First-timer Sophia Lin has taken possession of the old Nomad space at 3950 Main Street and aims to launch a new restaurant in its place called Old Bird.
It’s always a little uncomfortable to walk over the bones of a recently closed restaurant. I’ve done it many hundreds of times over the years; I’d really rather be used to it by now, but opening the heavy glass door at what used to be Nomad – which just closed after a five-year run – immediately reminded me of how I’m not even close.
While wrestling with that odd feeling (that all things come and go), I was happy to see Nomad’s General Manager, Shawn Jones, on site, and happier still to learn that she was Old Bird’s first front of house hire. And there’s good reason to be excited about what she, Sophia and executive chef Deseree Lo are currently in the process of cooking up.
The new 55-seater will see a sharable, small plate concept narrowed on the myriad street foods of Taiwan and Shanghai. We’re talking fish balls and squid in curry; peppered short ribs; hot and sour bamboo shoots; crispy daikon-stuffed pastries; beef noodle soup; mini mantou buns; et cetera — all super flavourful, deeply satisfying snacks that speak to Sophia and Deseree’s childhood food memories. (They were doing a menu tasting during my walk-through late last week, and I felt obliged to tuck into every plate — see photos at bottom.) The dinner menu will be supported by a full bar program — cocktails, wine, beer. I imagine the offerings will be tweaked for weekend brunch.
Sophia, an art-lover who grew up in Shanghai and graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design, came to Vancouver by way of a curating career back in China, where she’d found a side passion in the study of bread and pastry. Deseree was raised in Taiwan and honed her knives in French and Italian restaurants in Los Angeles and New York before moving to Vancouver and working at CinCin. If you don’t recognize Shawn from Nomad you’ll likely remember her from her years at Chambar.
I’ve seen some design renderings that show what the look they’re going for with the help of Pacific Solutions Contracting. The hard-edged, right-angled interior will see its L-shaped bar faced with new tile; the high ceilings somewhat obscured by new lanterns that should bring the atmosphere down to earth; and the long, straight banquette framed with a new zig and zag. I don’t want to reveal too much, but there are some cool things afoot.
The graphic design and branding identity are being done by a creative agency that – to my knowledge – is new to the food and beverage game. Based in Gastown, they’re called Pivot & Pilot. I love what I’ve seen so far. Sophia tells me the name ‘Old Bird’ is the English translation of a Chinese slang honorific given to men of advanced age who retain the bold and sassy attitudes of their youth. It’s a pretty ironic choice considering there will be three women running the show when it launches in early January, 2020.
I’ll circle back when the project starts to take more tangible shape, but in the meantime you should take a look at how it’s getting started.