‘Farm to Downtown’ Restaurant Opens in Former Blackbird Location
A culinary dream team—including David Gunawan and Wendy McGinnis—opens up Royal Dinette in downtown Vancouver.
Chef David Gunawan is in for a big change.
His new restaurant, Royal Dinette, opens Thursday in the heart of downtown, and while the food’s farm-fresh-seasonal-ingredients focus is similar to his previous projects (the celebrated Farmer’s Apprentice and Grapes and Soda), the scale is something new. Three thousand square feet—Dinette took over Blackbird’s street level location—and 70 seats (well, 100 if you count the patio), a far cry from the intimate South Granville spaces Gunawan has established.
But he’s not alone in his new endeavour: the staff at Dinette are a veritable dream team from the city’s coolest rooms. Front-of-house manager Jonathan Therrien’s recent gigs include managing Cafe Medina and L’Abattoir; bar manager Wendy McGuinness is the mix-master behind Chambar‘s fine cocktails; head Jack Chen cut his teeth at Bishops, Pear Tree and L’Abattoir.
The goal for Royal Dinette is to bring an element of simplicity to the often fussy downtown dining scene. It’s evident in McGuinness’ cocktails (“We’re putting together approachable pairings that are interesting and fun”), the food on the plate (“This is the latest version of that vision, exemplifying what farm to table is all about,” says Gunawan), and the decor, too: Beyond Beige Interior Design kept things in the farm-fresh theme, incorporating reclaimed, whitewashed cedar planks and walls of colourful jars of preserves alongside vintage-cool accents like brass lighting and pastel tile.
The open kitchen was designed to show exactly what the cooks are up to. “No hidden agenda, what you see is what you get,” says Gunawan. That theme expands to the butcher area, where full animals will be broken down in full view of the diners. “Guests will have full contact with where their food comes from.”
Head chef Jack Chen (who’s done stints at Bishops, Pear Tree and L’Abattoir) brings his own perspective to Gunawan’s food philosophy. “I like to feed people what I eat myself,” says Chen. “I was born in Taiwan and learned cooking from my mom, and the food reflects that.” The menu will evolve with the seasons, but expect dishes like fennel chickpea salad, or house-made ricotta agnolotti with summer squash, morels and speck.
The ideal way to do the Royal Dinette, though, is via the seasonal tasting menus: eight courses for $65 per person (add $45 each for drink pairings). The restaurant opens this month (with no reservations, as the coolest restaurants are wont to do), Monday to Friday for lunch and Monday through Saturday for dinner service.