DINER | New Durbach Eatery Opening This Spring In The Original “Wild Rice” Location

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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.

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DINER: Buoyed By Public Support, “Little Nest” Owner Is Hoping To Open Elsewhere

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Remember when we posted about Commercial Drive’s awesome Little Nest being forced to shutter at the end of July after their really awesome landlord raised the rent by an fuck you 50%? Well, since D-Day was approaching, we contacted the kid friendly restaurant’s owner, Mary MacIntyre, to get an update on what’s happening. Is Little Nest gone for good? “I actually have some good news,” she says. “We are staying open a little longer.” Why? “I was really encouraged by the overwhelming level of support and so I’ve decided to look for another venue.” And what happens next? ”I will keep the doors open as long as I can until we find a place to move. I am still paying the new rent month to month so I do need to leave our current location as soon as I can.” Our selfish vote is for the DTES or Strathcona proper, but we’ll take it wherever it lands.

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DINER: After 5 Year Run, Railtown’s “Two Chefs & A Table” Set To Close On June 15

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by Andrew Morrison | Just got a message from Two Chefs & A Table (305 Alexander St.) owner Karl Gregg, which I’ve excerpted below. It’s an unfortunate one…

It is with no small amount of sadness that Two Chefs and a Table announces that we will be offering the last service at our Railtown Bistro on June 15. We’d like to take this moment to offer our sincere thanks to the many people who chose to make us part of their lunch, brunch, dinner and catering plans over the last five-plus years. We’d also like to thank all our friends in the food industry for their support and encouragement.

Silver lining: The Two Chefs name and menu will continue to run at the location in Richmond.

DINER: “Au Petit Chavignol” Closes After Four Delicious Years At 843 East Hastings

by Andrew Morrison | I’m very sad to report that Au Petit Chavignol has closed. I just got a call from Joe Chaput, who summed up the decision to shutter with characteristic frankness, “We had a lot of great customers, just not enough of them.” A message on their website reads:

We would like to let you know that we’ve made the decision to close Au Petit Chavignol effective immediately. After four wonderful years, we would like to thank our guests for their amazing support.

We feel that the time is right to move on to new opportunities and growth within les amis du FROMAGE, and we look forward to sharing more details with you at a later date.

Alice, Allison, Joe and all of our wonderful staff thank you for your patronage.

The little charcuterie, cheese and wine bar next door to Les Amis du Fromage at 843 East Hastings made one of the best cheeseburgers in town (my personal favourite), superb frites, gooey Croques, excellent fondues and raclettes, and other cheesy things besides. The restaurant is umbilically tied to Les Amis (Au Petit’s kitchen is Les Amis’ production kitchen), so I reckon there’s a fair chance that it will either return or give rise to something different. In the meantime, however, it will be missed.

DINER: Popular “Fray On Fraser” Closes Despite Profits, Citing Partnership Dispute

by Andrew Morrison | Fray – a casual, irreverent, very popular restaurant serving crave-worthy chow at 3980 Fraser Street – has shuttered after just a year and a half in business. The announcement came on Twitter late last night…

The link in the tweet is dead, but a message on their website (below) tells a side of the story, which makes it sound like the whole thing is in Lawyerville limbo, which is never fun…

The place was full, profitable, and much loved by Fraser Street, but unfortunately a minority shareholder recently signed a contract to sell the business, against the instructions of the majority of investors. Now we’re in a situation where we either have to sell at a loss or face a lawsuit from the buyer, who wishes to close it and turn it into a vegan restaurant, if we don’t.

Given the circumstances, today we made the brutally hard decision to close the doors of a packed restaurant and let the lawyers do their thing. We can only apologize to those people who had bookings and come out every week for trivia and now have nowhere to feed their kids in the hood. We’ve fought beyond hard, but sometimes you’ve got to push back from the table and start afresh.

We’ll miss you, Fraser Street. But we won’t be gone for long.

Let’s hope not. But as one reader noted already in an email to Scout, “a ‘minority shareholder’ can’t make a legal contract to sell the business – a majority has to sign. So there’s something else going on.” Whatever it is, it’ll be good when it’s sorted, because pulled pork eggs benedict.

DINER: Casual West Side “La Ghianda” Set To Serve Its Last Customers This Weekend

by Andrew Morrison | One of our favourite West Side lunch spots is shutting down for good after service this Saturday. The Italian-themed La Ghianda delicatessen at 2083 Alma St. has proven to be too much work for chefs Adam Pegg and Lucais Syme, who also own the nearby multiple award-winning La Quercia, it’s neighbouring L’Officio wine bar, and Yaletown’s new La Pentola Della Quercia. “It’s our fault for not being able to spend enough time there.” Adam told me by phone this afternoon. “That’s the bottom line. We just couldn’t be there as much as we needed to be, and that’s not fair to both our cooks and our customers.” They could keep it as a commissary space (for salumi, etc.), but since it picked up a liquor license back in August it would be a crying shame to see the West Side lose an option for a solid meal with a glass or two. Word has it that Yuji from Yuji’s Japanese Tapas has taken a peek at the address, and that’s pretty exciting. He may have shut his West 4th location nearly two years ago, but he’s been on the lookout for new digs. Wouldn’t a finely tuned 20 seat izakaya be awesome for this space? Either way, I’m sad to see La Ghianda go. After a muddy, Saturday morning hike through the Endowment Lands, their meaty orrechiete with ragu always hit the spot!

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YOU SHOULD KNOW: How Its Tiki Tacky History Makes “The Waldorf” Worth Saving

by Stevie Wilson | January 24th will mark The Waldorf Hotel’s 64th birthday. In light of the recent sale of the property to condo developers, it’s uncertain as to whether this particular milestone will be celebrated by Vancouverites. But thanks to an outpouring of public support over the last week, the future of the East Van landmark as a multi-purpose venue and historic site is gaining a lot of attention.

At the time of writing, nearly 17,000 people have signed a petition to the Mayor, asking that he deny any rezoning of the property. Dozens of publications have covered the story, and social media has seen the topic trend up like a rocket. When Scout broke the bad news, the response was so overwhelming that it shut down the website (The Waldorf’s site was shut down as well). People desperately want to save The Waldorf, and there’s hope that all of the attention may – finger’s crossed – just turn the tide against its demise.

Mayor Gregor Roberson’s recent press release stated that “to lose such a historic building would be a big blow, which is why we need to do what we can to protect it”. It remains to be seen what that will be (we should find out this week), but if you didn’t get the chance to experience The Waldorf prior to its 2010 renovation, it’s important to know that not much, aside from the clientele and the ability to smoke inside, was changed. The Waldorf has always been a unique spot, and despite a relative lull in its popularity during the 1970s through the 1990s (the “Grove Pub Years”, we’ll call them), it was always known for its legendary Tiki Bar, which was tucked away like a secret inside.

If anything can save The Waldorf, it’s this bar.

Oddly enough, the Tiki Bar wasn’t part of the original plan. Mercer & Mercer architects, a duo formed in 1940 by Andrew Lamb Mercer and his son John, designed the original Waldorf Hotel in 1948 on a budget of around $300,000. The founding owner, Bob Mills, was a local businessman from Fernie who also owned The Haddon at 606 Powell St., which later became known as the Drake Hotel (sold to the City for $3.2 million in 2007). Mill’s new spot was named after The Waldorf Hotel in Fernie, which was owned by his father (it, ironically, was recently turned into condominiums). Vancouver’s Waldorf featured a “Luxuriously Furnished Ladies’ Parlor”, 25 “Handsomely Designed Rooms”, and even a “modern” coffee shop to attract luxury-seekers across the city. When it opened in 1949, it could boast the latest luxuries of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting. Mills and his wife were the original management team. Their menu, featuring ‘Turkey & Cranberry Sauce’ and “Jello with Whipped Cream”, was typical of the time; a far cry from the more modern and worldly culinary offerings enjoyed today at the hotel’s Café Nuba.

The original hotel operated primarily for motorists in the first few years, but upon Mills return from (his drunken escapades in) Hawaii, the hotel was redesigned. In 1955, Mills had the Mercer architects add a large lounge, restaurant, and additional rooms. He also put a Polynesian-inspired spin on the décor, and it is this that makes today’s Waldorf worthy of salvation. In addition to attracting working-class drinkers with one of the largest beer halls in the city, the Waldorf’s new Polynesian Room and “Menehune” Banquet Room (later “The Hideaway”) offered new guests a “unique South Sea atmosphere” which played to the popular post-war tropical aesthetic, complete with bamboo seats, Mai Tais, and a number of sensually-themed black velvet paintings, including original Edgar Leeteg works (much to the dismay of Mills’ wife). What’s more, the stunning murals were painted by noted artist Peter Hopkinson (who is best known for his White Spot advertisements). They were wild times for The Waldorf. Contemporary photographs suggest that a one particular staff party included a live cheetah. Because of course…

Over the years, The Waldorf has been managed in different ways. Most operators kept the Tiki Bar only for special events, and for a long time it languished as a satellite addendum to the infamous (and lacklustre) Grove Pub. But it was always – more or less – kept intact. When Thomas Anselmi et al from Waldorf Productions took over the lease in 2010, they brought it back to the fore, with great results. If the City really wants to save The Waldorf, making its redevelopment difficult would be essential. Designating the heritage status of its Tiki Bar would be the logical place to start.

Scenes From The Most Recent Renovation…

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Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to show you the things that you already see. Just nod your head and pretend you’re paying attention.

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TEA & TWO SLICES: On The Waldorf Closing & East Vancouver Becoming A “Dry Zone”

by Sean Orr | Dear Waldorf Hotel, meet The Sugar Refinery, Starfish Room, Blinding Light, W2, Emergency Room, Sweatshop, Red Gate, 151, GLEN 360, Red Lounge, The Niagara, PUB 340, The Columbia, Richards on Richards, The Lamplighter, Brickyard, Underwear Farm, Butchershop, Honey/Lick/Lotus, Luvaffair, The Cavern, Smiling Buddha, Marine Club, Peanut Gallery, Pic Pub, Marble Arch, Mesa Luna, Town Pump, Purple Onion, Miss T’s, Selynn Hall, Java Joint, Pantages, Chameleon Club, Blinding Light, the Ridge, Dude Chilling Park, The Vancouver Playhouse, Exposure Gallery, Dadabase, Terminal City Newspaper, Tooth and Dagger, The Only, Beyond Robson, and a billion skate spots.

And while these ‘cultural entities’ closed for a myriad of reasons, they are still closed. And despite Professor Clint Burnham‘s point that the cultural sector is a key factor in gentrification, the sheer number of shuttered live music venues alone is reflective of our demographics and general attitudes towards local culture. The reaction alone (the news even made it to revered tasetmakers across the pond NME) is one of cumulative distaste, as noted in this tweet by Charenton:

Some, like Tony X, were more positive:

Others, like the CBC’s Stephen Quinn, chose to take a cheap jab at the 60 people who are now out of work:

Brandon Yan points out the irony of how the documentary No Fun City actually played at The Waldorf, and former city planner Brent Toderian reminds us that “BC has one of the weakest Heritage Acts in Canada” (although the actual building may yet be saved).

But wait, there’s more! Venues which hold liquor-primary licenses will no longer be able to de-licence whenever they want for all-ages shows:

Here’s a news flash, you fucking morons: kids get drunk before concerts. They also get wasted before movies, during late-night beach parties, and in the parking lot before hitting high-school dances. They also get drunk on shit-mix and puke their guts out in the stands during One Direction at Rogers Arena—for, believe it or not, reasons that have nothing to do with the music.

Related: BC Liquor Licensing, the best new Twitter account:

Note: things things happened after a report issued by SFU professor urging province to focus on creative sector. Do you think Christy “Hipster is Not a Job” Clark was interested?

Me neither, and yet…despite (or perhaps because of) this, Vancouver’s Punk Scene Blows Up.

Meanwhile The NHL lockout was good for Vancouver’s economy. Weird. So people actually go out and do stuff when hockey isn’t on? Hmm…

Local ad agency Rethink declare It’s time to replace the word “consumer.” “First and foremost, it means replacing consumers with believers”. Shudder. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a cult at all. Did you decide against “The Following” because of that stupid new show?

Bedroom City: Babies vs Earls. Except in this case, the babies are actually the adults. I mean, I love to pick on Earls at any opportunity, but this is just strange.

Mainstream media headline of the day: B.C. police say hamster birth not worth a 911 call.

DINER: Legendary “Il Giardino” Restaurant To Close Its Doors For Good This Spring

by Andrew Morrison | Sad news. Il Giardino, arguably the most storied restaurant in Vancouver, is closing. A developer has picked up the property at Hornby and Pacific, and it sounds as if it’s destined to be turned into condos (shocking, I know). A lot of our great industry pioneers worked at the Italian restaurant in its heyday (late 70′s through Expo 86) – among them chefs Pino Posteraro, Gianni Picchi and John Bishop – and for a lot of people – particularly  of my parents generation – it will forever remain the fount of their affections for European cuisine. True story: Michelle and I were married in the restaurant’s beautiful courtyard back in 2001, so I’m a little bit disappointed that it won’t be turned into another restaurant so that its namesake “garden” could still be enjoyed. From the inbox:

“It was a very bittersweet decision to make, as Il Giardino is one of my proudest career achievements,” explains Menghi. “The staff and loyal guests at Il Giardino are like family to me, but I’m happy we are leaving on a high note. And, that diners will still get a chance to experience Il Giardino once or twice more before we close and say one last goodbye. I’m deeply grateful for the loyalty and longstanding support of my gracious staff and chefs. Many special thanks to Executive Chef Peter, Manager Bobby (aka Bobino), and our Sommelier Ludwik, who have all been with the team for years.”

Menghi, now aged 65, will continue to operate his two Whistler restaurants: Il Caminetto and Trattoria di Umberto. He is renowned for bringing Northern Italian cuisine to Vancouver and has helped shape the global cuisine destination that Vancouver now represents. He has authored five books on Italian cooking, starred in a TV series on cooking called Elegant Appetite, founded 14 Umbertino fast food pasta and pizza emporiums, over 10 Italian restaurants and Villa Delia, a cooking school and guest villa in Ripoli near Umberto’s birthplace near Pisa, Italy.

Menghi is cause celebre as a proprietor and maitre’d of his restaurants. Many guests have grown to know him well and appreciate his passion and love for food. Past diners include film and music artists, as well as state dignitaries. Menghi attended Hotel School in Rome and went on work in France, United Kingdom and eventually settled in Canada in 1967 at Montreal Expo before settling in Vancouver soon after to open Casanova Ristorante Il Giardino is located at 1380 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC. Umberto looks forward to hosting and continuing his passion for Italian cuisine through his two restaurants in Whistler, B.C.

The restaurant isn’t closing until the Spring. It’s still open for supper, so if you’ve never been before or want to revisit one last time, get on it.

DINER: Highly Respected DTES Restaurant “Fat Dragon” Set To Close On December 22

Andrew Morrison | I started writing my annual Top 10 Best New Restaurants column for the newspaper yesterday when I learned that the keeper of the #9 spot, Fat Dragon, was going to close for good next Saturday (December 22). It’s a bummer, for sure, that they couldn’t last nine months. My family loved the place; it was casual, affordable, and “Chinese BBQ meets Southern US spice” concepts don’t come along every day. The people, however, never fell for it the same way that the critics did (I wasn’t alone in my affections. My colleagues at the Globe & Mail, The Courier, and the Vancouver Sun also loved The Fat Dragon). I think that had lot of that had to do with the simple fact that few of them ever bothered to go, which was a bit of a shocker considering how the owners – the same people who brought us Refuel and the two Campagnolos – are highly respected for track record of uncompromising quality.

No, I suspect the real reason why it couldn’t make it was its address. Located just down the street from Oppenheimer Park, the 500 block of Powell St. hasn’t attracted much in the way of gastronomically adventurous foot traffic since the old days of Japantown. It’s unfortunate that a lot of Vancouver diners still dread the core of the Downtown Eastside as if it were an urban Hades, a place where their cars would be broken into by crack addicts and their persons robbed by HIV-infected needle-point, but I understand that nothing stifles an appetite quite like anxiety, however baseless and prejudicial the anxiety might be. What is true, however, is that many of my neighbours on the DTES didn’t give the Fat Dragon a warm reception. The owners were (sadly, predictably, falsely, laughably) decried as gentrifiers by a lot of them before the restaurant was even open, and I was disgusted and ashamed to hear – just a few weeks after opening – that someone felt it necessary to introduce a pile of feces to the handle of the front door. Read more

DINER: Chef Dale MacKay Closes His Two Eateries, “Ensemble and “EnsembleTap”

by Andrew Morrison | Rough news in the inbox today from Dale Mackay, owner/chef at Ensemble and Ensemble Tap:

Top Chef Canada Winner Dale MacKay, best-known for his fierce competitiveness, confirms that he is throwing in the proverbial towel and closing both of his Vancouver restaurants. MacKay, who opened ensemble restaurant and bar and ensembleTap (eTap) in 2011 after winning season one of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada loves ‘Food City’ but can’t make traditional restaurant business math work in what he calls ’Top Rent Canada’. The dinner service offered this past Saturday at ensemble on Thurlow Street and at ensembleTap on Smithe Street, was the final service for both restaurants.

“I learned quickly that opening a restaurant in the heart of Vancouver is something I should have done after building my business and expansion capital in markets that support my restaurant business plan. As it is in the Vancouver core, with the rents being so high and the market saturated with fabulous restaurants, I’d have to subsidize both operations far longer than makes good business sense – plus I have a young son to raise and he remains my priority.”

MacKay admits that, he should have started in one of the lower rent districts on the margins of the city, where many new restaurants are springing up and where the edgy qualities of transition create a more relaxed culture. “I’m willing to fall on my own sword and admit I was wrong. If seasoned restaurateurs like Daniel Boulud find it unprofitable to compete in Vancouver, it was bold of me to think I could make the math work any better. As the ‘for lease’ signs started going up all around me on Robson, I saw the writing on the wall and had to ignore my ego and make the best decision for myself and for my son.”

Read the rest of the release after the jump… Read more