by Ken Tsui | Vancouver’s Chinatown is a neighbourhood with over a century of cultural history crammed within a handful of blocks. There are countless Chinese stories embedded in the architecture and within the street front businesses. Though it’s on the cusp of being a certified UNESCO historical site, change is still very much afoot in Chinatown, making right now a very interesting time to explore it. The neighbourhood – it’s very plain to see – is flourishing with new businesses. Young entrepreneurs from across the city are opening up alongside traditional herbalists, restaurants, butchers, green grocers and kitchen equipment suppliers that have operated in Chinatown for several decades, making it a diverse mix of the treasured old guard and the welcomed new. This is a (by no means complete) guide to some of these most treasured places. Take your empty belly and a couple of hours out of your day to explore…
Chinatown Supermarket | 239 Keefer Street | 604-685-5423
Navigating the myriad of neighbourhood grocers in Chinatown can be an intimidating experience, but this place is a friendly one-stopper. With fresh produce, meats, and classic Chinese ingredients, it has practically everything you need to put together a delicious and authentic Cantonese meal.
New Town Bakery | 158 E Pender Street | 604-681-1828
New Town is a regular haunt for Chinatown elders and a stopover for out-of-towners who flock to Pender Street for their steamed bun fix. It’s the definitive Chinese bakery, offering a wide range of sweet and savoury classics such as BBQ pork buns (some of the best in town), pineapple buns, and egg tarts. New Town has columns of steamers stacked full of pillowy steamed buns ranging from Sichuan pork and “Chicken Deluxe” to a vegetarian alternative.
Dollar Meat Store | 266 E Pender Street | 604-681-1052
Don’t let the name fool you! The award-winning Dollar Meats is an old guard butcher shop that serves up some of Chinatown’s most delicious Chinese BBQ and cured meats. BBQ ducks and a crispy whole hog usually hang in the window while sausages and Chinese bacon cure to deliciousness in the shop. In operation for over 30 years, Dollar Meats takes pride in their artisan products and remains a Vancouver institution for traditional Chinese barbecue
Matchstick Coffee Roasters | 213 East Georgia St. | 604-336-0213
Expanding from their original Fraserhood location to Georgia Street this year, Matchstick Coffee boasts the best coffee in Chinatown (it’s also one of the few places in the neighbourhood where you can get a cup of coffee before 8am). Along with the standard baked goods (excellent croissants), Matchstick Coffee offers a toast bar and dinner options like Mac and Cheese, plus a selection of local beer on tap.
Phnom Penh Restaurant | 244 East Georgia St. | 604-682-5777
Butter beef, deep fried lemon pepper chicken wings, and hot and sour soup are the regular barn burners that keep people coming back to this Vietnamese/Cambodian treasure. When former New York chef-turned-celebrity food writer Anthony Bourdain was asked where he liked to eat in Vancouver, he simply replied “Phnom Penh.” He’s not alone, as evidenced by the fact that its large dining room is eternally bustling, even at unlikely hours.
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie | 163 Keefer St. | 604-688-0876
The award-winning Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie strikes a fine balance in preserving culture through food. Chef Joel Watanabe’s menus are inspired by traditional Chinese flavours and ingredients but are prepared with modern culinary techniques. Bao Bei is a reflection of the modern Chinese experience, a delicious meeting place between the new and old.
Tinland Cookware | 260 East Pender St. | 604-608-0787
Chinatown would not be complete without an unpretentious kitchen supply store. You won’t find brand name cookware here but they’re equipped with just about every single size of pot, pan, clear plastic storage container, ceramic bowl, and cooking utensil. Tinland has practically every tool you’ll ever need to outfit your kitchen at an affordable price.
Bestie | 105 East Pender | 604-620-1175
Clinton McDougall and Dane Brown’s sausage and beer parlour specializing in currywurst is one of Chinatown’s most exciting new developments. It’s a perfect example of the new style of up and coming businesses that are taking a chance on the area. It just so happens that they’re also some of the friendliest, most charming folks on the block. Bestie may not be a typical Chinatown destination, but it gives Vancouverites of every stripe good reason to visit Pender Street.
Continental Herbal | 278 East Pender St. | 604-677-3334
Continental Herbal is filled floor-to-ceiling with every herbal remedy and traditional Chinese dried good imaginable, including dried starfish. Even if you’re not entirely sure how to use any of it (including said dried starfish), Continental Herbal has you covered. They keep an in-house herbalist in the back of the store who is always ready to fill a prescription. Beyond herbal remedies, Continental also has an impressive tea collection and a staff that gladly walks anyone who is interested through it.
Bamboo Village Trading Company | 135 E Pender Street | 604-662-3300
Bamboo Village, located on Pender Street, is chock-a-block with cheap and cheerful antiques and homewares. The shop is a vibrant encapsulation of all things decorative, walking a very fine line between practicality and Chinatown kitsch. From an impressive array of paper lanterns and ornately painted ceramic bowls to Mao propaganda posters, exploring the visually striking, wall-to-wall collection at Bamboo Village is an adventure in discovering the things you never thought you were looking for.
The GOODS from The Chinatown Experiment
Vancouver, BC | From shopping to art exhibits, there’s something for everyone this month at The Chinatown Experiment. Take a look…
March 31 – April 7 | Obviously Chic
Women’s online boutique brings their brand of shabby chic to Vancouver.
April 9 – 14 | Riverlife
Solo art exhibit by vancouver based artist Hamish Todd.
April 11- 13 | Güd
Güd, a fabulous new line of natural personal beauty from the makers of Burt’s Bees, is opening a pop-up shop this April in Greenstems, an award winning florist located at 315 Abbott St. in Gastown.
April 18 – 21 | Terminal City: Rewired
Architect and visual artist, Peter Ridgeway presents a multi-media art exhibition.
April 29 | Neighbourhood Photographs
The Chinatown Experiment presents their 2nd Neighbourhood group exhibit. Read more
You know when the weather starts to change and you get confirmation of it in a restaurant? You can get yours now at The Parker with roasted turnips, house-made cheese, crispy bread, radishes, and generous spoons of parsley puree ($12) – so simple, strikingly pretty, delicious, and seasonally suggestive. As is the case with so many other dishes currently on the menu at the Strathcona/Chinatown eatery right now (pretty much the entire menu), it was like eating a sunny day in Spring. More plates and a cocktail or two of similar impact below…
237 Union Street | Strathcona/Chinatown | Vancouver, BC | 604-779-3804 | theparkervancouver.com
The GOODS from The Modern Bartender
Vancouver, BC | The Modern Bartender in Chinatown is having a big sale that includes select bitters, glassware, syrups, tools and tiki mugs at 50% off. All vintage glassware will be selling for $1 each, and there will be a table of select items – ice buckets, bar accessories, books and more – marked well below cost at $5 per item. The sale runs this weekend from 10am on Friday, April 4th until the closing hour on Monday, April 7th. Learn more about the The Modern Bartender after the jump… Read more
Maya Sciarretta of Sugo Sauce is set to open Pazzo Chow in Chinatown on Wednesday, April 1st (no fooling). The little eatery/delicatessen is the next step for Sciarretta after a successful couple of years sharing her passion for simple Italian cooking and bringing her particular brand of awesome to pop-ups, local events and craft fairs. We’ve long-loved her sauces – almost as much as her sexy, funny ads…
Pazzo Chow – located at 620 Quebec St. (just around the corner from The Keefer) – will carry the full Sugo line of sauces; everything from Classico and Puttanesca/”Whore Style” to Arrabiata/”Angry Style” and Fagiolata/”Bean Style” sauces. Sugo also makes infused olive oils, so these will be on the shelves, too, together with a bunch of Italian essentials and prepared foods (eg. squid in ragout, dried pasta, espresso). For sit down and take-out food, options Tuesday through Saturday (11am to 7pm to begin with) might include panini, soup, salads, and house-made pastas. Sciarretta will use the Pazzo Chow Instagram account to announce a daily special every day, so you might want to follow it if you live/work on or near the DTES. Sadly, there is no liquor license.
What’s in a name? “Well, it really came together in many different ways.” Sciarretta explains. “I wanted an Italian word that people could say in English easily and would still sound good. Pazzo translates to the British word ‘mad’, which is a more positive way of saying ‘crazy’ or thinking outside of the box or the norm – so putting a twist on something classic. Then I wanted a descriptor word – ‘chow’ – that means casual eating but also references Chinatown. On top of that, when one says ‘pazzo chow’ it sounds all-Italian with the ‘ciao’, like ‘Pazzo Hello’”.
Bonus: In the back of the space near the kitchen area there’s a 10-12 person table that will be available for private bookings for Saturday night suppers. Sciarretta plans to host 2-3 of these dinners per month.
Super Bonus: Ashley Watson of small-batch, artisanal ice cream company, Brown Paper Packages, will also be operating out of the space, offering a selection of traditional Italian scoops, pints, and quarts with Asian flavour twists.
We’ve invited Chinatown pop-up Lukes General Store to join the Style & Retail and Coffee & Caffeine sections of our GOODS program as a recommended place to explore with a shot of the dark stuff. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be posting their news and employment needs in addition to hosting a page for them in our archive of local and independent goodness. We would like to thank them for their support and for making Vancouver (and Chinatown especially) a more caffeinated place to be.
by Luis Valdizon | On Tuesday, March 24th, Vancouver Fashion Week‘s Fall / Winter 2014 season came to a close. I had the pleasure of attending its two final evenings at the Chinese Cultural Centre where everything from VFW’s opening gala to shows took place. Both nights offered an atmosphere that was lively, friendly, and largely free by the elitism that can sometimes sour these type of affairs.
Generously, my invitation to document VFW went beyond the runway. It was a privilege to capture all the models, designers, make-up and hair artists right in the thick of their elements, right when everything is just coming together. It’s the side of fashion that excites me the most, and I feel fortunate to be able to share it with you.
One note of criticism: it’s too bad that more local menswear labels such as Reigning Champ and wings + horns weren’t on VFW’s radar. It would have been nice to see the two internationally coveted brands by West 5th’s own CYC Design Corporation on the runway. There’s definitely an appetite for more menswear at VFW, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not capitalized upon. Presentations by the aforementioned labels, together with the stunning Arc’teryx Veilance 2014 F/W collection and the latest season from the budding Raised by Wolves, would have all been welcome additions!
The GOODS from The Chinatown Experiment
Vancouver, BC | March ushers in Spring and our most fun calendar of pop ups yet! Take a look…
March 14 – 16 | Evelyn Iona Cosmetics
The launch of Evelyn Iona Cosmetics, a new organic, natural makeup line with the mission to pay-it-forward. The pop-up boutique is an opportunity for the modern woman who care to sample and buy organic, socially conscious cosmetics, skin & hair care.
March 18 – 26 | Dreamlover Pop Up
This pop-up is presented in part by Neighbourhood Collective, a collection of the best of Vancouver’s artists, designers and makers. It features high quality, handmade products that punctuate your life.
March 22 – 23 | Shanti Ugranda Pop Up at 87. E Pender
Vancouver based NGO Shanti Uganda brings their annual warehouse sale of handmade African handbags and jewelry to a storefront space generously provided by Company’s Coming at 87.E Pender.
March 27 | “I got lost, then I got found” Solo art exhibit by Sarah Gee Miller
Sarah Gee Miller works with archival cardstock, often painted in acrylics, to make collages revealing her interest in regularity and equilibrium. Sarah is largely concerned with the implications of totemic signage and the formalities of hard-edged abstraction.
March 28 – April 3 | Obviously Chic
A pop up shop presented by women’s online retailer Obviously Chic. Hand-picked from markets in Bangkok to hidden corners in L.A, Obviously Chic brings their brand of shabby chic decor, statement baubles, and swoon worthy style to Vancouver.
This month The Chinatown Experiment is also pleased to announce our temporary pop-up at Broadway and Carolina. It’s called The Midtown Experiment.
We have a bunch of tickets to give away to Vancouver’s advance screening of Wes Anderson’s new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, on the night of Wednesday, March 12th at International Village Cinema (7pm).
The film “recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.” It has an incredible cast, starring Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Harvey Kietel, Edward Norton, Jude law, Owen Wilson, and a great many other talents.
To win a pair of tickets to this exclusive screening, “like” Scout on Facebook (if you haven’t already), follow @scoutmagazine on Twitter and Instagram (if you haven’t already) and retweet the following: “I’m fixing to win tickets to The Grand Budapest Hotel’s advance screening via @scoutmagazine http://wp.me/plxHU-mfD. We’ll put all the names in a hat and pick four winners (four pairs of tickets). They will be contacted with the good news on the afternoon of Monday, March 10th. When notified of their victory, winners must respond by 11:59pm that evening or forfeit to another name from the hat.
BONUS: If you really want to have the odds of winning in your favour, we have two other pairs of tickets reserved for those who send us the best Instagram selfies whilst in some sort of Wes Anderson character garb (no speedos, if you please).
Staff Meal is a new column by Ken Tsui. The photo essays will detail the stories behind the family-style meals that some of Vancouver’s busiest restaurant crews get either before or after service.
by Ken Tsui | After a busy service on a Saturday night at Chinatown’s award-winning Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, executive chef Joel Watanabe cranks out one final meal. Tonight, it’s his take on tostadas, and it’s for his staff. Think crispy tortillas topped with a healthy dose of cumin seasoned black beans, tomato sauce, melted cheese, guacamole, and shredded lettuce all dressed with lime and a pico de gallo salsa. Tostadas were one of the family classics in the Watanabe household when Joel was a kid. He and his brother were hooked, both invariably asking for the treat to be a part of every birthday meal. In the spirit of sibling rivalry, they even devoured the fully loaded tostadas competitively, with Joel holding the household record of fourteen eaten in one sitting.
by Grady Mitchell | Ayden Gallery (88 West Pender) will offer an escape from Vancouver’s dreary winter this Friday night with the opening reception of its newest show, Paradise. Inspired by a recent trip to Maui, curator Colin Moore (above) asked fellow artists Luis Lopa, Aaron Moran, Russell Leng, and Ben Knight for their abstract interpretations of paradise.
While each artist has developed their own signature style – Luis lives in The Philippines and incorporates that culture into his work, for example, while Ben specializes in hand-painted signage – the vibrant palettes and laid back atmosphere will channel palm-tree breezes and crashing surf. To ensure the feeling, Colin is transforming the gallery into a temporary slice of beachfront, complete with tropical plants, a hammock, and approximately 25 pounds of tropical Skittles (complimentary!).
The reception starts at 7pm and the show – a welcome hint of spring to get us through the last grips of winter - will be up through the end of March.
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.
The People Who Make It Happen
Owner: Gareth Lukes
Operations Manager: Laura Cummings
About Lukes General Store
Lukes General Store was started as a pop-up shop branch of the family owned and operated Lukes Drug Mart which has been based in the community of Bridgeland, Calgary since 1951. Owner Garath Lukes has been committed to continuing his family’s legacy of bringing quality service and products to surrounding communities and the Vancouver location is no exception.
Located within Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, Lukes joined with Space Lab antiques to create a collaborative shop that integrates the new and used. Lukes General Store includes apothecary items by New York’s Malin & Goetz and Maine’s Portland General Store, goods from Juniper Ridge, chocolates from Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers and coffee from Portland’s best, Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The Chinatown location features a custom made coffee cart designed and fabricated by Los Angeles based Barista Capsules, and inset with the La Marzocco Strada MP, operated by baristas that have been trained by Stumptown’s very own. In addition to the shop location in Chinatown, Lukes General Store offers the same level of service and products online at LukesGeneralStore.com.