by Andrew Morrison | Nook & Tavola owners Mike Jeffs and Nicole Welsh have just signed a lease on the old Rossini’s spot at 1525 Yew Street, just a short putt from Cornwall and Kits Beach. I took a look at the building this morning and it’s in the midst of a ground-up redux, completely boarded up and gutted.
Rossini’s, you may remember, was a Vancouver institution for 18 years until it shuttered a couple of years ago. Owned by well-liked drummer, Arni May, it was one of Vancouver’s last remaining restaurants featuring live music, namely Jazz (May, who passed away last December, backed up Elvis Presley when he was a teenager). Proximity to the ocean aside, it’s a killer address, one with lots of history. Linton Garner, Denny Clark, Eve Smith, Michael Buble – all made it their home at one point or another.
Details as to what Jeffs and Welsh are going to do with the revamped space remain sketchy, but from what I’ve gathered it looks that it will see a delicatessen/take-out shop by day and a new version of Nook by night. ETA is estimated for Spring/Summer 2013.
We have invited Nook restaurant on Robson to join our Goods section. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be publishing their news on our front page and hosting a page for them in our list of local and independent goodness. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of our little website. If you think yours would be a good fit for Scout, we want to know.
Word has arrived that “Tavola”, the replacement for Tapastree, has opened softly on Robson just west of Denman. Details here:
The West End’s trailblazing Tapastree at 1829 Robson is set to close on September 15th and then reopen as an Italian restaurant called Tavola (”Table”) at the beginning of October. The transformation will see the room down-sized from 65 seats to about 50, with the 10 seat bar standing pat. Owner/chef Mike Jeffs is looking to do a series of shared entrees (like a 30 ounce Bistecca alla Fiorentina), pastas made in house, and a big antipasti bar paired with a wine list of BC and Italian labels.
It might seem crazy at first glance to close a successful and often extremely busy neighbourhood restaurant to roll the dice on an entirely new and untested one in the same location, but 13 years is like 50 in this industry, and Jeffs and partner Nicole Welsh are looking forward to trying something new. With the success of their Italian-themed Nook around the corner on Denman, I don’t see this as a shot in the dark, but rather as a calculated means of staying sane and happy. Good on them.
And good luck. Take a gander at the menu after the jump. Looks tasty… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | A month ago we broke the news that the West End’s popular Tapastree would shutter and reopen as an Italian restaurant called “Spuntino”, meaning “quick bite”. We’re now told that the name of the project, which you can read about here, has been changed to “Tavola”, meaning “table”. Opening day is still slated for October.
The West End’s trailblazing Tapastree at 1829 Robson is set to close on September 15th and then reopen as an Italian restaurant called Tavola (“Table”) at the beginning of October. The transformation will see the room down-sized from 65 seats to about 50, with the 10 seat bar standing pat. Owner/chef Mike Jeffs is looking to do a series of shared entrees (like a 30 ounce Bistecca alla Fiorentina), pastas made in house, and a big antipasti bar paired with a wine list of BC and Italian labels.
It might seem crazy at first glance to close a successful and often extremely busy neighbourhood restaurant to roll the dice on an entirely new and untested one in the same location, but 13 years is like 50 in this industry, and Jeffs and partner Nicole Welsh are looking forward to trying something new. With the success of their Italian-themed Nook around the corner on Denman, I don’t see this as a shot in the dark, but rather as a calculated means of staying sane and happy. Good on them. Look for more info on the changes and the menu in next Thursday’s Westender, where my column will look at four new restaurants that are coming our way soon.
In the meantime, make haste to this legend before it’s too late.
Nicole Welsh and Mike Jeffs of the West End’s much-loved and undersung Tapastree restaurant have been busily putting together a new, casual Italian mini-joint called “Nook” in the former (and mercifully short-lived) “Schnitzelz” location at 781 Denman (just around the corner from Tapastree and right across the street from Kintaro).
From the looks of what I could make out of the interior (it was really dark outside and my camera flash + glass window = dumb idea), it appears as if perennial heavy lifters Scott Cohen and Stephan Gagnon (the builders behind rooms like Le Faux Bourgeois, Jules Bistro, the new Nuba, Bistrot Bistro, and Gastropod) have put together about 30-35 seats with a lengthy, soda-shoppe sort of open kitchen bar. The red stools and chairs look built for broad bums, super comfy. Read more
781 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC
Email: nookrestaurant [at] gmail.com
Hours: open 7 days a week from 5pm
Owners Mike Jeffs (chef) and Nicole Welsh
Nook is a cozy pizza, pasta and antipasto restaurant in the West End of Vancouver. The room has a vibrancy to it as the thin crust pizzas and pastas are prepared in an open kitchen near the back of the room and antipasto items – crostinis, Burrata, La Quercia Prosciutto and salami platters are at the front of the room. The menu is kept intentionally small and focussed so that we can feature a number of daily specials. The wine list is all Italian and features many hard to find labels with the majority being served by the glass. If you are looking for a place with really good food, really good wine, great energy with a knowlegeable staff and a fun soundtrack playing throughout the room – Nook is the spot for you.
Vancouver Courier | Tim Pawsey
Perched on a stool at the corner of the bar of West End restaurant Nook, the Hired Belly and his team of selfless researchers suddenly find themselves in foodie heaven, working through a fresh and flavour-packed list that yields no end of delight and surprise.
Newly minted Nook (781 Denman St., ph. 604-568-4554) is a sibling to nearby Tapastree, just around the corner–itself a long-running, notable haunt and one of the city’s earliest small plates proponents. Maybe that explains how this one-time schnitzel house seems to have been effortlessly transformed into a “serious” yet unpretentious Italian haunt focused on authentic plates and soundly sourced ingredients.
No surprise, Nook has already been discovered by locals and tourists alike, so your visit might start with a bit of a wait. But the rewards are worth any time put in at the door. Not only that, the staff is alert to who’s in line and makes sure you’re seated as soon as possible.
Offered the chance, we jumped at the bar. Designed as much for dining as for sipping from the room’s smart, well-priced and almost entirely Italian list, it doubles as the room’s charcuterie and cold plates prep station, a forward outpost of the bustling open kitchen in back, which concentrates on pasta and pizza.
Soon we’re sipping on floral Falanghina ($34), fighting over tastes of prosciutto-wrapped figs and a medley of crostini, with inventive toppings such as ricotta with grilled radicchio, pistachio and fireweed honey ($6). These and a salami plate are prepared bar-side, by the ever attentive Christy, who manages to make us feel more than welcome as she juggles her orders.
The kitchen obliges with fresh, handmade gnocchi with meatball morsels ($15), as well as roasted tomato, olive, onion and ricotta-laden pizza ($14). When it comes to the temptation of affogato (ice cream bathed in espresso, $6) and liquor-soaked tiramisu (arguably one of the best we’ve tasted, also $6), resistance proves futile.
Next day, I return before opening hours to find the room in full play, literally, with sound system cranked to build the night’s energy, with most of the activity around the kitchen’s pastry board, as the evening’s supplies of gnocchi, ravioli and other pasta are being made from scratch–just one crucial element of Nook’s early success.
Truly good restaurants don’t merely satisfy, they titillate, seduce at every level and wrap you in the comfort of their rhythm–so much so, that you can’t wait to come back.
Put Nook in the book.
Westender | Andrew Morrison
The southern blocks of Denman Street are filled with some of the city’s most narrowly focused food shops, little one-trick-pony altars to indulgence that reflect the neighourhood’s sizeable 40-and-under demographic and its seasonal influx of beach-loving visitors: Dairy Queen, gelaterias, a chocolatier, and chain outlets exclusively dedicated to cupcakes, cookies, and cream puffs, never mind Vera’s Burger Shack, Fatburger, and all those pizza and gyro joints. Quite rightly, the stretch between West Georgia and Davie boasts a variety of nicknames, among them Sweet Street and Heart Attack Row. My personal favourite is Fatassenstrasse.
There is noticeably less of this along the blocks of Denman further to the north, between Robson and West Georgia, where the success and relative longevity of restaurants including Kintaro, Café de Paris, and Tapastree combine to cast an air of culinary seriousness that neatly counters the gastronomic frivolousness up the street. New restaurants here are few and far between. Last summer, while looking for a new place to test drive, I chanced upon Schnitzelz, a then new fast-food concept that saw the tired old Austrian staple reinvented (and misspelled) in many guises, none of them remotely appetizing. But what the hell, I thought, I might as well. Two bites into my meal, however, I’d had enough. As is true of much to eat on Denman, it wasn’t worth writing about.
Fast-forward nine months, and Schnitzelz has been put out of its misery and replaced by Nook, a small Italian trattoria that has four things going for it right out of the gate.
First, instead of being another chain restaurant or another beast born of high-fructose corn syrup, Nook is brought to us by Nicole Welsh and Mike Jeffs of Tapastree, the small-plates mecca located just around the corner. They bring with them battalions of established customers, and the goodwill of a community already familiar with them.
Second, Nook is pretty, having been designed by Scott Cohen and Stephan Gagnon, the duo behind good-looking rooms including Les Faux Bourgeois, Jules Bistro, Bistrot Bistro, and the newest location of Nuba. Distinguished by a long 12-seat bar lined with chrome-legged highchairs upholstered in garish red, and cream-tiled walls and floors, it’s a classic diner made Euro. A meat slicer is positioned front and centre, and staff are dressed head to toe in black. The music sways comically from obscure ’80s rock to dub reggae.
Third, Italian cuisine is staging a big comeback in Vancouver right now. The recently opened L’Altro Buca, just a few blocks away on Haro Street, was the first new Italian restaurant the West End had seen in many years, and it’s doing gangbusters. Clearly, an audience for Nook exists.
Fourth, the prices play to these recessionary times. None of the dishes are over $15.
So, yeah, talk about ducks in a row. The only way Nook might have screwed it up would have been if the kitchen couldn’t cook or if the service proved irredeemably awful. Happily, both are bang on.
The meat-heavy menu smartly avoids the kitchen-sink temptations that the challenge of Italian cuisine brings out in non-Italians. Very good crostini ($6 each) opened the meal: the white bean and olive version was smooth then pungent; the grilled radicchio and candied pistachios on ricotta with fireweed honey was a dance between bitter and sweet; the caper-topped chicken liver spread was a simple, crunchy, and savoury treat that needed nothing more nor anything less. A fourth version (on the specials board) came topped with a seasonal tower of mashed green peas, fresh tomato, and mozzarella — basic, flavourful, and evocative of the height of summer (which, let us not forget, is still to come), this was the best of the lot.
A selection of antipasto followed, including bowls of olives ($4), delicious little meatballs ($9), and thin wedges of quality focaccia ($4), upon which we laid long sheets of too-lean prosciutto and olive-oil-doused buffalo mozzarella ($12). We also enjoyed a taster of very good salami (from Seattle’s famed Salumi) that included a mild soppressata and a sweet and spicy dark-molé type ($12).
A gas-fueled pizza oven produces surprisingly fine thin-crust pies, each priced between $13 and $15. (A wood-burning oven would be ideal, but there are only a handful in the entire Lower Mainland). My wife and I sliced through a pie loaded with fresh arugula, prosciutto, and roasted garlic, and eyed five others that were just as refreshingly uncomplicated. There were six pastas along the same lines and price points: The pesto with sundried tomato and pine nuts was fresh and lively; and the orecchiette with sausage, fennel, and chilies provided a solid punch. But the bolognese was prepped debole, the mildly-flavoured southern version, red-tinged with the kiss of tomato paste. I would have preferred the brown, significantly richer robusto ragu style characteristic of the north.
I love Nook for its simple approach to an often over-complicated milieu, and for its utter lack of pretense. I also like that it only serves Italian beer (Moretti, Menabrea, and Peroni; $6 each), and that the almost exclusively Italian wine list is abrupt and well chosen. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that I didn’t like about the place. That’s only partly because small, original, and charming neighbourhood restaurants are increasingly rare in these days of big-box hegemony, and rarer still on a street defined by sugary superfluousness. Mostly, it’s because the food is good and affordable. It’s always exciting to see a place like this open, but it’s even more exciting to know it will survive.