5 Ways to Enjoy Vancouver’s Diverse Chinese Cuisine

Mott 32; Photo: Leila Kwok

Vancouver has been lauded as having the best Chinese food in North America. With the city’s vibrant Chinese population as well as its Pacific Rim location, Vancouver has a long history of Chinese cuisine, one that continues to evolve.

The best starting place for planning your tour of Chinese food in Vancouver is, without a doubt, the Chinese Restaurant Awards. Launched in 2008, these awards spotlight the best in Chinese and Taiwanese establishments in Metro Vancouver with Critics’ Choice Signature Dish Awards, Social Media Choice Awards, and Diner’s Choice Awards. Vancouver diners are extremely discerning in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine, meaning that whether it’s expert food writers judging restaurants or diners voicing their views, you’re bound to eat well based on their recommendations.

A trip to Richmond is also a must. Home to the Richmond Night Market (April to beginning of October) and a population that is over 50% of reported Chinese origin, Richmond has an incredible Chinese food scene. Richmond also has multiple food courts (e.g., Aberdeen Centre) that allow for inexpensive sampling of a variety of Chinese eats.

The term “Chinese cuisine” in Vancouver encompasses incredible diversity, ranging from Cantonese dishes that showcase local seafood to spicy Sichuan stews. Here are 5 restaurants that showcase both the evolution and range of Chinese food in Vancouver:

Floata Seafood Restaurant

Photo: Floata

Located in Chinatown, Floata Seafood Restaurant has become an institution in the city. This expansive establishment, which can seat over a 1000 people, has hosted umpteen weddings, anniversaries, events, fundraisers, and other celebrations since it opened over 25 years ago. It’s a good spot for classic dishes, with a side dish of nostalgia given its important place within Vancouver’s restaurant history. Dim sum is served daily while their seafood-focused dinner menu features some sustainable Ocean Wise selections. Floata is a good choice for a meal at the start or close of a trip to Chinatown, the cultural heart of Vancouver’s Chinese Canadian community.

Kirin Mandarin Restaurant

Photo: Kirin

With multiple locations, Kirin Mandarin Restaurant continues to impress diners with a consistent offering of upscale Chinese cuisine. At the time it opened (1987), Kirin was incredibly ground-breaking due to its offering of refined dishes, attentive service, and elegant surroundings. The kitchen team has specialities in “New Era” and classic Cantonese cuisine, Sichuan dishes, as well as northern Chinese specialties. Their dim sum menu changes monthly while their dinner menu spotlights many of the “chef’s special recommendations,” such as braised sea cucumber with dried shrimp roe, or fish maw braised with goose webs and Chinese mushrooms.

Liuyishou Hot Pot Vancouver

Photo: Liuyishou Hot Pot Vancouver

With the turn to colder weather, hot pot season in Vancouver has launched. Liuyishou Hot Pot started in Chongqing, China, and now is a world-wide restaurant group, with a location on Robson Street in Vancouver. Focusing on premium, fresh ingredients, the restaurant has an extensive menu that includes multiple soup bases (e.g., house spicy soup base), a variety of high-end proteins (e.g., supreme lamb slices), and a wide variety of other ingredients, such as quail eggs, mixed mushrooms, and sweet potato starch noodles. Make sure to add the sauce option so that you can customize your own dipping sauce. The experience is interactive and communal, and you’re bound to leave warm and wonderfully satisfied after such a hearty meal.

Old Bird

Night market popcorn chicken; Photo: Old Bird

Winner of a Critics’ Choice Game Changer Award in the 2021 Chinese Restaurant Awards, Old Bird has been recognized for its innovative interpretation of Chinese cuisine. Billing themselves as a “Modern Chinese Bistro,” Old Bird pays homage to first generation Chinese Canadians while also celebrating the exuberance of the next generations. This is a fun spot for dinner or night snacks, paired with their inventive cocktails, such as the Boss Bird Negroni with jasmine-infused gin, sweet vermouth, and goji-campari. They also feature a baijiu menu, plus wine, beer, cider, and zero proof selections. Food is playful, including night market popcorn chicken, Dan Dan noodles, and vegan potstickers. They have a nightingale menu of bites for Fridays and Saturdays from 9:45pm to 10:45pm, as well as some tempting desserts, such as dark chocolate tofu mousse.

Mott 32

Mott 32’s plant-based options; Photo: Leila Kwok

Mott 32 is the jewel in the Vancouver Chinese restaurant scene. Started in Hong Kong, Mott 32 takes Chinese cuisine to the next level in terms of culinary technique and creativity, service, and drink pairings. Specializing in Cantonese cookery with influences from Sichuan and Beijing cuisine, the menu takes traditional dishes and makes them revelatory. They are particularly well known for their 42 days applewood smoked Peking duck, in addition to specialty dishes such as their barbecue pluma Iberico pork. Seafood dishes include wok fried whole Dungeness crab with golden garlic, glutinous rice, and preserved sausage, and wok fried fresh scallops with morels, asparagus, and XO sauce. Their dim sum menu elevates dumplings and other small plates with selections such as hot and sour Iberico pork Shanghainese soup dumplings and Maine lobster har gow. Recently and very excitingly, Mott 32 has added a handful of plant-based signature dishes to their menu, ranging from braised lion’s head meatballs made of tofu, mushrooms, and water chestnuts to a vegan version of their signature smoked black cod, in this case featuring a combination of plant proteins and shiitake mushroom powder. Robert Stelmachuk, award winning sommelier, presides over the wine list, providing choice, value, as well as adventurous play.

These restaurants are just the start for delicious feasting on diverse Chinese cuisine in Vancouver. Enjoy!

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