Twenty-five years in the restaurant business is no easy task, particularly as the industry becomes more competitive and diners' fascinations tend to lean toward the new and fashionable.
Andrew Richardson calls the silver anniversary of CinCin -- celebrated in September with a marvellous fete that included a cookout on Robson Street featuring grilled ribeye, scallops, salmon and more -- a "milestone that's not easy to accomplish in this business."
Richardson has been the executive chef at CinCin for about eight years. With him at the helm of the kitchen, the restaurant's focus has been on elegant Italian cuisine that relies on high-quality ingredients and preparations that aren't overdone with sauces or flavour-of-the-day trends.
Also home to one of the best wine lists in Vancouver, CinCin is notable because it should be the restaurant of choice for visitors to the city who are exploring Robson Street, the 2.5-kilometre thoroughfare known for its shopping finds and range of cuisine. A decade ago, Robson Street was ranked fifth in the world for highest retail rental space in the world. It's home to the new Nordstrom store at the Pacific Centre, as well as a Roots, Salvatore Ferragamo and Aritzia locations.
With so much holiday shopping to be done this month, you need places to nosh, as well. Here are five dining spots for various budgets on Robson Street.
CinCin (1154 Robson Street) -- Set on the second floor, CinCin has a lovely terrace overlooking one of the most attractive stretches of Robson Street. It's a spot to be during warmer weather. Inside, the large restaurant feels cozy thanks to stone walls that are reminiscent of an Italian grotto and the massive grill that churns out so many of Richardson's outstanding dishes. You'll also enjoy cocktails created by Dave Wolowidnyk, long regarded as a leading mixologist in Vancouver. The menu offers an array of excellent dishes, including fantastic pasta and risotto options. If the ravioli topped with white truffle is listed as a special, don't pass it up.
Website: www.cincin.net. Menu Price Range: Most dinner entrees cost $30-$49.
Jinya Ramen Bar (270 Robson Street) -- A California-based company with a number of franchise locations in the southern United States, this spot on the east end of Robson Street close to the city's iconic main library is my choice for best ramen in Vancouver. I'm not alone in that assessment, as you'll see when you try to get a seat. It's likely you'll have to contend with a lineup in order to make your way inside if you're looking to dine in the evening. You should make the wait, though. The broth is flavourful, the thin noodles are housemade and the meat is tender. The noodle bowls include such ingredients as seaweed, kikurage, Tokyo negi and garlic chips.
Website: www.jinya-ramenbar.com. Menu Price Range: $10.95-$12.95 for ramen served in large, earthen bowls.
Pizza Fabrika (1680 Robson Street) -- These days, Vancouver has no shortage of gourmet pizza spots. But most are concentrated in trendy Gastown on the east side of downtown. Pizza Fabrika has established itself as the go-to spot for delicious pies on the west end of Robson, close to Denman Street. Its name means "factory," but the pizza isn't mass produced. Although you'll find crowd pleasers such as a five-cheese pizza and a pie for meat lovers, there are some surprises on the menu, too, including a pizza topped with homemade lamb sausage and three varieties of white pizza. The wine selection is small but solid.
Website: pizzafabrika.ca. Menu Price Range: $13-$19 for 12-inch pizzas, with most costing $16 each.
Patron Tacos & Cantina (265 Robson Street) -- This laid-back room caters to the Hispanic community's passion for soccer and cervezas. The restaurant is often open early for weekend brunch simply to please the soccer fans who turn up to see matches from Latin America, South America and Europe. The tacos arrive with three types of hot sauce and won't disappoint those who are craving authentic Mexican flavours. Try the fish, shrimp and chicken tinga tacos. The margaritas are outstanding, too.
Website: www.patrontc.com. Menu Price Range: $12.50-$15 for entrees, with the four-taco option costing $12.
Japadog (530 Robson Street) -- Few Vancouver eateries have garnered the attention of Japadog, a little food stand that has won over fans from around the world with its unique hot dogs. Founded in 2006, Japadog is the brainchild of a Japanese salesman who imported Kurobuta pork (made from black Berkshire pigs) and served it as hot dogs topped with a variety of condiments, including wasabi mustard. The Kurobuta sausages come in combinations such as Terimayo (the original Japadog that has teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed) and Okonomi (topped with spicy bonito flakes). Japadog now has eight locations -- including two in California -- and two food trucks that roam around Vancouver. The original location is the one on Robson Street and, judging by the lines you'll see at any time of day, it's still the most popular.
Website: www.japadog.com. Menu Price Range: $6.95-$9.95 for the hot dogs.
Correction: A previous version of this blog mistakenly referred to Andrew Richardson as Andrew Robertson.
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