Jean-Georges’ “Market” In The New Shangri-La

January 26, 2009.

WHO IS LINKING TO THIS STORY? New York Magazine

My friend Owen and I went in for a first pass to the highly anticipated Market in the new Shangri-La hotel last night. They’d only just opened for their first public service after back to back “friends and family” test runs, but it filled up fast (they had 80 in the book, and were accepting plenty of walk-ins). We found many familiar faces from West, Le Crocodile, and Feenie’s/Lumiere working the room and kitchen. Of course, former Chambar manager Paul Grunberg (interview) was there, too, and ex-Boneta bartender JT was rocking the drinks (as you can see above). Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself was also in full effect, and was gracious enough to walk me through his restaurant’s first hours…

In our discussions it quickly became clear how genuinely excited he was about working with local boy executive chef David Foot, and very enthusiastic about the ingredients that the coast was bringing to his kitchen. His passion for the project was evident by way of non-stop gesticulation, and those among his staff that I spoke to were just as bubbly (not only about serving their first guests but also about working for an international legend like Jean-Georges).

I’d met Jean-Georges only briefly before at a party a couple of months back. I’d never tasted his food or been inside any of his many far-flung properties. Accordingly, I went in with seriously empty slate expectations. Designers H. Jay Brooks and Cynthia Penner of Box Interiors (whose previous credits include Whistler’s sexy Adara Hotel and local restaurant lookers like Trattoria Italian Kitchen and Watermark) did a fine job of breaking Market up into four distinct zones: a cafe, sizeable raw bar and lounge, a sleekly formal restaurant, and an expansive patio). I really loved the lounge. The acoustics seemed to tolerate the mix of music, voices, and myriad hard surfaces everywhere, and the lighting was soft and gentle. We sat, dined, and mingled here for the duration, so I’m looking forward to test driving the dining room proper in the coming weeks.

On the food front, the butternut squash soup and the black truffle and fontina pizza were definite standouts, but truly every dish I tried was of a very high calibre: very clean and exquisitely balanced flavours with expressive presentations. Pure Vongerichten, from what I’ve heard.

I think I was pleased most by the price points. Expecting menus priced in the stratosphere, I found them in Earls territory instead: roughly $12-28, with a $65 multi-courser set piece that screamed come hither. It’s not often that you come away from a top tier dining experience for two (with beers and cocktails) and end up spending less that $100. I’d be interested in knowing if that was always part of the plan, or whether they considered the economic downturn and retooled to fit the times…

For more photos, our friend Rhonda May over at City Food was in just prior to the opening yesterday and took plenty of lovely ones. Check them out…

More on Market

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Andrew Morrison is a west coast boy who studied history and classics at the Universities of Cape Town and Toronto after an adolescence spent riding skateboards and working in restaurants. He is the editor of Scout Magazine, the weekly food and restaurant columnist for the Westender newspaper, a contributor to Vancouver and Western Living magazines, and a proud board member of the Chef’s Table Society of BC. He lives and works by the beach in Vancouver.

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