11/30/2013 12:14 EST

Best Restaurants In Vancouver: Christmas Lunch Alternatives (PHOTOS)


We love the holidays. (LOVE!) But we understand that, a) Christmas Day is not significant for everyone and, b) turkey and all the trimmings are not everybody's idea of a great meal.

Whether you're looking to avoid the festive spirit altogether, or just looking for an alternative to a coma-inducing plate of dinde, we have suggestions to please every alternative palate.

We asked our Huffington Post, B.C. food panel for their picks for taking a different tack on Dec. 25, and then had a look around for other options—from Japanese, to Middle Eastern, to fine dining—available.

Our contributors are all Vancouver-based writers and serious foodies. Between them they have judged a number of local food, wine and restaurant awards.

Check out our selection—and see below the slideshow for the critics' choices.

Photo gallery Best Alternative Christmas Meals In Vancouver See Gallery

Joie Alvaro Kent writes for Montecristo, NUVO and Vancouver magazines. @JoieWrites

Landmark Hot Pot House

If a table groaning with a gargantuan turkey and all its accoutrements isn’t your schtick, perhaps a bubbling pot of broth would serve as a better centrepiece for your holiday gathering. Hotpot is meant for sharing—the more people there are around the table, the greater the variety of soup ingredients that you’ll be able to sample. Split your hotpot into a yin and yang of clear and spicy broth, then dive into a cavalcade of fresh seafood, meats, bean curd, dumplings, vegetables, and noodles for dipping. Choice picks: well-marbled fatty beef, fish tofu puffs, and a platter of assorted house-made meatballs that includes squid, shrimp, fish, and pork. For some serious indulgence, order a platter of exquisitely sweet, delicately sliced local geoduck—an extravagant treat at $50 a pound. Sticky fried rice with Chinese sausage is a must, as is warm ginger milk custard for dessert.

Mark Laba, writer and sausage enthusiast. @shmendrick

Kaplan’s Deli

Being Jewish, during the Christmas season I tend to run in the opposite direction. Instead of holly I like to deck the halls with pastrami, which is why my go-to holiday hideaway for lunch the day of Christmas Eve is Kaplan’s Deli. As far as I’m concerned there’s no better smoked meat in the city. And as befitting any true deli, the service can be anything from nonexistent to half-hearted to smothering. The hot corned beef, Montreal smoked meat or pastrami are the Mona Lisa’s of meat and as much masterpieces as any two slices of rye bread can contain. If you must have turkey, their in-house roasted bird is excellent and don’t forget the chopped liver or a nice piece of gefilte fish to start. Wash it all down with a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Cola. Best of all, the only thing Christmas-like about this place is that the beef brisket, unsliced, is roughly about the size of a new-born baby Jesus.

Brendon Mathews is a freelance food writer, specializing in Chinese cuisine. @KeithTalent

I admittedly have never eaten Christmas dinner anywhere in Vancouver outside of relatives' homes, and outside Vancouver I've only been to dire hotel buffets, the staff's rictus smiles betraying their desire to be anywhere but at work. So, if I was to recommend a place to eat on Christmas I'd go outside of the culture for my meal. You want somewhere celebratory, somewhere a little special. Kirin City Square on Cambie. It'll be in full swing, and the cooking is top notch.

Kasey Wilson is an award-winning food and travel writer, co-host of AM650s Best of Food & Wine and editor of Best Places Vancouver.

La Pentola Della Quercia

A nice counterbalance to Christmas madness is to take a rustic approach on Dec. 25 in La Pentola’s comfortable and contemporary space. In Italy, lunch, il pranzo, on Christmas Day is the most important feast of the holidays. La Pentola embraces its roots by offering seasonal sips with festive ingredients — order the La Befana, a reinvented Italian eggnog or the Sant’Angelo cocktail that takes its inspiration from the shaved ice carts that are found on the streets of Rome. Share some antipasti with the table to start (roasted bone marrow on crostini, or grilled squid with capers) and choose from favourites like braised lamb shanks or confit duck for your entrée. But the real draw is Chef Lucas Syme’s multi-course alla famiglia (family-style dining) for $55 per person, which includes La Pentola classics—parmesan soufflé, spaghetti all’amatriciana and hanger steak with arugula and balsamic vinegar, as well as seasonal dishes with a Northern Italian twist. It’s also available on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.