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What To Expect At Commercial Drive’s Newest Restaurant: Hānai

Chef Tess Bevernage talks about what we can expect to see, taste and feel at the soon-to-open Hānai on Commercial Drive.

Over the past few months you and the rest of your Hānai team have logged a lot of hours polishing, painting, scrubbing and sanding in order to transform the space Vancouver came to know as Ugly Dumpling into the home that you have envisioned as Hānai. Now that you’re in the home stretch, and find yourself in an almost-finished room, able to imagine tables full of diners: can you describe what you see/hear/smell?

The brightness of the space mixed with the colours and textures makes me feel at home. We’ve been able to create a space that has subtle nods to our upbringing in Hawai’i. Things like the cladding of the banquettes and slats in the windows remind us of the Hawaii-style homes we grew up in; the colour of the ceiling resembles the red dirt found in the islands; and the fabric that we picked up from O’ahu – it’s like we’ve created our own sense of place here on Commercial Drive.When closing my eyes, I smell dishes that evoke memories of our childhood now reimagined for our new home and our new space. The chatter of the Drive, of the people old and new all coming together to be part of our Hānai’d family.

Moving from construction zone to kitchen, talk to us about the Hānai menu. How has moving from a commissary to a brick and mortar location influenced the food that you are cooking?

We’ve all been talking a lot about how this transition has felt like Hānai is growing up. Having a brick and mortar allows us to explore dishes that we would not have been able to make in our previous take-out model. Dishes like Squid Luau and Chicken Lau Lau, that have traditional Hawaiian roots, take time and love to make and are best eaten fresh. These sorts of dishes are extremely exciting to share, especially because we are now exploring them with the beautiful products BC has to offer. Not to sound too cheesy, but this evolution is a really special way for us to blend our home (Hawai’i) with our new home, Vancouver.

Earlier this year, you had the opportunity to visit Hawai’i with your team (a few images from this trip snuck into the photo gallery below). What was it about this experience that you wanted for your team to bring back to the restaurant, and ultimately, your diners?

Growing up in Hawai’i is something that Thomas and I have always felt has been a privilege in our lives. It’s played a huge role in who we are and how we approach life. Bringing the team to all our favourite places was an amazing experience, to say the least. We also wanted to show them the history and culture of Hawai’i, that makes it such a special and unique place. Among other things, we took the team to work in the Lo’i (taro fields) where the experience started with a Hawaiian chant and ended with us covered in mud, with some harvested taro and lots of inspiration. The moments we experienced together have given the team a better understanding of how to approach talking about what makes Hawai’i so special, its history and how every dish has a story.

Hānai will open softly on Thursday, March 3rd. Hours will be 5pm-10pm. Keep up Hānai on their IG feed here and make plans to visit soon! Until then, have a look inside via the photo gallery below:

  • Colours at Hanai
  • Hanai Crew in Hawai'i
  • Co-owner Miki Ellis heading into the last week of finishing touches before opening Hanai.
  • Roasted Cabbage at Hanai
  • Hanai Crew in Hawai'i
  • Colours and details at Hanai
  • Hawaiian Butter Mochi with pineapple
  • Colours and details at Hanai
  • Miso Tahini Ginger Cookies at Hanai
  • Colours and details at Hanai
  • Sharing Food at Hanai
  • IMG_0679
  • Sharing Food at Hanai
  • Hawaiian chili pepper water at Hanai
  • Preparing to eat at Hanai
  • Squid Luau at Hanai
  • Tess Bevernage of Hanai
Neighbourhood: Commercial Drive
1590 Commercial Dr.

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