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The Canucks won't be eating at many Vancouver restaurants during the Stanley Cup playoffs. While in town, they will be holed up in a downtown Vancouver hotel and taking meals together as a team almost exclusively. But during regular season, the players eat out a lot - and very well. Herewith, five favourite hangouts where you can eat like a Canuck.

Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill

1133 Hamilton St., 604-688-7466

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This outstanding fine-dining Italian restaurant is the preferred date-night destination for many Canucks and their wives. Game 1 hero Raffi Torres is a regular, as are Kevin Bieksa and Henrik and Daniel Sedin. All four players are big fans of the chef's pasta, including his chickpea gnocchi and penne alla vodka (a dish he makes specially for Torres). The Sedin brothers, who often come in to celebrate a big win, love his dry-aged tenderloin, and order it with Australian shiraz. Although you'll rarely see him in the dining room, the player who eats from this kitchen most often is Roberto Luongo. The ace goaltender is highly superstitious about his game-day routines, meals included. The night before home games - almost every regular-season home game - he calls up and orders the exact same dinner to go: prosciutto di Parma, minestrone and lobster linguine (or lately, paccheri di Gragnano with Salt Spring Island lamb ragout). "He eats at home with his family," the chef says. "He's very focused. He doesn't want to be distracted."

Glowbal Grill Steaks and Satay

1079 Mainland St., 604-602-0835

"If the Canucks are in town, they're in one of our restaurants," says owner Emad Yacoub. (The Glowbal Group also includes Italian Kitchen, Trattoria, Coast, Sanafir and Society). Before a game, they'll often go for lunch to fill up on carbohydrates at the restaurant closest to wherever they live. (Alex Burrows goes to Glowbal; you'll find Tanner Glass at Italian Kitchen and the Sedins both go to Trattoria.) Generally, they all stick to pasta with light tomato sauce. But after the game, they'll dig in to something heavier - huge platters with a 1.8-kilogram Tomahawk steak, tuna, halibut, shrimp and Glowbal's famous spaghetti with truffle cream and Kobe meatballs, for instance. The Glowbal Group also serves many visiting teams. Mr. Yacoub doesn't see this as a conflict of interest: "You probably shouldn't write this because I don't want to jinx it," he says. "But I love overfeeding the other teams. It slows them down on the ice. And so far in these playoffs, they've been losing all their games the next day. Always!"

Nicli Antica Pizzeria

62 East Cordova St., 604-669-6985

Roberto Luongo loves pizza. The Italian-Canadian goaltender actually met his wife, Gina Cerbone, at the Pizza Time Trattoria, his regular hangout in Coral Springs, Fla., while playing for the Panthers. (Her father was the restaurant owner.) But he won't eat just any old pizza. It has to be real Italian pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven, with a thin crust, simple tomato sauce and traditional toppings. After being traded to the Canucks in 2006, Mr. Luongo was so disappointed by Vancouver's dire pizza situation that he began thinking about investing in a place of his own. Enter Nicli Antica, a new Gastown pizzeria that is seeking authenticity certification from the Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas association. Owner Bill McCaig is so strict about the quality of his pizza he won't allow anyone to order takeout, lest the blistered cornicione flop on the way home. The only exception to the rule? "I did say 'No takeout,'" Mr. McCaig explains. "But I understand. Luongo gets mobbed wherever he goes. If he wants to take it home, he can take it home. As long as I'm not there to see it." Nicli's Margherita, Napoletana and Diavola pies must have earned Mr. Luongo's stamp of approval. He's been back several times for more.

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100 Nights

350 Davie St., at the Opus Hotel, 604-642-0557

This is Ryan Kesler's favourite restaurant in Vancouver. He's even said so on Hockey Night In Canada. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that proprietor Peter Girges is one of his best friends. But the rest of the team seems to like it, too. You'll often find them here for post-practice breakfast, filling up on massive platters of bacon, eggs and toast. The restaurant also serves many pre-game team dinners. Chef Brandon Thordarson created a new dish this season - pasta carbonara with chicken Parmigiana - for Alexander Edler, who eats it before every game. After a big win, Mr. Kesler will come in for Parmesan truffle fries or lobster risotto with halibut. "Those are treats for him," Mr. Girges explains. "They say, 'Yeah, I just had a really good game.'"

Honjin Sushi Restaurant, Yaletown

138 Davie St., 604-688-8808

Sweet sushi? Maybe those Swedes are on to something. The Sedin brothers, along with Mr. Edler and Mason Raymon, love the fruity dishes with mango and kiwi at this excellent Yaletown sushi restaurant. Whenever they go in (sometimes up to three times a week), they order the Honjin Tuna Tsunami salad with mango and avocado, the rainforest roll stuffed with tempura prawn and wrapped in thin-sliced kiwi, the NHL roll with candied unagi on top and the Yaletown, wrapped in a tri-mix of tuna, salmon and red snapper with the chef's secret sweet and spicy sauce. "They order all this food and then they drink Diet Pepsi," server Nathan Tran laughs. "But they're very nice. They always give autographs and let people take pictures."

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And if you want to recreate the dishes at home, here are the recipes...

Cioppino's Grilled Tenderloin with classic pepper sauce

Ingredients

4 x 150 grams Canadian prime beef medallions

Salt and pepper to liking

1 tbsp. clarified butter

1/2 tsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns

3 tbsp. dry white wine

1 tbsp. brandy or cognac

1/3 cup beef jus or beef stock

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. fresh horseradish

1 tbsp. orange marmalade

3 tbsp. 36 per cent whipping cream

To make the sauce, place the butter and the coarse black pepper in a pot. Toast for few moments, then add the brandy and white wine, making

sure that the alcohol evaporates well, otherwise the result would be a

bitter sauce. Add the stock and reduce the sauce by half. Whisk in the

horseradish and the mustard, as well as the orange marmalade. Add the heavy

cream, boil for few moments and the sauce is ready.

Season the fillet with salt (both sides) and fine black pepper (only on one side). Grill it to your liking.

Complement the meat with green asparagus glazed with butter and borlotti beans and serve it with the peppercorn sauce.



Cioppino's chickpea gnocchi with braised leeks and sautéed porcini mushrooms



Chickpea gnocchi

700 grams chickpea purée

500 grams cooked potatoes

1 pinch grated nutmeg

1 whole egg

1 tbsp. grated Parmesan

300 grams all purpose flour

I tbsp. herb-infused extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Leek and Mushroom Sauce

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1/4 tsp. chopped chilies

100 ml onion nage

1 tbsp. herb-infused extra virgin olive oil

100 grams porcini mushrooms (sautéed with 5 small shallots)

60 grams braised young leeks

4 tbsp Parmesan

Pepper

Parmesan Fondue

50 grams butter

50 grams all-purpose flour

1.25 litres homogenized milk

100 grams grated Parmesan cheese



2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (for plating)



Boil the potatoes with the skin, rinse them and while warm mix them with the chickpea purée, nutmeg, Parmesan, egg, aromatic oil and flour. Season with salt and pepper.The dough should be soft, but not sticky.

Roll into several cylinders and proceed to cut them into gnocchi-sized pieces. Boil the gnocchi in abundant salted water until they float to the surface.



To make the sauce, cook the garlic and chili in olive oil. Add the porcini and then the leeks, as well the onion nage.



For the fondue, place butter and flour in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir well to combine and cook for 3 ½ minutes. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about six minutes.



When the gnocchi float, they are cooked. Drain well and toss with the porcini-leek sauce. Season with pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve on top of the cheese fondue in four serving bowls.



Nicli Antica Pizzeria's Margherita Pizza

Dough

500 grams "00" flour

10 grams salt

¼ to ½ tsp instant dried yeast

Mix ingredients together and knead by hand for 15 minutes. Let it rest overnight, under a damp paper towel in the fridge. Take it out the next morning and cut into six pieces. Form each piece into a ball and let rest for another 12 hours, again covered in by a damp towel in the fridge.



Tomato Sauce

San Marzano canned tomatoes

Salt



Toppings

Fior di latte

Basil

Olive oil



Crush tomatoes by hand. Add salt to taste. Stretch the dough out on a floured surface to reach 12 inches in size. Spoon a little bit of sauce and spread it around the dough. Top with rounds of fior de latte, basil and a quick swirl of olive oil. Cook at 550 degrees until done (approximately two to three minutes).

Glowbal Grill's Truffle Spaghetti with Kobe Meatballs



Truffle Cream Sauce

Part A

4 cloves garlic (chopped)

1 tsp. shallot (chopped)

3 tbsp. truffle tapenade

1 tbsp. truffle oil

Part B

1 litre 35% whipping cream



Spaghetti Noodles

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Fresh Truffle

Grated pecorino cheese

3-4 beef meatballs (Kobe meat optional)

Tomato sauce

Creamy ricotta cheese



Method:

In a stock pot, sauté Part A until caramelized. Add Part B and slowly bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes until desired thickness.



Building the dish:

Cook 1 bag of dried spaghetti noodles in a salted pot of boiling water until al dente and drain. Warm 6 ounces of truffle cream in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add approximately 8 ounces of pasta and toss with a small handful of grated Parmesan. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Plate in a pasta bowl topping with fresh shaved truffles, freshly grated pecorino and a tablespoon of creamy ricotta. Serve with 3-4 meatballs



One Hundred Nights at OPUS Hotel Vancouver's B.C. halibut with lobster risotto, lemon & parsley gremolata

Chef Brandon Thordarson

Ingredients

4 x 6-ounce filet of B.C. halibut

8 ounces lobster meat

1 bunch parsley

1 lemon, juiced

1 cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

½ cup diced shallots

¼ cup butter

3 cups Arborio rice (risotto rice)

6-8 cups fish stock (fresh, or made from bouillon cubes)



Method:

Risotto: on medium-high heat, sweat the shallots, butter and ¼ cup olive oil in a large heavy bottom stock pot for 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir. Slowly add fish stock, 1-2 cups at a time, cooking the rice slowly while stirring constantly. Keep adding the stock until it is gone and the rice is fully cooked or al dente (tender to the bite). When the risotto is cooked to the right doneness, season with salt & pepper and add the lobster meat at last minute before plating.

Gremolata: Rinse the parsley, remove stems and rough chop, discarding stems. Juice the lemon and discard the rind. In a blender add the parsley leaves, lemon juice & olive oil and blend until smooth, season with salt and pepper. Set aside

Halibut: Sear the halibut in a non-stick fry pan on medium-high heat with the remainder of the olive oil on one side for 1 minute, flip the halibut to the other side and sear for 1 minute. Remove from the pan and place on to an oven-safe baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. ( Note: for thin filet you may only need 2-3 minutes in oven; for a thick piece of fish you may need 6-8 minutes.)

Plating: Serve in a dinner bowl or large dinner plate. Evenly scoop the risotto into 4 plates, making sure each person has 2oz of the lobster meat. Place the halibut filet on top of the risotto and drizzle some of the lemon gremolata around the sides of the halibut on top of the risotto for colour and flavour. If you have any olive oil left, drizzle directly over the fish.





Special to The Globe and Mail

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More

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