Cactus Club | Place, Restaurant | A chain restaurant with countless locations across the Lower Mainland (and beyond) that is famed for its unsubtle habit of hiring young, attractive females and for bringing in chef Rob Feenie as their “Food Concept Architect” after he was famously ousted from his own restaurants (Lumiere, Feenie’s) in 2008. They may have dressed it up plenty since Feenie’s arrival with new menus, Warhols, Basquiats, and sprawling new locations of steel, concrete and glass, but it’s still a chain restaurant of the cookie cutter mould, and is therefore largely bereft of personality.
Usage | “It’s amazing that no one ever complains to the Employment Standards Branch about the employee dress expectations at the Cactus Club.”
Bishop’s | Restaurant | A Vancouver institution named for its owner, John Bishop, a silver-haired Welsh gentleman. Opened on West 4th Avenue in 1986, Bishop’s is famous for its love affair with local, sustainable, and organic ingredients, as well as its support for local artists. It is one of the last bastions of fine dining in Vancouver. Many of BC’s best restaurant talents have worked here, among them Vikram Vij, Jeff Van Geest, Andrea Carlson, James Walt, Carol Chow, and Michael Allemeier (even Rob Feenie pulled a shift or two).
Usage | “I had dinner at Bishop’s last night and the service blew my mind.”
by Andrew Morrison | Patrick Corsi and Alex Tsakumis of Kitsilano’s Q4 (formerly “Quattro on Fourth”) have just picked up the old DB Bistro/Feenie’s and Lumiere spaces at 2551 West Broadway. The lease was signed on Friday, and the loose ends of the deal was completed today.
These are iconic locations in the pantheon of Vancouver’s restaurant scene. I can’t count on my hands and feet the number of great cooks, servers, sommeliers, bartenders and managers that worked these rooms and kitchens in years gone by. Few other addresses have spawned so many others. Would we have a Boneta, Ensemble, Farina, Tableau, L’Abattoir, Cadeaux, or Cabana without it? Perhaps not. Would the Cactus Club be anywhere near as tolerable as it is today? Definitely not. The Guggenheimer Dog Gobble would never have happened! Perish the thought…
For the DB/Feenie’s side, they’re thinking about turning it into another Q4 and changing the original on West 4th into something else. As for Lumiere, they’re planning on turning it into a cool little wine bar. Still, nothing is certain just yet. “This literally just happened, and it happened very fast,” Corsi told me this afternoon, adding: “we weren’t even looking!”
Their realtor convinced them to take a peek nevertheless, and they liked what they saw. According to Corsi, the million dollar “rockstar kitchens” (as he puts it) hadn’t been totally stripped. As for the condition of the rooms, they’re apparently in great shape as well. We can expect a quick turn-around. Opening day should come at some point in May.
Bonus weirdness: DB Bistro and Lumiere closed exactly one year ago today.
The GOODS from Okanagan Crush Pad
Kelowna, BC | BC’s own Chef Rob Feenie, food concept architect for Cactus Restaurants Ltd., won silver at the national Gold Medal Plates competition. Chef Feenie selected Haywire Winery’s Pinot Noir to pair with his dish at the Canadian Culinary Championship’s grand finale. Feenie captured a national silver medal when he and his team created a Fraser Valley rabbit duo – a rabbit bacon presse, with foie gras boudin, brown butter carrot puree and black truffle jus, accompanied by Haywire’s Pinot Noir at the Canadian Culinary Championships grand finale event for the Gold Medal Plates national competition. As the only competing chef from BC and paired with a BC winery, Chef Feenie took home the silver medal in front of the home crowd on Saturday night. The team from Haywire is especially proud: Chef Feenie also chose Haywire’s Pinot Gris for his dish at the Vancouver Gold Medal Plates competition last fall, where he captured the gold medal.
After nine competitions across the country, the winning chef from each of the nine cities met at the national competition. The winner of the gold and the Canadian Culinary Champion was chef Marc Lepine of Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa.
Winery owner Christine Coletta was “so proud to see Rob Feenie win the silver.” She notes, “it was great to see culinary talent from across Canada in the Okanagan, and to have our Okanagan wine be part of the silver medal win at home was priceless.” Read more
by Andrew Morrison | I’m leaving early for Kelowna and the Canadian Culinary Championships (#CCC) this afternoon. It is Canada’s biggest cooking competition. It includes three bouts between the country’s best chefs over two gruelling days. We’ll of course be publishing during this time (and plenty), but I wanted to invite readers to follow along with the #CCC action on Scout’s social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – which I’ll be feeding quite a bit with photos and updates. For the past five years, wine guru Sid Cross and I have shared the honour of being the Senior Judges representing BC at the annual competition. I’ve also enjoyed being the National Referee (I don’t get a whip or a whistle, but they did give me a gold toothpick once, for real).
All told, we get to see and taste some pretty outstanding plates of superness, not to mention have quite a good time. If you’re really into food porn and fetishize the hell out of competitions, be sure to keep abreast so that you might salivate profusely over all the deliciousness that comes our way in relatively real time.
Here are the competitors. Remember that each of the following defeated 10 other regional heavyweights to get this far…
Winnipeg | Michael Dacquisto – WOW Hospitality
Montreal | Jean-Philippe St-Denis – Kitchen Galerie Poisson
Calgary | Michael Dekker – Rouge
Edmonton | Jan Trittenbach – Packrat Louie
Vancouver | Rob Feenie – Cactus Club
Saskatoon | Anthony McCarthy – Saskatoon Club
Toronto | Jonathan Gushue – Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa
Ottawa | Marc Lepine – Atelier
St. John’s | Mike Barsky – Bacalao
GOLD: Martin Juneau of Newtown in Montreal
SILVER: Jeremy Charles of Raymonds in St. John’s
BRONZE: Robert Clark of C Restaurant in Vancouver
GOLD Mathieu Cloutier – Kitchen Gallerie, Montréal
SILVER David Lee – Nota Bene
BRONZE Matthew Carmichael – Restaurant 18
GOLD Hayato Okamitsu – Catch Restaurant, Calgary
SILVER Frank Pabst – Blue Water Café
BRONZE Deff Haupt – Le Renoir
GOLD Melissa Craig – The Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler
SILVER Anthony Walsh – Canoe
BRONZE Roland Ménard – Manior Hovey
GOLD Makoto Ono – Gluttons Bistro, Winnipeg
SILVER Michael Blackie – Perspectives Restaurant
BRONZE Mark McEwan – Bymark
The #CCC actually starts each autumn, as each major city across the nation puts their top toques through a local meat grinder called Gold Medal Plates. Net proceeds are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, which supports athletes and high performance programs such as Own the Podium. To date, over $5 million has been raised.
In Vancouver, beating out Ensemble’s Dale Mackay (again) and Bao Bei’s Joel Watanabe this year was the grand maestro, Rob Feenie of the Cactus Club. This is Feenie’s second time to the national dance, and I reckon he’s mighty keen to take home the elusive gold. For an explainer as to how the whole shebang works, here’s a video diary I shot from a few years back at the competition in Banff, when Vancouver was being represented by Frank Pabst of Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe. As you can see, winning ain’t easy, and Montreal’s been on a roll…
Within and without the circles I swim in, there seems to be a wide range of opinion as to why Lumiere and DB Bistro are closing. What’s yours?
Thanks! Now consider paying them a final visit. Both restaurants are open for another 13 days…
by Andrew Morrison | The Vancouver Gold Medal Plates went down at the Sheraton Wall Center last night. The chefs vying for gold and the opportunity to compete at February’s Canadian Culinary Championships were as follows: Neil Taylor (Cibo Trattoria), Quang Dang (Diva at the Met), Darren Brown (Coast), Nico Schuermans (Chambar), Cam Smith and Dana Ewart (Joy Road), Nicholas Nutting (The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn), Roger Sleiman (Quails’ Gate Winery), Stuart Klassen (Delta Grand) and Robert Clark (C Restaurant). The wineries in pairing action were all local: LaStella, Black Hills, Sandhill, Aces, Tantalus, Painted Rock, 8th Generation, Quails’ Gate, Laughing Stock, and Foxtrot.
It was the fastest GMP I’d ever judged. At our table (joined by last year’s winner, Rob Feenie, and sequestered away from the 700+ crowd), we plowed through the 10 dishes in just under two hours. We saw very little in the way of drama, but there was some negligence. One dish arrived stone cold, another was fumbled in delivery, and one of the wine pairings arrived corked (swiftly replaced). Temperature aside, there certainly weren’t any duds in the lot; the level of cooking being absolutely top drawer.
We structured the order with the gentlest flavours and lighter whites starting us off and the bolder reds (both meats and wines) shutting us down. Scoring was done for presentation (20 points), texture (20 points), taste (30 points), wine compatibility (10 points), originality (10 points), and wow factor (10 points), adding up to a possible 100 points. The lowest score that I gave was 62, while my highest was 83. The judges scores for each chef/dish are added up at the end in a private room, and the math determines who wins.
On Friday, October 29th at Vancouver’s Wall Center, 10 of BC’s best chefs will compete at the Gold Medal Plates competition for the opportunity to represent our province at the Canadian Culinary Championships, held in Kelowna on February 18th and 19th. Each year, Sid Cross and I are asked for our input on who should be invited to compete, and I’m thrilled by the final list, which sees great representation from Vancouver, the Okanagan, and Vancouver Island. They are…
Darren Brown | Coast
Robert Clarke | C Restaurant
Quang Dang | Diva at the Met
Stuart Klassen | Delta Grand, Kelowna
Dale MacKay | Lumière
Nicholas Nutting | The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino
Nico Schuermans | Chambar
Roger Sleiman | Quails’ Gate Winery, Kelowna
Cam Smith & Sana Ewart | Joy Road, Penticton
Neil Taylor | Cibo Trattoria
If you want to see how it all went down last year, click here. For all the ticket, time and date details of the coming comp, click here. Also, take a look at the video we shot last year to show what it’s like behind the scenes of the national championships…
A couple of days ago we broke the news that the Cactus Club was the winning bid being recommended to the Parks Board to operate their new restaurant space and concession at English Bay. It was pending approval, but now it’s official. Construction begins in September, with the opening day slated for June 2011. Check after the jump for the details… Read more
From the little known Department of You Knew It Was Going To Happen comes news that the Cactus Club has been recommended to the Parks Board as the best overall bidder aiming to operate the upcoming, brand-new super-spanking English Bay beachfront restaurant and concession in Vancouver’s West End. The project still needs final approval, mind, but it reads like a good fit.
I’m very sorry that it has taken me so long to throw this video together. I had several gigs of footage and photos and no time to splice and dice this week, plus I didn’t want to have it up before my story about the Canadian Culinary Championships was published in the paper (yesterday). Alas, it is done now (albeit in a hurry), a referee/judge’s eye view of the proceedings from the very start to the very end. I hope you enjoy it and the many dozens of photos below. My friend and colleague James Chatto (head judge) has written a thorough synopsis, one which my skills could never match, so I’ve included it in its entirety after the pictures. Read more
UPDATE: Mathieu Cloutier of Montreal’s “Kitchen Gallery” won
I’ve been buried judging and refereeing the Canadian Culinary Championships for the last two days so I apologise for the lack of posts/updates. The seven competing chefs finished the wine pairing competition last night at Republic (the mystery wine being the Black Hills “Alibi”), and the Black Box competition has just finished here at The Sheraton Wall Center.
Who’s competing? Each winning chef from the seven Gold Medal Plates competitions held this Fall across the country:
Vancouver | Rob Feenie
Ottawa | Matthew Carmichael
Montreal | Mathieu Cloutier
Edmonton | Nathin Bye
Canmore | Jan Hrabec
St. Johns | Ivan Kyutukchiev
Toronto | David Lee
My friend Sid Cross and I were tasked with choosing today’s 6 mystery ingredients, and we came up with a vicious assortment: fresh fennel, dragon fruit, whole jumbo quail, arctic char, arborio rice, and bottle of R&B Brewing Co.’s “Hoppelganger” India Pale Ale. The chefs had only 10 minutes to dream up two dishes that would incorporate all of the ingredients, and then just 50 minutes to prepare them. It was intense, to say the least, and the results across the board were remarkably impressive. What’s more, only one chef was injured (a minor nick to an Edmontonian index finger). A good day.
I’ll have more on the morrow, but in the meantime I have to head back down to the kitchens to ensure the rules are being followed to the letter. I’ll be tweeting updates on my cell throughout the evening, so if you’re not yet following Scout on Twitter, please do. You’ll be among the first to learn who the new national culinary champion is later tonight.
PS. Rest assured, Video and hundreds of photos won’t be too far behind. If you have no clue what any of this is about and would like to see more, I’ve included a video that I shot from last year’s CCC, held in Banff, Alberta. Check it out after the jump… Read more
“Comeback” might be a bit of a loaded word, but it fits to an arguable degree. After Rob Feenie left his eponymous Feenie’s restaurant and flagship Lumiere two years ago and landed as the Food Concept Architect for the Cactus Club chain, it could have easily been assumed that he had bought a one way ticket to the wilderness of the restaurant world. But last night, at the prestigious Vancouver Gold Medal Plates cooking competition, he bested nine of BC’s greatest chefs and reminded this town of his incredibly refined talent by taking gold. And he totally deserved it. Read more