by Andrew Morrison | Andrew Wong officially announced this morning that he will soon finish up at the original downtown location of Wild Rice. The trailblazing restaurateur opened the socially and environmentally conscious “Modern Chinese” eatery at 117 West Pender St. off Abbott St. back in 2001, serving ethically sourced cuisine informed by his heritage and pairing it with local wines and original cocktails. The spirit of the restaurant (a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table) will, of course, continue to live on at its new location in New Westminster’s increasingly awesome River Market. The restaurant officially closes its doors on January 31st.
With Wong’s announcement out of the way, we can now tell you that he accepted an offer from restaurateurs Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart (see The Sardine Can, La Buca, Pied-A-Terre) before Christmas. The well respected pair take possession on February 1st and are joined in ownership this time around by Michel Durocher, who has been part of the company since long before he started managing The Sardine Can (back to the old Parkside days).
Together, they hope to transform the 2,500 sqft space into a cheffish gastropub/tavern of serious sway. We can expect a darker, woodier, warmer aesthetic, which is to say that it it won’t look remotely the same as Wild Rice when it open this Spring (they’re crossing their fingers for April/May). “It’s a complete overhaul,” says Stewart. The only thing that they’re keeping is the length of the bar. When I asked Durbach for points of conceptual reference, he mentioned the Dominion and Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal and The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern in New York. Think 90 food primary seats and a menu of classics that have been amplified by good ingredients and furrowed brows of creativity. Though nothing about the place is really set in stone just yet, Durbach likes the idea of spinning high quality fish and chips, chicken karaage, an assortment of salads, perfect Côte de Boeuf (inspired the mainstay at the recently closed Boneta), toulouse bangers with whipped potatoes and craft beef-infused onion gravy, and so on. Durbach also says that he’d like to try and make the best burger in town, so you know…fancy, but not too fancy.
With the new Chambar re-opening in their new location just up the street at the same time and rumours of new eateries slated for the old Chambar location and the soon to move Medina next door, this looks like a solid pick-up from Durbach et al. Crosstown, it seems, is going to have a little renaissance (again).
They don’t have a name for the restaurant just yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as it’s set and update our readers as things progress because this is one to keep an eye on. In the meantime, there’s still time to pay your respects to Wild Rice and sneak in another delicious bowl of Rossdown chicken Kung Po.
The GOODS from Hester Creek Estate Winery
Vancouver, BC | With vines that were planted in the sandy soil of the Golden Mile Bench as early as 1968, Hester Creek Estate Winery is firmly rooted in the South Okanagan. This September though, winemaker Rob Summers and general manager Mark Sheridan will be leaving the valley to bring the winery to the Lower Mainland.
On Sept. 18 and 19, Summers and Sheridan will be rolling through Metro Vancouver on a whistle-stop tour that will include events for media, trade and for the public. They’ll be bringing the winery’s newest fall releases along for the ride. “We always love pouring new releases for our longtime fans, and filling them in on what we’ve been up to. On this trip we also hope to make some new fans; to introduce our wines to people who haven’t tried them,” says Summers. Among the new releases they’ll be packing for the trip: the lush Chardonnay 2012, with subtle oak and toast; the Reserve Block 2 Merlot 2011, from some of the valley’s oldest vines; and of course, they’ll be bringing The Judge 2010, a powerful blend of Bordeaux red varietals.
Wine lovers can catch up with Summers and Sheridan during a very special winemaker’s dinner, taking place Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Wild Rice Restaurant in River Market at Westminster Quay. Chefs Todd Bright and Caroline Levy have created a four-course menu that will showcase the versatility of Hester Creek’s wines and the unique Modern Chinese style of Wild Rice. With the Chardonnay, diners will enjoy Salmon Tartar with Wonton Crisps. Duck Confit Spring Rolls are well matched with the Character Red 2012, and the classic main course, Beef Bourguignon, is perfectly paired with the award-winning Reserve Block 3 Cabernet Franc 2010. With dessert, diners will enjoy the Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2012. Seats at this epicurean experience are just $60 (includes four courses, wine pairings, taxes and gratuity). Dinner begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m. For more information or to reserve, visit www.wildricevancouver.com, call Wild Rice at 778-397-0028 or email email@example.com.
Consumers can also sample new releases from Hester Creek on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the 39th & Cambie Signature Tasting Room. This free tasting will allow wine lovers to mix and match Hester Creek’s wines with samples of Vij’s At Home, the popular curries from renowned South Granville restaurant, Vij’s. They’ll be able to discover which flavours and pairings they like best, as they chat with the winemaker who made them. The 39th & Cambie Signature BC Liquor Store is located at 5555 Cambie St. in Vancouver. You can learn more about Hester Creek Family Estate after the jump… Read more
We’ve been fans of Wild Rice since it opened way back in 2001. Over the years it has proven to be one of the most consistent restaurants in town, staying true to owner Andrew Wong’s original concept of a restaurant that was modern and open in design and outlook (both gastronomic and environmental) but true to his Chinese heritage. And as a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table, it has been a leader in sustainability since long before it was sexy. Behind the consistency is the chef, Todd Bright, whose passion for local product and unique preparations are deliciously evident on the plate, 7 nights a week. Wild Rice expanded this time last year by opening a new location in the revamped River Market out in New Westminister. Bright came on as a chef/partner in the new enterprise, which is to say we’re very grateful that he took time he couldn’t spare to answer the following questions…
Where did you go to school? Toowoomba, Australia.
If you had a motto, what would it be? Work hard, play harder.
What’s the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? I love chicken skin! I know lots of people are opposed to eating poultry skin for health reasons these days, but it’s the best part.
What ingredient grosses you out the most: We would never use this at Wild Rice, but you know what natural raspberry flavouring is made of right? Natural raspberry flavor, or castoreum, comes from the anal extracts of a North American beaver.
Default drink of choice: Beer — anything local and cold.
What are you the most proud of: I’m really proud of the team we have built at Wild Rice, and that we get to be part of the River Market renewal process.
What are you the least proud of: I’m the least proud of not being able to answer this question honestly.
Your favourite smells: Roasted chicken stock is pretty awesome.
Your least favourite smells: The smell of something burning. I hate the smell of something burning!
Your chef role models: Neil Perry, Tetsuya, and Marco Pierre White.
Your favourite sound: I really like the sound of a busy restaurant. The roar of the hood vents, sizzling pans, communication from my crew, laughter and chatter from the dining room. It’s music to my ears!
Your least favourite sound: Dropped cutlery. It pings through the entire restaurant. It’s horrible.
The best way to die: Fat, happy and with no regrets. Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | Saturday, August 4th is officially ‘Food Day Canada’ – a day when we celebrate our country’s rich culinary heritage from coast to coast to coast. It’s a time to honour our farmers, fishers, chefs and local producers. Wild Rice is proud to be an invited participant in this national food fest. This year Wild Rice is giving a nod to the good ol’ Canadian tradition of the summer barbecue by offering mini-burgers paired with artisan brew for only $17.50. “Barbecue has a long and honourable history in Chinese culinary culture,” says Wild Rice owner Andrew Wong. “Think of the importance of BBQ houses in Chinese society. They are meeting places where friends get together to share casual food – much the same as the Canadian backyard barbecue.”
Still – burgers in a Chinese restaurant? Most definitely! These come with a distinctly Asian twist. Executive Chef Todd Bright starts with house-made buns that use a dough similar to that found in ‘cha siu bao’ (BBQ pork buns) or pineapple buns. The tops are given an egg wash to replicate the typical ‘Chinatown bun’ appearance. Wild Rice chose to make mini-burgers (aka ‘sliders’) because they are smaller and easier to hold, like a cha siu bao. The bun is merely the starting point. Next comes the slider’s focal point – a patty of ground Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef seasoned with the usual onions and garlic along with the not-so-usual ginger, soy, cilantro, sesame oil and Shaoxing wine. Of course like any good burger, it’s topped with bacon. Wild Rice makes its own from Gelderman Farms free-range pork. The pork side is brined in a tasty mixture of Shaoxing wine, Five-Spice Powder, whole star anise and additional Sichuan peppercorns. The sliders are completed with crispy-fried shallots. Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | Enchanted Evenings dinner packages are back for a summer of dining and musical pleasure. Offered in conjunction with Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden’s Enchanted Evenings Concert Series, the public can book a pre-concert dinner at Wild Rice (Pender St. location) followed by an evening of music at the Garden – all with one easy phone call.
The delicious combination is available every Friday night starting July 6th through August 31st and features a diverse line-up of musical entertainment including the hot Latin rhythms of Rumba Calzada, gypsy jazz with Van Django, the fusion sounds of Silk Road and traditional blues and gospel with Jim Byrnes. Price for the concert is a very reasonable $25 ($20 for Garden members). The full line-up with dates is available on Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s website.
For concert-goers, a special three-course pre-concert dinner is available at Wild Rice’s Chinatown location on Pender Street – only a five-minute walk from the Garden. Details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | We’ve recently expanded and are looking for an experienced chef to run our flagship downtown location. The candidate will be running a tight knit, fast-paced kitchen in a rewarding environment. You will be working closely with the executive chef/owner to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the crew. You are expected to run a line, take care of daily operating duties (such as ordering, labour, food cost, inventory, et cetera), all while collaborating on menu ideas and food concepts. Ideally, you will have at least five years experience, have had management experience, and be knowledgeable in vegan and modern cuisine. If you think you are the right candidate, then please email Heather (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your cover letter and resume. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | “We’ve always served our dishes family-style,” says Wild Rice owner Andrew Wong. “The plates come out of the kitchen as they are prepared and placed on the table for everyone to share. Creating a ‘social dining experience’ is a logical extension,” says Mr. Wong of the new communal dinners coming to Wild Rice’s downtown Vancouver location.
Starting in April, the restaurant will serve a themed, prix fixe menu on the second Monday of every month. “We noticed the popularity of our platter dinners that we created for Valentine’s and Chinese New Year. There are other restaurants in the hood that have done well with the communal table concept, so we thought we’d give it a try.”
The first Social Dinner takes place on Monday, April 9th and is an OceanWise dinner of sustainable fish and seafood. The banquette tables will be re-arranged to create two large tables each seating 10 people and dishes will be served traditional Chinese style on large platters which will be passed down the table for all to share. The price for April’s dinner is $45 and includes a welcome cocktail at 6:30 p.m. with the actual dinner starting at 7 p.m. Details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | Chinese New Year’s Eve, on Sunday, January 22nd, heralds the Year of the Dragon (lunar year 4710), a time when family and friends gather to celebrate with special meals the New Year’s opportunities and beginnings. Unlike in Western culture where dragons are considered evil, fire-breathing creatures; in Chinese culture the Dragon is revered as a benign, powerful, divine being – a symbol of heaven, the ‘yang’ principle (male, fire, vital energy) and China itself. In Chinese mythology, Dragons control the rain and by doing so, bestow fertility upon the land and its people. An ancient Chinese legend has it that a carp (which swim up stream to breed as do salmon), if it swims through the gate at the stream’s beginning deep under the mountains will be transformed into a Dragon. Dragons are a big deal, a very big deal and this year is the Year of the Water Dragon – an especially powerful and unpredictable Dragon. To celebrate, Wild Rice Proprietor Andrew Wong and Executive Chef Todd Bright will offer a special Year of the Dragon Menu that pays homage to the Water Dragon… Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | The inventive folk at Wild Rice know a thing or two about celebrating New Year’s Eve. They should do, as they celebrate it twice every year beginning in January or February with the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year, and then again at the end of the calendar year with the western version we all know – bubbles, countdown to midnight and yummy food. This year, Wild Rice offers double the fun as it has added a second location in New Westminster’s River Market… Read more
The GOODS from Wild Rice
Vancouver, BC | Hankering for har gow? Desiring dumplings? Craving cha siu bao? Yearn no longer. Wild Rice Executive Chef Todd Bright, a master of the art of new-style dim sum, will be conducting three intimate cooking classes in dim-sum making at the newly opened Wild Rice in New Westminster’s River Market starting next Monday, December 5th. Subsequent classes will be held on the following two Mondays – December 12th and 19th respectively. Details after the jump… Read more
The first conceptual renderings from new Wild Rice architect/designer Marianne Amodio have just landed on my desk. They give some tasty flavour to our imaginings of what the anticipated restaurant – slated for the River Market in New West this Fall – is going to look like (learn more about it here). The drawings depict the lounge area: on the left is the open kitchen; straight ahead is what is being described to me as one of the ‘living walls’; and on the right is the bar. Top marks to Marianne for including a still of a monkey chilling in a hot spring on one TV above the bar and what appears to be a screen grab of Alexandre Burrows celebrating a goal on the other. Take a closer look after the jump… Read more
Lettuce Cups with Maple Hill Chicken & Thiessen Squab San Chau Bow | Wild Rice (117 W Pender) | $14
(1$ from every order sold goes to our friends at Growing Chefs)
by Andrew Morrison | Wild Rice owner Andrew Wong has a new restaurant space in New West. It’s been a long time coming. Developer Mark Shieh (who is very much a stand up guy) has had Wong and Wild Rice on his radar to fill the restaurant space at the new and greatly improved River Market complex at Westminster Quay for about a year now. It’s been an on again, off again negotiation (I remember them talking about it on my roof last August), but that changed today, when hands were shaken and ground was finally broken.
The original Wild Rice (seen above) will remain as it ever was, still very pretty and pristine at the gates of Chinatown, while the new Wild Rice will enjoy some 3,600sqft of space in a ready-to-go lot of concrete and glass. Wong aims to fill it with 88 seats (12 at the bar, just like the original), plus another 30 or so on a leafy patio. Wild Rice with a freakin’ patio? Yes.
But there are other differences between the old and the new, too. While the River Market location will be similarly styled as the original with a cozy, modern vibe, the kitchen will be considerably larger and open to view from the dining room. Executive chef Todd Bright will be making the daily commute, and is invested as a partner. The increased size of his kitchen will deliver a menu 20% larger than the original’s. That means we can count on all the modern Chinese goodies that we can currently get at Wild Rice (eg. their kickass Kung Pao), plus a good deal of new and likely interesting dishes that at this point I can only guess at.
We still have to wait until the Fall to give it a whirl. Wong and Bright are aiming for an October opening, but you know how restaurants go. It could very well be Christmas or beyond before we can check it out, though I sincerely hope it’s kept on schedule.
Bottom line: New West just scored.