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Canada's top 50 restaurants revealed



Media outlets love their lists.

Media haters love to loathe some of those lists.

The latest controversial list is the MacLean's list of the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada.

More than a thousand comments were left on the MacLean's website about the list. Most are negative and many food writers from across the country have slammed the list for one reason or another.

This list is controversial enough to rank right up there with the annual MacLean's ranking of Canadian universities or the high school rankings list created each year by the Fraser Institute.

At least with those two lists the rankings are based on hard data.

This restaurant list doesn't appear to rely on any hard data. No matter how the magazine came up with the rankings, it is eye catching because Araxi is listed.

The top 50 are listed by region and in no particular order from each of the regions. From B.C. there is a total of eight restaurants listed. The other seven are all Vancouver establishments. According to MacLean's, the other top B.C. spots are Bao Bei, Maenam, Hawksworth, La Quercia, Cioppino's, Blue Water Café and L'Abattoir.

Araxi and the Blue Water Café are both Top Table Group restaurants headed up by restaurateur Jack Evrensel.

Bao Bei, which translates to precious, is a Chinese Brasserie on Keefer Street. L'Abattoir is located in Gastown at a location that held Vancouver's first jail. Maenam is a Thai restaurant on Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano. La Quercia is an Italian eatery also on West Fourth. Cioppino is a Mediterranian grill located in Yaletown.

Hawksworth was singled out by MacLean's as the Restaurant of the Year, an honour Hawksworth was also given by Vancouver Magazine back in May. David Hawksworth's restaurant is in the Rosewood Hotel on Georgia Street.

The Chef of the Year, according to the national publication, is Normand Laprise at Toqué! in Montreal. One key reason he was selected is the fact that he prefers 14-hour shifts in the kitchen to the glare of high-powered lights in a television studio.

The New Restaurant of the Year is The Grove in Toronto, an English-style pub on Dundas Street West.

Across the rest of the country restaurants were highlighted by MacLean's in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and eight cities in all the Maritime Provinces.

The magazine has come right out and said the 50 restaurants on the list may not be the 50 best. Food critic Jacob Richler and photographer John Cullen travelled the country checking out top eateries from coast to coast in putting together the list.

"...much work and good sense goes into such things, they are seldom praised and always attacked — and gleefully," writes the MacLean's editors in the introduction to the top 50 list.

The introduction to the list makes it clear traditional merits were considered, scored only on what went on the plate and how the food was served. Clearly, it is impossible to cross this country and sample a meal from every worthy restaurant from coast to coast. The resulting list gets us talking and true MacLean's fans will invest $12.95 for the book to read the entire tale of the top 50.

Across the country and right here at home those in the restaurant business are debating the list.

"Did they go to the Bearfoot Bistro and The Rim Rock?" asks one Pique staffer.

This is a question, surely, being asked in cities from Victoria to Halifax with the popular restaurants in each market cited as outlets that were worthy of inclusion. MacLean's is pretty up front, indicating we shouldn't get too serious about the list because they didn't set out to create a comprehensive list backed by data and facts.

"When a traveller is stranded and hungry in Saskatoon, for example, the best restaurant in the world is not in Paris anymore, but across the street," write the editors in the introduction to the list.

So, in the case of Whistler, visitors can make reservations at Araxi knowing it has the approval of MacLean's armed with the knowledge that Whistler's culinary wonders are numerous. To dig a little deeper food loving readers are invited to surf over to Pique's Best of Whistler awards where one will learn that Pique readers voted the Rim Rock Café Whistler's best restaurant overall. Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro both did well in the survey behind the Rim Rock and that has been the case for many past years.

No matter how much value you put into either the MacLean's list or the list voted on by Pique readers last year, if these lists do nothing else they remind us of what is out there and what others think of the food choices available here and across this vast nation.

In the meantime, congratulations to our friends at Araxi and thanks for getting us another hit of national exposure.