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May 31, 2010 11:16 AM

Van Mag 2010 Restaurant Awards

I noticed that the awards were up on the website but haven't found any discussion about some of the results. T-minus 16 days for me and am doing more serious research for noshing while I'm in town again.

Anyone have particular thoughts on the list?

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  1. I find the lists (candidates, winners) much too "Vancouver city proper-centric". Yes, the mag is called VANCOUVER but really in all senses it ought to be much more Metro Vancouver-oriented. There's still too little coverage of restaurants, stores, suppliers etc east of Boundary Road, but ironically a fair amount devoted to Whistler, Okanagan and Victoria.

    And why is North Shore a separate section from Regional ?

    Generally I find the format of printed reviews/awards like Van Mag (or Georgia Straight's Golden Plate Award) becoming more and more obsolete, unable to reflect the true real-time "pulse" of the ever-evolving restaurant & service industry. Part of the problem may be attributed to the panel composition and not enough office and on-the-ground research. While still useful as a back-pocket lookup, I think online, on-the-fly lookup resources (like Chowhound) will eventually render these reviews/awards extinct the way printed news media is losing out to online media.

    My $0.25

    7 Replies
    1. re: LotusRapper

      By Regional, I took it to mean "local" based on the winners. The other geographical areas are a bit arbitrary -- where is the Burnaby or Richmond entry?

      1. re: grayelf

        The "North Shore" category is a stretch....I think that it should be folded back into Vancouver. I does not deserve its own category.

        And I concur with LotusRapper's observations and I note that all but one of the winners were located west of Main St. (Not really surprising, given Van Mag's target audience.)

      2. re: LotusRapper

        Kinda cool to see a place like Alvin Garden (one boring nitpick: why are the language pointers for Alvin Garden in Cantonese-- it's like suggesting people order in Spanish at a Brazilian restaurant). But otherwise... pretty shockingly boring list.

        Alvin Garden
        4850 Imperial St, Burnaby, BC V5J, CA

        1. re: DylanLK

          A number of the judges are versed in regional Chinese cuisine so the inclusion of Alvin Garden came as no surprise. I think it has won an award for the last 2 or 3 years. It is also interesting that in the Casual Chinese category, the judges awarded restaurants serving three distinct cuisines - Shanghai (Chen's), Hunan (AG) , Cantonese (HK-Vancouver-style Koon Bo). It was a clean sweep for Cantonese in the Formal Chinese category (with Shanghai River getting Honourable Mention). Maybe we will see Bushair or CXG or similar there next year?

          The Chinese Restaurant Awards added a "Foodcourt" category...maybe a similar one in the Van Mag awards will spice things up a bit. In a couple of years, we might even have "Best Food Truck"....

          1. re: fmed

            I really can't imagine Bushuair or Chuan Xiang Ge on the list. Can you? You know the judges and the scene a lot better than me.

            A place like Bushuair, no matter how good the food is, is still sorta inaccessible and frustrating in a way that Alvin Garden isn't. It's an ugly room, with a menu that makes no sense (the cover of the menu is a bizarre Chinglish haiku, the result of bad, bad, bad Google translation). I think it's difficult for people that aren't hip to what the kitchen can do to order, and it's wildly inconsistent. I've also had some of my best meals in Vancouver there!

            On the formal Chinese category, I'd like to suggest the reborn Zen. I've only had one meal there, but I was impressed. And I dig that they're breaking some rules, doing something a little different.

            1. re: DylanLK

              Yeah - I can't imagine either Bushuair or CXG on that list either, actually.

              Zen is a good choice, but it has been stigmatized by the hype.

              1. re: fmed

                You're right about Zen. The depressing thing is that it's definitely a self-inflicted wound.

                Loading the Zen website, to check the menu or make a reservation-- if the blaring music doesn't turn you off... if the photos of "self-made man" Sam Lau looking pensive don't turn you off... then the claims that it's the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world definitely might. But I think it stacks up with the other choices on the Chinese Formal category, and gets bonus points from me for innovation.

      3. What kills me about these awards is how quickly they run out of superlatives - once they've used "funky", "buzz", "stylish", "sophisticated", "playful", "exquisite", they just keep recycling. Another laugh i got was the description of Dundarave Fish Market as "unpretentious". Does anyone know where I can find a pretentious fish market? That would be a good day out.

        Why is Judas Goat Taberna missing in action from Small Plates, a major oversight.

        Best Other Asian category misses Seri Malaysia on Hastings altogether but gives the overrated Banana leaf a silver.

        Under best french, I'd move Faux bourgeois from honourable mention up to gold, displacing the pricey Pied a terre.

        Generally speaking, I'd say it's all pretty weighted towards a certain style of restaurant - upmarket, post-modern, nice haircuts. I'd like to see a "hole in the wall" list with more international cuisines.

        - paul

        Seri Malaysia Restaurant
        2327E Hastings St E, Vancouver, BC V5L1V6, CA

        Dundarave Fish Market
        2423 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC V7V 1L3, CA

        5 Replies
        1. re: tangentdesign

          "Generally speaking, I'd say it's all pretty weighted towards a certain style of restaurant - upmarket, post-modern, nice haircuts. I'd like to see a "hole in the wall" list with more international cuisines."

          That's what Chowhounds is here for :-D

          I wonder if they even re-visit some of the longtime winners in their categories, or do those winners simply stay on the list by default ? Case in point = Phnom Penh. Is it even a Vietnamese restaurant ? It wins every single year (and definitely deserves good recognition) but I find it very hard to accept that PP can never been displaced by other competitors in the segment.

          1. re: LotusRapper

            The list does feel a little tired to me. And for sure I don't eat at most of the restaurants selected with any regularity as they skew higher end than is my preference. I'm with paul -- where's the HITW list??

            Also sure hope they were talking about the Tangthai downtown and not the now-gone one on Broadway. That list just shows how sadly lacking we are for Thai here.

            Re Vietnamese, I must say I tend to look at the Cambodian offerings at PP more, since we have so many other Viet places, many of which I'd rate higher, especially for specific items. But then these are all tiny, mom and pop places that mostly close by 5 or 6 pm, not exactly fodder for most VanMag readers I guess :-).

            Sam will be happy that Spice Islands got gold in other Asian (I did have a very nice meal there a couple years ago but it seemed a tad pricey). Again, I'm thinking that a place like Seri Malaysia is not necessarily going to hit VanMag's target demo, even though I think I am in it and I loved Seri M! Both Banana Leaf and Flying Tiger leave me cold, which is a drag as they are both super near my house.

            The Indian category is a big yawn, no? How badly do we need somewhere new and competitive in this line?

            The Americas category win for Cobre seems deserved, though it points out to me how few qualified restos of this ilk we have. I thought the appetizers/small plates at Baru Latino recently were outstanding but the mains less so (it is the closest thing to Cobre I can think of in town). Definite apples and oranges feel to the rest of the winners here though.

          2. re: tangentdesign

            I've never been to Dundarave Fish Market but I've certainly been to pretentious fish/butchers -- I'm looking at you Meat Market on 4th, and also a fish place in Toronto which I think is no longer extant. I even find Finest at Sea bit precious, but maybe I'm being too picky.

            Dundarave Fish Market
            2423 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC V7V 1L3, CA

            1. re: tangentdesign

              You know funny enough I got the feeling that all the places nominated and won had that thoroughly squeeky clean white tablecloth kind of image but refrained from saying anything seeing as I've been out of Vancouver for too many years now.

              And yes, the assessment of PP under the Vietnamese category as winner again (it's been the winner forever and previously was filed under Other Asian before they created the Vietnamese category) seems a bit ?!?!?!?! I like PP but think that there are much better Vietnamese places granted they are much less polished.

              And that's why I love Chow so much.

              1. re: bdachow

                To be fair, not all the places nom'd/won are upscale -- PP is anything but, and even in its more spacious incarnation Dona Cata is still pretty humble, as is La Taqueria and Chen's and a few others. But none of them are really new or "finds" -- apart from the best new of course. I guess I'm more of a fan of the less polished options out there in many of the potentially applicable categories. I'm the first to admit that I gloss over the categories with formal in the titles, but even the so called casual entries are more white tableclothy than my preferred haunts.

            2. We split some of the discussion of traditional media coverage of restaurants over to our Food Media board.

              If people have comments on specific restaurants that are on the list and whether they're good or bad, please go ahead and discuss that here. If you're discussing the way that Van Mag conducts its awards or how those types of lists are drawn up in general, please head over to Food Media and News, since that's more about the magazine than the chow.

              We know there are still posts here about the media-not-chow stuff, unfortunately our software doesn't give us much flexibility in how we split threads up. If you've got replies to those posts, please take them over to FMN.