by Andrew Morrison | La Pentola owner/chef Lucais Syme and his wife Jill have secured the 1,500 sqft ground floor corner space of the Victoria Block. That’s underneath the old Victorian Hotel at West Pender and Homer (350 W. Pender), right across the street from the original Finch’s and next door to the awesome Paper Hound. With it, they plan to open Cinara, a 40 seat eatery that will feature picture windows looking out onto the street, a small wine-focused bar, and an open kitchen plating contemporary European cuisine with a strong Italian accent. “It’s really our chance to cook from the heart,” Syme says. “We want to create simple, beautiful things.” And I expect that that’s exactly what we’ll get.
The name of the place – pronounced Chinara – is a nod to the humble artichoke (“Prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside,” Syme says). While it is one of several ancient monikers for the wild artichokes of the Levant and the thistle family’s Greek catch-all (Cynarae), Cinara is actually a place, an almost mythic island in the Aegean Sea (now known as Zinara). It was said to be home to some especially alluring Sirens, as well as a mysterious place of banishment. It was where the emperor Tiberius once sent a cheeky Greek named Zeno who dared to employ some flowery language in his presence. Cinara was also the name of a particularly greedy but irresistibly sexy ex-lover of the Roman lyric poet Horace (“the grief I knew in my cups when the delicious Cinara left me” – the poor dear)…
Alas, Syme, as far as I know, is not a poet (lyric or otherwise) and, thank goodness, has not been banished from Yaletown. Operations at La Pentola will continue as normal.
Cinara will be open for dinner only, but breakfasts could be added to the menu as the hotel continues its slow burn of boutiquification (a new lobby is also under construction). Predictions? Lucais and Jill are devotees of quality (witness their tenures at La Quercia and La Ghianda), so I’d be shocked if this wasn’t one of the best new restaurants of 2014. Construction starts this week and opening day is slated for some point in January.