Zakkushi Charcoal Grill

One of the best parts of traveling is eating the local food, but there is a reason why Vancouver is so widely regarded as one of the best restaurant cities in the world. We have exceptional fine dining establishments, to be sure, but there is certainly no shortage of more humble eateries offering fantastic meals at affordable prices. This is particularly true when it comes to the many Asian cuisines that populate the Metro Vancouver area.

I should preface the following list of Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants with a couple of caveats. First, I am only listing restaurants where I have personally eaten. There may be some utterly fantastic sushi joints out there, but I’m not going to include any of them based on hearsay alone. Second, there is no way that this list is going to be exhaustive. There seems to be a new ramen shop opening up every week and you can’t drive down Kingsway without bumping into dozens of pho restaurants.

For each of the restaurants below, I have also linked to my full written review where available.

Japanese: Sushi and Ramen

Sushi Nanaimo (7 of 9)

We have an abundance of fresh fish in the area, so it makes sense that our sushi is pretty darn good too. While I usually follow the mantra that the best Taiwanese food is prepared by Taiwanese people, the best Greek food is prepared by Greek people, and so on, this isn’t always the case with sushi. In fact, several of the best sushi restaurants in town are run by Koreans. Go figure.

  • Sushi Nanaimo (350 Nanaimo St, Vancouver) – Tucked away just north of Hastings, Sushi Nanaimo is completely unassuming. What you get is some great-tasting fish and a good variety of menu items at a reasonable price. Just don’t expect the portions to be gigantic.
  • Sushiholic (3311 E Broadway, Vancouver) – This is a very small restaurant, so don’t come here with a big party unless you’re getting take-out. The fish is fresh, the prices are more than fair, and the awesome roll lives up to its namesake.
  • Kintaro Ramen (788 Denman St, Vancouver) – If you go to the Robson and Denman area in Downtown Vancouver, you’ll get hit by more ramen shops than you can count. As much as I like the tsukemen at Ramen Santouka, my favorite place is still Kintaro. Choose between lean or fatty pork (get the fatty), select the richness of your broth, and enjoy all that porky goodness. Get the little $1 side dish of extra chashu bits too.
  • Zakkushi Charcoal Grill (4075 Main St, Vancouver) – I try to avoid downtown when I can, so if I want to get my izakaya fix, I go to Zakkushi. The charcoal-grilled chicken skin is pretty amazing. There’s also a location on Denman, if you’re out that way.

Vietnamese: All About Pho

Combo #3

When I was out for dinner a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine observed that I have a fondness for bean sprouts. He then surmised that I must like Vietnamese food. And I do. I really do. Bean sprouts in my pho, in my bun (cold vermicelli noodles), in my salad rolls… it’s all good.

  • Cambie Vietnamese Restaurant (4136 Main St, Vancouver) – There is a reason why this has become the de facto home of Dot Com Pho and his name is Brian. It’s because of the happiest proprietor on Earth that we have come to nickname this place “Happy Pho.” And you get free extra noodles with your large pho too.
  • Pho Lan (6950 No. 3 Rd, Richmond) – Before there was Happy Pho, the Dot Com Pho crew went to Pho Lan every Saturday. It’s funny, because owner Lan was the exact opposite of Brian (he’s since mellowed out). Make sure you order the spring rolls.
  • Pho Nhuan (2989 Rupert St, Vancouver) – My friend Andreas (“Meowjin”) recommended this as a venue for a Dot Com Pho, but he never showed up. I ended up giving it a try another day and I was very pleased. The broth is great, the prices are great, and it’s everything that pho should be. It is very small, though, so don’t come in groups bigger than about six people.

Korean: Beyond the BBQ

Kimbab Cheonguk (Kimbab Heaven), Coquitlam - 3 of 5

Growing up, my knowledge of “Korean” food only got as far as Korean BBQ. And as much as I enjoy BBQ, there’s so much more to Korean cuisine than that. It’s great to see more of these authentic, “we’re not going to cater to North American tastes” restaurants pop up. Most of them can be found on the North Road corridor between Burnaby and Coquitlam.

  • House of Tofu Soup (4563 North Rd, Burnaby) – I’m not normally a fan of tofu, but after my experience at BCD Tofu House in Los Angeles, I was hooked. You get a piping hot bowl of tofu soup at your desired level of spiciness, along with all those wonderful banchan side dishes. The dolsot bibimbap (stone bowl rice) is pretty incredible too. If you’re in Richmond, there is another location there as well, but I’ve never tried it.
  • Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine (#2000-8500 Alexandra Rd, Richmond) – Located on the upper level of a strip mall across from Party World, Haroo feels like you’ve been invited into someone’s house and they want to offer you some real Korean home-cooking. I particularly enjoyed the seafood pancake, but it’s all good.
  • Kimbab Cheonguk (3A-341 North Rd, Coquitlam) – I guess you could say that kimbab is “Korean sushi,” but that’s not exactly accurate. The menu here can be a little confusing, so you may want to bring a Korean friend to help you. That beef broth instead of tea is something else.

I would not hesitate to recommend any of these ten restaurants to anyone visiting Vancouver from out of town, particularly if they’re looking for some good Asian cuisine. Of course, there are plenty of other restaurants that serve up great food from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and more too. (I do wish there were more Filipino restaurants in Vancouver, though.)

My personal tastes may differ from yours and that’s okay. Feel free to disagree and recommend a few places of your own through the comments below.

UPDATE: I should note that my selection process included a couple of other criteria. First, I chose places that offer good value. As great as Miku Restaurant may be, it’s definitely more on the expensive side of things. Second, I also chose places that don’t have insanely long lineups. Some people like Toshi Sushi on 16th and Main, but getting a table there can be a bit of a nightmare. Just thought I’d clear that up.