< Back

Chopsticks Ho! Vancouver's Chinese Resto Awards

Member Rating

By Judith Lane

You know that something's happening when Vancouver's Edgewater Casino's show lounge is packed out on a Thursday afternoon. Chivas is flowing, ditto Tiger beer, and YellowTail Bubbles all helping to wash down tasty lamb skewers, pork dumplings, and not-so-Chinese mini cheesecakes. Adding to the festivities are glittering lights, strings of red lanterns, and huge screens displaying a changing array of appetising Chinese dishes. A large stage dominates, and press from every publication in town, Asian and Western, are milling about in anticipation of Vancouver's first Chinese Restaurant Awards.

A handful of judges including several Asian journalists, the head of Vancouver Community College's Asian Culinary Program, and a recently retired Vancouver city councilor ate widely (and heroically) around the lower mainland to find the best dish in each of 25 categories. Their point of reference was unique: when the Chinese community goes out to dine, they select the restaurant by what they want to eat rather than its rep or location. They opt for an eatery's 'signature dish' like congee, crab, barbecue pork, soup dumplings, namely what they do best.

There was plenty of discussion and weeks of tasting and retasting as the judges hammered out their choices. The group has eaten widely around the world—most were born and raised in Hong Kong and other parts of China—and agree that Vancouver has the most authentic Chinese cuisine outside of China. Vancouver is unique in that so many distinct regional Chinese cuisines are available in such a concentrated area. Too, our city is famously touted by the North American food press as having the best Chinese food on the continent. We do.

The awards were handed out in January and in record time—remarkable really—the presenters were speaking in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. It was a tough gig for the audience though. As reps of each winning restaurant got up to claim their awards, the winning dishes were displayed on huge screens behind them.

In addition to the critics' 'signature dish' picks, diners voted for their 10 favourite restaurants around town to decide which had the best congee, barbecued pork, noodles, and more which means there are 35 great dishes to check out, few of them  'challenging' for the average restaurant goer. Almost everything was deliciously appealing. Vancouver diners of every ethnicity are adventurous and accustomed to eating regularly at both the winning restaurants as well as favourite holes-in-the wall and noodle joints. They're also are a well-traveled lot and gung ho for almost anything. Bring on the heads-on squab, chicken knees, pig's feet, and jellyfish.
After the ceremonies, many of us hustled off to Lin's, Long's, Shanghai Wonderful, and Sun Sui Wah to feast on ethereal soup dumplings, crispy rice with salted egg yolk, stuffed duck, and lamb hot pot.

When you eat Chinese, take friends so you can sample widely. Step up and out your comfort zone—try the pork liver and meatball congee, and jellyfish any way you can find it; ask the server for recommendations—they're ready for us, language barrier or not. These days that's hardly a problem when you can point to others' plates and bowls. Either way it's a guaranteed adventure in dining.

The Chinese Restaurant Awards website (www.chineserestaurantawards.com) is an ongoing resource, both for where to eat what now, but also in the immediate future. Chinese cooks are a maddingly mobile lot, and if they move on the quality of food may suffer. Restaurants change hands seemingly overnight, or close down and pop up with a new name somewhere else. The site will track these movements.


No one has commented on this Article yet, why don't you be the first to comment?

Member Login

Sign Up