FARM TO DOWNTOWN WITH TRUE SUSTAINABILITY IN MIND
A restaurant that truly exemplifies its "Farm to Downtown" branding, we first heard about Royal Dinette from Harvey's Organics at the Trout Lake Farmers Market. The menu changes every few weeks, and it is always seasonal, local, and "99% organic" as former head chef Jack Chen noted while sitting down for a chat after a long shift last summer. Each type of pasta is handmade right in front of your eyes (if you get there early enough!) by one of the unbelievably consistent sous-chefs.
Created by master drink-architect Kaitlyn Stewart, the cocktail menu whimsically lists each drink after a song, often from Stewart's own playlist (she may just know as much about music as she does fermentation and ancient spirits). Most cocktails have their own specialty feature: from edible flowers to in-house dried fruit garnishes, or toasted raw marshmallows--once even a flaming lime filled with mango chutney.
Stepping into the executive chef position earlier this spring, former sous-chef Alden Ong comes from an impressive background: Burdock & Co and the Okanagan's Joy Road just to name a few. Keeping with Royal Dinette's trend of hiring humble yet award-winning artisans, Ong brings virtuous finesse to the kitchen. His focus is on pairing a “cuisine du terroir” or "food of the earth" philosophy with traditional French techniques--those which he honed during his classical training.
Royal Dinette offers some of the freshest, most rich (but balanced) dishes in the city; a trend that Ong will continue. He speaks of a desire to continue weaving cultures in cuisine, but then surprises and delights with additions of distinctive ingredients.
Each dish at Royal Dinette features carefully chosen details like ribboned squash, nettle pesto, sorrel or lovage garnish, noteworthy morels, herring roe, or smoked crème fraîche. Known for its conscious cooking, this downtown kitchen has always been ahead of its game by showcasing class and distinction, but also by introducing previously unknown flavours into Vancouver's food scene.
We wouldn’t give the description of a “laidback, informal atmosphere” as Royal Dinette characterizes on their website. More the opposite -- a formal diner at the least, but that doesn’t mean it is any less inviting. It’s incredibly striking and reminiscent of an Italian market shop with rows of shelves stocked with canned preserves, flavoured liqueurs, glassware and racked wine. As you enter through a large wooden barn door, framed in front of you is a fresh pasta station. The dinette is sophisticated and welcoming with gold plated accents, gilded columns and upholstered mauve panels. The dried foliage isn’t a preferred detail of ours, but it does play up the farm-to-table atmosphere.
If you sit among the stretch of green leather swivel chairs (and beautiful emperador counter), you're given a back-of-house experience: you're stationed looking right into the open kitchen. Royal Dinette provides private seating with a few steps up into a more secluded area with tufted bench seating, antique wooden dining chairs and opaque globe wall sconces.
The design is a combination of Beyond Beige Interior Design, Milltown Contracting, and Glasfurd & Walker. The restaurant is situated in the heart of business district and lends well to associate lunches and jovial conversation. In the evening, the dinette caters to smaller, intimate group settings -- family meets or romantic dates. As an oasis within the food-chain concentrated financial district, this Dunsmuir Street diamond-in-the-rough certainly is a Royal experience.
A version of this article originally appeared in Hazel Noix on May 10th, 2017