Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan
Occupation: Co-Owner and Chef, Le Tigre; Junior Sous Chef, Torafuku
Years worked as a chef: 10
Years in Vancouver: 16
Accolades: Second place in Food Cart category in Best of the City Dining Awards, WE Vancouver (2013)
Apprentice of the Year, Canadian Culinary Federation (2010)
First place in the British Columbia Junior Chefs Challenge, B.C. Chefs’ Association (2010)
What do you love best about Vancouver’s food scene?
I think it’s the multiculturalism that attracted me the most to Vancouver’s food scene. It’s great to have really authentic, traditional good food for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Indian, Italian, French, and South American cuisines.
What dishes and restaurants should every visitor to Vancouver try?
I think every visitor should definitely try the Alaskan king crab from the very popular Cantonese restaurant Sun Sui Wah. They have the freshest, best-cooking king crab. A whole king crab can be very expensive – $30+ per pound, and usually about 7+ pounds a crab – but it’s also worth it to eat with a larger party. It can be eaten 2-4 different ways. My favorite would be garlic-steamed for the leg pieces, salt and pepper deep-fried for the knuckle, and noodles to mix with the crab’s garlic dripping jus.
Another restaurant would be HK BBQ Master in Richmond. It’s a very small, unnoticeable shop that does a lot of Chinese BBQ takeout. It has minimal decoration and a small area for dining in, about 15 seats. There’s always a line, but their crispy roasted pork is one of the best I’ve had … juicy, tender meat with super crispy skin. The BBQ pork (I like the fatty part) and the BBQ duck are just phenomenal, as well.
The Pear Tree Restaurant would be one of the best fine-dining experiences in Vancouver. It’s a bit further down from the center of the Vancouver. However, the experience is exceptional. Chef and owner Scott Jaeger would be there at the restaurant striving for the best quality food for his customers.
PiDGiN is also one of the new up and coming restaurants around the city. Seared foie gras with rice is one of my favorite dishes.
My personal favorite local beer brewery is Parallel 49. Great microbrewery company in the east of Vancouver.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Vancouver.
A perfect dining out day for me would be to start the day with brunch on a Saturday or Sunday morning. My favorite brunch places are Fable, Oakwood, and Café Medina. At Fable, I’d love to order their johnny cakes. It’s layered pancake with pulled pork, pickled jalapeño, tomato jam and maple syrup … love the sweet and savory combination. Oakwood, I’d order their Reuben sandwich: sauerkraut, nice thick layers of Montreal smoked meat, and soft poach egg is just a really satisfying meal. Café Medina is also one of the popular brunch restaurants in Vancouver. I’d order their paella, which is made with curry flavored orzo with a sunny side up egg, avocado, veggies and sausages.
After brunch would be an afternoon pastry/dessert/coffee with my girlfriend. There are a few pastry shops we often visit. Thomas Haas, one of the top chocolatiers from Vancouver; macarons, chocolates and desserts are very delicate and fine. Thierry, great dessert, as well. Their tarte tatin, or the apple tart, is really popular and good. Ganache is hard to find and track down, but it also has great desserts. My favorite is the chocolate banana (chocolate mousse with hazelnut dacquoise, caramelized banana and praline crunch). BETA5 for their popular choux (cream puff).
For regular lunch, I would go for a bowl of ramen at Motomachi Shokudo or JINYA, or a bowl of pho at Pho Lan, or Kingyo for their delicious, fine, delicate Japanese lunch box. All their lunch sets are very good … almost tried them all.
Where food markets do you enjoy going back to in the city?
I often visit Farmers Markets during the weekend for some of the freshest local produce: Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey, Kitsilano Farmers Market, Trout Lake Farmers Market. There’s also a few deli shops at Granville Island, which offer great varieties of meat cuts. Oyama is one of the most popular for cheese, cold cuts, cured meats, prosciutto, and even pate. Les Amis du Fromage carries a great selection of cheeses, as well.
Let’s delve more into Vancouver’s Asian food scene. What’s your personal favorite dish at Le Tigre?
My personal favorite dish would be a combination of our Miso Awesome Quinoa Salad with our braised pork belly and a sous vide egg on top. It’s my favorite dish because the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly braised in the soy stock is just too satisfying to resist. A soft poached sous vide egg on top just gives a secondary sauce to mix in the bowls, and the quinoa just sounds healthy and lets you eat this bowl guilt-free!
What are your absolute favorite Chinese dishes and where do you go to get them?
In Vancouver, luckily with all the Asian immigrants, you may find a lot of restaurants that offer authentic traditional Chinese dishes for different regions.
For Taiwanese, I’d go to Pearl Castle in Richmond. They have good bubble tea and traditional Taiwanese food, like three cup chicken.
For Cantonese food, we usually go to Sun Sui Wah or Koon Bo Restaurant. They offer traditional Cantonese food. Both restaurants’ roasted pigeons are really well done.
Another restaurant I enjoy eating at is called Deer Garden. It’s more a Cantonese-style cafe. Their specialty is fish broth with your choice of topping and noodles. Every day, there is a line out the door from the time they open.
Surprisingly, in Richmond, the food court at Aberdeen Centre is really tasty and affordable.
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating most?
Other cuisines I enjoy eating around the city include Japanese. Zakkushi on Denman Street is a Japanese BBQ skewer restaurant I love to go to. Meats on BBQ skewers – who doesn’t like it with a cold beer? And Korean cuisine. There are many choices around the downtown Robson area. My favorite would be SURA for their lunch set; great variety of food and reasonable prices.
Name your favorite food truck, comfort food restaurant, and fine dining restaurant in the city.
My favorite food cart would be Mom’s Grilled Cheese. It’s comforting, great fresh bread delivered daily, and nice quality cheese and cold cuts. My favorite would be their Monday special, “Mom’s Meatloaf.”
My comfort food restaurant would be Great Wall Mongolian B.B.Q. on Denman. You build your own bowl – meats, vegetables, noodles, sauces – and everything is just stir-fried on a big piece of round stainless steel in front of you.
Fine dining restaurant in Vancouver would be L’Abattoir in Gastown.
Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any restaurants or bars at Vancouver International Airport or the city’s hotels that you would recommend?
Sutton Place Hotel with the newest remodeling of Boulevard Kitchen with one of the tops chefs in the city, Alex Chen. Hotel Georgia‘s Hawksworth Restaurant with another top chef in the city, David Hawksworth. Loden Hotel is also a nice boutique hotel with the restaurant Tableau Bar Bistro.
Finally, what would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Vancouver?
Walk, bike or rollerblade around the whole Stanley Park. Don’t just drive around because you will miss a lot of breathtaking views. I know it’s a must-go park, but I think it’s very important not to just drive around in a car.
Chef Kuan’s Shortlist:
Le Tigre, locations and hours vary; modern Asian.
Torafuku, 958 Main Street (Strathcona); modern Asian, dinner only Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Sun Sui Wah, 3888 Main Street (Riley Park); Cantonese, lunch and dinner daily.
HK BBQ Master, 4651 No. 3 Road, Suite 145, Richmond, B.C.; Chinese (Cantonese), lunch and dinner Thursday-Tuesday, closed Wednesday.
PiDGiN, 350 Carrall Street (Gastown); Asian fusion, dinner only daily.
Parallel 49 Brewing Company, 1950 Triumph Street (Grandview-Woodland); microbrewery, tasting room open daily.
Fable, 1944 West 4th Avenue (Kitsilano); Canadian, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
The Oakwood Canadian Bistro, 2741 West 4th Avenue (Kitsilano); Canadian, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Café Medina, 780 Richards Street (Downtown); Mediterranean, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Thomas Haas, 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver, B.C.; patisserie, open Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Second location: 2539 West Broadway (Kitsilano); open Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Thierry, 1059 Alberni Street (Downtown); patisserie, open daily.
Ganache, 1262 Homer Street (Yaletown); patisserie, open daily.
Motomachi Shokudo, 740 Denman Street (West End); Japanese, lunch and dinner Thursday-Tuesday, closed Wednesday.
JINYA, 270 Robson Street (Downtown); Japanese ramen, lunch and dinner daily.
Pho Lan, 6950 No. 3 Road, Richmond, B.C.; Vietnamese, lunch and dinner daily.
Kingyo, 871 Denman Street (West End); Japanese, lunch and dinner daily.
Nero Belgian Waffle Bar, 1703 Robson Street (West End); dessert waffles, open daily.
Cheesecake Etc., 2141 Granville Street (Mount Pleasant); dessert restaurant, open evenings only daily.
BETA5 Chocolates, 413 Industrial Avenue (Mount Pleasant); patisserie, open Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Local Farmers Markets, locations and hours vary.
Les Amis du Fromage, 843 East Hastings Street (Downtown Eastside); cheese shop, open daily.
Second location: 1752 West 2nd Avenue (Kitsilano); open daily.
Pearl Castle Cafe, 6060 Minoru Boulevard, Richmond, B.C.; Taiwanese, lunch and dinner daily.
Koon Bo Restaurant, 5682 Fraser Street (Riley Park); Cantonese, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Aberdeen Centre, 4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, B.C.; open daily.
Zakkushi, 823 Denman Street (West End); Japanese, dinner daily.
Second location: 4075 Main Street (Riley Park), lunch Wednesday-Sunday, dinner daily.
SURA Korean Cuisine, 1518 Robson Street (West End); Korean, lunch and dinner daily.
Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, Howe and Robson Streets (Downtown); sandwiches, lunch daily.
Second location: By 884 West Cordova Street (Downtown); lunch only Monday-Friday, closed Saturday-Sunday.
Great Wall Mongolian B.B.Q., 717 Denman Street (West End); Mongolian, lunch and dinner daily.
L’Abattoir, 217 Carrall Street (Gastown); French, dinner only daily.
Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, 845 Burrard Street (Downtown); seafood, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Hawksworth Restaurant, 801 West Georgia Street (Downtown); Canadian, breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Tableau Bar Bistro, 1181 Melville Street (Coal Harbour); French, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.
Stanley Park; open daily.
About the Chef: Chef Kuan’s culinary roots are firmly rooted in Vancouver, having graduated from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and worked at restaurants such as Cioppino’s and Mosaic Grille at the Hyatt Regency.
Le Tigre fuses West Coast cooking and ingredients with Asian flavors and influences, and through their bold dishes (with names like Kickass Rice, Miso Awesome Salad and Fricken Chicken), Le Tigre has earned a loyal following in Vancouver’s vibrant food cart scene.