by Michelle Sproule | Have you ever had one of those experiences when you start thinking about how good an Earnest Ice Cream sundae is and you get so besotted with the memory of it that you get in your car and drive half way across town fully prepared to wait in a ridiculously long line up just to taste it only to realize that it’s Monday night and you have to wait all the way until Thursday before the tiny storefront opens it’s doors for service? Yeah, me too.
It’s not that they’re trying to torture us ice cream fiends. They have, it should be noted, distributed jars of their ice cream to numerous locations throughout the city where you can purchase it on any day of the week to pacify your cravings. The limited hours in the Fraserhood are out of necessity. They use that rest of the time (and all the space) to make the ice cream that will meet demand through the rest of the week.
Their smashing success has made the maintenance of the status quo impossible, so owners Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi have decided to expand. They’ve just taken possession of the old Organic Lives space at 1829 Quebec Street on the corner of 2nd Avenue, where Mount Pleasant meets Olympic Village. When it comes on line this winter, this will be their main production space, though it will have a small retail component as well, which is to say we can walk in off the street and score ice cream by the scoop. The expansion also means that both locations will eventually be open for at least 6 days a week.
Right now, plans have been submitted to the city and they are just waiting for their permits. Though significantly larger, the new design will be similar to the Fraserhood location in layout and aesthetic (white walls, wood beams, brick — an uncomplicated, product-focused environment), plus there will be windows allowing customers to look into the production facility, which will take up the majority of the floor space.
The best case scenario for their opening date would be some point in December, but early 2015 is probably more realistic. Take a look inside…
Its the brainchild of Fadi Eid, who has been working on the project since April with designer Adrienne Kavanagh. Eid comes to Vancouver from Lebanon by way of Abu Dhabi. The hospitality management grad has been working in the trade since his teens, having gotten his start toiling in his uncle’s bakery (of late he’s been working front of house for the Fairmont).
The restaurant’s communal, casual concept will see home-style Lebanese food served in sharable “mezze” fashion (eg. falafel, labneh, mjadra, makanik), with equal focus paid to flat breads (“saj”), traditional stews, and a variety of flavoured humus and dips (eg. beet, avocado-cilantro, etc.). The latter will also be sold in branded jars that customers can re-use by bringing them back for refills at a discounted price. The restaurant’s flat bread, flavoured olive oilsm and spices will also be retailed. You can read a draft of the menu here. Lunch will change daily, but the dinner card will be more or less fixed.
To pair with the food, the short bar will be serving local beer and wine, as well as cocktails employing Mediterranean herbs and Levantine spices.
I’ve included Kavanagh’s design renderings with the image set below. The models make it look super clean and modern, but she’s found some cool pieces at Scott Landon Antiques to give the 32 seat space some character, and you never know what an open kitchen can do to the feel of a place when it pumps out the intoxicating aromas of exotic spices and freshly baked breads.
Opening day at Jamjar (2280 Commercial Drive) is set for the end of September.
by Andrew Morrison | Following up on the success of their Chinatown pop-up, Lukes General Store is set to open a permanent location at 49 West Hastings on the Downtown Eastside. If the address doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because it’s the brand new glass, concrete, and steel mid-rise between the Acme Cafe and Save On Meats. It hasn’t fronted a tenant until now.
“Vancouver has been really great to us”, says owner Gareth Lukes, whose family has operated Calgary fixture Lukes Drug Mart since 1951.” We love being here. There is so much great energy in this city right now and great communities with a lot of interest in the products and experiences we offer.”
The move to the larger, fixed address will allow Lukes to broaden their retail offerings and table a cafe experience featuring donuts from nearby Cartem’s Donuterie and coffee from the Bay Area’s highly regarded Four Barrel. If you’re unfamiliar with the brand, it’s the outstanding stuff they brew at San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. This will be the first time their beans will see retail action in Canada.
For the shop’s shelves, Dry Goods Manager Veronika Rezucha (formerly of Lark on Main) will be bringing in bars from Mast Brothers Chocolate and products from Malin + Goetz Apothecary, Baxter of California Shaving, Juniper Ridge, Pendleton Woolen Mills, and McClure’s Pickles (to name just a few). Music aficionado Shaun Cowan, formerly of Scratch Records, is on board to manage the store’s vinyl selection.
And speaking of music, it sounds like we’ll be hearing plenty of it at Lukes. From an imminent press release:
“We have a reputation in Calgary as a key part of the music and culture scene. Not only is it a cool spot to hang out and buy music, but we’ve thrown great events and free concerts there with artists such as Shad, Rural Alberta Advantage, and Ladyhawk,” says Aaron Schubert, who, in addition to setting up Lukes’ Vancouver location, has deep roots in the local music scene as manager of the the Pack AD as well as booking venues such as the Biltmore Cabaret and the Rickshaw Theatre. “We’re definitely looking forward to doing some similar music and art events at the new Hasting Street location. We’re really excited to become a permanent fixture of Vancouver’s exciting and diverse cultural scene.”
Construction is already underway. If all goes according to plan, the doors will open in September.
by Andrew Morrison | Good news, taco lovers. Los Cuervos Taqueria is set to expand into the old Che Baba yoga studio space next door. The Fraserhood eatery has been in possession of the umbilically-attached 600 sqft address since it opened last year, but it had to jump through several laborious permit hoops to get this green light. The expansion will effectively double Los Cuervos’ seating capacity to 50. The design toes the line of the original, but it does have some unique flourishes, such as a new bar and light fixtures made out of cedar reclaimed from an old shed that they dismantled at the back of the property. As far as offerings are concerned, barman Mark Gunther (Biltmore, Minami) is being brought on board to amplify the drinks card (more agave-centric cocktails), while the menu, I hope/imagine, will remain loaded with all manner of out of the ordinary taco creations. The launch is set for mid-September (fingers crossed). Take a look…
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…
by Andrew Morrison | Though it won’t be open until the early Autumn, “Au Comptoir” should be on every Vancouver food-lover’s radar. The 50 seat restaurant currently under construction at 2278 West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano is being launched by Maxime Bettili and Julien Aubin, two old friends who met at hospitality school in France 17 years ago. The front of house veterans toiled at cafes and brasseries in France before moving to Vancouver nearly five years ago. Aubin has been a fixture at Les Faux Bourgeois in the Fraserhood ever since, while Bettili has worked at Bistro Pastis, Les Faux Bourgeois, Jules Bistro, and The Acorn.
What’s in a name? Au Comptoir translates as “at the counter/bar” — an honorific of the universal restaurant industry practise of always dining at the bar. Oh, and Au Comptoir will sport a gorgeous tin bar, built especially for them in France. The only other one of its kind in Canada is the absolute thing of beauty at Toronto’s Le Select.
What they have planned for the space is not like most French-themed cafe/bistros one readily comes across here across the pond. They’re going to strive for the same kind of cafe-style service that predominates in Paris, which is to say it’ll be open all day, from morning until night, with no reservations. Such establishments are liberating for customers used to New World protocols. One doesn’t feel rushed or guilty for taking up a table for an hour and a half with a good book and a beer. To French servers, refreshment has no check average, and the pace of a guest’s experience is none of their business. Whether you’re in for a bottle of wine with a steak frites or a cafe au lait with a pain au chocolate at 9am or 9pm, service is service.
Of course, only time will tell if Aubin and Bettili will be able to pull off this uniquely ambivalent shoulder-shrugginess. The chasms between Canadian and French tipping traditions and our understandings of what constitutes a “living wage” are tres deep.
The look is going to be a little different, too. Aside from the stunning bar alluded to above, expect custom-built tables made out of antique sewing machines, a pair of skylights soaking the room with natural light, and accordion-style folding front windows bringing the outside in. They’ve only just begun construction, so the images below will only give you a hint of the aesthetic to come, but I’m imagining a very social environment. It’s a good location.
As far as food is concerned, I’m not privy to the extent of the menu, but in our conversations to date I’ve heard mention of foie gras burgers, “bavette” steaks, magret de canard à l’orange, club and croque-style sandwiches, and pastries galore (the latter made in-house by Franck Buiron, formerly of Blue Water Cafe). It all sounds good. They’ll also have a simple list of cocktails, beers and 5/5 wines by the glass, plus a reserve list for those whose tastes have deeper pockets.
These guys sound like they know exactly what they want out of their first business, and that’s a thick slice of the country they left behind. This is perfectly understandable. They’re a long way from home, and that’s lucky for us, as the zeal with which they’re keen to shorten the distance will likely translate deliciously on our plate and in our glasses.
While West 4th already has it’s fair share of French-themed eateries, I don’t think “market over-saturation” arguments apply in the case of Au Comptoir. It has all the makings of an original, one that should draw in the curious from beyond Kits. As long as the execution is there – and we should have no reason to doubt it considering the owners’ pedigrees – I have my hopes up for good things.
by Andrew Morrison | We broke the news of Chambar’s coming expansion back in October. The Belgian-Moroccan eatery – one of my personal favourites since it opened 10 years ago on Beatty Street – is only moving next door…
The new restaurant will be roughly twice the size of the current one, with about 270 seats between two levels, a 50 seat patio, and private rooms that can fit 20 – 80 people. There are lots of opportunities for new design motifs to fit in with the old, but I suspect it will look very similar to the original. Yes, in addition to the branding, relaxed vibe, deep drinks programs, and casual flirtations with fine dining, much of its furniture will also be making the move, which is great news because who doesn’t love the original tables, couches, banquettes and button-ed up red booths? ”The layout will be just like the old Chambar,” Karri explains, pointing out how the front will be the lounge and bar area that narrows at the waist to open up into a dining room. “The new place has brick and beams, too,” she adds, referring to the core aesthetic of the original. One big change is that the wall that divides the patio from the interior will be glass (said patio will also have its all-day sunshine filtered by young trees – sounds awesome). Also making the move will be the staff, though they’ll definitely be needing to hire a lot more people considering the breadth of their expansion.
30 more people, to be exact. They’ll need them, too, as the place is huge. I went on a tour with co-owner Karri Schuermans today and while it was clear that they still have a ways to go if they’re to meet their revised target opening date of the first week of August, most of what’s left to do is cosmetic. Most of the heavy lifting appeared to be done. As you can see from the shots below, it does resemble the layout of the original Chambar. The only obvious departures are the sprawling patio (which I expect will be pretty magical), the stairs that lead down to the massive kitchens and private room, the rooftop deck for further private functions (killer views from up there), the sound proofing at the entrance to the rear dining room, and the introduction of a new colour to the Chambar fold: a tealish green (evidenced on the wall section by the door and wave-like panel that spills across the ceiling above the bar).
Owner/chef Nico Schuermans menus are also taking shape. He’ll be keeping plenty of the Cafe Medina (also moving) originals – which he developed in the first place – for breakfast service (fricassee, etc), while lunch and dinner will see classic mainstays like the lamb tagine and the moules frites joined by about 20 small plates, which are still in development. I don’t know how they could possibly improve on the drinks side of things, but they’re aiming to make life easier for the bar staff. The 22 seat bar is purpose-built for ease and efficiency (wells and rails galore), and the wines are going to be laid resplendent on racks inside a great big temperature-controlled walk-in box of glass just off the dining room. It all looks fantastic, and it’s incredibly comforting that they’re a known entity with a pretty kickass track record of doing good things. I mean, what’s not to love about this move? Chambar + patio? Yes, please! Chambar + breakfast? Absolutely! Chambar + roof? Let’s go!
We’ve invited the West End’s plant-forward Exile Bistro eatery to join the Restaurants section of our GOODS program as a recommended venue for delicious food and drink. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be sharing their news and employment needs on our front page in addition to hosting a page for them in our archive of local and independent goodness. We thank them for their support and for making The West End a more delicious place to be.
by Andrew Morrison | If all goes according to plan, the highly anticipated new tavern/gastropub from chef Andrey Durbach, Chris Stewart, and Michel Durocher (see also The Sardine Can, La Buca, Pied-a-Terre) will open this weekend in the old Wild Rice spot at 117 West Pender Street.
I slipped in to The Abbey for its “friends and family” night late last week. Though it had all the appearances of a fully functioning eatery, they’re still waiting on a few pieces of art to arrive and the kitchen crew are taking extra time to iron out some kinks. In other words, by no means do these photos fully represent what we’ll see on opening day.
I won’t comment in detail on the food I tried because it was their first dry run (everything but booze was on the house), except to say that those appreciative of Durbach’s cooking at its most carnivorous are in for a treat. Think potted oxtail, beef consomme, organic beef patty melts with Tête de Moine cheese and Berkshire bacon, lamb shanks, bangers, hanger steaks, and housemade sausage rolls. There are veggie and fish dishes, too, and they’re hardly after-thoughts (lobster mac & cheese, shrooms on toast, broccoli & cheddar beignets), but I’ll always gravitate to Durbach’s meatier plates. Force of habit, et cetera.
I didn’t get to properly explore the bar program helmed by Ben de Champlain – formerly of Boneta and the winner of Scout’s Bartender of the Year competition in 2012 – but it read like it was totally on point (it was especially nice to finally try a Dageraad beer after reading about the development of the brewery for so long).
Though it was made clear that the design was unfinished, there were finished aspects that caught my eye. I loved, for example, the raised booths running parallel to the bar (so cozy), and coveted the curvy, sleek look of the all-wood high top chairs. Of course the ghosts of Wild Rice are irretrievably embedded in the bones of the place, so the change will take some time getting used to, but it feels relaxed and ready to go. Good times, I suspect, will come naturally to The Abbey. Take a look…
First years are tough for restaurants in Vancouver, where the market is over-saturated and the costs involved are prohibitively high. We mention this (the utterly obvious) because we were cleaning up our photo galleries earlier today and saw that it was the first birthday of Cuchillo, the Latin-flavoured DTES eatery on Powell St. from John Cooper and chef Stu Irving (pictured above). Like nearby Pidgin, they didn’t have the smoothest of starts on account of anti-gentrification activists picketing their front door, but they kept their heads down and concentrated on the things they could control, namely the service of quality food and drink (the protests backfired, handing both restaurants legions of new diners who thought abusing small businesses was an ill-considered response to a complex issue). The photos below reveal how much work went into the build. And so, with that and a sudden craving for battered rockfish tacos, we wish them a very happy birthday!
We’ve invited Vancouver Island’s brand new Wolf In The Fog eatery to join the Restaurants section of our GOODS program as a recommended place to sip and sup in Tofino. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be sharing their news and employment needs on our front page in addition to hosting a page for them in our archive of local and independent goodness. We thank them for their support and for making The Island a more delicious place to be.
by Andrew Morrison & Michelle Sproule | Mount Pleasant residents and fans of The Juice Truck – regularly parked at the foot of Abbott St. in Gastown – will be stoked to learn that the long awaited brick and mortar location opens tomorrow at 28 West 5th Avenue between Manitoba and Ontario.
The good news comes on the heels of a couple of successful dry runs that saw the smooth roll-out of a brand new food program drawn up by Lina Caschetto, who worked previously in the kitchens at Wildebeest, Cuchillo, and Les Faux Bourgeois (chef David Gunawan of Farmer’s Apprentice had originally been tasked with designing the menu, but we assume his upcoming Grapes & Soda project made the collaboration too time-consuming to commit to).
As we noted previously in our original reveal of the space, it’s a multi-purpose joint with retail frontage selling juices, cleanses, and a variety of packaged healthy supplements; a massive, fully operational commissary kitchen that plays double duty making juices and doing food prep (they’re also renting out a corner to the awesome ladies at Culver City Salads); a beautiful community space that’ll seat 26 people for sit-down pop-up suppers, screenings, and workshops galore; and a cozy parking spot for Ol’ Juicy, the truck that started it all.
Hats off to our friends at local design shop Glasfurd & Walker (see also Meat & Bread, Pizzeria Farina, Wildebeest, etc). They are branding wizards primarily, and this is their first interior. We think they’ve really nailed it “on brand” (dig the broccoli and banana bondage posters by Phoebe Glasfurd in the retail area, the three changeling fruit/veg posters by Alex Proba in the community space, and the painting of the Ol’ Juicy by Andy Dixon in the washroom). Take a closer look below…
by Andrew Morrison | I recently took a look inside the construction site of Next Door, the new Italian small plates eatery that is literally next door to its big brother, the award-winning Nicli Antica Pizzeria on East Cordova St. in Gastown. As you can see from the shots below, it’s quite different from its unsuccessful predecessor, Vicino Pastaria & Deli. For starters, the seating capacity has beautifully mushroomed from 16 to 50, which basically transforms the entire space, and it’ll be an evenings-only operation, Wednesday to Saturday.
The concept of shareable “cicchetti”-style small plates will likely fly better. Expect “stuzzichino” snacks like a “Not So Scotch Egg” (Italian sausage wrapped around fresh mozzarella stuffed with a runny egg yolk, served with a spicy egg white aioli), and small plates like Saltspring Island mussels with spicy Italian sausage in a tomato and white wine broth and house-made ricotta gnocchi with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. For drinks, expect classic Italian cocktails and 10 Italian wines by the glass. From the PR:
“Next Door is making the wait for Neapolitan pizza at Nicli that much more enjoyable. We want Next Door to become part of the Nicli experience -you can start with a drink and an appy at Next Door, then go next door to Nicli for pizza. We see Next Door as a place where you can come by for a pre-dinner drink and snack before doing a Gastown hop, or, if you are looking for a night out, order a few more plates and make an evening of it here,” says Nicli and Next Door General Manager Anthony Sterne. “Vancouverites have really taken to share-plate dining and it’s a concept that is very Italian. In Italy, they eat dinner much later than in North America. Evenings generally start by meeting friends for an aperitivo and light snacks followed by a full dinner later and ends with more wine and conversation with more friends. It’s a very social way of life. By opening Next Door, we are hoping to replicate that ‘dolce vita’ feeling.”
They were looking to open as soon as next Thursday, June 26th, but that might prove a little too ambitious. Either way, it looks and sounds like a worthwhile place to check out as soon as it’s unlocked. Stay tuned…
by Andrew Morrison | Bufala, the new pizzeria from Wildebeest owners Josh Pape and James Iranzad, is now officially open at 5395 West Blvd (Arbutus) at West 38th in Kerrisdale. We broke the news of the 55 seater’s imminence exactly a month ago, so it’s been a quick turnaround (find out more about the build here).
Granted, it wasn’t a big construction job, but I like what they’ve done with the place. The booths and the communal table fit the room nicely, and the wee little kitchen bar is pretty adorable. My favourite thing? The corks piled high against the front window (see the first and last photos in the gallery below). These were collected over time at Gastown’s now shuttered Boneta, where the bartenders used to toss the corks behind a partition every time they opened a bottle of wine (I tossed quite a few myself). There must have been a thousand of them by the time Boneta closed last Christmas. It’s nice that Pape and Iranzad – both long-time regulars at Boneta - were able to save them and put them to decorative use.
Anyway, like a good sport I tried to eat my way through the menu last night with the help of friends and family, but I feel like I hardly made a dent. The feasting was fast and furious, but I took a few staccato notes, the first of which reading as follows: “the crust is really good”
And I mean really, really good. Rather than go the traditional Neapolitan “00″ Caputo flour route, they’re using a mix of bread flour and Pape’s family wheat flour (from Vancouver Island) with a sourdough starter. It’s turned out to be an excellent blend, and despite the comparative low heat/slower baking time of their double decker electric oven (compared to wood-burning ovens and most other electric ovens), the dough still achieves good char-pimpling and retains its heat and structural integrity long enough for a full pie to be enjoyed (ie. it doesn’t flop but can fold, libretto-style, without creasing). The taste is there – subtle, singed, superb - and so is the chew, which is consistent from rim to center. And to have the crust play a different tune, simply anoint it with any of the four different bottled oils provided (ham, parmesan, herb, chili).
As for the sauces, the rosso is made from Italian plum tomatoes (not San Marzanos) and the bianco is straight bechamel spread thinly with a hint of nutmeg. The toppings, mercifully, stay at home in both sauces, which is to say that they don’t slide around like messy, untrustworthy bastards.
And that’s a good thing, as the toppings are really what makes Bufala special. The house smoked ham and pea bianco pizza with truffle oil and taleggio, for example, is absolutely revelatory, on par with the best pies I’ve ever had at my favourite Vancouver pizzeria, Barbarella (It’s already 24 hours later and I’m still thinking about it). The unlikely bedfellow oxtail and kale pizza was also a winner on account of its originality and the punch of its roasted garlic, as was the far more standard (but equally impactful) pesto and ricotta bianco.
In all, there are 11 pizzas to choose from, and nearly all of them will lift your brow. Think bacon and clam, bresaola and horseradish, sausage and Wildebeest’s famous smoked castelvetrano olives, et cetera. Given the kitchen’s background in butchery and charcuterie, and the proximity of the Kerrisdale Farmer’s Market (across the street), every ingredient that makes it onto a pie is either going to be made in-house or vetted, hawk-like, for quality and provenance.
The menu also includes many starters (love that kale Caesar!), sides, and shareables, not mention a full spread of desserts, wines, beers, and cocktails. But it’s the pizzas that’ll make people swoon. The West Side – when it finds this new arrival in its midst – will almost certainly rejoice…