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The Modern Chinese Restaurant That Suddenly Made Vancouver’s Food Scene Interesting

The ever-evolving Restaurant Graveyard series looks back at the countless, long-shuttered establishments that helped to propel Vancouver’s food and drink forward. Full A-Z with maps and photos here. May they never be forgotten!

Wild Rice, a restaurant that took on the food concept of socially and environmentally conscious “Modern Chinese” cuisine at 117 West Pender Street, was like a bolt of lightning that helped spark a revolution in Vancouver’s food scene.

It launched in 2001, with chef Stuart Irving (now owner of Cuchillo) plating ethically sourced food informed by co-owner Andrew Wong’s heritage and pairing it with local wines and original cocktails. It is seen by some in the industry as the proto-Bao Bei, deftly and deliciously balancing the flavours and traditions of East and West.

The beautifully designed (by Terri Storey), multi-level, 88 seat eatery was, for a time, one of Vancouver’s most interesting and exciting establishments, winning several accolades and drawing a diverse crowd to its striking bar, a lengthy perch made of underlit ice blue resin.

After its closure in early 2014, the spirit of the Wild Rice (a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table) lived on at its second location in New Westminster’s River Market. Sadly, its closure has been announced for the last day of 2018.

  • Wild Rice | Back Mezzanine (MT)
  • Wild Rice | Panna Cotta (HA)
  • Wild Rice, | The bar (MT)
  • Wild Rice | Sablefish (HH)
  • Wild Rice | Sablefish (MT)
  • Wild Rice | Long Beans (HH)

Wild Rice
Neighbourhood: Downtown East Side
117 West Pender St.

There are 2 comments

  1. It was one of the most pretentious restaurants in Vancouver, particularly when it first opened, setting the scene for future over-hyped establishments with mediocre food. The city’s “foodies” loved it because it was just the right amount of ethnic, without being too different, so you could feel that you were being adventurous without leaving your comfort zone — another example would be Anh and Chi.

  2. Yup to the above comment. It survived so many years because there was nothing else like it I suppose as it certainly wasn’t innovative delicious food. Went a few times over the years. Meh. Overrated.

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