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DINER: Bartenders Simon Kaulback & Ron Oliver Opening Tavern In Chinatown (2013)

by Andrew Morrison | Two well liked and highly respected front of house veterans are teaming up to open a place of their own. Former Bartender of the Year Simon Kaulback of Boneta and Ron Oliver of The Diamond have picked up the recently closed Keefer Bakery location in the heart of Chinatown – 251 East Georgia opposite Phnom Penh – and they will soon take possession.

Though they aren’t 100% sure what the dinner-only 100 seater will be called yet (they’re down to just two names), they have the food concept figured out. From our conversations and my read of their first conceptual menu draft (penned by a chef friend of theirs), it sounds to me like they’re planning to do something akin to adventurous American comfort food, the kind of gastropubbish, rough and ready (but nevertheless refined) sort of thing one eats at Calgary’s Model Milk, Portland’s Woodsman Tavern, New York’s Spotted Pig, Charleston’s Husk, and San Francisco’s Park Tavern. They have yet to hire a chef to translate their vision, so if you’ve ever worn a white toque and you dig all of the above, give them a shout because they’re in need.

As far as the design and feel of the place are concerned, I think we’re going to see something like a cross between Chambar and The Narrow: a busy, somewhat dark, possibly leathery, woody, and taxidermish comfort zone with a guttural soundtrack and an expertly run 14 seat bar. I like to imagine that it’s being built with Norman Rockwell in mind, but only if he ditched the whole art thing to become a lumberjack who was particularly fond of bourbon and armed with an old lever-action Winchester. You know what I mean?

Clearly, it’s a tricky concept to pin down, and that elusiveness has everything to do with the fact that we haven’t really seen anything like it yet in Vancouver. And that’s never a bad thing. Expect opening night sometime in the Spring/Summer of 2013.


There are 15 comments

  1. Brilliant. Now, everyone who’s ever worked for me owns a restaurant in Gastown :D.

    Congrats guys, you’ll do great. So damn proud to see this city erupting in talent, building great spaces, and choosing to chase character and substance over gimmicks and culinary chest pounding.

    Ron’s Old Fashioned still remains the best I’ve ever had, and Simon’s still swaggering from that beastly ring bashing. In a world where inches matter, where the will to fight harder than the other guy decides your survival, and where having the stones to stand for something is the only way to earn your members badge, these guys will carve a proper niche.

    Good luck.

  2. If this restaurant was a movie, Sean would have to do the voice-over work for the trailer. “In a world where inches matter…”

  3. Wish these two gents all the best – sounds like it could be a very interesting venture. But why do most of these restaurant announcements on scout always end up comparing future YVR spots to some of the best of the best? Seems like there isn’t much good juxtaposing this fledgling, first time offering to some of the greatest “gastrobpus” in north america. A pretty lofty bar being set that seems unnecessary at this stage of the game.

  4. Hi Ben. Interesting take on a common device. It’s not my intention to set a “lofty bar”. The place hasn’t even opened yet. It doesn’t even have a name. So I’m afraid you may have mistaken my provision of context for direct comparison, which would – as you’ve alluded – be rather silly of me. Sorry to confuse or confound.

  5. No doubt that these guys will produce nothing but f**kin quality! All the best gents!

  6. Boom. Chinatown done ‘sploded. Interested to see what the ‘hood looks like in three years. Two even.

  7. Thanks for acknowledging my comments. I find provisions of context that only include outrageously fantastic restaurants a touch misleading and place the future YVR restaurant in some heady competition before it’s even close to coming into existence. That’s just my reading of such stories. Regardless, interested to see how this project develops and thanks for breaking the news.

  8. Ah, but I am more aware of the world’s “outrageously fantastic restaurants” than I am of its shittier ones. Are you not as well? It’s a tried and true context-providing device, similarly employed in discussions on music, as in:

    “This band sounds a little like The Rolling Stones if Mick was David Bowie and Charlie used Kraftwerk’s drum machine.”

    If I related their sound to bands you’d never heard of before, you’d be at comprehension level zero, completely in the dark. To put it more plainly, you haven’t been misled. You’ve simply misread. No harm no foul.

  9. Tried and true, I suppose, but maybe a bit off point for such an unknown quantity. As you note “it’s a tricky concept to pin down”. I mean how many Scout readers have been to Husk? Park Tavern? Model Milk? Does rattling off five splendid yet relatively unique spots really help pin down said concept? Is this spot aiming for a Michelin star, does it have a list of A-list celebrity owners, is there a James Beard award winning chef in the mix? My level of comprehension of the concept, based on the rest of information you provided, would have been fine without an inclusion of those other celebrated locations. Perhaps at some point it would be relevant but it seems early in the game for that.

    In your band example, you heard the band before you compared it to the greats. With what is known about this space, it would be like saying: “So I met two label execs and based on what they told me, this band could be the next Black Keys [insert other cool, rough and ready Americana band]. I mean, once they find a singer, guitarist, and bass player and actually work on an album together…”

  10. Hi Ben. Get out much? Simon and Ron are NOT “unknown quantities”. They are “A-list” to a lot of p[eople in Vancouver, myself included. It is OK to get excited that they are opening a restaurant. I know the “chef friend” who wrote the menu, and he is THE SHIT. I have also eaten at Model Milk and Park Tavern. They are NOT Michelin A-list places run by celebrity James Beard chefs. Your arguments are stupid. Learn more. Talk less.

  11. Ben stop.
    The point of this post is that two well known and liked Barmen/Managers with great reputations in this city are venturing out on their own. The concept hasn’t fully been revealed or maybe not even be fully developed, which on it’s own is exciting and integral to an establishment developing its final form.

    What’s your point man?
    Would you rather hear about a restaurants opening when they’ve chosen the glassware and cutlery or which type of hand soap they’ll be putting in the restrooms?

  12. We wish you guys all the best from the friendlist town in Ontario, hope to make it out there sometime, Dad will for sure..

  13. Great to have more opportunities in the hood. One comment on Ben’s defense though, there was a certain establishment In Gastown whose pee-opening window signs read ‘ think Dean n Deluca Think meinhardts etc’ and upon opening it was selling donated beer glasses and mr. Noodle and the neughbours were hugely let down! Sometimes the hype can be a tad exaggerated. Just keep it real! Looking forward to giving this latest a shot when it opens though!

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