During a recent visit to Vancouver, Canada, it was apparent many restaurants are trying to create sustainable, farm-to-table menus. It’s a great city if you’re an eco-conscious traveler due to the many options for any price level. To help guide you, here are some top picks for morally conscious cuisine in Vancouver.
Diva at the Met
645 Howe Street
I’m not sure there are any other restaurants in the city that take creative sustainability to the level Diva at the Met does. Chef Hamid Salimian and his team enjoy foraging when they can, even for the organic matters like stones, driftwood and torched bark that make up the snack plates. Chef Salimian visualizes what most can not even fathom, while remaining as organic as possible. For example, a slice of chicken bacon from a biodiverse farm might be brined and smoked for days and come on a stone slab, while a squid ink-infused mussel bread will be topped with roe and made to look like coral. Seafood comes from Ocean Wise-certified providers, while produce comes from farms with high crop biodiversity. In terms of farms, most of their produce comes from North Arm Farm, Sapo Bravo, Glourish Organics and Cherry Lane Farm. Although an upscale restaurant, meals can be affordable, with prices ranging from $19 to $38 for an entree, to the five-course tasting menu at $55 and the seven-course tasting menu at $75.Cibo Trattoria
900 Seymour Street
Like Diva at the Met, Cibo Trattoria immerses you in a relaxed, romantic ambiance. However, while Diva focuses on surreal gastronomy, Cibo Trattoria serves up rustic Italian fare with a modern twist. What’s really interesting at this venue is they change their menu daily, focusing on what’s fresh and in-season. While certain meats and cheeses come from Italy to get authenticity, much of their ingredients are locally sourced from British Columbia farms, with deliveries coming daily. For example, their radishes come from Aldergrove while their watercress is purchased from Hannah Brooks Farm in Langley. Typical dishes may include a handmade paccheri pasta with meatballs, oregano, San Marzano tomatoes and ricotta salada, crispy ox tongue with marinated heirloom peppers or roast bone marrow garlic and parsley bread crumbs and apple salad. They also do seasonally inspired dishes for fresh ingredients, like pumpkin ravioli with chili, garlic, marjoram and amaretti. You can sample local wines from the Okanagan and Fraser valleys. And although they have to reprint their menus daily, all printouts are done on recycled paper, which is also recycled after use. The menu includes affordable small plates as well as pastas for about $15 and entrees for less than $30.
1600 Howe Street
As the founding restaurant in the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Program, C Restaurant was one of the first in Vancouver to deconstruct seafood supply lines, dealing directly with the fisherman to ensure a product that is of the highest quality and ethical sensitivity. Since the restaurant focuses on seasonal freshness, there really isn’t a signature dish. Instead, its signature is to utilize sustainable seafood and local produce as much as possible. Not only is their food sustainable, but their wine program features vintages from British Columbia’s Okanagan Region, as well as global wines made with an organic and biodynamic philosophy. The restaurant is contemporary, with entrees averaging $30.
Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro
572 Davie Street
You don’t need to eat at an upscale restaurant to enjoy a sustainable meal. And with Vancouver having myriad sushi establishments, it would be wrong not to include one on this list. Located in Yaletown, Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro doesn’t simply churn out rolls, they focus on high-quality cuisine and fresh ingredients, employing only serious Japanese chefs. Ingredients include wild seafood, natural beef, free-range chicken and heritage KUROBUTA pork, all locally-sourced from British Columbia farms. If you’re in the mood for a local drink, Juno serves sakes from the Granville Island Artisan Sake Maker and BC “Vintners Quality Alliance” (VQA) wines.
1193 Denman Street
This high-end restaurant opened in 1992 with a menu that featured locally-sourced food. Eventually, Raincity Grill also added their signature 100-mile menu, which showcased items with ingredients from within 100-miles of Vancouver.
“Our menu is a tribute to the local farmers, fisherman and producers of British Columbia,” it states on their homepage. “The Chef sources out the best organic, sustainable products available … ‘Farm-to-table’ has become a recent catchphrase but at Raincity Grill it has been a philosophy for twenty years.”
Some specific sustainable menu items include “Brioche French Toast” with Fraser Valley compote and house-made huckleberry syrup, a “Spinach And Berry” salad with North Arm Farm spinach, local berries and Okanagan goat’s cheese and “Fraser Valley Duck Breast” with wild coastal huckleberries. If you’re on a budget, check out their $10 fish and chips window. Libations are also in line with their ‘go local’ philosophy, as the restaurant serves wines from the Pacific West Coast.
Edible Canada Bistro
1596 Johnston Street
Located on Granville Island, Edible Canada‘s bistro does an excellent job of supporting the farm-to-feast philosophy. While their food is fresh and locally grown, even using onsite plant boxes of herbs and produce and making use of the adjacent public market, their efforts extend beyond eating. In fact, the venue features tabletops made of recycled fir tree, hostess stands created with discarded beach cedar and two complimentary charging stations for electric vehicles. As for drinks, they’re spearheading the revolution of offering wine on tap, an environmentally-friendly way to serve vino as it eliminates the packaging and, because 27% of glass is recovered for recycling, stops millions of bottles from going to the landfill. Menu items range from $11 to $28, while their bacon window also offers inexpensive eats.
1087 Granville Street
Located in Vancouver’s lively entertainment district, The Templeton is an old-fashioned retro diner serving comfort food in a sustainable way. Most ingredients are organic and locally sourced, and there are an array of vegetarian and vegan options, like lentil loaf, tofu omelets, Portobello mushroom burgers and veggie bacon. If you’re a carnivore, The Templeton features organic, free-range and non-medicated meats. Best of all, this venue is cheap to moderately priced with $10 burgers, $10 fish and chips and $16 steaks. Finish it off with a $5 deep-fried Mars bar.
2603 West 16th Avenue
Trafalgars Bistro and adjacent Sweet Obsession bakery in Kitsilano are pioneers when it comes to sustainability. In the summer of 2011, the venues launched a recycling and composting initiative that was the first of its kind by installing a Green Good composting system. By doing this, they were able to eliminate all organic waste going to landfill, with 99% of the remaining trash being recycled. Additionally, their strong association with Inner City Farms means they can make use of their compost in Vancouver’s urban gardens. In terms of food, their seafood is certified Ocean Wise, all meats are unmedicated and free-range and produce is almost always locally sourced. While the ambiance suggests fine dining, it’s actually a casual and affordable place to eat, with entrees ranging from $17 to $30 and a three-course menu for $30.
Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton Street
Located in Yaletown, the casual yet elegant Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar has always focused on farm-to-table and ocean-to-table. All seafood is delivered to their kitchen daily and only the absolute freshest, exceptional quality fish and shellfish are selected. Most of them are line caught, trap caught or sustainably farmed in British Columbia. During the month of February, they even feature an annual Unsung Heroes Festival, which introduces diners to new experiences and flavors using abundant fish species, showcasing to people options other than over-fished varieties. It’s no surprise the establishment is Ocean Wise, with swimming scallops from the Gulf Islands, Kusshi oysters and Reed oysters from B.C. and sustainably-farmed sturgeon from Sechelt. A typical entree is about $34.
322 Davie Street
Recently opened in September 2012, La Pentola serves up gourmet Italian dishes while also incorporating the Italian philosophy to source locally. In Italy, the regions are diverse because specific ingredients are important to different areas. Additionally, there are a vast amount of quality, artisanal products and farms around Vancouver, which La Pentola makes use of by working with them to create their dishes. For example, the restaurant uses squab from local livestock farms. Their dish has a sauce made from grapes, and a walla walla onion puree where both ingredients come from local Stoney Paradise Farm. To La Pentola, being cutting edge also means holding yourself accountable to the environment and the community. Expect to pay about $6 to $17 for a starter, $12/$13 for a pasta and $30 for an entree.
[Images via Diva at the Met, C Restaurant, Raincity Grill, The Templeton, Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar]