One of the oddest, most under-served parts of town (from a hospitality industry perspective) is the western extreme of the Financial District — a sort of inland sea of Nothing in a No Man’s Land between Netherworlds. It sees a a lot of daytime traffic – enough to sustain a restaurant – but it’s something of a ghost zone at night, a block or four too far from the West End’s Denman/Robson ramen nexus, and one or two too distant from the chain appeal of the Joey/Cactus cluster on Burrard. It’s not dangerous or particularly far away from Vancouver’s main draws, but let’s be honest: few hotel concierges would dare supply their charges with the coordinates, and no guidebook (published in this century) that I’m aware of cites the block as a must-see.
While I don’t expect the upcoming counter-service Heritage Asian Eatery to change that by itself when it opens later this month, I nevertheless see it as a promising development on account of the concept and the talent involved. Located at 1108 West Pender St. just off Thurlow St., the imminent 40 seater will showcase the cooking of rising star Felix Zhou. With exec stints at The Parker, Big Trouble, and Beach Bay under his belt (plus experience at a couple of reputable establishments in London), this will mark his first ownership adventure, something that always adds an exciting edge to the proceedings. (Also on board as co-owners are hands-on restaurateur Natasha Romero of The Anchor Eatery in West Van and businessman Paul Zhang.)
The interior is essentially a big rectangular box with polished concrete floors, white walls, and a long series of interchangeable deuces/fourtops on a banquette facing communal tables and a bar-height ledge for standing. It’s pretty bare bones, really, though I should say that it was in a state of serious undress when I last looked inside. The food concept is far more interesting, revolving around highly personal and quick twists on Asian dishes. I’ve taken a good look at their opening menu and I’m not ashamed to say that there was some drool involved — think Peking Duck crepe breakfasts with scrambled eggs and marinated cucumber; bao buns stuffed with Chinese sausage and pickled shiitake mushrooms; smoked tofu and eggplant rice bowls loaded with garlic and kimchi; and szechuan peppered five spice chicken wings. Sounds good right?
I suppose the only drawback to such likely deliciousness is the fact that it’ll be daytime-only, the hours being 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. I mean, that’s great for those who work in the area and would like an alternative to Meat & Bread down the block, but tell me those dishes wouldn’t be super fantastic as late night bar snacks?! Of course there’s a chance that they might eventually open for dinner at some point in the future (they are fully licensed), but we shouldn’t count on it too soon.
They will, however, serve pop-up dinners on occasion – a series of one-offs called the “Grocery List” – to test the suppertime waters a bit (clever — why bother opening for dinner unless it’s for a pre-sold full house?), and who knows what will come of that? We’ve seen on several occasions in the past one or two good restaurants making huge differences in the evening fortunes of their neighbourhoods. So with more faith in Zhou et al than the immediate neighbourhood, here’s hoping Heritage Asian Eatery makes a big enough impact to put weekends and dinner service on the horizon. I’m certainly looking forward to my first taste, even if it’ll be in broad daylight.
Note that the following images were taken over a week ago; I trust they’re much further along now…