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Share some of Vancouver’s best tapas at these popular local eateries
The Spanish perfected the small plate, but many of Vancouver’s most inventive chefs have added a West Coast-slant to shared meals. Sick of sitting across from dinner companions glued to their cell phones at the table? Solve your social etiquette struggles by sharing dinner – both the table and the tastes. From spiced meats to aged cheeses, these local restaurant menus showcase both traditional and inventive tapas dishes that will bring your party together to enjoy local ingredients and the finest flavours.
What The Sardine Can may want for in space, it more than makes up for in ambience and cuisine. Modeled after the intimate charm of eateries in bustling European cities like Barcelona, the operation serves a long list of traditional Spanish tapas, ranging from starters like spiced almonds and olives to garlic prawns. And can any tapas fan argue with the perfection of Manchego cheese? Try it on their tomato and Manchego toasts to kick off your meal.
Where: 26 Powell Street, Vancouver
The original – and a true Vancouver classic years after opening their doors on Davie Street. Shaped more in the style of New York’s tasting rooms rather than those overseas, Bin 941 has solidified its standing as a dining institution with its popular “tapatisers,” including the Spiced Cabernet Short Rib (which couldn’t be more tender) and their indulgent mushroom risotto.
Where: 941 Davie Street, Vancouver
Business partners Ed Perrow and chef Neil Taylor combined their considerable experience – both overseas and at local favourites like the aforementioned Bin 941 – to create a calm, intimate dining experience in the West End. Espana boasts a long list of menu options, beginning with the smaller “Bar Snacks” and moving through cured meats, vegetables and – our reco – the Crispy Goat’s Cheese with hints of paprika and a sprinkling of pine nuts added to the prep.
Where: 1118 Denman Street, Vancouver
Some argue The Diamond’s focus is on cocktails – with options ranging from fanciful to oddly intriguing – but the small plate collection on its menu isn’t to be overlooked. The lounge professes it is “for the people, the craft, the past and the present” and the retro-vibe confirms that. But they could also add “for the community.” Among their many offerings, they feature chorizo from the popular Save On Meats just up the street.
Where: 6 Powell Street, Vancouver
Nuba’s Lebanese small plates have been so popular that the flourishing operation has expanded out of its original downtown locale to East Vancouver, Kitsilano and Gastown. All four locations provide ambience that suits their respective neighborhoods, while the menus celebrate a fusion of modern preference and Middle Eastern tradition. Many of the dishes are vegan, while all meats are halal and hormone free. The crispy Najib’s Special cauliflower and lamb hushwie are always best bets.
Where: Various locations
This Downtown Eastside establishment may be known for its larger pork belly rice bowl and spiced lamb belly dishes, but its smaller plates are a fine start to the evening. If you’re a fan of anchovies pair them with rice crackers or opt for the daily pickles. The flavour combinations – always unique – are intricate without being needlessly complicated. Chef Makoto Ono graced the cover of our Fall 2014 issue.
Where: 350 Carrall Street, Vancouver
It would be odd to draw together a collection of Vancouver’s finest tapas without a nod to the incredible delights offered at many of the city’s Japanese restaurants. Yuji’s showcases an eclectic, intriguing list of Japanese tapas on Alma Street (after selling off his original locale further down 4th Avenue.) Grilled beef tongue, minced Wagyu beef cutlets and baked miso mozzarella are among the many delicacies available six days a week.
Where: 2083 Alma Street, Vancouver
Open for just a few months, Blacktail Florist is one of the freshest additions to Gastown’s culinary map, literally and figuratively. With a focus on local, seasonal ingredients – and now serving brunch on the weekends – Blacktail showcases a delicious “Bites” menu to kick off your meal. If you miss the decadent, inventive wild mushroom poutine, it’s safe to say you’ll be missing the entire point of the visit. As a more carnivorous option, the “Knuckle Sandwich” is a must-try with its pork hocks and strong cheddar cheese combination.
Where: 200 – 332 Water Street, Vancouver
Wildebeest gets a ton of attention (and rightly so) for their incredible cocktails, but don’t sleep on their food service, which is big on shared plates. With creative dishes like lamb tartare with lovage emulsion, compressed cucumber, brown butter powder, toasted pecans, and smoked bone marrow with butter and bread, you’ll want to explore the entire menu.