by Andrew Morrison | Rumpus Room co-owner Rachel Zottenberg announced on Facebook today that she and business partner David Duprey had lost a lengthy scrap to keep their Main St. restaurant, which was known for its laid back attitude, 70′s-inspired decor, deep fried pickles, and flamingo-strewn patio. Their staff were told the bad news earlier today.
So I’m writing this with the most heaviest f$%&ing heart in my life. After the most brutal battle, we are being kicked out of the Rumpus Room at the end of the month. Condos.. right.. you’ve heard this all before. Yay for the new Main Street. Good for you. I LOVE THIS PLACE. This, my first restaurant. This, the place I opened with my best friend in the world David Duprey [...] This wonderful wonderful place. I’m going to miss you so much!
The allusion to a future of “condos” at the address – a prime piece of Mount Pleasant real estate – will come, I’m sure, as a surprise to no one. “We occupy a piece of land that is worth a lot more than a little restaurant,” Zottenberg reminded me this afternoon, adding that the eatery will remain open for another month before calling it quits.
UPDATE | It should be noted that it was my understanding that the owners were aware of this eventuality/possibility by way of a “demolition clause” in their lease, so if I’m not mistaken this should not have come as a complete surprise.
by Andrew Morrison | The long awaited second location of the Fraserhood’s excellent Matchstick Coffee Roasters is on the verge of opening at 213 East Georgia St. in Chinatown (the same block as Phnom Penh and Mamie Taylor’s). If all goes according to plan, they could open as soon as this Wednesday.
So what can we expect? First and foremost, it should be noted that this Matchstick will be licensed. They’ll be serving five beers and one cider (all on tap) in addition to their own coffee line up. On opening day, we’ll see Four Winds’ pale ale and porter, Hoyne’s pale ale and pilsener, Moon Under Water’s IPA, and Merridale Cider.
They’re also upping their food game with – get this – a toast bar. They’ll be using their in-house, naturally leavened organic bread and spreading slices with plain butter, walnut butter, seasonal preserves, tapenades, and chutney. Oh, and cinnamon toast, because when you have a toast bar, there has to be cinnamon toast (it’s in the rules). They’ll also be baking their own croissants and making their own granola, plus they’re working on perfecting a hash as we speak. The lunch menu will see all of the above (if there’s any of it left), plus sandwiches of both vegetarian and meaty persuasion, the latter employing cured meats from Drew Driesson of D’Original Sausage Co. on Main Street.
And dinner! They’ll be doing dinner, too, with Mac & Cheese (with or without bacon), meat and cheese boards, and a variety of savoury flatbreads. The food program is being run by the Ballymaloe-trained Annabelle Choi, who is back home after toiling at Tartine and Craftsman & Wolves in San Francisco. According to Choi, the food at Matchstick is meant to “underscore and reinforce the connection between coffee and community.”
Their communal philosophy clearly comes across in the design on the cavernous space, which can seat upwards of 80 people in cozy window nooks and on little red stools that front a series of shared wooden tables. The massive beech plank table in front of the giant map of South America is particular awesome, but my favourite detail is the black wood cladding of the bakery and one of the walls at the front by the door. It looks painted black from afar, but if you get up close (or spy the shots above), you can see that they were toasted.
They’ll be playing their hours by ear to start, but I’m told the ballpark is around 7am to 9pm. Cross your fingers for Wednesday and take a closer look at the interior below.
by Andrew Morrison | Oh, it’s very close. This sublime fellow is a fat bastard of ground tenderloin, ribeye, and chuck flavoured with onion, garlic, and long peppercorns. It’s mounted with double smoked bacon, aged Canadian cheddar, a perfect onion ring, crisp lettuce, and fresh tomato. The sesame seed bun sustains quite a bit of squeezing and juice, and it comes generously smeared with an incredibly tasty ketchup-based house sauce that includes licks of sweet smoked paprika, ancho chilies, herbs de provence, Worchestershire sauce, brown sugar. With a side of hot and crisp-edged frites served with mayo, it weighs in at a hefty $19 and is absolutely in contention despite the high price tag (for a burger). Also in the running for the totally subjective title are the burgers of currency at Pourhouse, Mamie Taylor’s, The Oakwood (the new one), Cannibal Cafe, and Campagnolo Upstairs. Not in the running are the ghost burgers of gluttonies past at Feenie’s, DB Bistro Moderne, Au Petit Chavignol, and Fray. If basic is your bag, try Save On Meats or the internet hype machine known as Hamburger $2.85.
Hawksworth | 801 West Georgia | Vancouver, BC | 604-673-7000 | hawksworthrestaurant.com
by Andrew Morrison | After a lengthy renovation/downsizing break that included a temporary pop-up in the original Boneta space at 1 West Cordova, Save On Meats is set to reopen tomorrow morning (Friday, February 14th) at 43 West Hastings, right where it has been since long before the Peloponnesian War. Expect the diner to launch with a brand new menu at 7am with the butcher shop – which has been radically/suitably reduced in size to more manageable proportions – opening a little later at 10am. Work on the incubator kitchen (for small business and VCC) is already well underway (snapshots of both below).
We checked in on the progress during the day and followed up later, just as a group of artists were christening the new space with their works and the first bites of a friends and family feast were being enjoyed. It doesn’t look all that different from the previous Save On Meats, save for the 45 new, Save On-related artworks on the walls (including a sweet pair of custom-designed Converse kicks), and a flip-counter that adds up the number of sandwiches that have been served to those in need thanks to Save On Meats’ sandwich token program. There’s also the favourite tie of the well remembered Jess Nichol, a local barman who passed away in the summer of 2011, folded inside a framed portrait of him hanging in a place of prominence above the bar. Oh, and plenty of Persephone beer. Even at breakfast. See you in the morning?
(via) Philadelphian designer James McNabb creates these beautiful “City Spheres” using scrap wood, and we think someone from Vancouver should give it a shot employing native woods and our own skyline. Bonus awesomeness: check out his City Wheel. How cool is that?!
by Andrew Morrison | Foreign Restaurant Porn looks at covet-worthy restaurants from parts afar and uses them to plug holes – geographically or conceptually - in Vancouver’s own restaurant landscape. This week we’re dreaming about Namnam, an 88 seat Singaporean eatery in Copenhagen, and wishing it was located in the Fraserhood. We’ve gotten word that a developer is looking into retro-fitting the 3,000 sqft Excel Tire Centre at 615 Kingsway and is currently on the lookout for a restaurant/lounge tenant. That’s the same block as Los Cuervos, Les Faux Bourgeois, and Matchstick Coffee, and right across the street from the very photogenic Black Lodge.
Why do we want this? Well, chiefly because “build-to-suit” opportunities that are tucked away in our neighbourhoods don’t come around every day, and we can imagine in our minds eye an outdoor patio with hanging lights in colourful lanterns strung across it high above the tables (explore above for the visual). Go ahead, close your eyes and imagine it. Smell the beef rendang and proper laksas mingling in wafts on warm summer nights and taste the cold bottles of Tiger beer. We’ll settle simply for an operator who gives a damn, but c’mon…a Namnam-esque joint with reasonable price points would just kill it here.
by Andrew Morrison | The long weekend has come and gone and with it (temporarily) went my ability to properly and personally moderate my own food and drink intake. As the Co-Senior Judge (with Sid Cross) and the Culinary Referee at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, I was soaked by wave after wave of gastronomic invention, enough to keep me – regrettably – in kale and fernet branca for a few more days. But really, the eating and drinking was the easy part. It’s the math that kills you. I’ve been judging this competition for the past 6-7 years and it’s still a very humbling experience to have to grade dish after dish from some of the top chefs from coast to coast. Writing on a CCC scorecard – for me at least – is the most difficult writing there is. I enjoy it tremendously, but the pencil doesn’t jot down numbers without trembling with doubt. “Was that really as over-seasoned as I thought it was?” “Did the wine push the sauce too far into the realm of bitterness?” “Is this fish supposed to be this cold?” You want to get it right, every time.
And I think we always do.
As I mentioned last week, representing BC this year was chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn, the critically-acclaimed vegetarian eatery on Main Street. Though he didn’t finish on the podium, he held his own against Calgary’s Duncan Ly (Yellow Door Bistro), Montreal’s Danny St Pierre (Auguste), Winnipeg’s Kelly Cattani (Elements), St. John’s Roger Andrews (Relish), Toronto’s Lorenzo Loseto (George), Saskatoon’s Trevor Robertson (Radisson Hotel), Regina’s Jonathan Thauberger (Crave), Ottawa’s Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Halifax’s Martin Ruiz Salvador (Fleur de Sel), and Edmonton’s Paul Shufelt (Century Hospitality Group), impressing all of the judges with his technique, poise, and mastery of the veggie milieu. Those who names were ultimately called were Danny St. Pierre (bronze), Duncan Ly (silver), and Lorenzo Loseto (gold). My sincerest congratulations to them all!
I’ll let my good friend James Chatto – my boss at the event, the competition’s National Culinary Advisor, and an infinitely better writer than I – tell you how it all went down here and here. You can also take a look at some of the shots below to get a feel for how things looked from a judge’s perspective.
by Andrew Morrison | To celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, the Hotel Vancouver will be transforming its main floor lobby and lounge to the tune of $12 million. Construction begins this month and won’t be completed until the Autumn. With both the 900 West bar and Griffin’s eatery shuttered during this time, hotel guests will need to bend elbows somewhere, so they’re turning the long forgotten but once mighty 15th floor restaurant and bar known as The Roof into a pop-up.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the place. The 5,200 square foot space opened in 1939 and. It enjoyed a very long run as one of Vancouver’s most magnetic establishments. It was the “it” spot, the Chambar or Wildebeest of its day.
The CBC used it as a “happening” studio during service, and the one and only Dal Richards, aka “The King of Swing”, was the resident band leader from 1940 through to the mid-60′s. It was where the city’s swish set went to see and be seen as they got their Saturday night drunks on.
Its popularity fizzled out after its last renovation in the 1970′s (yes, those are straws coming out of the pineapple in the photo above), and it’s been pretty a ghost restaurant since the 1990′s, opened only for the occasional private function. That a gem commanding such incredible views of the city exists high in our skies but not in our modern cultural landscape always seemed a crime to me ever since I first toured it four years ago, almost to the day. Here are my notes from way back when…
“ The pillars are crassly mirrored, the ceiling is hung with strange yellow and dark grey blocks, and the carpet can best be described as “crab blood blue”. There’s an odd, sunken bar on one side that could probably fit thirty bums, but it sports a bar top that only comes up to the guests’ knees. The kitchen is massive, and though in dire need of some TLC, it’s where the old bones of the hotel shine the brightest (many of the fittings looked to predate the Second World War). But it was the view that impressed the most. The north and south vistas were breathtaking…
We stood there for a while [my friend Owen Lightly and I], wondering what it must have once been like. It had been a quiet tour, done mostly by flashlight as our guide couldn’t find the switches, but we could nevertheless imagine the space filled with the dapper in the halcyon days of my grandmother, well before rock ‘n roll. If those walls could talk I would have pulled up a banquet chair (the horror!) and opened a bottle. I would have paid to listen…
And so it sits there, almost totally dormant, maybe whispering quietly to itself little reminders of where our food and restaurant scene once was between evenings filled with insurance salesmen trying to get laid at their annual staff party and playing host to the Bobs and Graces of this town celebrating their 75th wedding anniversaries.
I know we’re staring an economic apocalypse in the nostrils at the moment, but that won’t stop me from hoping the times will one day warrant its renovation and reincarnation. With so many new hotels popping up downtown (Voya, Moda, etc) and long-established ones revamping their food and beverage programs (Yew, Hawksworth, etc), you’d think the Hotel Vancouver would be keen on doing something better than Griffin’s, its tired old tourist trap on the main floor. Even when dark, empty and severely hamstrung by its ugly 70′s prom dress, “The Roof” offers far more personality, history, and romance.
Just imagine what a few million dollars could do in there…”
Indeed. It’s undergoing a complete overhaul as we speak. When it opens – within a week or two (don’t let the pictures fool you, they’re nearly done) – it will be with a completely new kitchen serving 100 dining room seats – complete with wing-backed chairs and cozy banquettes – and another 50 at the exquisitely odd sunken bar (it’s low to the ground so as to maximize guest sight lines). There’s also a grand piano; guests can anticipate live entertainment on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Chef Cameron Ballendine is at the helm, and he’ll be plating predominately old school classics like prime rib with Yorkshire puddings, porterhouse steaks, creamed spinach, French onion soup, and much more. “We have menus for The Roof that go back to 1939, so we have lots of ideas,” Ballendine says.
The selfishly sad news is that once the main floor is done with its construction this Fall, this gem will revert to its special occasion status. I imagine that it will be reborn as one of the best and most sought after private party space in the city, but it’s just not the same if you can’t just take the elevator up for a Manhattan and a tune or three. One day…
Local food industry veterans Miju Kawai and Hiroshi Kawai are aiming to open a darling little Japanese cafe this week or the next with their daughter, Moeno. The 16 seater is called Basho, which means “place” in Japanese. It’s located at 2007 East Hastings St., just a block east of Victoria Drive.
Hiroshi and Miju are lifers. They owned a neighbourhood lunch spot in Yokohama before moving to Canada to open North Van’s Kokoro eatery in 1994. After selling it nearly a decade later, they opened Hiroshi’s Sushi Creations on Oak Street in 2005 (it’s now called Tokiwa).
Inspired by the neighbourhood coffee shops that they loved and hung out in on adventures in Tokyo and Berlin, the Kawai’s want Basho to be a den of coziness with small personal touches that give off genuine warmth. Almost everything in Basho is handmade by the family, from the furniture and stained glass by Hiroshi to the pottery, quilts and knits by Miju and the aprons and wood carvings by Moeno. All the plates, cups, and dishes were either sourced from local thrift stores or made by hand. The music is all vinyl.
In addition to Japanese sencha, genmaicha and bancha, Basho will be steeping 3 black teas, 1 rooibos, and 1 herbal tea, plus coffee from Hand Works Coffee Studio. For food, there will be lunch sets of salads, sandwiches, and rice bowls, not to mention house-baked sweets. Expect matcha flavours, Japanese style crème caramels, and mochi.
As it stands now, they’re just one permit away from unlocking their doors. When they get the green light, the hours will be Tuesday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. In the meantime, you can follow them and stay up to date on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Even if you only have a passing bandwagoneer’s interest in mass market pro hockey, this short, touching, and beautifully filmed memorial documentary will probably still move you. Legends of the Isles is about a decades-old shinny game and the young and old Fargo-esque Minnesotan characters who play it for the love and sheer joy of it. It’s a tough guy tear-jerker; why anyone who has ever laced up a pair of skates in Canada gets all goosebumpish about the NHL Winter Classic and why a man willed it so that his ashes could be scattered at center ice. Required: tissue, Tim Hortons, and six and half minutes. Enjoy.
by Andrew Morrison | Foreign Restaurant Porn looks at covet-worthy restaurants from parts afar and uses them to plug holes – geographically or conceptually - in Vancouver’s own restaurant landscape. This week we’re drooling over the stained glass and tile-decorated Fleischerei Bar in Leipzig, Germany. It’s a gorgeous 40-50 person stand-up sit-down watering hole that I think would suit the Riley Park neighbourhood well (roundabout the 4300 block of Main Street in a space similar to Lifetime Collective‘s).
Why? Because it’s pretty, for starters, and that train station-style bench is a dead ringer for the one at Don’t Argue. What’s more, it would be nice to have a few liquor-forward (not liquor primary) establishments in our neighbourhoods. I’m not talking about the kind of gargantuan steroidal shit show bro-pubs that Vancouver is now completely over-run by, but rather small cloisters of craft where nearby residents could come together for a pint of beer, a dram of whisky or an Old Fashioned cocktail without having to drive downtown (or be pressured to order dinner). No televisions. No shitty satellite radio station. Just a little style with a massive oak bar serving up honest to goodness drinks. (photos)
(via) Ever wonder what booze looks like under a polarizing light microscope? Sure you have. No two drinks are the same, and by that I mean the magnified crystalline structures and naturally occurring colours are different from Chard to Chard and from Ale to Ale. Pretty cool. The images are being sold as artworks by their creator, a research scientist named Michael Davidson, who is raising money for his lab at Florida State University. Above, you can see (1) Belgian Lambic (2) Champagne (3) Australian Pale Lager (4) Scotch Whisky (5) Mint Julip (6) Bourbon. See them all here. The Lambic wins gold for weirdness with the silver going to the Monet-like Bourbon.
On Oregonian boat-builder named Brian Schulz took a year and a half and a mere $11,000 to build this gorgeous, Japanese-inspired home in the woods near Cape Falcon. From My Modern Met:
It all began one day when Schulz found a brass sink at a local recycle center and immediately started fantasizing about building a home around the object. He wound up fulfilling his dream on an affordable budget by carefully salvaging materials for construction and items to adorn the house. He also did a fair bit of traveling and meeting people who offered anything from handmade paper lanterns to allowing him to actually haul trees from their property. Schulz says, “With deep enough pockets a person might be able to duplicate such a structure by writing a large check to a talented builder, but that would risk missing the point entirely… Whether or not one believes that turning a log from beside the house into the house itself imbues it with some mystical qualities, it is undeniable that the pursuit of local materials connects more deeply to your landscapes, your neighbors, and yourself. The simple act of searching adds richness to our lives. To reiterate: You meet people, you discover new places, you have adventures, you learn things, AND, you come home with beams, windows, doors, and shingles.”
We’ll take ours on Savary Island, thank you very much.