This past winter, Michelle Sproule and I took a hard-hat construction tour of the new AMS Student Nest complex out at UBC. The vast, 250,000 sqft building on University Boulevard floored us in its raw, unfinished state. We walked around with mouths agape alongside AMS Executive Chef Ryan Bissell, who would stop every minutes to say things like “And this is where the sushi restaurant is going in, and down there is the noodle emporium and burger joint, and this space over here is going to be a juice bar, and that corner over there will be a big pizzeria…”
Though it was then merely a voluminous, noisy hive of workmen and naked concrete, it wasn’t hard to imagine the end result: a soaring, beautiful, hyper-modern, wifi-soaked, LEED certified cathedral that was completely removed from anything we ever knew or experienced as students. From a food and drink perspective alone – we’re talking 9 brand new restaurants staffed by over 70 cooks – it was almost absurd. The students and faculty were being spoiled for choice, not to mention quality. (At my university, such as it was, we had a shitty cafeteria that doled out cold corn porridge and cheap boerewors covered in “monkey gland” sauce – and we damn well enjoyed it.)
The ultimate of these eateries is Perch, which softly opened for its first service just yesterday. The large, bright, open concept space comes complete with an expansive patio and views of the North Shore mountains. There’s a great looking bar and a lounge area stocked with local craft beers, a more than adequate wine list, and a tight selection of cocktails. The kitchen is run by chef Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson, lately of The Pear Tree, while the front of house is in the capable hands of manager Terry Hayashi, who you might remember from his years at Raincity Grill.
It’s a local and sustainable operation, and that means ethically raised meats; traceable, Ocean Wise-approved seafoods; seasonal ingredients sourced from local, organic farmers (including UBC Farm); and organic, fair trade coffees and teas. And in keeping with the AMS’ goal of keeping the Nest a “closed loop”, Perch keeps a 2,500 sqft garden on the roof, the soil of which is fed with composted kitchen scraps. It also employs a solar-powered cooling system and one for solar water heating, plus it recycles like nobody’s business.
The food concept is modern West Coast, and though I’ve yet to eat even a bite of it, I’m wicked jealous of the students and faculty. Why? Because wild rice rosti fries; brassica caesar salads; pan roasted steelhead with potato confit; tamarind braised pork cheeks with curry mayo; grilled flank steak with marrow croquette; and so on.
Have a read of the menu here, and take a look at some before and after shots below…