SEEN IN VANCOUVER #454: “Powell Street Festival” Reviving The Heart Of Japantown

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by Michelle Sproule | The always awesome and super fun Powell Street Festival went down over the weekend in and around Oppenheimer Park. The area was once the beating heart of Japantown; a bustling neighbourhood complete with Japanese shops, groceries, restaurants, rooming houses and more. That was before January 1942, when the community was uprooted and forcibly interned by the Canadian government (with its property confiscated) for the remainder of the Second World War. The festival – now celebrating its 37th year – is an entertaining and inspired combination of traditional and contemporary expressions of Japanese Canadian identity. That means great food (mmm, love me some Mogu karaage), performances, arts, crafts, sumo wrestling, kids’ activities, and much more. It was a ton of good times and an eyeful to boot. Take a closer look above and below.

EVERYTHING SEEN IN VANCOUVER

DINER: Inside Chef Makoto Ono’s Highly Anticipated PiDGiN Restaurant In Gastown

by Andrew Morrison | I think the restaurant that I’m most excited about on our Anticipated Openings list is PiDGiN. It’s the upcoming Gastown effort from past Canadian Culinary Champion Makoto Ono. You might remember us breaking the news of its coming last summer:

Ono was the first to win gold at the Canadian Culinary Championships back in 2007. He’s been on the ascendancy ever since, opening the eponymous “Makoto” in Beijing and the celebrated “Liberty Private Works” in Hong Kong. He returned from China [in 2011] to guest chef at his father’s famed restaurant, Edohei, in Winnipeg. The revered sushi establishment closed in late February (Sadao retired), which freed Makato up for this project. There was some speculation that Makoto would head to Toronto, but lucky for us, he decided to return to Vancouver instead, where he went to culinary school and where his girlfriend works as a pastry chef.

I suspect that Pidgin, as the new restaurant is called, will be something of a summation of Ono’s career to date. The concept will see a hybrid of Japanese and French cuisine with a thread of Korean weaving throughout. The name alludes to the expression of that combination, and to Pigeon Park, which is right across the street.

The menu will offer share plates, from small to very large, priced from $10 to $25 per. The wine and cocktail program will be buttressed by a healthy supply of sake, baekseju and even soju, all designed to wrap neatly around the food conept. They keenly aware that Gastown is very much a cocktail-forward neighbourhood, and I suspect they’ll be putting a little skin in the game.

The project has been evolving since March, and plans for the redeveloped addresses of 350 Carrall (combining for some 1808 sqft) have already been submitted to the City. What they envision is a stylish 66 seater with a 10 seat bar. They’re also considering doing a chef’s table (which I wholeheartedly encourage them to do).

Ono is an incredibly gifted chef. He could have gone to Montreal or Toronto or decided to stay in China or Winnipeg, so it’s our good fortune that he picked a spot off Hastings instead. I say “good fortune” because I trust PiDGiN to be an above average dining experience. It won’t be traditional fine dining, but I do expect it to be one of the better restaurants in the city when it launches.

My hope is that it will be like a Japanese/Korean Bao Bei of sorts, the kind of place where cuisines are interpreted idiosyncratically but with respect by an experienced and imaginative chef whose confidence and competence sing loud and clear across on the plate. I definitely see that in every one of Ono’s plates presented in the photo gallery below (all the food shots are by TT Lui). This hope is also buoyed by Ono’s choice of designer: Craig Stanghetta, the same fellow (interview) responsible for the looks at Meat & Bread, Revolver, Clough Club, and Pizzeria Farina (he also had a hand in the stunning aesthetics at Bao Bei, so it’s not like I’m pulling my hope out of my ear…).

Beyond sharing a thought or two, the point of this post was fourfold: to let readers know that PiDGiN is on track to open in early February, to reveal some shots of the construction progress (hats off to the Tetherstone crew), to give some indication of Ono’s game by teasing some of the plates he has planned for opening day (without knowing what they are), and to make all of those individuals who are interested aware that opportunity knocks. To wit:

PiDGiN is looking for a Bartender and Lead Host/Hostess to join our opening team. The ideal Bartender will have an intimate knowledge of all classics and be ready to join a top notch team behind the wood. The ideal Host/Hostess will have previous restaurant experience and knowledge of OpenTable. Both candidates will have a passion for food and beverage, be self-motivated with a pro-active attitude, and share our commitment to offer our guests exceptional service. Please reply with your resume and availability details to resumes [at] pidginyvr.com.

Seeing how Gastown is ground zero in Western Canada’s cocktail culture, the bartending opportunities here are pretty huge. Though I’m keen to work my way through Ono’s menu (so I can at least discover what I’m looking at in Lui’s photos), I’m also looking forward to seeing who ends up on the wood. Less than a month to go…

ALL ANTICIPATED OPENINGS

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Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout and National Referee & Judge at the Gold Medal Plates and Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.

DINER: Kingyo Izakaya Reported Opening A New Location (It’s Too Bad It Won’t Be Here)

by Andrew Morrison | Denman’s award-winning Kingyo Izakaya is reportedly heading east to open a new spot in The Big Smoke. Via our friends at Toronto Life:

Vancouverites dining at [Toronto's] Bestellen might do a double take when they spot Koji Zenimaru in the open kitchen. Though working under chef Rob Rossi, Zenimaru is actually corporate head chef of Kingyo izakaya and its sister restaurant, Suika, in Vancouver.

Zenimaru, known for dishes such as Chinese poutine and stone-grilled beef tongue (“do not touch the stone” says the menu) is hardly passing through town. “I will bring Kingyo to Toronto this year,” he promises.

Lucky ducks. (hat tip: reader KN)