The entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown

Chinatown Vancouver: Your Complete Culinary Guide

Vancouver’s Chinatown has been the beating heart of the city’s Chinese community since the 1890’s.

More recently, this historic neighbourhood’s exotic culture, vibrant colours and rich history has turned it into one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

But lets be honest, what the area is most known for is it’s food!

But with so much competition, how can a visitor be expected to choose a local eatery that manages to satisfy both their taste buds, and their wallet?

Luckily, we have devised this guide to help you find your diamond in the rough. That way, all you have to worry about is the eating!

So lets get started shall we! This is your definitive Chinatown Culinary Guide.

Index

  1. Overview
  2. Fine Dining
  3. Casual Restaurants
  4. Quick Eats
  5. Food Tours

Vancouver Chinatown Restaurants

Chinatown is one of Vancouver’s top neighbourhoods and is an area that has recently undergone a tremendous transformation.

This has manifested itself in numerous way, from demographic shifts to architectural advancements. It’s now a fresh, young, vibrant neighbourhood chocked full of things to do.

But nowhere has this change become more evident then in the ongoing culinary revolution that has enveloped the area.

For years Chinatown was home to mediocre chop suey and chow mein joints with gaudy neon signs that largely catered to Canadians wary of authentic Chinese food.

As the regions Asian population exploded in the 1980’s, many of these restaurants were left behind by a new wave of more authentic Chinese restaurants located in other parts of the city.

However, a wave of gentrification has brought a renewed vibrancy to this historic neighbourhood. Young chefs, inspired by the Asian cuisine of their forefathers, and trained in exciting new techniques, have began to flock back to the area.

In addition, restaurants featuring Italian, German and Jamaican cuisine, to name but a few, have begun to move in. Thus making Chinatown a newfound hub of cultural diversity.

From traditional favourites like dim-sum and Chinese bbq to lavish eateries ranked amongst the best in the country. You can be guaranteed to find something for every taste and budget.

Before we get started if you’d like more background and information on this wonderful neighbourhood, make sure to check out our Chinatown Neighbourhood guide.

Now let’s take a look at a list of ten of our favourite restaurants across each price point. For custom directions to each location, simply click on the google maps link above.


Vancouver Chinatown Fine Dining Restaurants

If the very thought of Chinatown conjures up memories of dingy Cantonese restaurants and fading dim sum joints, then you need not worry.

Gentrification has ensured that the neighbourhood is now home to some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. From Modern Chinese and Asian Fusion to Italian, it’s all here!


Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

bao bei vancouver
Instagram: baobei1

$$$ | 163 Keefer Street | Cuisine: Modern Chinese | Website

If the very mention of a traditional fortune cookie Cantonese restaurant evokes wistful memories of being forced to split the fried rice and chicken chow mein with your parents for the umpteenth time, then you aren’t alone.

Luckily, Bao Bei Brasserie offers delicious and modern Chinese cuisine inspired by flavours from Taiwan, Shanghai, Sichuan and beyond, paired with some of the tastiest cocktails in the city!

Comprised primarily of elevated versions of traditional classics, the menu is composed of a variety of small plates that are best enjoyed family style.

Their “schnacks” section contains a variety of finger foods, such as Chinese pickles, marinated eggplant or crispy tofu that pair perfectly with an aperitivo or cocktail.

The delicious “petit cadeaux” menu contains a variety of  handmade dumplings, wontons and potstickers. We promise, you won’t be disappointed.

For something a little more filling, select a “petit plat chinois” such as dan-dan noodles, crispy pork belly or wok fried squid.

Even better, with sustainably sourced seafood, organic hormone free meat and an MSG free kitchen, all of their food can be eaten in good conscience.

Bao Bei doesn’t accept reservations, so be sure to arrive at your earliest convenience to beat the line.


Sai Woo

Entrance to Sai Woo

$$$ | 158 E. Pender Street | Cuisine: Asian Fusion | Website

Sai Woo is another restaurant that seeks to incorporate a little modernity into Chinatown’s culinary heritage. This manifests itself both within the restaurants contemporary Asian Fusion menu, and its stunning modern room set within one of the neighbourhood’s oldest heritage buildings.

The original Sai Woo opened as a chop suey house in 1925 and featured a garish neon sign bearing a giant rooster. The building has housed a Chinese restaurant in one incarnation or another ever since, with the current owners reclaiming the original name in 2015.

A recreation of the famous neon sign was placed outside as a nod to the neighbourhoods history, making it one of the few remaining in the neighbourhood.

Sai Woo’s “East meets West” kitchen pumps out excellent casual pan-Asian fare, made using only the freshest of local ingredients.

Popular items include favourites such the pork and kimchi dumplings, confit duck low mein and szechuan black pepper beef.

Also known for their tremendous cocktails, Sai Woo has an excellent 100 seat lounge located downstairs for after dinner drinks.


Kissa Tanto

Tempura battered whole fish at Kissa Tanto

$$$ | 263 E. Pender Street | Cuisine: Japanese/Italian | Website

Most people’s immediate reaction upon hearing the words Japanese/Italian Fusion is quite simple: why?

However, executive chef Joel Watanabe, who is of mixed Japanese and Corsican extraction, has boldly dared to ask a different question: why not?

The results? A restaurant that has captured national attention, and is perennially ranked amongst the best in the country.

Kissa Tanto’s imaginative decor recalls a 1960’s Tokyo jazz-club, known as a “kissa”, and will immediately remind you of time gone by.

However, it’s ultimately the food that sets Kissa Tanto apart. The pairing of delicate Japanese flavours with the rustic warmth of Italian cooking is a home run.

Start out with the daily fish crudo, with shiso vinaigrette, capers, Castelvetrano olives and mustard greens. Fancy a pasta?  Then how about the duck agnolotti, with Japanese leeks and a grainy mustard brandy sauce.

For the main event, the whole fried fish served tempura style with a daikon soy dipping sauce has become the restaurants signature dish.

You’ll just have to trust us. Being aficionados of both cuisines, and spending considerable time in both countries, some how it works!

Reservations are difficult to come by, but they do leave a number of tables open for walk ins. Just make sure to show up early.

Good luck!


Vancouver Chinatown Casual Restaurants

If you’re anything like us, most times out of ten you’re simply looking for a good honest meal at a decent price point. Unfortunately, these are just the types of places that you often need local knowledge to come by. Luckily, this time we’ve got you covered!


Phnom Penh Restaurant

phnom penh vancouver
Instagram: phnompenh.restaurant

$$ | 244 E. Georgia | Cuisine: South-East Asian | Website

Perennially ranked as the best of Vancouver’s many South-East Asian eateries, this one-time hidden gem has evolved into a Chinatown institution.

After one bite you’ll begin to understand why Vancouverites and visitors alike are willing to line up around the block for a taste of their sumptuous Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine.

No visit is complete without the Phnom Penh deep-fried chicken wings, a true Vancouver right of passage. Other favourites include the various Cambodian rice noodle dishes (priced at less than $9), and the Vietnamese butter beef.

The restaurant stays true to balanced South East Asian flavour profiles such as fresh and crispy, salty and sour, and spicy and sweet. As a result, Phnom Penh is able to give each dish an authentic flair rarely encountered on this side of the Pacific.

Factor in the generous portion sizes and reasonable prices, and a trip to Phnom Penh is a no-brainer for any visitor to Chinatown.

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations.


Gain Wah Restaurant

Ggain wah vancouver

$ | 218 Keefer Street | Cuisine: Traditional Cantonese

It can’t be denied, Chinatown is undergoing a dramatic revitalization. It’s now an emerging neighbourhood with a wealth of award winning restaurants representing a veritable United Nations of culinary styles.

But some people are resistant to these changes.

If pretentious hipster coffee joints, Japanese-Italian fusion restaurants and vegan pizzerias aren’t your idea of a good time, then there is still hope!

Gain Wah has been serving delicious traditional Cantonese fare from it’s Keefer Street Location for close to four decades. With close to 300 items on the menu, from classic siu mei dishes like roasted duck and soy sauce chicken to Western-style favourites like chow mein and chop suey, there is sure to be something for every palate.

Plus it’s ridiculously cheap for a sit down restaurant, with many meals coming in at less than ten dollars! So what do you have to lose.

It may look unassuming from the outside, and to be honest, it doesn’t look much better on the inside. But Gain Wah manages to serve traditional Cantonese food with a refreshing honesty from which many of the neighbourhood’s flashier more vaunted locales would be wise to learn.


Jade Dynasty Restaurant

vancouver dim sum

$$ | 137 E. Pender Street | Cuisine: Chinese | Website

One of the favourite activities of any Vancouver foodie worth their weight in salt is to “dim-sum”.

The omission of the verbs go, have, do etc. is quite intentional, for “dim-summing” is more than just a meal. In fact, for Vancouverites, it is a social activity and an experience in and of itself.

While many of the most popular dim-sum joints are now found in the suburb of Richmond, Chinatown is still home to a number of great dim-sum joints.

One of our favourites is long-time neighbourhood institution Jade Dynasty Restaurant. This local favourite serves good honest dim-sum with large portions and reasonable prices.

Favourites include their har gow, siu mai and char siu bao all served with your choice of sauces, including the popular Hong Kong favourite XO sauce and a spicy chilli sauce that is so good you’ll wish you could by it by the pint.

If you miss out on the dim-sum menu, don’t worry. They also have a large selection of authentic Chinese food on their a la carte menu that will not leave you disappointed.

Jade Dynasty is often recommended by the staff at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and is a frequent stop on many of the Chinatown Food Tours , ensuring that you can go with confidence.


Vancouver Chinatown Quick Eats

During a busy day spent touring Chinatown’s numerous attractions, you’ll likely be on the look out for something to pick up on-the-go. But just because you’re grabbing something cheap and easy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on flavour and quality.


Chinatown BBQ

a bbq duck dish at chinatown bbq vancouver

$ | 130 E. Pender Street | Cuisine: Chinese BBQ | Website

This traditional Chinese Barbeque joint made it into my must eat Vancouver dishes for capturing the historic spirit of Chinatown like few others.

As soon as you enter you will instantaneously be seduced by the sweet smell of the caramel roasted duck and crispy pork bellies hanging tantalizingly in the window in front of you.

With all chefs trained in traditional Chinese cooking styles, you are guaranteed to receive delicious, affordable and authentic old-school barbecue done right.

Favourites include the honeyglazed barbecue pork, the award winning beef brisket curry and crispyskinned pork belly all served over rice with a variety of sauces.

Can’t choose? Then go for the chefs plate and sample them all!

As an accompaniment, we’d recommend an order of bright green stir fried gailan with garlic oil to help cut the fat.

Popular with neighbourhood seniors and tattooed hipsters alike, this Chinatown haunt manages to expertly blend the area’s historic past with it’s hopeful future.

Order to go or dine in, the choice is up to you. Either way, you are guaranteed some of the best Chinese BBQ anywhere for as little as $9! 

Highly recommended.


Juke Fried Chicken

family platter at juke fried chicken chinatown vancouver

$ | 182 Keefer Street | Cuisine: Fried Chicken/BBQ | Website

If a day spent wandering the streets of Chinatown still hasn’t inspired you to sample the exotic flavours of the Orient, then you needn’t worry. We’ve still got you covered!

Juke Fried Chicken has quickly become Vancouver’s most popular spot for finger lickin’ good fried chicken and sticky Southern style pork ribs.

It’s so good in fact, that you’ll quickly forget that their fried chicken is actually gluten free! This is Vancouver after all!

After making the difficult choice between the ribs and fried chicken (original or spicy), you’ll have the option to choose from an assortment of finger lickin’ good Southern-style sides.

Favourites include the fried brussel sprouts with preserved lemon, East-Asian peanut-slaw and the cornbread.

If you choose to dine in, you can add charred greens with double-smoked bacon and Juke’s famous mac and cheese to the list.

Good, simple, honest and cheap. What more could you ask for when you’re travelling.


Fat Mao Noodle Bar

hot and sour soup at fat mao noodles gastown vancouver
Instagram: fatmaonoodles

$ | 217 E. Georgia Street | Cuisine: Asian Noodles | Website

There is just something about the combination of a hearty, rich bowl of noodles and an ice cold beer that perfectly breaks up your day when you’re travelling.

While downtown Vancouver is chock full of fantastic ramen spots, when we’re in Chinatown we like to head to Fat Mao Noodles to satisfy our cravings.

Run by chef Angus An, the owner-operator of Maenam, arguably the best Thai restaurant in the city. Fat Mao offers a selection of Pan-Asian noodle bowls with fresh, local ingredients and house made noodles.

Popular options include the hot and sour pork noodles and Chiang Mai curry noodles, but I usually opt for the succulent braised duck noodles with free range duck leg, Asian celery and bok-choy.

You can pick amongst four types of noodles, the Shanghai wide-noodle, rice sheets, wonton noodle and vermicelli. Grab a local craft beer, and you’re good to go.


New Town Bakery

New Town Bakery, in Vancouver’s Chinatown

$ | 148 E. Pender | Cuisine: Chinese Bakery | Website

This Chinatown mainstay has been serving their famous steamed buns and dim-sum to eager Vancouverites since 1980.

While there is a restaurant in the the back that serves a selection of Cantonese favourites as well as dirt cheap western style breakfasts, for me it’s the bakery that’s the star of the show.

Just be warned, there’s usually a line!

To circumvent this they use a number system. Once you enter look to your right and grab a ticket. Then use the time decide amongst the 13 different steamed buns!

The most popular seem to be the bbq and spicy pork, though there is also a selection of chicken, beef and vegetable filled options. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, there are three dessert style buns as well.

And with prices ranging from $1.25-$2.50, you can have a meal to go with the change that is rattling around in your pocket.


Vancouver Chinatown Food Tours

A group samples tea on the Wok Around Chinatown tour

Would you like to learn more about Chinatown’s colourful history? All while meeting new people and sampling the best of the neighbourhoods incredible cuisine?

Then I’d highly recommend taking one of the amazing local neighbourhood food tours. Here is a list of a few of our favourites.


Wok Around Chinatown

Duration: 3.5 hours|Cost: $113.00

Spend a morning exploring Chinatown with an off duty chef as your guide on this culinary and cultural walking tour.

Learn where local chefs and foodies find the crispiest old-school BBQ, freshest produce and most sumptuous savoury delights. Moreover, you will learn numerous compelling stories about Chinatown’s historical landmarks.

Visit local teas shops, apothecaries and cookware stores to learn more about traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine.

Includes

  • Admission to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden
  • Full Dim Sum lunch at a local restaurant
  • Complimentary tea at a traditional tea shop
  • Off duty professional local chef as your guide

Book My Spot Now


Private Food & Walking China Tour

Duration: 3 hours | Cost: $131.05

You’ll receive personalized attention on this private culinary and historical walking tour with a talented local chef leading the way.

Begin with a private lunch at an authentic local Cantonese restaurant. Then explore the neighbourhood on foot to learn more about it’s culinary offerings and unique history.

Includes

  • Lunch in an authentic Cantonese restaurant
  • Chinatown walking and food tour
  • Dedicated professional local chef as your personal guide

Book My Spot Now


The Dim Sum Adventure

Originally a Cantonese family tradition involving a variety of small dishes served family style, Dim Sum has become a favourite of foodies everywhere.

However, there are few places outside of the Orient that offer such a wealth of “Dim Summing” options as Vancouver. Consequently, the meal has become ubiquitous, with each Vancouverite having their own favourite spot.

One of the best ways for a visitor to take advantage is to take the The Dim Sum Adventure. The tour allows you to go on a culinary adventure through Chinatown with knowledgeable and entertaining locals as your guide.

You’ll first receive an Introduction to Dim Sum booklet, which provides descriptions and traditional Chinese characters for over 50 menu items. You’ll be guaranteed to return home as an expert!

Then visit hidden neighbourhood gems and sample popular favourites such as har gow (steamed shrimp dumpling), char sui (steamed pork buns) and xiao long bao (steamed dumpling with pork and broth filling).

Includes

  • Delicious hand-picked dishes 
  • Complimentary tea
  • Knowledgeable local guide
  • Introduction to Dim Sum booklet

Book My Spot Now


Keep the Discussing Going

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about Chinatown’s restaurant scene, don’t be afraid to use the comment section below or hit us up on our Facebook page.

I’ll do my best to holla back as soon as possible.

Bon Appetit 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *