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‘Laowai’ Hideaway Now Open in Chinatown

The almost finished interior of Laowei at 251 East Georgia St. in Chinatown.

This past Spring we drew attention to a tiny dumpling shop called BLND TGER that was squeezing into the frontage of what used to be the old Mamie Taylor’s space in Chinatown. The rest of the address’ voluminous square footage – tucked away behind what is intended to look like the little shop’s refrigerated storage door  – is now revealed to be a speakeasy-ish operation called Laowai.

First time restaurateur Lewis Hart and his two managing partners in the enterprise, front of house veteran Brett Christopher and bartender Alex Black, opened Laowai (a Mandarin word for ‘foreigner’) to the public this week. I took a look inside a couple of days ago when they were entering overdrive, trying to get the early 1930’s Shanghai-inspired cocktail and dumpling bar – designed by London’s Bergman Interiors – ready for first contact that same night.

BLND TGER, with the door open to Laowai at far left.

All one has to do to gain access to the hideaway is step inside BLND TGER – where there are six numbered dumpling options from chef Phong Vo (all delicious, by the way, especially the tongue-numbing, pork-filled Zhongs) – and ask for “the number 7”. There’s no secret handshake or real sense of gatekeeping to keep the seemingly uncool out. It’s just the axel upon which the whole concept turns, not too dissimilar from Manhattan’s Please Don’t Tell or London’s Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.

Take it as a gimmick or a thrill, it will be what it will be to guests through the quality of its theatre, its drinks, and its food. Having flipped through Black’s little green book of cocktails and read Phong’s menu of share plates – eyeing in particular the bourbon char siu pork belly and the sweet & sour fried lingcod – I look forward to trying it all.

Understanding that they were still several hours from welcoming their first guests (and thus still a mess), this is what I saw…

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Neighbourhood: Chinatown
251 East Georgia St.

There are 5 comments

  1. I was very hyped for this; the mystery, the intrigue, the idea of something less than oblivious in my neighborhood.

    I won’t lie, I was a little bit disappointed that there is now multiple articles (including the Daily Hive) talking about this back room. I felt that it would have been known enough if it was just left to its own devices. But, hey, it’s a business and needs to be promoted, I get that.

    Call me a selfish clout chaser, but I love a good “real” secret bar.

  2. Hilariously pretenious staff make this a huge fail for me. Give someone a little bit of power and they act like they are the gatekeepers of cool. Cringe and not worth the trip for overpriced and average beverages

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