British Columbia native Taryn Wa shares her favorite spots for brunch, Thai, and drinks in Vancouver

Taryn Wa of Savoury Chef Foods in Vancouver, BC
Taryn Wa of Savoury Chef Foods in Vancouver, BC

Hometown: Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Occupation: Co-founder and Culinary Director, Savoury Chef Foods
Years worked as a chef: 8
Years in Vancouver: “All my life”
Accolades: Inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier (2014)
1st place, Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice, Curry Cup (2014)
Winner, People’s Choice for Best Food, Taste BC (2012)
Runner-up, Best Catering Company, Georgia Straight Golden Plates (2012)

What do you love best about Vancouver’s food scene?

I love the cultural diversity, especially with all of the different Asian cuisines. I also love that it really is a community; everyone in the industry supports each other.

What are the top dishes that every visitor to Vancouver must try? 

Les Boulettes from Café Medina
Les Boulettes from Café Medina

Café Medina: Best brunch in Vancouver! I like Les Boulettes: lamb meatballs and poached eggs in a pepper and tomato stew. Though I will happily eat anything Chef Jonathan Chovancek makes.

Dasarang: While not in Vancouver (Coquitlam, but it’s worth the drive!), it’s where I go for Korean fried chicken. I LOVE FRIED CHICKEN! My favorite is padak (파닭): juicy boneless chicken chunks with a sweet, tangy and spicy sauce and julienned leeks. Perfect with beer and the pickled daikon they serve with every chicken order.

Upstairs at Campagnolo: Everything about the burger is perfect: the quality and grind of the beef, the bun, the simple toppings (cheese, lettuce and tomato).

The Abbey: I ate a lot of sausage rolls and meat pies growing up. I could never find a good sausage roll until this one. The pastry is buttery and flaky, the filling is juicy and perfectly seasoned. The mustard they serve it with has a great kick.

Kingyo: The Deluxe Lunch Bento. Items on it change everyday. They only make 10 a day! If you’re not lucky enough to be one of the 10, any of the lunch sets are delicious. I especially like the grilled fish or tonkatsu.

Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Vancouver.

Morning: A coffee and a croissant at Matchstick Coffee in Chinatown
Lunch: Steak frites at Tableau.
Afternoon: Alibi Room for beer.
Dinner: Guu Original on Thurlow. Lots of food, beer, and some sake with friends makes for a great evening.
After dinner: Back to Chinatown for drinks at The Keefer Bar.
Late night snack: Currywurst and fries at Bestie.

What’s your favorite neighborhood to eat out at and why?

Robson Street, around Denman. Korean restaurants and karaoke joints.

What cuisines do you most enjoy eating or cooking? 

I love eating and cooking Thai food! I like Maenam and Longtail Kitchen. Chef/owner Angus An and his teams at both restaurants put out amazing dishes. Flavors are always on point.

Is there anything you absolutely hate or refuse to eat?

Peanuts, because I’m allergic. I wish I could eat them!

Where are your favorite places to grab a drink?

Alibi Room, Upstairs at Campagnolo.

Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any bars or restaurants at YVR or in the city’s hotels that you enjoy visiting?

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar in the Sutton Place Hotel and Tableau Bistro in the Loden are favorites.

Finally, what would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Vancouver? 

Walk or bike around the Seawall; hike part of the Baden Powell Trail; have a picnic at a local beach; rent a kayak or canoe and paddle around Deep Cove.

Chef Wa’s Shortlist:

Café Medina, 780 Richards Street (Downtown); Mediterranean, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

Dasarang, 4501 North Road, Burnaby, B.C.; Korean fried chicken, lunch, dinner and late night daily.

Upstairs at Campagnolo, 1020 Main Street (Strathcona); bar food, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

The Abbey, 117 West Pender Street (Downtown); international, dinner only daily.

Kingyo, 871 Denman Street (West End); Japanese, lunch and dinner daily.

Matchstick Coffee, 213 East Georgia Street (Chinatown); coffee roaster and café, open daily.

Tableau Bar Bistro at The Loden, 1181 Melville Street (Coal Harbour); French, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.

Alibi Room, 157 Alexander Street (Gastown); modern tavern food, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.

Guu Original on Thurlow, 838 Thurlow Street (Downtown); Japanese izakaya, lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner daily.

The Keefer Bar, 135 Keefer Street (Chinatown); open daily.

Bestie, 105 East Pender Street (Chinatown); German, lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday, late night Friday-Saturday.

Maenam, 1938 West 4th Avenue (Kitsilano); Thai, lunch Tuesday-Saturday, dinner daily.

Longtail Kitchen, 810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster, B.C.; Thai, lunch and dinner daily.

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar at Sutton Place Hotel, 845 Burrard Street (Downtown); seafood, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.


About the Chef: 

With Chinese roots (from Guangdong, specifically) and parents who grew up in South Africa, Chef Taryn Wa was exposed to a variety of cuisines from a young age; Cantonese, South African and Indian flavors dominated family meals. Both of her grandmothers owned restaurants and food shops, and their love for food and cooking was passed down to her parents and ultimately to Chef Wa.

“THEY REALLY INSTILLED IN ME A LOVE OF ALL DIFFERENT TYPES OF CUISINES, WHICH IN TURN HAS INFLUENCED ME AS A COOK. ALL OF THESE FLAVORS HAVE WORKED THEIR WAY INTO THE DISHES I CREATE.”

Her parents also taught her something about food that she continues to remember today: that it’s about more than sustenance and taste, and that what really connects people to food are stories. Wa started out as a restaurant cook. However, an opportunity to work on a cooking show made her realize that the restaurant life wasn’t for her anymore, and she pursued a successful career as a personal chef. Chef Wa and her now-fiancé soon launched a web-based personal chef network, which then evolved into the catering company Savoury Chef Foods after receiving more and more catering requests. Their growing client list includes celebrities, royalty, two former U.S. presidents and Cirque du Soleil tours.

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