Archive for October, 2010

Meat & Bread: Part 1-First Impressions

There really is nothing like a good tease; one that plays with your senses and holds you in suspense, craving more. I will admit that I was aroused from the start—right from the first street poster I saw in September. It was the clean wordmark and animal heads in black and white that caught my eye, but it was the name that grabbed my attention—Meat & Bread. A fantastically simple name and if the name was any indication of what was to be on the menu, this carnivore begged to be satisfied.


First impressions are big in my book. Some say it takes about two minutes to form your opinion and about four minutes for this impression to be locked in. The boys at Meat & Bread, however, had me in about a minute and a half.

00:00 – 00:15: Frankie Harrington greets
Warm and charismatic. Casual, yet confident. He briefly explained the concept, highlighted the menu and guided the dozen or so guests trickling out the door to snake around the counter. I felt welcomed.

00:15-00:20: The oversized magnetic menu
An uncomplicated listing of four sandwiches posted with magnetic letters in the same clean font as the wordmark. A brilliant touch.

00:20 – 00:30: Porchetta
My eyes fixed on the glorious slab of pork loin spotlighted under the hanging heat lamps. Mmmm-meat! I wondered if I was the only person considering asking for the bread on the side.

00:30-00:40: Joseph Sartor carves
Joe wielded his knife through the tender porchetta. I watched him load the bun with the bite-sized pieces and then drizzle the salsa verde atop with care. Despite the growing line, he seemed unfazed. He calmly took more orders, each with a smile and a bit of banter.

00:40-00:50: Breadboards
The sandwiches are served on a breadboard flanked with precise dollops of mustard and chutney. Once again the theme of simplicity wove its way in.

Photo by Heather Johnston

00:50-01:00: The space
Huge. High ceilings adorned by hanging lamps. Crisp white walls. Subway tiles. A four-foot magnetic strip housing knives of all shapes and sizes. Patina mirrors. A communal table. A punching bag and taxidermy. (What the…?) Part butcher, part Parisian bistro and a healthy heaping of circus sideshow. There were stories to be had here and I knew I had to return to uncover them.

1:00-1:30: The first bite
I relished the first bite and let the zing of the curried lamb fill my mouth. The concept of Meat & Bread may be based on the theme of minimalism but the taste is anything but minimal.

After a minute and a half my impression was not only formed but locked in. A simple concept, a solid place. These boys have something good going. It is clear that nothing has been overlooked; whether in the details of the decor, the presentation of the food or the branding. Yet, despite the OCD-like attentions paid, they have retained a laid-back environment.

The waiting, the yearning, the teasing had come to an end, but I know my cravings for more haven’t. I was satisfied once and know that I will be with each return.

(More stories about the decor to come.)


Frim Fram Sauce

Canadian singer Ina Kota sings one of my favourite songs.

I’ve always wanted to ask a server, I know it’s not on the menu, but could I get the frim fram sauce with the oss and fay and a little shifafa on the side. If there is no time like the present, I really do need to give it a whirl.


Photo by Amanda Baye (hipstamtic:John S lens/Ina's 1969 film)

There is one thing that makes this diner happy; one simple five-lettered word–HOOKS. Yes, hooks. Single-pronged, double-pronged, curvy, or industrial; I don’t care.  I don’t care how they are fastened or what hip shade they are painted, but for the love of god, give me a hook.

I hear the cynisism, but let me explain, actually let me set the stage.  October in Vancouver. Torrents of rain. I walk 10 minutes and arrive at a bar/bistro. I’m wearing a coat, carrying an umbrella and toting some form of bag. I will most likely arrive in a slightly soggy state.  All I want now is a place to hunker down for a libation or two, maybe more. I refuse to put my over-priced umbrella in the stand for the public to borrow and so I take it with me. Although I have shaken off most of the rain, it’s still wet. I find a seat and there are four things on my mind; get out of my coat, put down my purse, stash my umbrella and pour me a drink.

The trouble is with the first three things–where? I am not going to drape my damp coat over the stool to sit on. And if there isn’t a coat rack near by, where do I put it? I am not going to put my purse on the floor–god knows what has been there before–or put it on the bar, especially if I anticipate eating. The simple, three-dollar-a-pop solution is a hook.  The coat, purse and umbrella can be neatly tucked away leaving me dry, comfortable and ready to imbibe.

The great thing about hooks is just not in the utilitarian concept, but how much of a message a little detail can convey to its patrons. When I see hooks installed under a bar it speaks volumes. It gives me a sense of confidence in the establishment. I immediately recognize that the owner (or the designer) has thought about my needs as a guest (not customer) and they have anticipated what it will take to make me comfortable. It is almost as if that little gadget acts as a precursor. I know that there was deliberate effort put into that hook which leads me to believe that those small touches and conscious considerations will spill over into the other areas of service–or at least one can hope.

Amazing how much of a powerful message three bucks and a bit of elbow grease will get you. A solid investment that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Pit Stop: Taiwan

I wonder, would a restaurant like this fly in Vancouver? Or would it just serve crap food and rely on its novelty to get people in the door?

But what fun it would be to brand such a place. Besides themed toilet lids, imagine the subtle touches you could go crazy with: toilet paper rolls for napkins, porcelain crockery, the drink and food list–it would certainly give a different twist on steamrollers and chocolate logs. And the best part, the name… ohhhh, the possibilities – P&P, Lucy’s Loo, Flush, Thunderbox…you get the point.

Sidenote: For those slightly disappointed in the name “Morton,” apparently it is close to the Chinese word for toilet.

Flying Pussies

Artizia's window display on Granville

Geishas and Samurais

After a few bottles of hot sake at Guu Gastown I stumbled upon a pleasant surprise at the threshold of the powder room. There were no metallic labels or stick figures distinguishing  the men’s from the women’s (which, to my amusement, was haphazardly removed here). Instead, the doors were adorned with a paper fan of a geisha and another of a samurai. Smart. A simple touch.

And while the bathrooms at Guu aren’t necessarily fit for military nobility or graceful courtesans, it is refreshing to find creativity in the small details of decor.


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