The other day we checked out Edible Canada at the Market, the new, all-things-very-culinary-Canuckish bistro on Granville Island, that opened—appropriately—on Canada Day.
As it turned out, getting there proved to be half the fun.
I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is to take the ferry across False Creek–especially on a perfect summer’s day. But as I moseyed around the north seawall, I found myself wondering how come this side (despite being the sunnier) is not even remotely as vibrant as its opposite shore, and why potentially prime retail locations are shuttered behind nameplates detailing lawyers and mortgage brokers.
This could be a truly dynamic stretch if others were allowed to join the likes of C Restaurant and Nu.
But we digress…
Back to Granville Island…
The first thing you should know is that Edible Canada at the Market is not actually in the market proper but kitty corner to the main entrance. However, once you spot it there ‘s no mistaking this dynamic addition to the Granville Island scene.
Six weeks in, the place is rockin’. Outside, the sun-drenched patio is surrounded by planter boxes stocked with all manner of herbs and greens, to be picked as required by the kitchen. (You have to wonder why more restaurants don’t do this.)
Inside is a pretty sleek and functional, wood and stainless trimmed space with a long kitchen and well stocked wine and spirits bar in back, as well as the retail store that used to be Edible BC for four years, moved over from the market.
A glass-fronted garage door makes for a unique private function space, as needed, that accommodates 28 seated, 45 standing.
Owner Eric Pateman is one of those cool-as-a-cucumber guys who just seems to have a knack for getting things done. After all, it’s not that long since he kicked off his fledgeling culinary concierge business that blossomed overnight into a thriving retail store and now this multi-tasking emporium, with over 80 people on staff.
Eric tells me the genesis behind shifting things up from Edible BC to Edible Canada is quite simple, based on two major factors.
The first was a matter of necessity:
“We were putting on three to four dinners a week in the market but we weren’t set up as a restaurant,” says Pateman.
“It was great. But we needed a more appropriate space,” (to keep the health department happy, for one, he adds.)
When the former information booth opposite the market became available, Pateman approached Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) and, after a successful tender process, wound up securing the spot.
(Next month Pateman and crew travel to New York with Canadian Tourism Commission, where they’ll represent Canada’s culinary scene at the Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar—and cook for 5,000 delegates over three days.)
The other reason is more telling. Essentially, there’s such a groundswell of interest in Canadian cuisine across the country, says Pateman, he felt it could no longer be ignored.
By the time 300 plus chefs converged on Duncan, Vancouver Island, for last year’s Canadian Chefs Congress, construction plans were well under way. But Pateman says if he ever needed proof if he was on the right track, it was to be found there.
“It allows us to embrace more than just what British Columbia’s doing. It’s more about what Canada’s doing. We’d been looking to do more demos outside of BC, working for people like CTC and Tourism BC, promoting BC food products, so representing the Canadian take on thing—especially Granville Island being Federal land—just makes sense,” he says.
“Our long term vision is to do something in Toronto,” says Pateman, “to have a second version with the same scope celebrating the best of what’s in that region but also bringing all the Canadian components together.”
Pateman says seeing the response at the chefs congress made him want to create an opportunity to bring the Canadian culinary community together not just once every year or second year.
“I think there’s an opportunity and a need to spearhead that happening on a daily basis. We’ll have a chance to bring chefs from across the country to celebrate Canadian Cuisine on Granville Island.”
Fresh, local, seasonal and more
As for what’s on the menu (which also offers gluten and dairy free options), you can check it out here. Firm faves so far are the crispy, bronzed duck fat fries (served with aioli and ketchup ($4.50) and richly flavoured, seafood bisque of spot prawns, mussels, clams and fish in coconut broth ($7, $10). We’ll be back for a full work out of the dinner menu soon …
The kitchen runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (later weekends) and the bistro (also licensed from 9 a.m.) stays open ‘as long as it’s busy’ or at least until the after Arts Club crowd has dropped by.
Liquid assets, eventually flowing freely across borders?
Running the wine and bar program is ‘Director of Liquid Assets’ Treve Ring (we love that title), who’s already done a great job picking out some of the more worthwhile hard to find BC folks, such as Joie, Stoneboat, Orofino et al. You can also sip Nichol Vineyards Gewurz and 9 Mile Red, which are ‘on tap’ from 19.5 litre kegs, a first. The sommelier has also been sure to include wines from every BC region, and the list is always changing.
Also here is a neophyte selection of ‘outside’ beers, including Toronto’s Steam Whistle and Halifax Propeller, with more to come, says Ring.
In time she wants to expand the cross country selection to include the likes of L’Acadie Vineyards sparkling wine (Wolfville, Nova Scotia) and Phrog Gin (Island Spirits, Hornby Island, BC)—although it can be a challenge (and costly) to get smaller producers to ship from ‘coast to coast,’ says Ring.
Before leaving, I asked Pateman to name what he feels are the three quintessential Vancouver / Lower Mainland dishes or ingredients…
Salmon has to be there, of course, he says, along with the whole seafood experience. But number two is way more surprising.
“Birch syrup. It’s funny. Everyone thinks of maple syrup as being the definitive Canadian ingredient but birch syrup and sake have become synonymous: sake (from Granville Island’s Artisan Sake) and birch syrup from Sweet Tree Ventures, Quesnel, in northern BC, have allowed us to create something more unique. Now we’re selling more birch syrup than we ever sold of maple syrup. We pair it with sable fish (and kasu) for even more of that West Coast experience.”
“People keep telling us, because we’re using citrus, or spices from South China Seas, we’re not ‘100 Mile diet’. But, you know, in our mind, that very much is Canadian cuisine.”
“It’s really all about using local ingredients—but with international cooking techniques and styles—to really showcase those ingredients.”
“That’s what we’ really trying to embrace: the essential multicultural experience that truly represents British Columbia—and Canada.”
It will be interesting to watch the adventure unfold. One thing’s for sure: Edible Canada has thrown down a gauntlet to some of the other Granville Island eateries to get a whole lot more serious about how they reflect Canadian cuisine…
Which is not a bad thing at all.
Edible Canada at the Market
1596 Johnston St. (at Anderson)