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.