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New Dessert & Champagne Lounge “Mosquito” Opens In Gastown This Weekend

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Remember those “date” restaurants that only served drinks and dessert? Save for a few stragglers, they mostly died out in the 90s, the straightforward concept having seemingly run out of the will to reposition itself to compete in a more complicated retail environment full of talented pastry chefs retained by full service eateries and increasingly educated diners who were no longer impressed by tiramisu and chocolate lava cake.

Fast forward to today when Vancouver is playing along in the global food trend of narrowly-focused concepts (eg. grilled cheese, currywurst, hotdogs, porchetta, doughnuts, ramen, juice, etc.) and the back door is being left wide open for sweet-centric establishments to attempt a comeback.

Enter Mosquito, a dark and sexy room dedicated to dessert and champagne. It’s set to opening on Valentine’s Day at 32 Water St. in the heart of Gastown (the old Oak + Fort location). Owned by first timers Alice Wu and Johan Friedrich, and designed by Craig Stanghetta and Kate Snyder of Ste. Marie Art + Design (see also Homer St. Cafe, Meat & Bread, Revolver), the intimate 40 seater is unlike anything else in the neighbourhood. They’re describing it as “a champagne bar without the caviar [and] a dessert bar without the frosting.”

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Running the kitchen is pastry chef Julianne Hansen, who’s just returned from a training stint in France (previously in Vancouver, she worked at Cadeaux Bakery). She will be executing a menu that’s been largely designed by a master of dessert-craft, Dominic Fortin of Bearfoot Bistro up in Whistler. It will see everything from olive oil bavarois with madeleine sponge to Oolong tea macarons. It reads like a fantasy, and it’s not all sweet; there’s also specialty popcorn (truffle and parmesan, natch), cheese plates, Oyama charcuterie, and more.

On the drink side of things, the list was designed by Bearfoot Bistro Wine Director Maryke Vandermarel. Most of the champagne, sparkling, and dessert wine can be had by the glass, but there are big guns by the bottle. There are also a couple of whiskies, high test spirits, beers, and wines on offer, not to mention champagne cocktails. The original cocktail card has been dreamt up by Jason Earle, an Australian import (by way of the London) who was last on the wood at Black & Blue. His brief is to make cocktails that dovetail with the desserts, so expect some molecular action a la foams, airs, caviars, et cetera.

I like everything about the place. For starters, I love that it’s completely original (the idea came to Wu in the shower — true story). Honestly, with branding by Glasfurd & Walker, lighting by Good Animals, and construction by Harmony Pacific (all the usual Ste. Marie collaborators), you’d think Vancouver would have seen something like this before. But that’s not how Ste. Marie rolls. I love the design, which has sort of a weird 1980s Patrick Nagel meets David Lynch deco vibe to it — a pretty big departure for this crew.  And the details are super sharp — I mean down to the menus, door handles, and champagne buckets.

So it appears as if they’ve got everything dialled. Hansen let me taste a couple of the desserts and they were brilliant. So really, I think the only way that they could foreseeably fuck this up would be to drop the ball on service, but with just 40 seats and the straightforward expectations inherent in super simple, easy-to-execute concepts, I don’t imagine they’ve left much, if anything, to chance.

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