I’ve been following this guy David (atelier_nomadique) on Instagram for a while. Don’t remember how or why. Maybe cuz he collaborated with Juno Kim at 33 Acres during one of those Monday Night Dinner Series…or maybe it was the fistful of black truffles he was holding in one of his pictures. Anyways, he just started a dinner/late-nite eats pop-up (“chef in residency”) at The Pie Shoppe in Chinatown this week, and he’ll be there for January (2016). Yes, a tiny chef’s table kind of setup at the tiny space that is The Pie Shoppe.
After recovering from some shitty stomach flu, I decided to ease back into eating real food and checked him out. Glad I did.
For the people who don’t read: this pop-up is only for the month of January 2016. After January, who knows?
It’s cheffy, tasting plates, small plates-style dining meets street thieves at The Pie Shoppe space at night. Actually, Chinatown is totally safe at night. Just don’t leave stuff visible in your car.
IMHO only about 8 people can fit in there, but getting cozy is part of the fun. I was early but ate alone the entire time I was there — which tells me that Vancouver has vastly different priorities than me.
Dinners run from 5:30pm – 12:30am on weekdays, 5:30pm – 1:30am on weekends, closed Mondays. Check Instagram for latest news.
The menu for Friday, January 8. Menu changes all the time. This isn’t cheap food by any stretch. Dare I say it’ll weed out the people who can’t appreciate it? 😛 Two people ordering the entire menu and sharing would be a great tasting menu dinner. I ordered three plates and my total (including tax and tip) came to ~$40.
It was like dining at my own personal chef’s table! 🙂
I am uncomfortable with most social interaction, but it was a fun experience. And any chef who admires Black Hoof in Toronto is all right in my books.
The Clash was playing as I entered the space. The majority of the record collection was punk that I did not recognize. After a bit of discussion, I switched the record to The Cure. Then after that, David Bowie. Pretty great dinner soundtrack, I must say.
The chef’s obvious love of punk (which I promptly eschewed) carries into his pop-up…in spirit. It was his hope to do a version of Chicago’s 42 grams (a tiny 8-10 seat restaurant), and he’s pulled it off in a pie shop after hours. It’s that DIY spirit. But while punks didn’t even have to know how to play their instruments, this chef can actually cook 😛
The purposefully vague menu says: Beef Heart / Spelt / Peanut / Kombu / Turnip ($11). Raw chopped beef heart on a spelt cracker with peanuts, kombu emulsion, and I spaced on the rest. Topped with Maldon flake salt. Great combination of crispy cracker, mild yet flavourful lean beef heart meat, acid from the pickles, and a nutty finish. To see beef heart served raw like this was a joy. I love pork belly and chicharones as much as the next guy, but beef parts like tongue beat out pork tongue any day. I heart heart.
Pouring the fish broth onto the Brassicas / Fish Broth / Bottarga ($13). The chef did a stint at The Catbird Seat in Tennessee, and while there he made this bottarga and (somehow) brought it back with him across the border. If you zoom in, you can see the sensual (to me) fish roe texture of the finely shaved yellow bottarga slices. He showed the bottarga to me before slicing and it was encased in wax and less dry than I imagined. I always compare it in my mind to Japanese mentaiko, which you usually find in Japanese pasta. In this particular case, it was not spicy, and way less dry and granular.
Indeed the bottarga had a softer quality. Still a nice hit of salt and umami fish roe essence, but also with a soft melting quality. You might call this dish a “bounty of cruciferous vegetables”, as it contained brussel sprout leaves, broccoli, romanesco, and shaved romanesco stem. The fish broth was rich, salty, cloudy. I didn’t outright love it at first, but in the context of a full tasting menu, I could imagine myself looking forward to this dish again.
My third and final dish, Bay Laurel / Hazelnut / Apple / Sorrel ($9). Bay laurel is apparently bay leaves, although in fresh form, which here is turned into a sorbet (nice quenelle). Dressed with a bit of buttermilk and something else. On a bed of sorrel. It was an intriguing salad-meets-dessert kind of experience — a savoury dessert, if you will. But not savoury as in salty though…vegetal. The sorrel leaves burst as you chew them, releasing a juice that has a certain sweetness to it. The combination of everything in the mouth was pleasing and new for me.
If you are down for this kind of plated, cheffy food, I’d recommend you try this while it lasts.