DINER: “Wildebeest” Finally Finished, Set To Open To The Public This Tuesday Night

by Andrew Morrison | As we hinted last night on Scout’s new Tumblr, the long wait for Wildebeest at 120 West Hastings has ended. The highly anticipated restaurant from Josh Pape and James Iranzad (with former West chef David Gunawan at the kitchen helm) will open for its first official service this Tuesday evening. They did their soft run yesterday with friends, family, and a few large, a la carte bookings (40, 12, oh my!), and it appeared to all go off without a hitch. We left thinking – and we suspected this when we first got wind of the project last year – that Vancouver had a new glory on its hands.

The large, high-ceilinged room sports a homey, coastal industrial feel with plenty of wood and iron (courtesy of Union Wood Co.), and though I wouldn’t compare it to any single aesthetic, in a squint it might come across like an amalgam of homage – reminiscent of Revolver, Chambar, L’Abattoir, and The Diamond. Not a bad mix. It’s a look that gels especially well when writ so large (110+ seats), and while it’s broken up into tidy sections – lounge, waist and rear – it all comes together like a riparian package that flows comfortably (the trick is helped along by a good soundtrack and tolerable acoustics). The downstairs wine bar is not yet finished, and it’s doubtful for Tuesday, when the main floor restaurant and bar will almost certainly be bum-rushed like a Bellingham Costco. It will start as dinner only, with brunch service coming soon.

Whatever you do, don’t let the meaty name fool you. Wildebeest’s menu is appealing on many fronts. Adventurous carnivores who are red in both tooth and claw will certainly be satisfied (behold the chicken butter, the cotechino sausage, the sweetbreads, etc), but those keen on lighter and more vegetal fare are in for treats, too, like an heirloom radish salad with malt crumble and beet sorbet, or a sorrel gazpacho with lemon-infused yellow cukes. It’s a chef’s restaurant to the core, and I’m not just saying that because customers are invited to buy six packs of beer for the kitchen (for real: the $9 option is just below the 15oz dry aged ribeye). You’ll find no kids meals or defeatist genuflections to convention, only exacting exercises in originality, with some more daring than others. The plates don’t really reach for any particular cuisine type, standing instead like the inventions of well seasoned, Michelin-trained cooks envisioning sugarplums just after smoking fat joints of imagination. In a pinch I’d pin it to a blend of French and West Coast, but what does it matter? Nothing disappointed, and with prices for most dishes in the $5-$15 range, it all translates to the customer as tremendous value.

I’ll save further comments for when it’s properly open and I’ve paid a few bills, except to say that Wildebeest is very probably going to rock the bells. It has all the requisite ingredients for an instant hit (including lots of familiar faces on the service team), so I’m predicting a full, happy house out of the gate. While you await the dawning of D-Day, take a look at what we ate, drank, and saw before spreading the good word…

ALL ANTICIPATED RESTAURANTS

Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout, food columnist at the Westender, and National Referee & Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.

23 Responses to “DINER: “Wildebeest” Finally Finished, Set To Open To The Public This Tuesday Night”

  1. fmed on August 19th, 2012 12:37 pm

    Looking forward to this. David Gunawan is a seriously underrated cook.

  2. Jen T. on August 19th, 2012 1:12 pm

    I’m sitting in a puddle. You are such a good writer Andrew!

  3. Sophia on August 19th, 2012 5:41 pm

    Amazing photos!!

  4. Ewan on August 20th, 2012 9:17 am

    From the looks of the pictures, it is only communal tables. Now, I am used to tables that are very close to each other and often talking to other patrons that are only a foot away from you.
    But is that just too cozy?

    Thoughts people???

    Menu does look good, and I’m sure the drinks will be too.

  5. Scout Magazine on August 20th, 2012 9:56 am

    Optical illusion. It’s a long row of side by sides with two chef tables at the rear.

  6. Travis on August 20th, 2012 10:56 am

    I was at the soft run on Saturday… food and drinks were amazing. Very cool atmosphere as well. Can’t wait to get back.

  7. Chungbot on August 20th, 2012 2:10 pm

    I am really happy to see a restaurant of this calibre opening in our city.
    IT looks champion!

  8. Dave on August 21st, 2012 12:02 am

    Pics and menu look great. Love the six pack for kitchen, hope that catches on…

  9. Brigitte on August 21st, 2012 3:44 pm

    Looks Great! From Ucluelet,BC and I cannot wait to come try it out! The Diamond is great and so will this one!

  10. John on August 22nd, 2012 8:15 am

    I have been looking forward to the opening for a while, congrats James a job well done.

  11. BJS on August 22nd, 2012 9:56 pm

    Popped in and had some bites at the bar last night- the vibe was already clicking right out of the gate! Kudos to Josh, James, David and the whole crew- great spot!

  12. bonemarrow on August 23rd, 2012 11:10 am

    We went there last night… Food was HORRIBLE… our main courses came out 20 minutes apart… will never go back!!!

  13. Cheffrey on August 23rd, 2012 8:58 pm

    Sounds like Vancouver’s clinically retarded band of Yelpers has quickly gotten wind of Wildebeest!

  14. Sean Sherwood on August 23rd, 2012 9:07 pm

    Good to see the lads getting it going. Great talent in a great hood, I’ll be in soon to check it out.

  15. pablopicante on August 24th, 2012 9:12 am

    @ bonemarrow

    i’m sure that you realize when a restaurant is 3 days old that there are always going to be hiccups with the kitchen, p.o.s. systems and other bugs that need to be ironed out.
    while i’m not suggesting that you should be happy with what happened you need to understand that things usually aren’t finely tuned in the opening week of a given restaurant’s inception.

    were you able to voice your displeasure to the floor manager so they might have a chance to make you happy? restaurants value their guests’ feedback immensely – especially right out of the gate.

    can you elaborate on what exactly you didn’t care for about the food? was it really “HORRIBLE” or do you think your palate may have been biased by the lengthy wait?

    (i’m going to assume you enjoyed the marrowbones)

  16. bonemarrow on August 24th, 2012 4:23 pm

    @pablopicante

    we ordered salad rolls, beef short rib and sweetbread. The beef short rib was not good, overcooked. There was a lot of fat, I mean a lot… There was nothing else on the plate, but a piece of meat. The disk was lacking the appearance. Sweetbread was just okay, nothing special. Our main course came out 20 minutes apart. That was unacceptable! I have to say this was bad food I’d had for a long time.

    Not all, the table next to us, they ordered bone marrow which I could smell death cow from it :P… it grossed me out! I did not know human eats bone marrow :P

    Btw, they put 18% tip as an option on their machine. This is lame!

  17. Scout Magazine on August 24th, 2012 5:10 pm

    ^ Best. Review. Ever.

  18. fmed on August 24th, 2012 8:58 pm

    Something fishy about that review….

  19. rjt on August 24th, 2012 9:46 pm

    i was smiling reading the bonemarrow review, but i can not stop laughing at your response andrew. so good.

  20. Xtina on August 25th, 2012 1:05 pm

    I heart death cow.

  21. Cameron Picyk on September 4th, 2012 12:53 pm

    I thought Death Cow was a grind metal band??? Good luck guys!!!

  22. bocarm on September 4th, 2012 4:46 pm

    Went last weekend and had a great meal of short ribs, beef tongue and the pork croquettes. Also enjoyed a very interesting tomato desert that doesn’t appear on their online menu. Loved the Horseradish Sour cocktail – will be back for a wine bar visit for that alone. Gotta say though, I am not a fan of the chef tables at the back. We were a party of 2 that was seated right in the middle of one of the chef tables (6 people on one side of us and 4 on the other) and it is just too cozy for my liking. Probably wouldn’t dine there again as a couple. I would definitely go again with a party of four as long as we could get one of the tables along the side wall or at the front.

    Death Cow rocks!

  23. Shaw on September 9th, 2012 4:23 pm

    Amazing. Loved all the fat on the short rib melted in my mouth how a nice piece of meat should! Great room with great staff.

    There has to be a way to out these stupid yelpers from the city, they are a cancer. They do nothing positive for the city and everyone that works so hard to launch fantastic new restaurants every year.

    Just go out and enjoy, leave your camera at home and have a drink and share some laughs over an exceptional meal.