Chef Justin Cheung (formerly of Longtail Kitchen) is on the very verge of opening his long awaited first restaurant, Potluck Hawker Eatery, at 3424 Cambie Street.
I’ve written enthusiastically about this restaurant project a couple of times now so I won’t recount to regular readers the deliciousness I think we should be anticipating. Rather, I’m happy and excited to not only report that Potluck is on track to open to the public on July 15th, 2020, but also that its south-east Asian street food tastes as good as I’d long hoped.
Earlier this week Michelle and I ate were among a socially distanced group that ate its way through much of the menu during a sit-down test run. Unsurprisingly (if you’ve ever eaten at Longtail before), there were some real flashes of oh my god! like the salty, decadently yolky fried chicken thigh sandwich with green mango slaw and tamarind/chili jam on toasted milk bread (from Fife Bakery). I’d heard salted yolk fried chicken was a popular thing in Singapore (similar to “golden sand chicken”?) but it was a first for me. I’d never had a fried chicken experience quite like it, especially with the accompanying sweet and salty Malaysian-inspired shaker fries (crinkle-cut for the win). It wasn’t over-the-top salty or crispy (despite the processed cereal coat), but there was enough umami going on to zap my palate like a laser bolt. So good!
Also brand new to my mouth was the chilled beet carpaccio with sneaky chilies (pow!) and crisped up wings made finger-licking sticky with a bracing fish sauce/palm sugar caramel (I could have eaten over a dozen of these). We also took home an order of some pretty classic Char Kway Teow, and I can attest to its midnight awesomeness (Chinese sausage, shrimp and rice noodles are good buddies, even when cold). You’ll find photos of all of the above – and more – below.
The restaurant’s interior looks and feels cozy, casual and fun, which is kind of what you want in a counter-service eatery. The bright colours of everything from the bold frontage and the branded wallpaper to the chairs and plates really set the tone for the vivid flavours to come. I suspect the restaurant will do the majority of its business in takeout and delivery (especially in these weird times) but this room is a pleasure to dine in. My only wish is that it came with a big and leafy patio out back!
Here’s an excerpt of the press release announcing Potluck’s imminence, followed by several photos from the test run…
“I took that leap of faith to open my own restaurant,” says Cheung. “And now, my partners and I are excited to finally welcome guests into Potluck. It has definitely been an interesting journey during COVID-19 times, but we’ve learned a lot. All health and safety precautions will be taken, and of course, we’ll be doing take-out. In fact, we’ve added new items to our menu that will work incredibly well for those who want to take their meals to go.”
Potluck Hawker Eatery takes inspiration from the fragrant, raucous, and vibrant atmosphere of traditional Southeast Asian hawker street food markets. The 993 square-feet restaurant draws inspiration from the ritual of potlucks, where families spend the day in the kitchen preparing their family’s signature dish and contributing to the table – a coming together of stomach-filling, soul-warming dishes.
“Eating together was a very important part of growing up for me,” adds Cheung. “At Potluck, we are going to focus a lot of the cuisine on Malaysian-style cooking, which is my family’s heritage.”
The launch menu includes Potluck Fried Chicken (P.F.C.), snacks, mains, fried chicken sandos, and large format Potluck family menus for up to six people. Highlights include: Cheung’s famous P.F.C. Wings with salted duck egg or fish sauce caramel; Roti Canai, a hand-stretched flakey Malaysian flatbread pan-fried and served with a curry dipping sauce; Sambal Eggplant; Nasi Goreng; Mama Cheung’s Laksa; Char Kway Teow, classic wok-fried rice sheets inspired by uncle Chuan’s hawker cart in Penang; and Potluck Palabok, a seaside Pinoy favourite which features clear round noodles in orangy smoked fish gravy with mix seafood, chicharron, egg and kalamansi.
The Potluck family menu currently highlights Crispy Pata, a whole braised and fried pork hock. All family-style potlucks include a choice of snack, P.F.C. wings, choice of main, and assorted Potluck condiments.
Cheung has also developed a limited time sandwich offering, featuring salted egg yolk fried chicken, tamarind chili jam, and green mango slaw in a grilled milk bread by Fife Bakery.
The Potluck Hawker Eatery space was designed by Elisa Leung and Nathalie Koo of Vancouver’s Cutler and the branding by Graeme Jack. They bring to life the energetic ambiance of a hawkers market with iconic dishware patterns, pops of colour, and fun wallpaper. Expect neon coloured chairs, tropical plants, and natural wood.
Potluck Hawker Eatery will be open Tuesday to Friday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dine-in and takeout. The full menu can be viewed on the website.