all the walls automaticallt transport you to Ethiopia!
For our dinner, we ordered the Chef’s Choice Combination platter which comes with Yebeg Wot (Ethiopian Lamb Stew), Doro Wot (Ethiopian chicken stew flavored with a spiced butter ) and Alitcha Wot (onions, garlic, ginger, meat & potatoes) with Assorted Vegeterian Dishes from the Menu. All these come with a side of injera bread, a very unique Ethiopian flatbread.
To wash it all down, we had two glasses of traditional honey wine.
Don’t expect cutlery, the restaurant does not offer knives and forks. Entrées are designed to be eaten with injera or with your hands. Thick, spicy stews and meats and vegetables simmered in sauce, scooped up with pieces of injera was one incredible experience. The platter offers a variety of tastes with every piece. But careful with overeating the injera, it feels light and fluffy but it is still bread!
Week 36: Yemen
We were not familiar at all with Yemeni cuisine before so ordering from Saba Foods gave us the perfect opportunity to do so.
We ordered the Half Chicken mandi with lamb haneeth shoulder. The meal comes with rice, salad, zahowek, a Yemeni hot sauce and to top it all off, an 8” tray of delicious kunafa for dessert!
The food was savoury and comforting and the portion is so large, it looks like it’s gonna be dinner for the next day too!