by Andrew Morrison | I toured the construction site of The Abbey late last week. The highly anticipated tavern/gastropub from chef Andrey Durbach, Chris Stewart, and Michel Durocher (see also The Sardine Can, La Buca, Pied-a-Terre), is coming together nicely in the old Wild Rice location at 117 West Pender Street.
Granted, it was a bit odd seeing the iconic space without its defining turquoise, under-lit bar, but I think its replacement – a thick, darkish, acid-treated treated lovely with smooth edges – will gel with the overall vision for the space, which I suspect leans toward the slightly ecclesiastical given The Abbey’s branding, curved staircases, and the inescapable light that pours in from its brace of skylights (I also spied a little stained glass action in the signage – which is now visible to passersby outside).
When it’s finished, we can expect to see the main floor and the front and rear mezzanines set with solid wood chairs and bar stools, plus wood paneling covering up the beige walls. In other words, it’s going to look completely different than how it appears in the images below. I’m imagining a kind of modern, 21st century treatment (as dictated by the existing clean lines of the space) of a late Norman church, of a sort built to house the holy relics of Julia Child instead of the Venerable Bede.
The menu is also under construction, but I’ve gotten wind of a few items that’ll whet the appetite: organic crisp chicken with togarashi pepper and spicy mayo (karaage); Welsh rarebit with melted Lincolnshire Poacher, ale + pickled onion; foie gras torchon with fruit preserves and brioche toast; wild mushrooms on toast; butcher’s cut steak with triple cooked duck fat chips and garlic butter mushrooms; and grilled rare sockeye with warm vegetable + quinoa salad, beet juice, ginger, and walnut oil. I’ve also been told to expect a Fresh Sheet that will bring back some favourites from chef Durbach’s Parkside years.
On the staffing front, we’re glad that Ben de Champlain – formerly of Boneta and the winner of Scout’s Bartender of the Year competition in 2012 – will be holding court at the bar when The Abbey opens later this summer.
by Andrew Morrison | Andrew Wong officially announced this morning that he will soon finish up at the original downtown location of Wild Rice. The trailblazing restaurateur opened the socially and environmentally conscious “Modern Chinese” eatery at 117 West Pender St. off Abbott St. back in 2001, serving ethically sourced cuisine informed by his heritage and pairing it with local wines and original cocktails. The spirit of the restaurant (a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table) will, of course, continue to live on at its new location in New Westminster’s increasingly awesome River Market. The restaurant officially closes its doors on January 31st.
With Wong’s announcement out of the way, we can now tell you that he accepted an offer from restaurateurs Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart (see The Sardine Can, La Buca, Pied-A-Terre) before Christmas. The well respected pair take possession on February 1st and are joined in ownership this time around by Michel Durocher, who has been part of the company since long before he started managing The Sardine Can (back to the old Parkside days).
Together, they hope to transform the 2,500 sqft space into a cheffish gastropub/tavern of serious sway. We can expect a darker, woodier, warmer aesthetic, which is to say that it it won’t look remotely the same as Wild Rice when it open this Spring (they’re crossing their fingers for April/May). “It’s a complete overhaul,” says Stewart. The only thing that they’re keeping is the length of the bar. When I asked Durbach for points of conceptual reference, he mentioned the Dominion and Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal and The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern in New York. Think 90 food primary seats and a menu of classics that have been amplified by good ingredients and furrowed brows of creativity. Though nothing about the place is really set in stone just yet, Durbach likes the idea of spinning high quality fish and chips, chicken karaage, an assortment of salads, perfect Côte de Boeuf (inspired the mainstay at the recently closed Boneta), toulouse bangers with whipped potatoes and craft beef-infused onion gravy, and so on. Durbach also says that he’d like to try and make the best burger in town, so you know…fancy, but not too fancy.
With the new Chambar re-opening in their new location just up the street at the same time and rumours of new eateries slated for the old Chambar location and the soon to move Medina next door, this looks like a solid pick-up from Durbach et al. Crosstown, it seems, is going to have a little renaissance (again).
They don’t have a name for the restaurant just yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as it’s set and update our readers as things progress because this is one to keep an eye on. In the meantime, there’s still time to pay your respects to Wild Rice and sneak in another delicious bowl of Rossdown chicken Kung Po.
by Andrew Morrison | It’s high time we provided an update on the highly anticipated Bestie at 105 East Pender St. in Chinatown. We first reported on its coming a year ago this week, and we’re happy to say that the 25 seat German-themed sausage and beer joint from Clinton McDougall and Dane Brown is well on its way. They’ve hammered down a menu of Thuringian sausages (pork) that will include brats and currywurst, plus a rotating poultry sausage and a special or two. The good folks at Oyama are making them, but execution is in the hands of chef Colin Johnson, who worked in Andrey Durbach’s kitchens for upwards of a decade. The fries will be hand-cut BC potatoes, double fried and served with a little metal pommesgabel (literally “French Fry Fork”), and the beers will be German-inspired but locally brewed (4 on tap with several others in bottle format). As you can see in one of the images above, the tapped beers can be had in 8oz, 12oz, or monstrous 24oz pours, the latter to be enjoyed from proper ceramic steins! David Stansfield, who you might know from Vancouver Urban Winery, is in charge of the tiny wine program. He has one red and one white cheap and cheerful planned for taps and tumblers, with a few supplemental bottles, all containing German varietals. The only spirit sold at Bestie will be schnapps. Because jawohl!
As far as the aesthetic goes, it’s worth remembering that Dane and Clinton come to the food trade from the design world, so they’ve considered the look as much as they have the sausages. It’s going to be on the bright side, with wooded paneling lit by high gloss white floors and white walls. Much of the seating will be convertible. A series of “booths” along the long wall facing the kitchen bar can readily be modified so that they become one large table, and above these booths will be an ever-changing canvas of wooden pegs. There are 116 holes in the wall to accommodate them, so expect to see hanging lights, magazines, and probably a jacket or two suspended above the modular booths. There’s also a sweet corner table at the front window that folds up so that sausages can be sold through the window deep into the night (hello Fortune revellers!). The rear wall will see rotating works from local artists (overseen by an obligatory cuckoo clock), and I suspect that we might hear some 1980′s Grauzone leading what I hope will be a chiefly German soundtrack. Dane and Clinton are doing nearly all the construction work themselves, with guidance from David Scott of local architecture firm Scott & Scott (recent recipients of some Cool Hunting love).
Because of its close proximity to the Scout office, I see a lot of currywurst in my future. Opening day, which can’t come soon enough, is on track for the early June.
Andrew Morrison is the editor-in-chief of Scout and BC’s Senior Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and TV shows on local food, culture and travel. He live and works in the vibrant Strathcona neighbourhood, where he also collects inexpensive things and enjoys birds, skateboards, whisky, shoes, many songs, and the smell of wood fires.
The GOODS from La Buca
Vancouver, BC | Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach’s La Buca, located in the heart of the West Side, is partnering with That’s Life Gourmet (Vancouver’s premier sake importers) to host a special Italian-Japanese fusion supper on Thursday, April 11th. Check out the menu and details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Pied-a-Terre & La Buca
Vancouver, BC | Our Seventh Annual Game & Wild Mushroom Festival is fast approaching! Join us from October 19th to the 30th to enjoy dishes such as scallop carpaccio with duck prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette and roast lingcod with gnocchi and chanterelles. View the full menus at Pied à Terre and La Buca or click through the jump… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | Chef Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart officially (if softly) opened The Sardine Can yesterday after a hectic Monday night dry run that saw three full turns of tables. I’ll go a few more times before I get into lengthy dish descriptions and broad analysis, but suffice it to say here and now that the little 20 seater at 26 Powell Street focuses on simple, unassuming Spanish tapas and pretty much nails both the requisite casual ambiance and bold flavour hooks. Durbach’s albondigas, patatas bravas (with soft fingerlings!), fish toasts, and so on are each represented well and are wholly pairable with Stewart’s select list of wines, beers and sherries. The prices are a little higher than I thought they’d be, but rents in Gastown ain’t cheap anymore, and I left feeling more sated than depleted (having torn through half the menu – doubling down on some items – and finding not a dud in the bunch). They’re open from 3pm until late and don’t accept reservations. If you go this week, and you should, be sure to bring cash. While they do accept credit cards and Interac, customers paying cash get 10% off of everything. Take a look at the before and after… Read more
The GOODS from Pied-a-Terre
Vancouver, BC | Pied-a-Terre restaurant has brought back it’s keenly-priced table d’hôte menu. To relaunch the much heralded menu, Pied-a-Terre is offering what is surely the best value dining experience in Vancouver. Order dinner for two from the 3-course table d’hôte menu and the restaurant will throw in a bottle of wine, mineral water, and coffee.
“I designed the table d’hôte menu to offer classic bistro favourites at a great price,” said Chef Andrey Durbach. “After all, a neighbourhood bistro is supposed to be the kind of place you can afford to go to any night of the week.”
The table d’hôte, or fixed price menu, offers a choice of modern French classics: heirloom tomato salad with basil and goat’s cheese; duck confit with walnuts, grapes and Sarladaise potato; and crêpes with warm berries and crème fraîche. At $38 per person, with 3 choices for each of the 3 courses, the menu delivers great options and great value. At $99 for 2 people including a choice of a bottle of house red, white, or rosé wine, the value is even better. These prices make it easy to finish the meal with an after dinner drink from Pied-a-Terre’s extensive list of cognac, calvados, and eaux-de-vie. Read more
I swung by the location of The Sardine Can in Gastown (26 Powell St.) over the weekend to have a closer look. A refresher…
The concept sounds like a proper Spanish tapas bar; the hole in the wall kind that Vancouver’s most hopeful food lovers have long been waiting for. Durbach and Stewart want to make it the most casual and accessible restaurant in their stable. That means no molecular gastronomy, no El Bullish artistry, no high falutin’ anything. Instead, Durbach tells us that we can expect some 12 raciones (small plates) alongside Spanish wines served in tumblers, a decent selection of sherries and Spanish beers, as well as a couple of Cavas.
There wil be 10 seats at the bar (which will double as a kitchen), plus three tables that can be configured to fit groups both small (4) and large (10). As befitting the casual, no nonsense intent of the concept, they will only be serving walk-ins. They’re also toying with the idea of opening as early as 3pm, which is pretty damn awesome, as Gastown is pretty dry before 5:30pm. Expect midnight as their nightly close, perhaps later on weekends.
They’ve only just taken possession, but you can see the potential…
The GOODS from Pied-a-Terre, La Buca, and Cafeteria
Vancouver, BC | As he does each year as cooler temperatures set in, Andrey Durbach will be offering diners at cozy neighbourhood rooms Pied-à-Terre, La Buca and Cafeteria the chance to taste the earthy flavours of in-season mushrooms and wild game. Running from Oct. 11th to 23rd, the Game & Wild Mushroom Festival is a must for food lovers who are particularly drawn to freshly picked wild mushrooms, hearty cuts of rarely featured game and the rich reductions that Durbach is known for. Get all the details after the jump Read more
The GOODS from La Buca
Vancouver, BC | On Sunday, September 4th, westside trattoria La Buca will play host to the wines and maker behind Italian powerhouse Marchesi di Grésy. Known for producing some of Piedmont’s most elegant and graceful wines, owner and winemaker Alberto di Grésy will join chef Andrey Durbach to present an evening of Italian focused fare. Seating is limited so guests are encouraged to reserve tickets early by phoning La Buca at (604) 730-6988. Tickets are priced at $175 per person which includes taxes and gratuity. Reception begins at 6:00pm, with dinner to follow at 7:00pm. Menu after the jump… Read more
Seasoned, acclaimed restaurateurs Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach (interview), owners of La Buca, Pied-a-Terre and Cafeteria, have just opened Commissary, a rather cool-looking little shop selling “prepared foods to take home.”
It’s located at 4027 Macdonald St. – right beside La Buca. They’re selling stocks, terrines, patés, soups, sauces, stuffed pastas and basically any of the ingredients that they employ in the recipes articulated in each of their restaurant kitchens. In addition to these staples, they also table proteins (we picked up some sweet sockeye for dinner) and gastro-esoterics like truffle paste and Callebaut baking chocolate. Cuteness aside, it’s cunningly utilitarian in its functionality for both them and us, serving not just as a space and means to make and sell what they’re already doing for themselves, but also to allow us in on the action with their surplus. Clever.
News from Scout supporters Pied-a-Terre, La Buca, and Cafeteria
Vancouver, BC | Diners seeking decadence this New Years Eve will be able to celebrate in award-winning style at Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart’s neighbourhood restaurants, Cafeteria, Pied-à-Terre, and La Buca. Matching the value-driven line-up of dishes will be an array of bubbles and boutique wines to fit any budget. Get all the details after the jump… Read more
News from Scout supporter Pied-a-Terre:
Vancouver, BC | Beginning today and running until December 23rd, Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart will open the doors to their cozy neighbourhood room, Pied-à-Terre, for holiday lunch. Durbach has crafted a special three course menu priced at $32.50 that is sure to entice lunch goers looking to stay away from the office a little longer. Guests can expect French fortified classics like Scallop Ravioli with Tomato, Gin, Fine Herbs and Crème Fraîche; Fillet of Trout served with braised Lettuce, Peas and Ginger-Soy Beurre Blanc; Coq au Vin with Pommes Purée and French Beans.
Pied-à-Terre will serve holiday lunch from noon to 2:30pm. Dinner is served seven nights a week; Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 10:30pm and Sunday from 5pm to 9:30pm. For reservations please call 604.873.3131 or for more information please visit www.pied-a-terre-bistro.ca. Read more
Main Street’s Cafeteria is now a proud member supporter of Scout. We will be publishing their news and press releases on our front page and hosting a page for them in our list of recommended places to check out. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of our little website. Click ahead to read on or jump directly to their Scout page. Read more