The old Sea Monstr Sushi spot at 55 Powell Street in Gastown has been picked up by first timers Matthew Senecal-Junkeer and Trevor Pruegger. Chances are fair that you’ve been served or fed by one or both of them before. Trevor is just coming off a consulting gig at Greens Organic, but before that he worked in the kitchens of a number of reputable joints, among them “C”, Pear Tree, and Thomas Haas. He and Matthew met while they were both in the employ of Matchstick Coffee Roasters in Chinatown. If you don’t recognise Matthew from Matchstick, you might remember him from 33 Acres Brewing Company in Mt. Pleasant. He’s a likeable guy.
In actual fact, they’ve also taken the old Sharks + Hammers location at 54 Alexander Street, which – as fans of either will remember – was umbilically connected to Sea Monstr. In this new development, the two addresses will maintain their entrances, but they’ll just be serving one business this time around, called Birds & The Beets.
I did a walk-through of the construction site with Matthew over the weekend, just a day after they took possession. The architect on the project, Bill Simcic from Simcic + Uhrich (see also Juniper, Timbertrain), is working with design/construction gurus Cam Johnson and James Bank of Harmony Pacific, and kitchen maestro Jason Gilron of Pacific Restaurant Supply. It’s a solid crew.
As Matthew describes it, Birds & The Beets will be “an insanely food-focused counter-service cafe.” While he’ll be focusing on the coffee and service components (think Bows x Arrows and Matchstick coffees via a La Mazorocco Linea PB espresso machine, Fetco Batch Brew, and made-to-order from an Aeropress bar), Trevor will handle the food program. The idea behind it, Matthew says, is to get people to rethink the traditional “coffee and baked goods” cafe model.
To that end, they’ll be dishing out breakfast items like Bircher muesli; house-made yogurt with granola and fruit; and brioche bun breakfast sandwiches. For lunch, we can expect things like albacore tuna salad with egg and avocado yogurt; lamb leg sandwiches with mint apple jelly, harissa yogurt spread, arugula, and roasted fennel; and special salads of pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and sous vide proteins.
All told, we can expect a short, focused menu designed around goodies brought up from the property’s refurbished cellar. In addition to making their own yogurts, pickled vegetables and savoury/sweet preserves, they’ll also be fermenting sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and ginger beer in house, not to mention crafting their own soda syrups and baking their own brioche loaves. Bonus: they have a liquor license, so can anticipate a handful of local beers (and a cider) on tap.
The shots below were taken after a dry run over the weekend. Today is opening day. Take a look…