by Andrew Morrison | Five years ago this week Michelle and I met up with musician Shira Blustein and chef Brian Skinner just after they’d taken possession of the old Cipriano’s location at 3995 Main Street. With it, the first-time restaurateurs would soon give us the award-winning Acorn, a restaurant that elevated Vancouver’s vegetarian game to new heights. Here’s what I wrote after our walk-through that day:
Blustein, a musician (Hard Drugs, Blood Meridian, Choir Practice), and Skinner, a chef/instructor at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (apprenticed at Bin 941, staged at Noma, and worked at the Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Sketch in the UK), aren’t planning on doing a patchouli-wafting, hammer-to-the-head sort of vegetarian joint – of which Vancouver has quite a few – but rather the rare kind where the meat-free dishes come off as more deliciously adventitious than skill-free polemic (ie. less tofu and miso gravy, more talent). In that vein, the plates won’t be specifically designed to please vegetarians, but palates. It’s a novel, subtle difference, but I think an important one to those who appreciate fine cooking. Expect artful but unfussy food, a good selection of local beers and wines, and some 48 seats in a small room designed by Scott Cohen, the fellow responsible for the swell looks at Cambie’s Pronto, the Fraserhood’s Les Faux Bourgeois, Hasting’s Waldorf redux, and West 4th’s Gastropod (RIP). They’ll have a 2am liquor license (with a late night snack menu), branding by Glasfurd & Walker, and – one suspects – a mighty big line up.
It would open a month later and immediately generate the nightly line-ups that still haven’t gone away. Skinner would ultimately leave the Acorn to consult (chefs Robert Clarke and Brian Luptak took the helm), but not until after he beat 1o other BC chefs at the Gold Medal Plates to represent his province at the 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships. The Acorn’s continued success after Skinner’s exit would beget The Arbor in 2016, a more casual sister eatery located on the same block. Below are the photos we took of the construction site that first day. To see what the Acorn looked like on opening night, click here.