Ernesto Gomez, one of the driving forces behind Vancouver’s popular Nuba restaurants (also the Waldorf resurrection and Fox Cabaret), has joined forces with Mexican chef/restaurateur Jair Tellez – owner/chef of acclaimed Baja locavore eatery Laja and Mexico City hotspots Amaya and Meretoro – on a new 100 seat concept coming soon to Yaletown. Together, the pair are looking to launch a Northern Pacific Mexican eatery called Fayuca in the old, 3,500 sqft Hamilton St. Grill location at 1009 Hamilton Street this Spring.
When I first met him early in the new year, Jair explained that the term ‘Fayuca’ translated from his vernacular as ‘contraband’, or the stuff one is not allowed to cross the US/Mexican border with. It’s a riff on the food concept, which is about cultural exchange and the free flow of ideas. It most definitely won’t be the typical sort of Mexican restaurant that Vancouverites have come to expect. It will, Ernesto tells me, be playful and fun, generous and genuine. “Fayuca is not about traditions or authenticity,” Jaier further explains. “It will be an irreverent departure from all the folkloric, ethnic stuff.” After a pause he says, “Think of it as disenfranchised Mexican food.” If that doesn’t make sense to you, this short doc on Laya was a good entry point for me to understand Jair’s spirit of gastronomic ‘departure’:
He’s obviously a philosophical chef. After 20 minutes of conversation with him it was abundantly clear that his interests were broad and his knowledge wide. (He studied Anthropology at Berkeley before switching gears to attend the Culinary Institute of America and apprentice at New York’s venerable Daniel.) This is discernible through the lines on their website, which launched yesterday:
The journey starts in the Northern Pacific region of Mexico, near the U.S. border. An area that is closer in distance to Vancouver than to Mexico City, it is a gateway to both South and North. A place that for a long time lacked a sense of identity as it was neither here nor there.
Before there was a gold rush, the first European settlers mapped the coast of the Californias and found a place where Mediterranean weather met the desert and sea. This is the place where some of the first grapes in the American continent were sowed. As time went by Europeans, Kumeyaay First Nations, Mestizos, and eventually North Americans learned to co-exist in a hedonistic, lawless place.
The trip begins here, as we run away from our own identity and gallop North along the Pacific Coast, freely gathering ideas and expressing them without folklore or boundaries. As we reach our destination, the only thing we have left is our irreverence and the British Columbia landscape where we forage, fish, hunt, and gather.
It certainly sounds different, and not a little exciting. Running the kitchen will be Dave Byron, formerly of the Joey Restaurant Group and a disciple of chef Chris Mills. They’ll be building up a strong drinks program to pair with the cuisine, and that includes everything from wine and Mezcal to cider and beer (Jair’s family is in the natural wine-making business, so I expect we’ll see some interesting things). The location on the edge of the Yaletown grid is certainly interesting. I had some great times at the Hamilton St. Grill, as did a lot of my peers in the food wonk/writing community (its owner/chef was an active eGullet participant way back in the day). I’m glad that the address is going to an original concept and not a chain, and intrigued by the elements of the design that have been revealed to me thus far. It’s a Scott Cohen joint (see also Gastropod, Les Faux Bourgeois, Nook, The Waldorf, Nuba) with palapa thatching and a 20 seat bar, so cookie cutter it ain’t. Expect lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch services to kick off in the second week of April, give or take. Take a look…