by Andrew Morrison | The new Chambar opened this morning, right next door from the original. Scout broke the news of the award-winning Belgian-Moroccan restaurant’s expansion plans after the location was secured a year ago. We’ve been tracking its construction ever since.
Today was opening day, and the first time the previously evenings-only restaurant had ever served breakfast and lunch. Many of the dishes on offer this morning had transitioned into the new Chambar line-up from a menu made famous at the original location of Cafe Medina (eg. the short rib fricassee, Belgian waffles, etc.) before it moved to its new location on Richards Street last week. The old Medina, you’ll recall, used to be next door to the old Chambar.
Confused? It’s actually not as complicated as it seems.
The short story is that the owners of Chambar (Karri & Nico Schuermans) launched Cafe Medina with a business partner (Robbie Kane) seven years ago. When Chambar announced its plans last year to expand next door with a brunch/lunch service featuring chef Nico’s original dishes designed for Cafe Medina, a future with the two eateries existing side by side and competing against one another with the same dishes was plainly undesirable. The solution was a cordial split between the partners and several city blocks of distance between their respective new restaurants.
The new Chambar, as you can see from the shots above and below, has clearly maintained the soothing, casual aesthetic of the original, and yet is has grown considerably in size, both in seating and production capacities (the new kitchen is massive). It has also gained a patio, which will no doubt be considered one of the better ones in the city before summer’s end.
The quality of the food and drink, in my mind at least, is something of a given. I have no doubts about the kitchen or bar staff. The big question for most people will be this: “Does it feel like the original?” And it’s a fair question to ask, because in addition to the great drinks and delicious food, Chambar tabled a tangible soul — which is a rare thing in the restaurant business. The spirit of the eatery was one of the original location’s best qualities, not to mention a probable cause of the storied Chambar Effect. To date, I’ve only broken bread once at the new address, but I think the answer to that question is a big yes. Chambar remains Chambar, all day and well into the night.
With the highly anticipated opening of the new Cafe Medina set for this Tuesday at 780 Richards Street, the restaurant’s kitchen crew and front of house team took Saturday to get in some practice with friends and family. The special “dry run” service saw delivery of chef Jonathan Chovancek’s new menu and our first look at the new interior by designer Brian Kane. Take a look below…
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Next Tuesday, August 12 marks a new beginning for Café Medina when the beloved Vancouver brunch and lunch restaurant opens the doors to a bright, spacious and refurbished location at 780 Richards Street (at Robson Street).
While the change of scenery brings many refinements to Café Medina — increased seating capacity, high ceilings, a proper bar and an open kitchen layout among them — Owner Robbie Kane has gone to great lengths to migrate and preserve the same subtle touches that have helped make the café a veritable Vancouver institution since it first opened in 2008.
Café Medina will close the doors of its former location at 556 Beatty Street after service on Sunday, August 10 before holding the inaugural service in its new home on Tuesday, August 12.
Further details, including Executive Chef Jonathan Chovancek’s exciting new menu — a mix of Café Medina’s trademark Mediterranean-inspired dishes alongside fresh new seasonal creations — will be revealed on opening day.
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Cafe Medina is moving into its new location at 780 Richards St. and growing its culinary program under the direction of celebrated chef Jonathan Chovancek. We are looking for driven and experienced individuals to join our team. In the back of house, we need a Sous Chef, line cooks, and Chief Steward. A minimum 3 years experience in a similar position is required. We are looking for people with a passion for egg work and working mornings, as well as a focus on consistency and quality. The successful candidates will be team-oriented, self-motivated, and energetic. Wages and benefits are dependent on experience. Please submit your resume in confidence to chef [at] medinacafe.com. We thank you for your submissions but please note that only shortlisted candidates will be notified. The start date will be mid-July. We are also looking to fill a few front of house positions, specifically for server’s assistants and baristas. In addition to a minimum of two years experience, a belief in enlightened hospitality and fantastic strength of character are musts. We are looking for passionate team players who want to grow and perpetuate Vancouver’s amazing food scene. Read more
by Andrew Morrison | When Scout broke the news that Cafe Medina would be moving this summer, we asked our readership to vote on where they’d like to see the new location of the popular Beatty St. brunch spot. Well over 1,000 of you responded, with Mount Pleasant and the DTES (specifically Gastown, Strathcona, or Chinatown) being your favoured destinations. Alas, owner Robbie Kane is staying close to home, opting for the short-lived Tappo Restobar spot (formerly Q4 al Centro) at 780 Richards Street.
It’s a wise choice, and even though the move takes Medina a few blocks further away from me, I’m thrilled at the prospect. The change will not only increase Medina’s seating capacity to 75 people (up from 65), but it will also allow for a proper bar. And since bars are generally evening fixtures, we can expect the restaurant to eventually expand its operations and start serving dinner, perhaps as soon as this Autumn – and there was much rejoicing.
Further cause for high fives is the assurance from Kane that “all the favourites” will remain on the menu. To me (and Kane confirms this), that means things like the amazing tagine, the fluffy Liege waffles, and the dreamy short rib friccasse with applewood smoked cheddar and arugula. With the move, however, will come significant menu changes. And it’s ok to be anxious about that. If you love Medina as much as I do, you might even be terrified. My initial fears, however, have since been calmed.
Those who enjoyed the Mother’s Day brunch at Medina may have spied Bittered Sling co-founder/chef Jonathan Chovancek observing operations. That’s because he’s been freshly brought aboard to steer the new Medina’s culinary ship forward. An admitted fan of the restaurant since its launch, Chovancek is very familiar with the existing menu, and is already at work experimenting with new items. “My goal is to slowly incorporate new dishes that will become classics, new favourites,” he says, adding that he’s keen to honour Medina’s legacy.
Chovancek may have top drawer farm-to-table sensibilities and great relationships with local farmers and producers (one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever eaten was prepared by him several years ago out at UBC Farm), but the thing that quiets the anxieties I have about the changes to come is his demonstrated adaptability. By his own account, he’s an “interpretive chef” — he’s not one to be pigeon-holed as a proponent or purveyor of one particular cuisine. And I trust that the pan-Mediterranean/Levantine milieu of Medina won’t prove too difficult for him to unpack, iron out, and wear as if it were tailored to fit.
His experience inspires further confidence. With skills honed at Vancouver Island’s Aerie Resort and Sooke Harbour House, Ontario’s Eigensinn Farm and Avalon, and here in Vancouver via catering outfits like Culinary Capers and Kale & Nori, it’s not as if Chovancek is unfamiliar with high expectations. And it’ll be great to see him behind a line again. Bittered Sling, the company he launched with partner Lauren Mote, is now largely a retail operation that runs itself, so it’s not hard to measure his motivation. “I need to be cooking again,” he says with smile. Too right.
As for the space, don’t read anything into the photos you see above. It’s got high ceilings, windows, an open kitchen, and a bar. Beyond that, there will be next to nothing left of Tappo Restobar when they’re finished with it. Not even the floor is staying. Brian Kane – Robbie’s big brother and a production designer in the film trade for 30 years – is doing a complete overhaul, and I’m very excited to see what he comes up with.
The new Medina is on track to open in August, not long after the original location closes it doors.
by Andrew Morrison | When we recently broke the news about Chambar’s expansion plans, we promised that we’d let you know about the fate of Medina, the dizzyingly popular brunch spot that Chambar is umbilically connected to. First, some background…
Chambar owners Karri and Nico Schuermans launched Medina together with an former employee of theirs, Robbie Kane, almost seven years ago. It was a time when the brunch scene in Vancouver was suffering from broad bouts of ubiquity. Granted, there were a lot of eateries offering brunch back then, but for the most part they adhered hard to the mimosa and benny traditions, which is to say that one could get the same lazy weekend mid-day meal at one restaurant and the next, ad infinitum. Medina was refreshing because it broke through the mold with things like Liege waffles with lavender chocolate and caramel, sizzling fricasee pans of fried eggs with braised short rib, arugula and applewood smoked cheddar (my personal fave), and coffee worthy of a second cup. It didn’t take long for Medina to attract daily line-ups, and soon it expanded to include more seats in a rear dining room. In very short order, it became the most highly recommended brunch spot in the city, a position that it still holds to this day.
So with Chambar moving and expanding their hours to include breakfast and brunch, the fate of Medina was unclear. The lease might be up, but even it wasn’t it would have to close so Nico and Karri wouldn’t have to compete with themselves right next door when they launched Chambar 2.0. But will Medina ever re-open? Of course it will. It’s too successful a brand to be left by the wayside, but it will have to move.
“I just want to tell all our customers that they shouldn’t worry,” Robbie told me over the weekend. “I’m looking for a new location for Medina as we speak, and I’m looking very hard.” Where that will be remains up in the air (we’ll let you know as soon as the deal is signed), but Robbie hopes to have the new Medina open this Spring, roundabout the same time that the old Medina closes.
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Cafe Medina is looking for some muscle for front and back of house. Up front we are looking for seasoned barista. Experience in high volume is a must. Successful applicants will have excellent knowledge of coffee and equipment amd be able to utilize their skills consistently during high volume times while providing great customer service. Resume may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off in person. In the back we are looking for a passionate cook with a minimum of 3 years of experience cooking in high volume restaurants who is looking for a full-time days-only position. Applicants can send their resumes to email@example.com. Read more
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver, BC | Café Medina is looking for servers. We are particularly looking for new team members with experience, stamina and the ability to exhibit grace under pressure. Successful candidates will have an abundance of personality and lots of experience, food knowledge and be willing and able to start early (this is a day time gig). Forward your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop it off in person. Read more
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Café Medina looking for seasoned, all-rounder baristas/servers assistant. Experience in high volume a must. Successful applicants must have good knowledge of coffee and equipment, and have strong barista skills, which is to say the ability to consistently do latte art and make coffee quickly while multi-tasking and providing great customer service. Resumes may be emailed to email@example.com or dropped off in person. Learn more about the cafe after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Café Medina looking for seasoned barista. Experience in high volume a must. Successful applicants must have good knowledge of coffee and equipment, have strong skills meaning be able to consistently do latte art and make coffee quickly while multitasking and providing great customer service. Resume may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off in person. Read more
Lavender Latte | $4 | Cafe Medina | 556 Beatty Street
News from Scout supporter Chambar
Vancouver, BC | The people have spoken. For the 15th Annual Best of Vancouver issue, Georgia Straight readers have voted Beatty Street’s culinary row as their favourite stop, day and night, for all things food and drink. Evening hotspot Chambar Restaurant took first place as the city’s Best Independent Restaurant, with daytime counterpart Café Medina awarded as the definitive destination for Best Brunch, and neighbouring culinary playground, The Dirty Apron lauded as Vancouver’s Best Cooking School.
Karri and Nico Schuermans have been entertaining a packed house since opening the doors to Chambar back in 2004. Three years later, their casual approach to offering the finer points of food, wine and service translated into Chambar’s daytime counterpart, Café Medina. Partnering with long time employee, Robbie Kane, the stylish cafe became renowned citywide for its eclectic menus, incredible coffee and tempting Belgian waffles. Never content to rest on their laurels, the Schuermans opened The Dirty Apron Cooking School in 2009 with Chambar’s then sous chef, David Robertson. An instant hit, the culinary playground continues to teach gourmets and toast burners alike the tricks of the trade. Set to open in October, The Dirty Apron Delicatessen will cater to those wishing to align convenience with at-home gourmet. Read more
News from Scout supporter Cafe Medina
Vancouver BC | Olympic game goers and Vancouverites alike will be pleased to know that Café Medina’s mouth-watering waffles and connoisseur-savvy coffees will be available at the café’s new take-out window.
Located at the entrance of the café, the take-out window has been implemented in response to the influx of people that will be using Beatty Street as a thoroughfare during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Sure to be a welcome addition to a neighbourhood that will soon be bustling with foot traffic, the new take-out window will cater to passersby looking to lounge in between destinations or those hoping to grab a little sweet sustenance while on the move. Read more