MARKET, Vancouver

Hotel restaurants are often something of an afterthought, but at the new Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, everything is clearly carefully thought out, as one would expect from a five star hotel with locations worldwide. The lobby is inviting, as is the hotel bar, but so far the show stopper has been the first of two restaurants that will open on the property. I speak of MARKET, brought to us by none other than world-renowned chef, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

MARKET is Jean-Georges’ first Canadian outpost; he has, of course, several restaurants in New York (including the Mercer Kitchen, Spice Market, and Matsugen,) joints in Chicago, Las Vegas, (and, for some reason) Minneapolis, as well as international representation in Shanghai, London, and Paris.

His latest venture is divided into four separate areas: the café, a lounge and bar area, a formal dining room, and a patio. Architect James Cheng designed the exterior, and Box Interior Design group worked the interior into the sleek space it has become (they also designed Vancouver’s Watermark Restaurant and Whistler’s Adara Hotel).

You could comfortably bring a family into the café area, snuggle in the lower lounge seats with friends or lovers, or go upscale and sup on the tasting menu in the dining room (the banquettes even have sound baffling for private conversations.)

The first few nights after opening, Jean-Georges himself could be seen flitting about the room insuring all was well.

If you’ve been anywhere in Vancouver the past few years, you’ll recognize the local talent. Behind the bar is star Justin Tisdall (Boneta, and Lumiere), and sommelier Robert Stelmachuk (Le Crocodile); they are joined by general manager Paul Grunberg (Chambar) on the floor.

Jean Georges admits he will only be in Vancouver two or three times a year. It will really be up to Executive Chef David Foot to run the kitchen. Foot recently returned from the Shangri-La group in China, and was previously to be seen at the Beach Side Café and Diva at the Met. The Executive Sous Chef is Wayne Harris, formerly of the Fairmont Waterfront and Lumiere. There will definitely be some culinary wannabes dropping off their resumes hoping for a chance at the stoves alongside this talent.

While I went in expecting rather steep prices, I was pleasantly surprised that one could get in and out of the place without shelling out an arm and a leg. At the lounge, raw bar and cafeteria, there’s a selection of plates that all hit under $14 (apart from the lobster and seafood platter.) The black truffle and fontina cheese pizza was hard to share with my tablemates; I wanted more. The beef tartare was traditional, but pleasantly updated with some tempura onion rings; the beet salad with okanagan goat cheese was topped with microgreens and tasty balsamic vinaigrette. Heavier appetites can try the grilled tuna burger or a proper meat burger with accompanying onion rings.

If you are in the mood for a more regal experience, the dining room beckons. The gold bead curtains behind the banquettes were applied one strand at a time, not an easy job as there are 2400 in total. And the menu is, once again, quite reasonable considering the portions and flavours that each dish contains.

The rice cracked crusted tuna is a refreshing alternative to tartare; the butternut squash soup with oyster mushrooms quite sumptuous; the only disappointment was the Dungeness crab, which could have used less time in the steamer.

Mains include a variety of fish, meat and vegetable dishes. The soy glazed short ribs were calling, as was the increasing popular Artic char with mashed potatoes and a truffle vinaigrette.

You can even do a full “Market Menu” for $65. This includes the rice cracker tuna, foie gras brule, bacon-wrapped shrimp, sablefish with a nut and seed crust, soy-glazed short ribs and dessert. It may not be Vancouver’s Dineout, but there’s certainly a deal to be had here.

MARKET is finding its stride and looking sexy doing it. The patio will be a welcome addition to the downtown once summer hits, and there’s certainly a space within this space that’s sure to please most.

Address: 1128 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC
Contact: 604-695 1115
Cuisine: Bistro Fare
Area: Downtown
Venue: Restaurant, Fine Dining
Hours: Mon. – Sat.: 11:30am – 2:30pm
5:30pm – 10:30pm
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Visa, MasterCard

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