Title: Barbara Restaurant
Location: 305 E. Pender St., Vancouver
Web site: barbararestaurant.com
Delicacies: Fashionable-classical West Coast
Costs: Three-course tasting menu (with choices), $70
Extra Data: Open Tuesday to Friday, 5:30 to 10 p.m.; reservations with bank card required; max. group measurement 4 individuals; no takeout or patio
Seventeen months after Barbara Restaurant opened, I lastly caught up with the boss – and so did COVID-19. Omicron hit the cool Chinatown kitchen bar earlier this month, closing it down for per week.
It may have been worse. However the pandemic had already formed and polished this tiny gem till it was robust as diamonds.
Barbara is a remarkably environment friendly and roundly palate-delighting two-person operation helmed by chef-owner Patrick Hennessy and common supervisor Claudia Fandino. Fortuitously, each contracted the virus on the similar time (from separate vacation capabilities) and neither was ailing, which made the shutdown transient.
Babs is an unique, to make certain, with a transparent culinary voice and distinctive standpoint (together with politely policed but inevitably ostracizing images protocols). But it surely’s additionally a sustainable template for the way forward for eating places and I hope we’ll see extra of its form.
The 15-seat room (now right down to 10 due to physical-distancing restrictions) is mainly one large open kitchen with a bar off to at least one aspect, ringed by an L-shaped counter and some high-top tables for 2 alongside the other wall and entrance window.
The house is appointed with a stunning summary mural by Vancouver artist Sarah Delaney, curvy wooden panelling and pops of pink neon. However the primary point of interest is Mr. Hennessy, calmly juggling pans and an limitless succession of small plates in a compact, stainless-steel kitchen dominated by an enormous self-circulating hood fan.
The chef doesn’t have a lot time to speak, however the private contact of getting him ship every plate with a fulsome description of each scratch-made ingredient, composed in a rigorously orchestrated dance only a few steps away, provides the expertise a uncommon sense of social intimacy that the pandemic has largely denied.
A 3-course tasting menu is tightly curated with three choices (one vegetarian) on every tier. A brand new dish is added each week or two, however a number of signature objects have remained fixed, accented by the altering seasons.
In October, as an example, a deeply buttery squash flan was ringed by charred chicories, crispy sage and roasted pumpkin seeds; by December, the flavour profile had moved on to cauliflower, smoked almonds and recent herbs. Each variations have been terrific.
Virtually each ingredient is made in-house, together with gently melting stracciatella (served with heirloom tomatoes or twice-cooked beets, relying on the month).
Mr. Hennessy’s technical expertise are spectacular, particularly given the constraints of his gas-free kitchen. The potato-starch coating on beautiful tender-firm octopus was gossamer-thin and crisp. And the seared pores and skin on Arctic char was browned to a shattering crisp (though the soft-edged striploin may have used extra color).
His influences lean basic however typically shock. I virtually handed on oysters as a result of a clear shuck, whereas good, doesn’t normally say a lot a few chef. However these delicate Kusshis, wearing a superbly balanced mignonette, have been actually only a automobile for foamy vichyssoise adorned with a crackly nest of matchstick leeks.
His flavours pack a punch. Beef tartare (not chopped to order, however snappy nonetheless) has a calmly dry-aged funk that pops underneath cassis-folded mayo. Juicy sweetbreads are dribbled with richly acidic sherry jus. Rosy veal tongues loll lusciously underneath smoky balls of roe in a mattress of creamy remoulade smacked with vibrant dill.
Even the honey drizzled over fried eggplants, which was served as a complimentary snack between programs, gave the garlicky chermoula dipping sauce some fragrantly stiff competitors
The daring flavours go effectively with a discerning checklist of native, high-acid pure wines, a lot of that are produced in such small portions you’ll by no means discover them on retailer cabinets. The wines are hand-selected by Ms. Fandino, who graciously pours samples if it would assist convert boring basic wine drinkers to the fleshy, fuzzy peach thrill of a low-intervention skin-contact muscat. She additionally mixes deeply dimensional cocktails as she squeezes her method across the tight house with infectious heat and versatile octopus arms.
This isn’t Mr. Hennessy’s first time across the block. He began working in West Vancouver’s Seashore Home as a teen, has cooked in lots of notable native eating places (Raincity Grill, Chambar, Kissa Tanto) and has wished to open his personal ever since returning, in 2011, from a year-long stint in New York as one in all eight sous cooks at Eleven Madison Park.
Within the interim, he ran an underground kitchen in his residence, gigged on personal yachts, constructed furnishings and survived an awfully serendipitous kidney transplant, supplied by a beforehand unknown household donor who appeared within the nick of time.
He had no intention of opening a restaurant that wouldn’t be worthwhile, and the pandemic compelled some fine-tuning that has made Barbara not only a chief, but in addition extra more likely to survive in the long term.
When it opened, in June, 2020, the tasting menu was optionally available – and $20 cheaper. Now priced at $70 for 3 programs (with a few snacks thrown in) and now not optionally available, it’s most likely one of many priciest (for every merchandise) prix fixe in Vancouver.
It’s not the most effective, not by far. There are tasting menus throughout city which can be rather more formidable, modern and artfully plated. However it’s realistically priced for the spiralling prices in our crisis-addled financial system. And with solely 10 seats, Barbara doesn’t should win over the plenty.
My solely quibble: The $7 granita is one supplemental cost too far. It’s simply flavoured ice. A tasting menu feels unfinished with out dessert and this optionally available additional leaves a bitter closing impression.
As a result of Vancouverites have a horrible behavior of not exhibiting up for reservations, bookings have to be made with a bank card. Cancellations with lower than (a really affordable) 12-hours discover are charged $50 an individual. This must be normal observe throughout the trade.
Final summer season, Mr. Hennessy carried out a shorter workweek and closed the restaurant on Saturdays. That is normally the busiest evening for a downtown restaurant and virtually unprecedented. It’s admirable, as a result of hospitality employees want a life, too. And with solely two individuals doing every part from morning prep to dishwashing, it might be very straightforward to burn out.
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