Looking Back at the Launch of Gastown’s PiDGiN, Five Years Ago This Week

Inside PiDGiN, hours before the first customer was served | Photo: Scout Magazine

It was five years ago this week that restaurateur Brandon Grossutti opened PiDGiN at 350 Carrall Street. Then cheffed by Makoto Ono (now co-owner/chef of the award-winning Mak N Ming) with support from Daniel McGee (now the executive chef at Au Comptoir), the French-Asian restaurant went through a lot in its early days, chief among their trials being loud, almost nightly demonstrations by anti-gentrification protestors who kept it up for five months before the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council called it off.

The first service well underway | Photo: Scout Magazine

Local socio-political phenomena aside, what of the restaurant? Was it any good? Indeed it was, or at least I certainly thought so. Ono – the first ever Canadian Culinary Champion – and his team put out a what I remembered to be an excellent opening menu. What’s more, the bar was very capable and running a surprisingly diverse program. The restaurant was mostly well reviewed, even landing on enRoute Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in Canada list. It has also – on occasion – been voted to the Scout 25, so it undoubtedly has gained the respect of its peers.

It also looked good. Still does. And I wonder if it wasn’t far-reaching in its aesthetic implications for Vancouver’s restaurant scene. As you might recall, PiDGiN was one of the first big restaurant projects by Craig Stanghetta and his team at Ste. Marie Art + Design, which has since put out such gorgeous rooms as Mosquito, Kissa Tanto, Savio Volpe and St. Lawrence. I love the attention to detail in this space, not to mention many of the details themselves (several of these were by local artist/designer Ricky Alvarez). I also appreciate how Grossutti has kept up his yen for the different by bringing in works by Priscilla Yu and Katio So, not to mention having the side of the building brightened with a fantastic mural by Ilya Viryachev.

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  • PiDGiN | Beef Tataki
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  • PiDGiN | Chicken wings
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  • PiDGiN | Barman Robyn Gray
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  • PiDGiN | Shochu on tap
  • PiDGiN | Joie Noble Blend on tap
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  • PiDGiN | Squid, pork
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  • PiDGiN | Makoto Ono
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But I digress from this post’s #TBT beginnings. Check out the video above. It’s a time-lapse of the restaurant during its construction. The image gallery here shows the restaurant’s very first service from just before the doors opened to the dinner rush getting under way. I remember it well.

If you haven’t been in to PiDGiN in a while, they’ve got a good thing going with former Wildebeest chef Wesley Young at the helm and GM Alain Canuel (formerly Tableau, Araxi) running the floor. I think its one of Vancouver’s more emblematic eateries, and look forward to another five years. Oh, and when you go, cross your fingers for Table 70.

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