Barb's Fave Restaurants June 2000

It's very difficult to try to narrow down my favourite eateries. There are so many fabulous restaurants in Vancouver, that I've got a favourite in almost every category, price range and style of dining. Here are a few of my current fave spots. As a foodie's palate is fickle, these are subject to change at any time!


November 2003 UPDATE: Check out our 2003 Diva update.

I fell in love with this restaurant the first time I ate there, soon after it opened. I love the cool, yet laid back elegance of Diva. I'm always impressed by how well Michael Noble marries various Asian influences with local food, without losing the inherent qualities of the food he's started with. Everything's such a visual feast too!

My favourite menu item is the cheese course (hurray for the renaissance of the cheese course!!) One can choose a number of cheeses to savour at the end of a meal. Only down side to this was that after the cheese course, we were too full to have another one of my Diva favourites, the Stilton Cheesecake (now world famous after its recipe's publication in a recent issue of Gourmet). As odd as it sounds, the stilton in this cheesecake is subtle--you don't quite notice it until it hits the back of your palate as it leaves a warm glow. The rhubarb compote which is served along side is a delightful counterpart.

Diva at the Met 645 Howe St., 602-7788

Phnom Penh

Featuring Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine, Phnom Pehn's dishes carry light, herbal, citrus flavours that are also earthy and satisfying. They serve common Vietnamese dishes like pho, spring rolls and grilled lemongrass chicken, but I am intrigued by the less common Cambodian dishes.

A couple of "must haves" at Phnom Penh are the chicken wings and papaya salad. Wings here are certainly not what you'd get at a pub (buffalo wings--NOT!). The wings are marinated then lightly battered and fried until crispy yet still velvety. They're topped with crispy fried garlic and scallions and served with a lemon pepper dipping sauce. The papaya salad is a crisp pile of julienned green papaya and carrots tossed in a spicy citrus dressing and topped with peanuts, Vietnamese mint, cliantro and grilled beef jerky.

Another delightful dish here is butter beef--the Cambodian answer to carpaccio. Lean beef slices are fanned out on a plate and barely steamed. The dish is adorned with a soy, lime dressing and a liberal sprinkling of cilantro and fried shallots.

When Julia Child applauded this restaurant, she was serious!!

UPDATE: As of early 2002, the West Broadway location of Phnom Penh is closed. The original location at East Georgia is still open thank goodness!

Phnom Penh 955 W. Broadway, 734-8998 and 244 E. Georgia St., 682-5777


Whenever I go to Vij's, I know I'm going to be treated to an absolutely decadent dining exerience. I'm always a bit skeptical about "nouvelle" and "fusion" foods, but Vij's fresh new take on Indian cuisine works.

When you step through the door, the elegantly funky room and accommodating staff set a welcoming tone. Although we often have to wait for a table, the wait is made more bearable by tumblers of steaming chai and frequent circulation of tidbits to nibble on like tiny potato poori and naan with mint mango chutney.

I love the roasted asparagus and corn on semolina halva appetizer. The veggies are smoky and are touched with subtle Indian spices and the semolina slices have a suave, creamy smoothness. The grilled lambchops with fenugreek sauce is sublime. The chops are grilled to perfection and come atop a cream based sauce kissed with fenugreek. Heaven!

If you're lucky, let Vikram, the charming maitre d', choose your menu items for you as we did one evening. It was fun not knowing quite what he picked and his choices reflected a variety of flavours and textures.

Vij's 1480 W. 11th Ave., 736-6664

Tony's Neighbourhood Deli

Tony's, at the north end of {glossSub(Commercial Drive, "the Drive")}, is one of those homey, neighbourhood spots, fashioned like a rustic, old fashion grocery store. Tony's boasts a vast selection of panini (Italian sandwiches)ranging from traditional fillings like the Tuscan Grill with Italian deli meats and cheese to trendy ones like the West Coast with smoked salmon.

Toasted sandwiches are one of my comfort foods, so Tony's is a great place for me to kick back, unwind and satisfy that comfort food yearning. I tend to order sandwiches that get toasted in the panini press and are delivered to the table crusty and hot on the outside and just warm and melting inside. Besides the panini, Tony's has a good assortment of Mediterranean influenced side dishes like salads, marinated olives and even dolmades.

Although a whole sandwich is way more than I should be eating in one sitting, it's difficult to bypass one of Tony's cookies or squares. I could, though, always get one to eat later....

Tony's Neighbourhood Deli 1046 Commercial Drive, 253-7422