(via) “Bill’s fifty-two years old, has a mountain man beard, and delivers pizza on a fixie in Brooklyn. Over the course of several shifts, DELIVERY unveils an intriguing man rushing food to your door while it’s still hot and fresh.”
by Andrew Morrison | We broke the news of Chambar’s coming expansion back in October. The Belgian-Moroccan eatery – one of my personal favourites since it opened 10 years ago on Beatty Street – is only moving next door…
The new restaurant will be roughly twice the size of the current one, with about 270 seats between two levels, a 50 seat patio, and private rooms that can fit 20 – 80 people. There are lots of opportunities for new design motifs to fit in with the old, but I suspect it will look very similar to the original. Yes, in addition to the branding, relaxed vibe, deep drinks programs, and casual flirtations with fine dining, much of its furniture will also be making the move, which is great news because who doesn’t love the original tables, couches, banquettes and button-ed up red booths? ”The layout will be just like the old Chambar,” Karri explains, pointing out how the front will be the lounge and bar area that narrows at the waist to open up into a dining room. “The new place has brick and beams, too,” she adds, referring to the core aesthetic of the original. One big change is that the wall that divides the patio from the interior will be glass (said patio will also have its all-day sunshine filtered by young trees – sounds awesome). Also making the move will be the staff, though they’ll definitely be needing to hire a lot more people considering the breadth of their expansion.
30 more people, to be exact. They’ll need them, too, as the place is huge. I went on a tour with co-owner Karri Schuermans today and while it was clear that they still have a ways to go if they’re to meet their revised target opening date of the first week of August, most of what’s left to do is cosmetic. Most of the heavy lifting appeared to be done. As you can see from the shots below, it does resemble the layout of the original Chambar. The only obvious departures are the sprawling patio (which I expect will be pretty magical), the stairs that lead down to the massive kitchens and private room, the rooftop deck for further private functions (killer views from up there), the sound proofing at the entrance to the rear dining room, and the introduction of a new colour to the Chambar fold: a tealish green (evidenced on the wall section by the door and wave-like panel that spills across the ceiling above the bar).
Owner/chef Nico Schuermans menus are also taking shape. He’ll be keeping plenty of the Cafe Medina (also moving) originals – which he developed in the first place – for breakfast service (fricassee, etc), while lunch and dinner will see classic mainstays like the lamb tagine and the moules frites joined by about 20 small plates, which are still in development. I don’t know how they could possibly improve on the drinks side of things, but they’re aiming to make life easier for the bar staff. The 22 seat bar is purpose-built for ease and efficiency (wells and rails galore), and the wines are going to be laid resplendent on racks inside a great big temperature-controlled walk-in box of glass just off the dining room. It all looks fantastic, and it’s incredibly comforting that they’re a known entity with a pretty kickass track record of doing good things. I mean, what’s not to love about this move? Chambar + patio? Yes, please! Chambar + breakfast? Absolutely! Chambar + roof? Let’s go!
by Stevie Wilson & Andrew Morrison | The Sun Tower at the corner of West Pender and Beatty Streets is one of Vancouver’s most recognizable landmarks, particularly due to its eye-catching, mint-coloured dome that’s visible from nearly everywhere in the city. However, despite the building’s iconic status (and its magnetic tourist’s photography), it’s not too often that hear from anyone who’s actually been inside the dome or, better still, atop the cupola, so we decided to take a look.
Keep in mind that it wasn’t easy. The dome is impossible to gain access to if you don’t have the building managers on your side. It took plenty of correspondence and explanation of benign intent on Scout’s part to convince the keymasters that we were there by virtue of sincere curiosity and true affection for the building’s architecture and history. In the end, our foot in the door came last month when Scout was invited to a Vancouver Heritage Foundation event. One thing (begging) led to another (pleading), and eventually a tour was arranged in good humour, for which we will remain eternally grateful. Take a look…
To gain access to the dome, one most first get to the 17th floor, up a winding staircase made of marble and through a locked door. The interior is a bit of a shock at first. There are no frescoes, sculptured metopes or decorative flourishes of any kind at all, which is a truth that came rudely, really, as one half expects the gorgeous thing to be filled to the knees with treasure. But it’s completely bare and unadorned save for spidery support beams in yellow painted steel that have been bolted above a noisy blue machine that operates the building’s elevators. It was all very industrial, which is to say a little deflating of the imagination.
And yet it clearly wasn’t without beauty. The dome is lit by a ring of oculi (the fancy name for circular windows). These look over the city from the cardinal points, and gazing out of them was a real trip. Though the buildings that surround it are mostly new (especially to the west and south), the windows – recessed and antique as they are – soften their glaring modernity like a Hipstamatic filter. But the real view is up even higher. A sketchy, steel-framed platform leads to a ladder that rises to a trap door in the ceiling. Once unbolted, this leads to the cupola, or the open-air nipple that stands erect at the dome’s apex. Here, the building’s big fib is revealed. The green-tinge on the dome’s exterior isn’t real. It’s a faux patina design that’s been painted to mimic oxidized copper. Alas, the view – so raw and exposed – more than makes up for it.
The history of the Beaux-Arts building is readily found and filled with fantastic details, but here’s a brief run-down: Noted Canadian architect William Tuff Whiteway (of Woodwards fame) was commissioned to design the structure in 1911-12 by the now-infamous Vancouver mayor L.D. Taylor. It began as the offices for Taylor’s newspaper company, The Vancouver World, before the publication folded and the building was passed to Bekin’s, the Seattle-based storage and moving company. At the time of its completion, the building was recognized as the tallest (commercial) structure in the British Empire – a distinction that previously belonged to the nearby Dominion Building. In 1937, the Vancouver Sun took over the building, renamed it, installed a massive red neon sign across the top, and continued operations until 1965 when it relocated to 2250 Granville Street.
Unlike the exterior of the tower – which still features Charles Marega’s controversial “nine maidens” perched at the 8th floor, bare breasts and all – the interior has changed much over the years. In 2011 it was redeveloped by Allied Properties as creative spaces, though several historic features are still on display on the top floors, including tile work, marble staircases, single-paned fenestration, radiators, and beautiful door handles. Inside and out, there’s no other building like it. Take a look…
Here’s a challenge for design wonks who love their coffee: which local cafe stamps their take-out cups with the coolest branding? We have our favourites in no particular order above. They are…
Top, left to right:
Middle, left to right:
Bottom, left to right:
The following gallery represents everything we Instagrammed in the last 30 days or so…
by Andrew Morrison & Michelle Sproule | Mount Pleasant residents and fans of The Juice Truck – regularly parked at the foot of Abbott St. in Gastown – will be stoked to learn that the long awaited brick and mortar location opens tomorrow at 28 West 5th Avenue between Manitoba and Ontario.
The good news comes on the heels of a couple of successful dry runs that saw the smooth roll-out of a brand new food program drawn up by Lina Caschetto, who worked previously in the kitchens at Wildebeest, Cuchillo, and Les Faux Bourgeois (chef David Gunawan of Farmer’s Apprentice had originally been tasked with designing the menu, but we assume his upcoming Grapes & Soda project made the collaboration too time-consuming to commit to).
As we noted previously in our original reveal of the space, it’s a multi-purpose joint with retail frontage selling juices, cleanses, and a variety of packaged healthy supplements; a massive, fully operational commissary kitchen that plays double duty making juices and doing food prep (they’re also renting out a corner to the awesome ladies at Culver City Salads); a beautiful community space that’ll seat 26 people for sit-down pop-up suppers, screenings, and workshops galore; and a cozy parking spot for Ol’ Juicy, the truck that started it all.
Hats off to our friends at local design shop Glasfurd & Walker (see also Meat & Bread, Pizzeria Farina, Wildebeest, etc). They are branding wizards primarily, and this is their first interior. We think they’ve really nailed it “on brand” (dig the broccoli and banana bondage posters by Phoebe Glasfurd in the retail area, the three changeling fruit/veg posters by Alex Proba in the community space, and the painting of the Ol’ Juicy by Andy Dixon in the washroom). Take a closer look below…
by Andrew Morrison | I recently took a look inside the construction site of Next Door, the new Italian small plates eatery that is literally next door to its big brother, the award-winning Nicli Antica Pizzeria on East Cordova St. in Gastown. As you can see from the shots below, it’s quite different from its unsuccessful predecessor, Vicino Pastaria & Deli. For starters, the seating capacity has beautifully mushroomed from 16 to 50, which basically transforms the entire space, and it’ll be an evenings-only operation, Wednesday to Saturday.
The concept of shareable “cicchetti”-style small plates will likely fly better. Expect “stuzzichino” snacks like a “Not So Scotch Egg” (Italian sausage wrapped around fresh mozzarella stuffed with a runny egg yolk, served with a spicy egg white aioli), and small plates like Saltspring Island mussels with spicy Italian sausage in a tomato and white wine broth and house-made ricotta gnocchi with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. For drinks, expect classic Italian cocktails and 10 Italian wines by the glass. From the PR:
“Next Door is making the wait for Neapolitan pizza at Nicli that much more enjoyable. We want Next Door to become part of the Nicli experience -you can start with a drink and an appy at Next Door, then go next door to Nicli for pizza. We see Next Door as a place where you can come by for a pre-dinner drink and snack before doing a Gastown hop, or, if you are looking for a night out, order a few more plates and make an evening of it here,” says Nicli and Next Door General Manager Anthony Sterne. “Vancouverites have really taken to share-plate dining and it’s a concept that is very Italian. In Italy, they eat dinner much later than in North America. Evenings generally start by meeting friends for an aperitivo and light snacks followed by a full dinner later and ends with more wine and conversation with more friends. It’s a very social way of life. By opening Next Door, we are hoping to replicate that ‘dolce vita’ feeling.”
They were looking to open as soon as next Thursday, June 26th, but that might prove a little too ambitious. Either way, it looks and sounds like a worthwhile place to check out as soon as it’s unlocked. Stay tuned…
by Andrew Morrison & Michelle Sproule | Yesterday afternoon saw the two staffs of Joy Road Catering and Black Hills Winery sit down together at a long table to take in the first bites of their highly anticipated partnership eatery, Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen, which opens later today to the general public.
Housed in a recycled shipping container, the custom-built vineyard kitchen has been installed next to the winery tasting room and patio. The thing is tight but elegantly constructed – totally purpose-built. As we’ve noted before, Joy Road owners Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart are two of BC’s finest chefs, so it’s a step in a very interesting direction to see them involved in a daily food service operation. Will this eventually lead to the pair opening a restaurant of their own? Wouldn’t that be something!
Their “Cuisine du Terroir” style and celebrated suppers on God’s Mountain have long set a high bar in the Okanagan Valley, and this was very much in evidence yesterday. Those gathered were treated to cold smoke cured salmon with fennel pollen served alongside delicious beets from Covert Farms, a taste of Cam’s phenomenal charcuterie (the guy is a master), a variety of excellent pizzas, dark cocoa cookie sandwiches filled with salted honey caramel, and much more — all paired with Black Hills’ wines (home of the celebrated “Nota Bene” red and “Alibi” white).
There is a media reveal today and then it opens for real in the afternoon. Here’s a sneak peek…
by Andrew Morrison | Residents and workers on the western stretch of Hastings-Sunrise will soon be getting a caffeinated kick in their collective butt with the coming of Pallet Coffee Roasters. The new coffee outfit is landing at 323 Semlin Dr. just off East Hastings, courtesy of coffee wonks Sharif Sharifi and Shane Dehkodaei. Sharifi learned the trade working at Caffe Artigiano, the Cafe for Contemporary Art, Prado Cafe, and Rocanini Coffee Roasters’ roastery in Mt. Pleasant, while Dehkodaei used to own the Zodiac art cafe in Yaletown some 15 years ago (he’s been in contracting and construction ever since).
Pallet will be a roastery as a well as a fully fledged cafe; the bean-to-bag (and cup) process being visible from the cafe floor through a matrix of steel framed windows. The 2,000 sqft space used to house a fish packaging operation, so it took some time for it to be cleaned up to the presentable point that I saw it the other day (they took possession in February). It’s an interesting building inside and out. Dig the wooden pallet hanging from the ceiling!
Pallet will seat 16 people and serve mostly single origin coffees; five roasts and one espresso. They’ll have drip coffee for quick relief, a slow bar for pour overs, etc, and they were just unpacking their La Marzocco “Strada” espresso machine when I arrive the other day, so it’s clear they mean business. They’re still in the process of nailing down the extent of their food program, but they do have a small kitchen, so customers will have the option of getting fed. Opening day is set for mid-July.
by Andrew Morrison | Bufala, the new pizzeria from Wildebeest owners Josh Pape and James Iranzad, is now officially open at 5395 West Blvd (Arbutus) at West 38th in Kerrisdale. We broke the news of the 55 seater’s imminence exactly a month ago, so it’s been a quick turnaround (find out more about the build here).
Granted, it wasn’t a big construction job, but I like what they’ve done with the place. The booths and the communal table fit the room nicely, and the wee little kitchen bar is pretty adorable. My favourite thing? The corks piled high against the front window (see the first and last photos in the gallery below). These were collected over time at Gastown’s now shuttered Boneta, where the bartenders used to toss the corks behind a partition every time they opened a bottle of wine (I tossed quite a few myself). There must have been a thousand of them by the time Boneta closed last Christmas. It’s nice that Pape and Iranzad – both long-time regulars at Boneta - were able to save them and put them to decorative use.
Anyway, like a good sport I tried to eat my way through the menu last night with the help of friends and family, but I feel like I hardly made a dent. The feasting was fast and furious, but I took a few staccato notes, the first of which reading as follows: “the crust is really good”
And I mean really, really good. Rather than go the traditional Neapolitan “00″ Caputo flour route, they’re using a mix of bread flour and Pape’s family wheat flour (from Vancouver Island) with a sourdough starter. It’s turned out to be an excellent blend, and despite the comparative low heat/slower baking time of their double decker electric oven (compared to wood-burning ovens and most other electric ovens), the dough still achieves good char-pimpling and retains its heat and structural integrity long enough for a full pie to be enjoyed (ie. it doesn’t flop but can fold, libretto-style, without creasing). The taste is there – subtle, singed, superb - and so is the chew, which is consistent from rim to center. And to have the crust play a different tune, simply anoint it with any of the four different bottled oils provided (ham, parmesan, herb, chili).
As for the sauces, the rosso is made from Italian plum tomatoes (not San Marzanos) and the bianco is straight bechamel spread thinly with a hint of nutmeg. The toppings, mercifully, stay at home in both sauces, which is to say that they don’t slide around like messy, untrustworthy bastards.
And that’s a good thing, as the toppings are really what makes Bufala special. The house smoked ham and pea bianco pizza with truffle oil and taleggio, for example, is absolutely revelatory, on par with the best pies I’ve ever had at my favourite Vancouver pizzeria, Barbarella (It’s already 24 hours later and I’m still thinking about it). The unlikely bedfellow oxtail and kale pizza was also a winner on account of its originality and the punch of its roasted garlic, as was the far more standard (but equally impactful) pesto and ricotta bianco.
In all, there are 11 pizzas to choose from, and nearly all of them will lift your brow. Think bacon and clam, bresaola and horseradish, sausage and Wildebeest’s famous smoked castelvetrano olives, et cetera. Given the kitchen’s background in butchery and charcuterie, and the proximity of the Kerrisdale Farmer’s Market (across the street), every ingredient that makes it onto a pie is either going to be made in-house or vetted, hawk-like, for quality and provenance.
The menu also includes many starters (love that kale Caesar!), sides, and shareables, not mention a full spread of desserts, wines, beers, and cocktails. But it’s the pizzas that’ll make people swoon. The West Side – when it finds this new arrival in its midst – will almost certainly rejoice…
by Andrew Morrison | Ed Perrow and chef Neil Taylor have officially opened the doors of their new eatery, The Fat Badger, at 1616 Alberni Street in Coal Harbour. If that address sounds familiar, it’s because it used to house the once revered Le Gavroche eatery, long celebrated for its shockingly deep collection of Old World red wines (it’s former owner, Manny Ferreira, moved on to open the award-winning Miradoro restaurant in the Okanagan). If Perrow and Taylor sound familiar, it’s because they also own/operate the well-received Espana eatery just down the road in the West End.
Scout broke the news of The Fat Badger’s coming at the end of February, which is to say that it’s been a pretty quick build. As you can see from the images below – if your memories of Le Gavroche serve you vividly – it’s a very different eatery than what it used to be, with bespoke high-top tables and buttoned-up banker’s banquettes, chalkboard menus, and a three-headed heroin hydra photograph of Spud, Renton, and Begbie from the film Trainspotting smiling mischievously down from the wall, sizing up all those assembled.
The feel is cozy enough, and though it doesn’t remotely resemble the sort of place that would make Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (at their silliest) feel at home, it’s a sight more genuine than any of the (regrettably many) cookie cutter “public house” pretenders that have, in recent years, soiled the milieu in Vancouver.
The drinks list reads almost the same as those in every high street pub from Penzance to Dover (all the typical brands and even a few Auntie specialties are represented), and the food isn’t as fancy as you would think given Taylor’s pedigree (he was the chef at Cibo before opening Espana, and before that he was at London’s River Cafe, once home to Jamie Oliver). That doesn’t mean the quality isn’t there. On the contrary, everything I’ve tried so far has been delicious. Think proper beer-battered fish and chips (the batter not too crispy and the chips nice and fat); decadent, flavour-locked Welsh rarebits held together by exquisitely crisped Irish cheddar; adorable miniature Yorkshire puddings mounted with slices of roast beef drowned in excellent gravy; bowls of salty pork scratchtings (built for the mouthwash of English beer); hot chicken tikka masala over fries (already nicknamed the “Empire Poutine”); and first-rate sticky toffee puddings.
The music, like the proprietors, is all British, which sort of wraps the whole restaurant up with a pretty ribbon, complete with billowing bow. During supper’s course (or two pints’ duration), one will typically hear David Bowie, The Clash, New Order, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones and more, one after the agreeable other. I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack, and if I’m to be totally honest, it was the ooh-oohs of Emotional Rescue that had me on side the moment I walked in the door. Well, that and the fact that there wasn’t a television in sight.
The Fat Badger is open from 5pm, 7 nights a week (we can expect lunch service to launch before summer’s end). They don’t have a website yet, so use the photos below if you need convincing…
by Andrew Morrison | Gastown’s ancient and long dormant Pig & Whistle location (15 West Cordova) has been attracting plenty interested parties looking to capitalise on the neighbourhood’s rise. It’s nothing short of astounding that nothing has opened there in the last decade. I mean, it’s right next door to the original Boneta and around the corner from Gassy Jack Square with entrances on both West Cordova and Blood Alley. It’s a prime spot – definitely a fixer-upper like so many character buildings in Gastown – and the truth of it is that people have tried to pick it up. A lot of well known restaurateurs have taken good, long, hard looks at it and either balked or bolted. There was even a restaurant company that signed a lease (last year) and then shat the bed by running out of money, thereby leaving a lot of people in the lurch.
Tacofino finally inked their deal a few days ago, and are set to pick up where the last almost-tenant left off. We can confirm that they’re aiming to have the 3,000sqft space set with 80 seats and open to the public by the winter. The main entrance will be in Blood Alley, across a 15 seat patio, but those looking for the food truck experience (Tacofino, you’ll recall, started out as a food truck), can visit the takeaway window that’s being built for the Cordova side.
I recently visited the space with owners Ryan Spong and Jason Sussman (missing Kaeli Robinsong, who is in Tofino at the moment), GM Gino De Domenico, and chef de cuisine Christine Deyoung, all of whom were excited at the prospect of trying something new with the Tacofino brand. The new menu, Sussman says, “will be inspired by everything that we’ve done so far.” Some favourites – things that have been on their food truck and commissary menus – will stay. I trust, for example, that they won’t mess with their fish taco or their margaritas. That being said, I’m stoked to see what new stuff they come up with, and I’m particularly interested in seeing what a patio looks like in Blood Alley. They’re hoping to start construction soon and plan on having it open before Christmas,. And what a nice present that would be! Check the photos below for a taste of what these guys do…
by Andrew Morrison & Michelle Sproule | It’s long been rumoured that Vancouver is romantically attached to the American city of Portland. The truth of it is that the two cities love each other deeply. Portland is drawn to Vancouver’s mountains, beaches, health care system, and permanent air of fresh possibility (our vast hinterland helps), while Vancouver has fallen hard for Portland’s irrepressible weirdness, transportation networks, lack of a sales tax, and especially the “fuck it, let’s do culture-first” approach of its comparatively permissive civic government. We also enjoy common affections for interesting food trucks and independent eateries; drink our region’s wines, coffee roasts, spirits, and craft brews with critical, shepherd-like concern for their excellence; and share anxieties about gentrification, heritage-preservation, and the cost of living — all while enjoying long walks under big trees, wandering tranquil Chinese gardens, perusing farmer’s markets, and giving zero shits about what the rest of our respective countries think of us (we see your Portlandia and raise you our own Prime Minister).
And yet it’s the little differences that tighten our bond. Portland, for example, can boast movie brewpubs, whiskey libraries, laundromat bars, and countless other awesome entertainments. Vancouver is world famous for its high-potency marijuana and has a lower drinking age, plus it has more sushi eateries per capita than any city in North America. Portland, in contrast, has the most strip clubs per capita of any city in North America. Among these are Casa Diablo, a “dark, vegan playland” where no animal products are shed or served, and The Black Cauldron, where the dancers are witches. So it’s basically a tie game.
Clearly, we were meant to be together. It’s just too bad about the distance, 505km to be exact, which is to say nearly a full day’s travel by car. But think of it this way, Vancouverites: it’s roughly the same travel time to Tofino or Kelowna, and neither of those has a Casa Diablo, or a laundromat that’s fully licensed. Of course there’s the matter of the international border to take into consideration, but we’re all issued passports to overcome such obstacles expeditiously.
So if you haven’t been to Portland in a while, it’s time to go… Read more
(via) The evolution of the 2,000 year old city of London (“Londinium” during the Roman occupation of Britain) is beautifully visualized in this seven minute animation by The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. The short film brings together thousands of geo-referenced road records to chronologically show the extent of human development in the ancient city (eg. Tudor, Stuart, Early Georgian) while giving pride of place to structures of great cultural and historic import. It’s a very fascinating thing to watch unfold (not least because Vancouver is merely 200 years old). Press play!