Dining at West Restaurant – Vancouver Dining Par Excellance

In Vancouver—a city with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to world-class cuisine—it’s difficult to name a single restaurant as the “best.” But if that title could be claimed, West Restaurant + Bar would certainly be among the very top contenders.

The recipient of an enormous array of awards (including AAA’s Four Diamond Award and four consecutive wins for Restaurant of the Year by Vancouver Restaurant Magazine) and famed for its outstanding contemporary cuisine by Chef David Gunawan, perfect service, and bartender extraordinaire David Wolowidnyk* (himself a frequent winner of Bartender of the Year), West has a grandiose reputation. But it takes just one visit to this South Granville institution to confirm that that reputation is well-earned.

Or, to put it more simply: After dining at West last night, my partner and I declared it one of the best meals we’d had in our life. (And as someone who often writes about food, we’ve tried a lot of restaurants!)

Inside West Restaurant. Photo: Dana Lynch

At last night’s meal, to get a true feel for the cuisine, my partner and I had two of West’s tasting menus: My partner had the seasonal March Tasting Menu while I had the Chef’s Tasting Menu. (A Vegetarian Tasting Menu is also available, as are options for people with dietary restrictions.) While the tasting menus are pricey—$76 – $89—they include seven courses of exquisite cuisine, making it a fantastic value for foodies. (There was so much food I could barely finish!)

After an amuse bouche and refreshing appetizers, we dived right into a meal featuring one amazing dish after another. The first of my favourites was the Haida Gwaii Sea Urchin Tagliatelle with hard-boiled egg, mushrooms, and white shoyu—a rich, unique dish of multi-layered flavour that tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before. This is why I go to West: to be surprised, to find unexpected depths of flavour in uncommon dishes, to discover enjoyment somewhere completely unexpected.

West's Haida Gwaii Sea Urchin Tagliatelle. Photo: Dana Lynch

Another favourite of mine was the Thiessen Farm Quail, presented alongside a creamed quail egg surrounded by Parmesan polenta. This beautifully cooked bird with its drizzle of hazelnut jus—my partner and I stripped it to the bone it was so yummy—was another genuinely “Oh my God this is so good—you have to try it!” dish.

West's Thiessen Farm Quail. Photo: Dana Lynch

Both of our entrées were stellar as well. My partner had the Hecate Strait Sablefish with Sawmill Bay Clams, maple syrup glazed bacon (that added an artful touch of sweetness), mushrooms and sunchokes. He loved that sablefish so much he practically fell all over himself declaring its perfection to our server James, to Sous Chef Alex Hong, and to anyone else who would listen.

West's Hecate Strait Sablefish. Photo: Dana Lynch

While I, too, adored the sablefish, I think my own entrée of Angus beef ribeye was masterful. The gorgeously cooked beef was paired with yet another palate-pleasing surprise: a red-wine-braised oxtail done in the style of pulled pork! I would never have imagined enjoying oxtail that way, but it just melted in my mouth with savory goodness.

West's Angus Beef Ribeye. Photo: Dana Lynch

After all that, I was barely able to do justice to the desserts: a selection of cheeses followed by chocolate cake with tamarind cream (on the March Tasting Menu) and Passionfruit Marinated Pinapple Tart (on the Chef Tasting Menu).

The food—and the cocktails*—are certainly the primary reason to visit West Restaurant + Bar, but there is something special about West that goes beyond haute cuisine. As high-end as West is, it isn’t pretentious or cold; rather, there’s a warm atmosphere of celebration inherent there, every day of the week. Maybe that’s why its such a popular spot for family gatherings, birthdays, even wedding proposals.  West isn’t just one of Vancouver’s best restaurants, it’s become part of the special moments in many Vancouverites’ lives.

Please share your own story about West—and its fabulous food and cocktails—in the comments!

More on West Restaurant + Bar: West’s Bartender Extraordinaire David Wolowidnyk & the Art of the Original Cocktail

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