This afternoon, Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach – of Cafeteria, La Buca and Pied-A-Terre fame – secured a location in Gastown for their next restaurant, which will be called The Sardine Can. It’s an apt name, as the space at 26 Powell St. is as tight as they come for a 20 seater – only 500sqft.
The concept sounds like a proper Spanish tapas bar; the hole in the wall kind that Vancouver’s most hopeful food lovers have long been waiting for. Durbach and Stewart want to make it the most casual and accessible restaurant in their stable. That means no molecular gastronomy, no El Bullish artistry, no high falutin’ anything. Instead, Durbach (interview) tells us that we can expect some 12 raciones (small plates) alongside Spanish wines served in tumblers, a decent selection of sherries and Spanish beers, as well as a couple of Cavas.
There wil be 10 seats at the bar (which will double as a kitchen), plus three tables that can be configured to fit groups both small (4) and large (10). As befitting the casual, no nonsense intent of the concept, they will only be serving walk-ins. They’re also toying with the idea of opening as early as 3pm, which is pretty damn awesome, as Gastown is pretty dry before 5:30pm. Expect midnight as their nightly close, perhaps later on weekends.
Sounds pretty perfect, no? Vancouver’s long established small plate restaurants – while taking themselves a little seriously – can sometimes be unfocused on the plate. It’s not uncommon to see them descending pointlessly into the lazy yawnlands of “Asian fusion”. Don’t get me wrong – much of it can be very tasty, and creativity for creativity’s sake is fantastic – but let’s not forget the singular magnificence of a slice of simple sausage next to a sleeve of cold beer. That’ll be especially welcome in an environment that has more in common with Gyoza King or Kintaro than Bin 941 or places with a European context, like Le Crocodile.
As I mentioned above, they’ve only just taken possession this afternoon. They’re going to need to do a complete kitchen refit and full body strip before building it up The Sardine Can. The location has seen the failure of countless restaurants in the last couple of decades. It’s been a real turn-and-burn meat grinder, spitting out every concept one can imagine, from Palestinian to Indian. In any event, I’m crossing my fingers for a Spring opening.
I’ll be expanding on the coming of The Sardine Can in my next WE column, which hits the streets on Wednesday. In the meantime, we’ve added it to our select list of restaurant projects that will very likely be awesome.