When Vancouver's dining options expanded to French cuisine

An influx of French restaurants had changed the dining scene in a city better known for its Chinese fare, as CBC reporter Mike Duffy discovered in 1983.

City had delights other than Chinese fare for gastronomes, as reporter Mike Duffy discovered

French restaurant influx in Vancouver

38 years ago
In 1983, the B.C. city offers dining options beyond the Chinese fare it's famous for. 2:45

Vancouver was "famous for its delectable seafood," in the words of George McLean, host of CBC's Saturday Report. It was also "renowned for its Chinese restaurants."

But on Sept. 17, 1983, he introduced viewers to a report on a "new culinary trend" that was cooking in the city.

Chinatown had established Vancouver as a "sophisticated, cosmopolitan city," said reporter Mike Duffy.

But "stiff competition" had come from a different cuisine over the past few years, he said.

'Excellent French restaurants'

"Today, the Chinese restaurants of Vancouver are running into some stiff competition," said reporter Mike Duffy. (Saturday Report/CBC Archives)

"A score of excellent French restaurants have opened in Vancouver," said Duffy, as the camera showed signs for Chez Nous and Bistro la Palette.

Some of them specialized in Québécois food, too, like one named Le Vieux Quebec, with a sign claiming it was the only such restaurant serving "authentic" fare in the city's Gastown district.

Others, like the Cafe de Paris, were modelled on French bistros.

"Here, the emphasis is on rich, creamy sauces," said Duffy, as chef Patrice Suhner was seen serving up a platter from his small kitchen.

Vegetables were "carefully cooked," Duffy noted. "Still crunchy, not soggy and overdone."

'More sophisticated'

Restaurants appealing to the "hundreds of Quebecers" who had moved to the West Coast had also opened. (Saturday Report/CBC News)

Duffy, usually an Ottawa reporter, had filed the report at the end of a string of dispatches from B.C. related to the state of the Canadian economy in 1983.

Suhner, who Duffy said had been in Canada for eight years, described what Vancouver's food scene had been like when he arrived.

"It used to be a lot of steak and lobsters," he said. "Now it's more sophisticated ... we use more fresh produce, too."

Duffy said French restaurants catered to people "with lots of cash, and an appetite for a meal that's out of the ordinary." 

As for the reporter himself, he seemed to prefer a Quebec specialty at a restaurant called TJ's.

"They're exact replicas of the famous Montreal steamie, right down to the coleslaw on top," he said, before biting into a hotdog.   

Reporter Mike Duffy prepares to eat a Montreal-style "steamie" hotdog at a Vancouver restaurant. (Saturday Report/CBC Archives)

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