Modern Asian ‘Saola’ Opening Soon in Mt. Pleasant

Saola owners Kevin Lin, Patrick Do, Osric Chau and Nicholas Carey

There’s another exciting new restaurant on the way in Mt. Pleasant. The modern Asian-themed Saola is about to start construction at 2415 Main Street (next door to the newly opened Superbaba).

I toured the 2,000 sqft restaurant-to-be yesterday afternoon. Save for the wooden framing of the 12 seat bar and the dry-walled kitchen peekaboo pass there was very little to look at, leaving the distribution of the 50+ seats all to the imagination. I’m enthusiastic about the concept, which will see a chef-driven, idiosyncratic, modern take on the endless flavours, traditions and techniques of Southeast Asia.

The ownership group is made up of four friends: chefs Patrick Do and Kevin Lin, who will run the back and front of houses (respectively); actor/writer Nicholas Carey, who will be overseeing the bar; and actor/producer Osric Chau, who you might recognize from the show Supernatural. I’m a big fan of Patrick’s, whose food and cooking philosophy I’ve come to appreciate through both locations of his family’s modern and meatless Vietnamese Do Chay restaurants. I think it’s very fair to expect good things.

What’s in a name? The Saola is a forest-dwelling bovid antelope native to Vietnam and Laos. The beautiful beast (it looks like a cross between an Eland and a Bongo) is so rare that it is commonly referred to as the “Asian Unicorn”. This feels appropriately ambitious and totally on brand. The name is supported by a simple logo that traces the animal’s silhouette with a single line. As far as pronunciation goes, it’s “say ola”.

WHY IT MATTERS: With a new Broadway Subway station due in five years and less than a block away, we should operate under the assumption that the commercial core of the neighbourhood – Main & Broadway – will soon be assaulted by a wave of bad chain restaurants and coffee shops, for where Skytrain stations go, shit typically follows. Twas ever thus. A small, interesting, independent restaurant like this plants a flag and promises the kind of striving substance and locally-minded character the area is best known for.

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