So, first off, I’d like to extend sincerest congratulations to Published on Main — owner Cody Allmin; executive chef Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson; his chef de cuisine, Connor Sperling; manager Amanda Work; and every last member of their excellent team. Published is only the third restaurant to top our list — and the first from Vancouver. Circumstances made their path to the top stealthy, but if you were watching closely, it was not unexpected.
Yes, they debuted on our top 100 restaurants list in 2020, ranked at number 88. But if that seemed neither noteworthy nor auspicious at the time, you missed something big in the details. Our annual poll takes place in January and calls upon judges to vote based on their dining experiences of the previous 16 months. Published opened in mid-December. So, where most restaurants on our 2020 list had vied for our judges’ attention for close to a year-and-a-half, Published had to get that job done in just a few weeks. Given the handicap, they got off to a dazzling start.
Canada’s 100 Best did not poll in 2021, but we did consult select judges for recommendations as to interesting culinary developments in their hometowns. From Vancouver that January, my old friend Rob Feenie replied emphatically that Published on Main was the best new restaurant in town. Then, Mijune Pak followed with a communiqué stat- ing that Published was “the best thing to hit Vancouver in the last two years.”
I finally made it by for dinner one sunny evening last July. After settling in at a table just inside the open floor-to-ceiling windows, we tucked into a round of bite-sized snacks of unusual range. Then, our four-course meal started in earnest with a bracingly refreshing dish that, in more recent form, has ended up on this issue’s cover: chilled sidestripe shrimp with cucumber, apple and horse radish. Next, crisp-skinned local steelhead, stuffed pasta dressed with morels and peas and truffle, Fraser Valley duck breast with young beets and, to finish, that nifty aerated hay custard.
The plating was invariably innovative and of unfailingly gorgeous design. Flavour combinations were fresh and unusual but consistently successful. And aside from a scant few geographic distractions — like that trendy-in-the-U.K. hay custard and those lashings of well-traveled Australian truffle — if you focused on any given plate, you could tell exactly where you were and what time of year it was, too. For me — and for a lot of C100B judges — that’s cooking of a very high order.
On which front, after what the industry has just been through and continues to struggle with, it seems to me that there is far more great cooking going on in this country right now than what we might reasonably or fairly expect. Like at Alo, in Toronto, where Patrick Kriss and his exceptional team finished first in this poll for an implausible and record-breaking four years running. Or at the estimable Restaurant Pearl Morissette, which — along with my latest Montreal favourite, Mon Lapin — leads a pack of five restaurants that are new to our top 10.
As for restaurants new to our overall list, we are — just this once for our first post-pandemic ranking — counting all restaurants that opened over the past two years (instead of one) as new. And we’ve created a new national list just for them (see page 30). Congratulations to the top-ranked Major Tom in Calgary and to the runner-up, the exceptional Osteria Giulia.
Our Canada’s Best Bars guide edited by Alexandra Gill is also back — and with nearly as much change as our restaurant list, including its own new number 1. Congratulations, Civil Liberties. I would instead call that bar the winner, and Published, too — but this year, after what all the businesses on our two lists have been through, I see them all that way. And us too, for having all these great restaurants and bars around still, for our pleasure.
Enjoy the issues and have a great summer.