It’s not everyday – at least these days – that something opens in Chinatown that actually has Chinatown roots, so this story is an especially interesting one. The long defunct space at 276 East Pender St. – an old Chinese BBQ and fish market (1986-2000) – is being completely overhauled by the original owner’s daughter, Cherry Yuet, who has partnered with Benny Doro, the son of the owner of East Hastings’ Frank’s Cabaret (1948-1986). Together, the pair are working on turning the three storey, 7,500 sqft address into a behemoth operation that includes a voluminous kitchen basement, a bar and dining room on the main floor, and a rooftop lounge and noodle bar.
Yes, you read that all correctly.
The main floor restaurant will be a 98 seater called Mahjong Social. It will sport a long bar – maybe 25 feet – and a mix of intimate nooks and large, Chinese-style banquet tables with an inventive meets traditional dim sum menu at lunch and dinner. The rooftop lounge is being called Shanghai Alley Noodle Shack, and it will hold up to 78 people while serving from its own bar. The latter space will be – as Benny and Cherry explained to me a few weeks ago – “quite the experience”. They also plan on doing brisk take-out service and aim to develop a local delivery operation by – wait for it – motorized rickshaw.
It’s a fascinating prospect, to say the very least. It’s great to see the descendants of Chinatown business owners return to where it all began for them, as kids. It’s an an interesting team. When Cherry’s mother passed away in 2012 she and her siblings were unsure as to what to do with the building that anchored their family to the neighbourhood for so long, so it’s great that she family settled on revitalizing it. Benny’s stock in trade is taking successful companies public (he has a home in New York, too), but he’s also a capable chef in his own right, not to mention a lifelong rock ‘n roller. True story: Benny is the lead guitarist in Black Diamond, the famed KISS tribute band (for the old punks out there, he also played guitar on Randy Rampage’s solo LP).
So yeah, it bears repeating: it’s for damn sure a fascinating prospect. I’m crossing my fingers for deliciousness with the vague hope that it’s also on the amazing side of bizarre. It definitely doesn’t sound like anything else that’s on the horizon for Chinatown, and there’s plenty to like about that. Pity it’s going to take so long, though. It’s about a year away — they’re looking at some point in 2018 for launch. Rest assured I’ll be taking another look(s) as things develop.