A new Peruvian restaurant, wine and cocktail bar called Suyo is currently under construction in the old Slickity Jim’s Chat ‘n’ Chew space at 3475 Main Street.
For the few readers who will immediately get up in arms about ‘losing another neighbourhood restaurant to gentrification,’ let me say this: I feel your pain, but Slickity Jim’s is closed, and Suyo is moving in to begin a new independent restaurant in its place, which is good news for Mount Pleasant and Vancouver at large.
The team behind this project includes four passionate humans who know the industry well, respect food, care about the community, and have saved up their money to realize a dream. Chef Ricardo Valverde (Ancora, Blue Water Cafe) will helm the kitchen; James Reynolds (La Buca, Blue Water Café, La Regalade) will be handling the front-of-house; award-winning bartender Max Curzon-Price (Botanist) will be at the bar, and tech entrepreneur Felix Ng comes in as Director of Operations. In short, things are off to a good start.
Chef Valverde explains: “We wanted to be in Mt. Pleasant because of its community atmosphere and growing culinary diversity. So when partner Felix found the place, we knew it was the one.” The significance of this statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. You need only to know about Valverde’s background to understand why.
From a recent press release:
Fans of Comida Peruana know that Peruvian cuisine is a study in contrasts — full of spice, bold flavours and textures, made with indigenous ingredients and techniques alongside those from continents away. It’s no surprise that Peruvians are fiercely devoted to their culinary heritage, and Suyo Chef/Partner Ricardo Valverde is no exception. In 1998 when the Valverde family moved to Canada, 17-year-old old Ricardo asked his father what was expected of them. His father’s answer: “Let’s build patria,” the Spanish word for homeland. As Chef Valverde and his partners began planning their new modern Peruvian restaurant, his father’s words provided inspiration. They’ve named it Suyo, derived from a South American Indigenous word that also means homeland, to honour his family and country of birth.
To get a better feel for the concept and vision, I headed over to Main Street to meet with the team yesterday. At present, the space is a shell – the walls are bare, the kitchen is gutted (and empty), and tangles of wires are the only indicators that lighting will eventually return – but the plan is to turn it all around for a mid-summer opening.
The 1800 sq ft space has room for 50 seats – 20 at tables in the main dining room, ten at the bar, and another 20 in a private dining room, which includes an adjoining patio. When I asked Chef Valverde to describe the overall ambience of the Suyo space when it’s ready, he said: “Wood, green and concrete tones reminiscent of Peruvian architecture (but with a modern approach) and a playlist of Bossa Nova covers, Afro Peruvian tones and Latin jazz playing in the background.”
To help them bring it all together, the team is working with Evoke International. Evoke has plans to channel an elegant South American feel by way of natural wood accents, stylish banquette seating and ample tropical plants. With a track record of nailing the aesthetic identity of many Vancouver restaurants and bars (Published, Main Street Brewing, and Fable Diner, to name a few in this neighbourhood alone), they are clearly in good hands.
So what about the food? From my conversations with Chef Valverde, I understand Suyo’s menu will be “upscale yet approachable.” Recent press materials explain: “The menu will have a strong focus on seafood and pay homage to ancient Inca dishes like Pachamanca: a dish based on meat, potato, and vegetables cooked underground on hot stones. It will feature modern takes on classics like Aji de Gallina [like a ‘Peruvian butter chicken’], Arroz con pato [duck with rice], and Lomo Saltado [stir-fried beef], and highlight all the global influences in Peruvian cuisine, like Chinese-Peruvian, also known as Chifa; Japanese-Peruvian, also known as Nikkei; as well as Italian and Spanish influences.”
The bar program will be eclectic and playful, pulling from the cultural roots of the Incan empire and the modern Quechuan people. Expect to find nods to the Andean Mountains, Amazon jungle, Atlantic tides, and unique Peruvian ingredients such as ethically sourced Huacatay (black mint) and Chicha Morada (purple corn). As Curzon-Price explains: “While our drinks will be modern and progressive, we will lean on traditional techniques such as natural fermentation, acidifications and lactic clarification to create vibrancy.” There will also be wines from Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay – and, to tie it all up in a bow, plenty of Pisco.
We hope to have more on this project soon. In the meantime, keep up with Suyo on their Instagram feed here, and take a look inside via the photo gallery below…