Chi­na­town .....................36

Vancouver Magazine - Best of the City 2016 - - Contents -

A haven for Chi­nese im­mi­grants at the turn of the 19th cen­tury, this area is no longer just the heart of the Chi­nese Cana­dian res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity. A timely in­flux of cool new busi­nesses look­ing for cheap rent has sup­plied the foot traf­fic needed to keep tra­di­tional Chi­nese restau­rants, cu­rio shops, and mar­kets alive. The lively con­trast is a win/win for vis­i­tors and res­i­dents alike

EAT

The food at Bao Bei Chi­nese Brasserie ( 163 Keefer St.,604688-0876. Bao-bei.ca) sur­passes the con­ver­sa­tion-start­ing dé­cor. Art­ful small plates (Hum­boldt squid with fiery Chi­nese sausage, ten­der bam­boo, and wilted bok choy; beef tartare topped with quail egg and a side of crisp-fried taro chips) rein­vent the cuisines of Tai­wan, Shang­hai, and Sichuan. Po­tent cock­tails like the Guizhou Don­key, with ginger beer and a lemon­grass shochu kick, will make you feel as hip as the youth­ful wait­staff. This is Chi­nese fu­sion at its best.

The last of Chi­na­town’s dim sum palaces, Floata Seafood Restau­rant ( 400–180 Keefer St., 604-6020368. Floataseafood.com) of­fers a huge lunch menu that ranges from well-made clas­sics (steamed rice rolls and shrimp dumplings) to more dar­ing fare (jel­ly­fish and pig’s trot­ters). Deep-fried won tons are light and crisp, and come with a driz­zle of sweet and sour. Try the moist steamed sponge cake (lo­cals al­ways choose the edge pieces). The clien­tele is an an­i­mated mix of old-timers, tourists, and lo­cal busi­ness­peo­ple.

Fam­ily-run Ph­nom Penh ( 244 E. Ge­or­gia St., 604-682-5777) is an in­sti­tu­tion. You could spend hours pe­rus­ing the en­cy­clo­pe­dic menu of Viet­namese and Cam­bo­dian dishes, but do what your neigh­bours are do­ing and or­der the melt-in-your-mouth but­ter

beef (thin slices barely seared then topped with cilantro and a pun­gently limey fish sauce) and deep-fried gar­licky chicken wings with a kick­ing le­mon-pep­per dip­ping sauce. Cam­bo­dian-style dry egg noo­dles topped with pork, prawns, green onion, and garlic oil are the real deal—en­joy them as they are, or add broth to taste.

Housed in a for­mer Chi­nese take­out joint, Bestie ( 105 E. Pender St., 604-620-1175. Bestie.ca) brings Berlin street food to a lineup of hun­gry hip­sters. The 25-seat de­sign-con­scious restau­rant ex­cels at cur­ry­wurst (sliced sausage with cur­ried ketchup) made from B.C.-bred beasts, and suds by Van­cou­ver craft brew­ers. Ev­ery sausage in the ro­tat­ing se­lec­tion has a sat­is­fy­ing snap; sides like beets with dill and horse­rad­ish sour cream demon­strate that the de­cep­tively sim­ple menu of­fers more than fast food.

SHOP

The most com­pelling bou­tique among chic store­fronts lin­ing the 200 block of Union Street, Charlie & Lee ( 223 Union St., 604-558-3030. Char­lie­an­dlee.com) has a thought­ful mix of in­de­pen­dent in­ter­na­tional la­bels and lo­cal de­sign for men and women. The common theme? En­er­getic colour and at­ti­tude. Stand­outs in­clude frocks by Myne, Fleet Ob­jects home­wares, and Illesteva sunglasses.

Step inside the Pek­ing Lounge ( 83 E. Pender St., 604-844-1559. Pek­inglounge.com), a trove of Chi­nese an­tiq­ui­ties tucked away among the fish­mon­gers, herbal­ists, and cu­rio shops. The brows­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is as plea­sur­able when you pre­tend it’s a mu­seum as it is when you drop se­ri­ous coin on a Qing Dy­nasty ver­mil­ion lac­quered cab­i­net.

Stop by The Mod­ern Bar­tender ( 28 E. Pender St., 604-684-1747. The­mod­ern­bar­tender.com) and you may come away with a bag full of vin­tage mint julep cups, tonic syrup, and bot­tles of proper, brac­ing ginger beer. Owner Rocket Rod is a self-pro­fessed tiki geek (he runs The Shame­ful Tiki bar on Main Street), so along­side the shelves crammed with bit­ters, tinc­tures, syrups, mix­ers, tools, glasses, books, and ac­ces­sories (even lit­tle oak bar­rels for ag­ing spir­its), there’s all man­ner of tiki para­pher­na­lia, even mid­cen­tu­ry­mod­ern bars and stools.

EX­PLORE

Peek through aper­tures in the tall white walls and dis­cover the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Clas­si­cal Chi­nese Gar­den ( 578 Car­rall St., 604-662 3207. Van­cou­verchi­ne­segar­den.com), a breathtaking and tran­quil re­prieve from ur­ban life. Mod­elled after the schol­ars’ gar­dens of 15th-cen­tury China, it was the first of its kind out­side of China and uses four el­e­ments—weath­ered rocks, jade green wa­ter, mys­ti­cal plants, and or­ganic ar­chi­tec­ture—to achieve the Taoist bal­ance of yin and yang. In sum­mer, vis­i­tors can help feed the koi fish, at­tend open-air con­certs, and even score a quick foot mas­sage by walk­ing bare­foot across the peb­bled court­yard.

Chi­na­town is best ex­plored with­out itin­er­ary. Be­gin at The Chi­na­town Mil­len­nium Gate ( E. Pender St. at Tay­lor St.), built in 2002 in homage to Beijing’s In­ner City Gates. From there, wan­der north and east (sen­si­bly—eyes open). Gro­cers, fish­mon­gers, bun shops, and herbal­ists line the streets; around them, a grow­ing list of new­bie haunts (Mamie Tay­lor’s, The Union, Ask for Luigi, The Emer­ald, The Im­pe­rial) points to area re­vi­tal­iza­tion.

Bob Ren­nie’s metic­u­lous restora­tion of Chi­na­town’s old­est ex­tant build­ing birthed Ren­nie Col­lec­tion at Wing Sang ( 51 E. Pender St. Ren­niecol­lec­tion.org), an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned pri­vate-col­lec­tion art gallery. Solo shows fea­ture con­tem­po­rary king­pins like Martin Creed and Mona Ha­toum. Free tours can be booked on­line.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Clas­si­cal Chi­nese Gar­den

Charlie & Lee

Chi­na­town pro­duce

Bao Bei

Mod­ern Bar­tender

TASTE TH IS

Opium Sour KEEFER BAR A heady mix of bour­bon, poppy seed

tinc­ture, tamarind, and grape­fruit evokes his­toric Chi­na­town and gets your le­gal buzz go­ing. 135 Keefer St., 604-688-1961. The­keefer­bar.com

Bestie

LoungChi­ne­sePek­ing e

Chi­na­town Night Mar­ket

New Year pa­rade

But­ter Beef at Ph­nom Penh

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