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Top 5 Restaurants in Vancouver: Neil Taylor's Guide

Neil Taylor is on a roll. After winning an EnRoute Magazine Award for Best New Restaurant as Executive Chef at Cibo, he (along with partners Ed Perrow and Georgia Goritsas) opened Espana and claimed a pair of podium finishes in The Georgia Strait's Golden Plates Awards and was nominated for Vancouver Magazine's Best New Restaurant for 2013.

 So it should be no surprise that his latest project, The Fat Badger, just won top spot in The Vancouver Observer's Restaurant Power Rankings and has been drawing Vancouver's food cognoscenti in droves. The man can cook.

Here are Neil Taylor's five favourite restaurants in Vancouver:

1. Kirin, Multiple locations including 1172 Alberni Street and 555 West 12th Avenue

"I love going for dim sum at Kirin and if it was up to me I'd go at least twice a week", Neil says. "It's always well prepared, the menu has all the classics plus lots of different dishes that change but are always tasty. The downtown location has good service as well to match the food". He says Kirin has "the best sticky rice, bbq pork buns and crispy squid ive found in Vancouver. Plus my little boy Jack can't get enough of the squid, so he comes along and joins the feast."

2. La Quercia, 3689 West 4th Avenue

"La Quercia has the most delicious and authentic Italian food in the city", Neil says. Describing his last meal there, Neil is full of praise. "I had a dish of White Alba truffles, cardoons and fonduta that was incredible. The food is simple but always very balanced. You can choose to let the kitchen cook for you which is what I've done on my last few visits and it's never disappointed." He suggests that diners try their pastas, which "are a big highlight", "beautiful" and "made with lots of skill".

3. The Farmer's Apprentice, 1535 West 6th Avenue

Speaking about the Vancouver Observer's Power Rankings number two finisher, Neil admits "I've only been twice but both times I've had great food, the menu changes daily and when ever I read the menu I feel like I could go there and just work myself through the whole menu". He describes the cooking here as "a step away from the traditional protein based dishes and more of a focus on local produce from farms and foragers as the star of the dish. I've had beautifully cooked sweetbreads and a whole roast sea bass stuffed with bread and fennel with salsa verde that was one of the nicest dishes I've eaten in my five years in Vancouver." Neil is a big fan of Farmer's Apprentice chef David Gunawan, describing him as "an incredibly talented chef and a really down to earth guy to go along with it".

4. Phnom Penh, 244 East Georgia Street (no web site)

Neil echoes the sentiments of virtually all Vancouver diners when he says that Phnom Penh offers "probably the best chicken wings you are ever likely to eat". He suggests you "go early as there is a line up for lunch and dinner every time I've been" and once you score a table, enjoy the "great fried rice" and "a dish called butter beef. All the food is big and bold and packed with great south east Asian flavours".

5. The Red Wagon, 2296 East Hastings Street

Neil enjoys The red Wagon, "a great breakfast/brunch spot that always has a line up", which he describes as "a small diner kind of a joint (where) the cooking is always spot on, well thought out and very tasty". He recommends trying the croque madame which "is a thing of beauty if you're a bit hungover and will definitely sort you right out but you may well need a nap after polishing it off". Neil adds that the coffee is always well topped up, and there are always great specials to keep a customer going back for more.

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