Chinatown, a commercial (and increasingly residential) neighbourhood within the Downtown Eastside, has been one of Vancouver’s most vibrant areas since the City’s beginnings. It got its start as a ghetto on the edge of the Granville Townsite in the late 1880′s, when scores of Chinese immigrants arrived to work BC’s mines and build its railroads. The institutional racism of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 and the anti-animated neon signage laws of 1974 did little to curb its vibrancy, and today it is home to an eclectic mix of traditional and trendy eateries, markets (both day and night), gardens, temples, and a wide assortment of businesses ranging from tea shops and apothecaries to art galleries and vintage stores. Its borders are squared roughly by Abbott/Taylor (west), Gore (east), Pender (north), and Keefer/East Georgia (south). The 200 block of Union St. (between Main and Gore) is technically part of Chinatown, but we count the section east of its alleyway as a part of Strathcona.
Blue/Orange facades of Ho Sun Hing Printers & Fresh Egg Mart on East Georgia; the leafiness of Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Gardens; omnipresent decorative red and gold; freshly horked old man loogie; marinated eggplant with soy, garlic, and ginger at Bao Bei; stinky summer fish gut puddle; dead alleyway pigeon tri-colour; dried tokay gecko on a stick.
DEAD LIZARDS FOR YOUR PENIS*
$8.99 (AND CHEAPER) HAIRCUTS
EXCELLENT PARADES WITH BAGPIPES & DRAGONS
THE RENNIE COLLECTION AT WING SANG
A LITTLE QUIET SOLITUDE AT DR. SUN-YAT SEN GARDEN
OUT OF THE ORDINARY ANTIQUES
THE OCCASIONAL RAT
PRESENTS FOR YOUR MOM
GAMES OF POOL AT THE LONDON PUB
THE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE KEEFER PARKADE
AN UNSUSTAINABLE AMOUNT OF MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES
SWEET VINTAGE AT DUCHESSE
THE NICE GUYS AT THE SHOP
THE PLAZA SKATEPARK
SUPPLIES FOR LIQUOR LOVERS
A WHOLE LOTTA PIGEONS
LEATHER BAGS AT ERIN TEMPLETON
THE JIMI HENDRIX SHRINE
* the dried lizards (tokay geckos) are a traditional Chinese medicine for impotence, tuberculosis, and asthma.
MARINATED EGGPLANT (OR PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING) AT BAO BEI
APOTHECARY COCKTAILS AT THE KEEFER BAR
LATE NIGHT FRIED RICE AT GAIN WAH
ICE CREAM SANDWICHES FROM SCENT OF A SANDWICH
BBQ DUCK AT MONEY FOODS
COFFEE & CINNAMON TOAST AT MATCHSTICK
APPLE PIE FROM THE PIE SHOPPE
CHICKEN WINGS & GARLIC PRAWNS AT PHNOM PENH
THE BURGER AT MAMIE TAYLOR’S
PORK BUNS AT NEW TOWN BAKERY
SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM FROM PRIME TIME CHICKEN
POTATO TORNADOES AT THE NIGHT MARKET
PORK THURINGER CURRYWURST AT BESTIE
- The oldest standing structure in Chinatown is the Wing Sang Building on Pender, built in 1889 by Chinatown pioneer Yip Sang.
- Market Alley, spanning from Main Street and Carrall between Hastings and Pender, was a turn-of-the-century hotspot for opium production, gambling, and after-hours debauchery.
- Dr. Sun Yet-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was the first of its kind to be constructed outside of China.
- Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada and one of the largest in North America.
- A city ordinance was passed in 1937 that prohibited Chinese-owned restaurants from employing white women. In 1939, city council amended the law to permit white waitresses in Chinatown restaurants that served “English meals to English customers”.
The GOODS from Bao Bei
Vancouver, BC | Due to customer demand, the award-winning Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has expanded its hours to include Monday evenings. Meaning “precious” in Mandarin, Bao Bei opened in January of 2010 in the heart of Chinatown with the hope of complimenting the neighbourhood’s special charms. Chef Joël Watanabe uses French techniques and a Japanese eye for presentation to refine traditional Shanghainese flavours, creating unique dishes in the process that maintain authenticity yet display a more modern approach. To learn more about the restaurant, click after the jump… Read more
Job posting from Scout supporter Bao Bei
Vancouver, BC | Bao Bei is looking for an organised, hard working cook to run the garde manger station full-time at our busy, award-winning modern Chinese restaurant. 5 years cooking experience desired (Chinese food knowledge a plus but not necessary). Must also be adept on saute section. Committed professionals without attitude need only apply to joelwatanabe2000 [at] yahoo [dot ca]. Find out more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
Chinatown’s award-winning Bao Bei is now a proud member supporter of Scout. We will be publishing their news on our front page and hosting a page for them in our list of recommended restaurants to check out. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of our little website. Click ahead to read on or jump directly to their Scout page here… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | As one of several enRoute magazine’s regional advisors for their annual Top 10 Best New Restaurants in Canada issue, I was not a little stoked this morning to find that one of my favourites for 2010 had cracked the top three (they don’t tell us in advance). Our sincerest congratulations to Tannis Ling and her staff at Chinatown’s Bao Bei. Just making it onto this list is an honour, and being named #2 is huge. Comment on whether or not there were other Vancouver restaurants that should have been recognised and find out which other joints made the grade after the jump… Read more
It’s possibly only a matter of a day or two (again, crossing my fingers and knocking on wood) before Vancouver gets treated to Bao Bei. I checked it out again last night in its final construction phase, and I can say without any reservation that’s really looking beautiful (see for yourself below). For those of our newer readers who’ve never heard of the place before, the Chinatown restaurant is widely acknowledged in trade circles to be the city’s most highly anticipated room. Here’s what we wrote about it when we first broke the news of its coming last May… Read more
Returned to Bao Bei in Chinatown tonight for another glance. It’s come along plenty in just the last few days. I’m loving the details that have popped up so far: lots of recycled stuff like unique lamp shades in the bar and stools so grand-maternally homey that they couldn’t not have come from your grandma’s house. All the little design choices that have been made to date have been great, and it is hoped that chef Joel Watanabe should start testing in the kitchen soon. Mmm…soupy dumplings, soupy dumplings, soupy dumplings. I am ready for you. Read more
On assignment for Van Mag last night I interviewed the good folks of Bao Bei again at their Chinatown construction site. While we were walking out of the space I spied this t-shirted character standing guard. They’ve taken to calling him “Wilson”, presumably after Tom Hanks’ volleyball in Castaway. I don’t know…he rather reminds me of Treebeard, the leader of Tolkien’s anthropomorphic tree creatures in the Two Towers (aka “Ents”). Either way, he keeps them company as they toil, is celebrated as their “first customer”, and is about as random as it gets. The restaurant, by the way, is coming along nicely. I’m particularly excited about Joel Watanabe’s menu (which sounds freakin’ awesome), and hope to sup from it before the New Year. Mmm, dumplings…
Paul Grunberg, once upon a time the Chambar general manager who moved on to midwife the successful launch of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market restaurant in the Shangri-La, is heading for a new challenge: consulting front of house for Tannis Ling and the highly anticipated launch of her new Chinatown restaurant, Bao Bei. An official press release should start making the rounds in the next couple of days. We’ve seen a draft copy (subject to change), and have it excerpted below: Read more
This has already been described as a Sophie’s Choice of sorts by someone following Scout on twitter. I totally agree. Still, it’s fun to throw down with your opinion every once in a while, and anonymity makes it so much easier.
THE CHINATOWN CHOICE…
Bao Bei, the much anticipated 2200 sq ft, 50 seat modern Chinese restaurant on Chinatown’s Keefer St (owned/run by Tannis Ling, lately of Chambar), is still on for the end of November. Aside from killer cocktails, Ling says we can expect “lots of noodles, dumplings, drunken chicken – stuff like that”.
The Keefer also sounds awesome: “…guests mingle with adventurous locals and graze on Asian street tapas, while well versed bartenders spin classic cocktails using fresh ingredients from local Chinatown markets.” Two Chefs And A Table are doing the food, and word is bar manager Dani Tatarin is leaving db Bistro to run the show (confirmed – thanks SB).
I’ll be drinking at both, making my conscience clear. So…
As regular Scout readers and restaurant watchers are keenly aware, bartender Tannis Ling, who was at Chambar from 2005 until just over a month ago, is working on opening a modern, cocktail-forward Shanghainese/Taiwanese restaurant called “Bao Bei” at 163 Keefer Street in Chinatown proper. After getting to know Tannis a little by watching the interview above, read all about her plans here.
Saturday was Tannis Ling’s last day bartending at Chambar, which means things are going to be accelerating at the Chinatown construction site (163 Keefer St.) that will eventually become her first restaurant, Bao Bei (Mandarin for “darling”). Scout broke the news of its coming back on May 16th, the day after Ling took possession. Take a look at the photos below, keeping in mind that it’s still a shell and that the horrific burnt orange colour (what a friend calls “seven shades of Tuscan regret”) is from the old tenant, and is in the process of being primed over to eventually become a soft white. Read more
Bartender Tannis Ling, a fixture on the wood and well at Chambar since 2005, has just signed a lease that has given her possession of 163 Keefer Street, a space just around the corner from Main St. in Chinatown proper (MAP).
Her plan? A modern Shanghainese/Taiwanese joint called “Bao Bei”. The small, 2200 sq ft, 50 seat room will feature an 8 seat bar (naturally) and a kitchen window not unlike the slit pass at Chambar. For the etymologists among you, the name is a Chinese term of endearment that translates along the same lines as precious, darling, honey, et cetera (a wonderful name).
Her mother’s cooking is the main inspiration behind the food concept. Nothing is set in stone just yet but she says that we can expect “lots of noodles, dumplings, drunken chicken – stuff like that”. Though the menu will see some experimentation, she carefully points out that there’ll be “nothing crazy”, hastily adding that it won’t be fusion. “I’m going to try to keep it as authentic as possible”.
Quality Chinese food + Tannis’ cocktails = lots of people, there. I assume (quite safely, I should think) that she won’t have to wait long for her first packed service with this, her first restaurant. I’m really looking forward to it, and I know I’m not alone.
If you’ve ever taken a stool at Chambar, it’s very likely that she’s served you and served you well. Tannis is highly respected in local barkeep circles. She is, without a doubt, considered one of the top bartenders in this increasingly tough bartender town. When she competes on any given Sunday, she can blow the boys away. She often does.
Tannis will stay on at Chambar until the end of June. She hopes to open Bao Bei by the early Fall.
PS. Doesn’t it seem as if everyone you’ve ever wanted to see open a restaurant on their own is doing just that, right now?
PPS. And there are more to come…
Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm – Midnight.
Open Mondays from Nov. 29 – Dec. 31.
Owner: Tannis Ling
General Manager: Chen-Wei Lee
Head Chef: Joël Watanabe
Bar Manager: Derek Granton
About Bao Bei
Meaning “precious” in Mandarin, Bao Bei opened in January of 2010 in the heart of Chinatown with the hope of recreating that special charm that the area used to have. We specialize in rustic Chinese small plates meant for a more intimate dining experience. Chef Joël Watanabe, utilizes French techniques and the Japanese eye for plating and presentation to refine traditional flavours, creating unique dishes that maintain authenticity yet display a modern approach. All our ingredients are locally sourced, organic, hormone free and sustainable and not to worry, we do not use MSG in anything. Derek Granton oversees the bar with a diverse beer list, a succinct but smart wine list and an imaginative cocktail program using ingredients found in neighbouring Chinatown herbal shops that owner, Tannis Ling, grew up with. The room is a labour of love with elements of a traditional French brasserie intertwined with vintage Chinese motifs, clean modern lighting and playful details that nod to the owner’s family. Our aim is to stuff you with yummy food and drink and serve it to you in the most genuine, sincere manner.
EnRoute Magazine: 2nd Best New Restaurant in Canada
Georgia Straight: Best New Restaurant
Chinese Restaurant Awards: Diner’s Choice Best New Modern Chinese Restaurant