Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 18, 2021
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Conventional taste

Forget room service, we've scouted the best tables in Canada's top conference cities

Sick of stumbling into conveniently located but lackluster restaurants when you're at a conference? Read on. We have suggestions for dining out in Canada's major conference cities -- from stellar eateries to where to get the best take-out sandwiches for eating in the park. Remember, though, that the only constant in the high-turnover world of restaurants is change: call before you go.

The Five Sails Restaurant
(999 Canada Place, suite 300; tel: 604-891-2892)

This Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel restaurant offers contemporary cuisine inspired by the flavours of the Pacific Rim. Try the spiced hazelnut-crusted halibut finished with white and green asparagus, wild mushrooms and watercress emulsion. The weekly Fresh Sheet offers the best of the freshest local and imported ingredients available, and the wine list suggests something to go with every menu choice. The view of Coal Harbour and the Lions Gate Bridge will have you lingering over your dessert.

Hours: Daily, from 6pm until closing. $$$

(1459 West Broadway; tel: 604-677-4111;

What do you get when a sommelier marries a chef and they work in the same restaurant? A marriage of food and wine that's unparalleled in Vancouver. The ingenious wine list, with many offerings by the glass, has a pairing system that does all the work for you. The small plates menu is in line with the trend towards smaller portions; get a few and share them. Try the braised beef short rib with macaroni and cheese or the bruschetta three ways -- fig and walnut tapenade; crispy pancetta, rocket and fennel; and truffled artichoke and garlic confit -- you won't go wrong. At $36, the three-course prix-fix menu is a steal.

Hours: Daily, 5 to 11pm. $$

The Lift Bar and Grill
(333 Menchion Mews; tel: 604-689-5438;

Just minutes from the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Lift is an oceanfront restaurant/lounge located in Coal Harbour. What a view: try and snag a table on the rooftop deck. If the weather's not stellar, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer great views of the harbour. The menu is designed for a sunny summer day. An impressive raw bar offers oysters on the half shell with a spiced watermelon brunoise along with sushi, sashimi and nigiri. Whet plates (to whet the appetite) include Dungeness crab cakes with peppered strawberries and sour cream, and cardamom-roasted lobster claw with pickled beets and watercress grapefruit salad.

Hours: Daily, 11:30am to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 11am to midnight. $$

Umami Tapas & Wine Bar
(572 Davie Street; tel: 604-696-9563)
You don't need to know the details of umami -- that Japanese understanding of the way in which amino acids react to create a fifth taste -- to know that this menu is taste-driven. Taking tapas to the next level, Hiroshi Shintaku, chef/sommelier and part owner of Umami Tapas & Wine Bar, has put together something really special. The food will have you singing -- try the fontina and edamame risotto cake bathed in orange and Dungeness crab bisque, teased with brandy and saffron. With ingredients from both Japan and local markets, you can feel the freshness with your tongue.

Hours: Evenings, Monday to Saturday. $$

Caffe Artigiano
(740 West Hastings Street and four other locations; tel: 604-696-9222;

Some say they make the best coffee in Vancouver. It's worth a visit to watch the baristas work their magic with their fanciful latte art. These coffee shops/bistros offer the perfect lunchtime respite with soups, salads and sandwiches. Favourite paninis include smoked turkey on cranberry pecan bread with Emmenthal, or stuffed Portobello mushroom with ricotta, spinach and sundried tomatoes on an olive bun.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 6am to 5pm; Saturday and Sunday, 7am to 3pm. Brunch: 8am to 3pm. $

Il Portico Restaurant
(10012 107th Street; tel: 780-424-0707)

With a relaxed ambience that's not overly sophisticated and a wine list that has won a few awards in Wine Spectator magazine, this is one of your best bets for a great meal in Edmonton. The menu, which offers modern Italian food in a Tuscan-style environment, changes every six months with new specials weekly. This is your chance to bite into some prime Alberta beef, served here with a sour cherry jus and Gorgonzola scalloped potatoes.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 2pm, 5:30 to 10:30pm; Saturday, 5:30 to 11pm. $$$

Wild Tangerine
(10383 112 Street.; tel: 780-429-3131;

Brother and sister team Wilson and Judy Wu, who owned and ran Polo's for more than 10 years, are back with what's being described as one of Edmonton's most innovative culinary experiences. The focus of contemporary pan-Asia cuisine with Canadian undertones is light and healthy. Dishes are moderate in size and all wines are available by the glass. Star appetizers include shrimp lollipops with wasabi yogurt and potato fries with star anise and homemade ketchup. Mains include lemongrass Thai-basil lentils with grilled Portobello mushroom and red curry mussels with linguini. Don't skip out on dessert: try the warm, gingered bread pudding with banana ice cream or the sticky rice bomb stuffed with black-sesame paste and guava mint sauce.

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11:30am to 10pm; Friday, 11:30am to 11:30pm; Saturday, 5 to 11:30pm. $$

The Crêperie
(111 10220-103 Street; tel: 780-420-6656;

What could be better than a restaurant brimming with crêpes, arguably the best comfort food? The menu offers these doughy delights filled with an array of ingredients. This French-inspired restaurant also has food for those who crave something else, including cedar-baked salmon, fresh mussels and a delicious French onion soup. But why pass up the chance to indulge in a three-course meal of crêpes? It includes the croustille au fromage appetizer (a deep-fried cheese crêpe that will leave you wanting more), followed by seafood crêpes for your main, and finally, the dessert that takes the cake, crêpe Caribbean: bananas sprinkled with dark rum in a sweet crêpe, topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to closing (last seating 10pm); Saturday, 5pm to closing (last seating 10pm); Sunday, 5pm to closing (last seating 9pm). $$

The Free Press Bistro
(80 10014-104th Street; tel: 780-497-7784)

Located in Edmonton's Warehouse district, this bistro serves regular bistro fare -- meal-sized salads, pasta and grilled items as well as a fantastic weekend brunch. Their signature sandwiches put a twist on the traditional panini with ingredients such as soft-shell crab, caviar and balsamic-basted pork tenderloin. Take note: this is the only place in Edmonton where you can get a chocolate egg cream -- the silky chocolate concoction that originated in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. They even ship in Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup from Brooklyn to stay true to the original.

Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10pm; Sunday, 11am to 9pm. $


(10162 100th Street; tel: 780-424-7500;

The authentic Italian chain was first opened in 1979 by Maurizio Saccomanno and his son in law. Almost three decades later, hard work and a bit of luck has transformed Sorrentino's into a bustling eight-resto business. Enticing antipasti include hearts of romaine with candied walnuts and gorgonzola dressing, and angus beef carpaccio. Pasta dishes include gluten-free corn fusilli and mains satisfy with the likes of bison rib-eye steak au poivre with cognac glaze and lots of prime Alberta beef.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 10pm, Saturday, 5pm to midnight. $$

(66 Wellington Street West; tel: 416-777-1144;

Located in the atrium of the TD Centre, Bymark is the brainchild of chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan, of North 44 fame. The menu displays contemporary fare at its best, from traditional, roasted Canadian rack of lamb to crisp-skin salmon. And yes, this was one of the first places where you could get a hamburger for over $30. The extensive wine list suggest will appeal to the most discerning oenophiles, while a sommelier-suggested wine pairing is proposed for each menu item for those of us who prefer to let someone else do the choosing.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 2:30pm; Monday to Saturday, 6 to 11pm. Lounge: Monday to Saturday, noon to 2am. $$$

(601 King Street West; tel: 416-603-2205;

Susur Lee, considered one of Toronto's greatest chefs, has created what many restaurateurs aspire to but few manage to pull off: a new dining experience. This is seven-course tasting-menu heaven. Chef Lee's tasting theory is that your palate is strongest at the beginning of the meal and so he serves the main course first before working towards the lighter dishes. The menu is always a surprise of Asian-French fusion dishes -- no two plates at the same table are identical. With a massive wine list, neither your palate nor your wallet will forget this experience anytime soon.

Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6pm till closing. $$$

Crush Wine Bar
(455 King Street West; tel: 416-977-1234;

This chic bistro/dining room with a large open kitchen is a great setting for a relaxed meal or a drink at the bar at the end of a long day. The wine menu of over 160 moderately priced bottles offers about 30 by the glass, from $5 and up. The menu includes items that change seasonally as well as Crush classics such as foie gras terrine and steak frites. The prix-fixe menu, which changes weekly, includes appetizer, a fish course, a main and dessert.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 11pm; Saturday, 5 to 11pm. $$

Brassaii Bistro Lounge
(461 King Street West; tel: 416-598-4730;

The converted warehouse, which shares patio space with Crush Wine Bar, serves up new-world bistro fare with a New York diner twist. Named the city's favourite breakfast bistro by Toronto foodies, menu items here include comforting toast and Nutella, lemon blueberry pancakes and classic eggs any style with bacon and toast. Lunch and dinner are also come-hithery with Brittany fish soup and dishes for two: crusted rack of lamb with thyme jus and pont-neuf frites. The late-afternoon bar menu offers perfect little nibbles to accompany whatever you're drinking.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 7am to 3pm; Monday to Saturday, 5 to 9pm. Bar menu: Monday to Friday, 3 to 5pm. $$

Bright Pearl Seafood Restaurant
(346-348 Spadina Avenue; tel: 416-979-3988;

No visit to Toronto would be complete without a dining trip to Chinatown. Located right in its heart next to Kensington Market, Bright Pearl is a seafood lover's treat. Specialties include lobster, crab and bass as well as Peking duck, jumbo shrimp with vegetables, and all-day dim sum with a selection of 80 to 100 dishes. Don't miss the steamed BBQ pork bun or the crispy taro spring rolls.

Hours: Daily, 9am to 11pm. Dim sum happy hour: Monday to Friday, 9 to 11:30am, 1:30 to 4pm. $

Beckta Dining and Wine
(226 Nepean Street; tel: 613-238-7063;

Stephen Beckta was once a brazen young sommelier in New York City. He returned to Ottawa, fell in love and moved home to open his own place which has garnered rave reviews and a string of loyal patrons. Naturally, the wine list -- which includes a wide of array of by-the-glass options and rare cult wines -- is unparalleled in the city. The food is also spectacular, with some of the region's best contemporary cuisine. This is the place to try foie-gras poutine, tagliatelle with fresh shaved white truffles and melting ruby-red elk loin with Jerusalem artichoke puree. Not to be missed on your next trip to the capital.

Hours: Daily, 5:30pm to midnight. $$$

The Urban Pear
(151 Second Avenue; tel: 613-569-9305;

Opened in 2002 in Ottawa's Glebe district by two young Stratford chefs who've done time at Sooke Harbour House, this is contemporary fine dining at its most casual. With a focus on freshness and local produce, the menu is short and changes daily, depending on what's available. During the summer months, organic farmers supply all of the vegetables, while meat and fish come from Canadian farms and waters -- even the wine list features strong Canadian content. Summer's menu includes chilled cucumber-mint broth with oyster on the half shell, walnut-encrusted pork tenderloin and roasted breast of duck.

Hours: Daily for lunch and dinner; brunch on Sundays. $$$

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro
(108 Murray Street; tel: 613-562-3683)

Cree chef/owner Phoebe Sutherland and husband chef Warren, both alumni of the New England Culinary Institute, have teamed up to realize Ottawa's first and only First Nations' restaurant. Located in the ByWard Market, the cosy bistro showcases contemporary aboriginal-inspired cuisine. The menu offers plenty of ways to try something new, with a list of starters, in-betweens, mains and sides, including garlic-roasted rack of Artic caribou, Miichuap-smoked seafood pie and Navaho fried bread. This is the place to have buffalo -- either in a burger, as a roast or steak.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 2pm, 5:30 to 10pm; Saturday 5:30 to 10pm. $$

(77 Clarence Street; tel: 613-562-2500;

Also located in the heart of the ByWard Market, Medithéo cooks up tantalizing nouveau-Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. The wine list features 60 by-the-glass options and the new sommelier promises to make his the best list in the city. Don't miss the Mediterranean bruschetta (with warm goat cheese) or the mezze platters, where you choose from a range of little delights for the peckish, like grilled Moroccan lamb skewers, chicken cigars, grilled calamari in orange butter and escargot in garlic-pepper cream sauce. The small outdoor patio is the perfect place from which to do some people-watching to the sound of live Mediterranean music.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to closing. Brunch: Sunday 9:30am to 2pm. $$


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