Power Lunch: Grain Tasting Bar and Cuchillo

Grain Tasting Bar | BCBusiness
On a sunny day, nothing beats Grain’s open-air seating at the Hyatt.

Local tastes and tipples in the downtown core 

Inside the Hyatt Regency on Vancouver’s Burrard Street is a stylish new cocktail lounge free of the stuffy trappings of your average hotel bar. When developing the concept for Grain Tasting Bar, the team was focused on harvesting ingredients and menu items from the wealth of top-notch sustainable suppliers in B.C. and presenting them in an approachably chic urban space.

“We weren’t looking to go far beyond Vancouver,” says Hyatt Regency Vancouver director of food and beverage Michael Halloran. “We wanted to find some isolated things that we could really enhance to show off what Vancouver has to offer.” Both the food and drink menus read like lessons in homegrown goodness, including exclusively B.C. draft-beer and wine lists, locally made spirits and produce from Lower Mainland farmers.

Halloran says that he and executive chef Thomas Heinrich—an Australian whose resumé includes stints in Chicago and New York at Michelin-starred restaurants—like to break away from the restaurant to shop at local farmers’ markets and at Granville Island for produce. In keeping with the commitment to sustainability, the menu only features Ocean Wise-compliant seafood.

That penchant for working the local angle and curating a B.C. vibe also shines through in the physical space. City meets nature in the 102-seat restaurant and lounge, where sleek accents are juxtaposed with the organic textures of reclaimed-wood furniture and neutral fabrics.

The wall of retractable windows opens on warmer days, giving the entire room a breezy, West Coast-cool feel and provides ample natural light throughout those darker winter months (grainvbc.com).

BEST TABLE For confidential meetings, booths along the perimeter offer privacy. In the summer and on balmy spring days, sit near the retractable window wall that opens to create an almost-patio, connecting the dining room to the lively bustle on Burrard Street.

DRINK UP The all-local draft-beer and wine lists draw on B.C.’s strength as a craft-beer centre and a producer of high-quality wines. For the more adventurous sippers, try one of Grain’s custom cocktails, like the Vancouver Fog, made with Earl Grey-infused whisky.

MUST-TRY ORDER The Chicken Salad Club marries two essential sandwiches for a mouth-watering, bacon-filled lunch served on a fruit-and-nut loaf. Choose selections from Granville Island’s Oyama Sausage Co. to build your own cheese and charcuterie plate.

INSIDER TIP For casual get-togethers or drinks, ask to sit on one of the lounge couches to bring some levity to otherwise formal meetings. Keep your eyes peeled for members of the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club–the Hyatt is the team’s official hote



A second life for an old Latin favourite

The brick walls and exposed beams inside a former Japanese bathhouse on Vancouver’s Powell Street are now the edgy backdrop for Cuchillo, a Latin-themed restaurant that chef and co-owner Stu Irving refers to as an evolution of Cobre, his last culinary venture, which closed in March 2012.

While originally seeking a new location for Cobre, Irving approached his former Raintree colleague, John Cooper, to join forces on a new project that would pick up where Cobre left off.

At the heart of the restaurant, parallel to the bar, is an expansive community table that Irving says complements the menu, which abounds with items priced in the single digits. “It’s a sharing menu and we want to have that sharing atmosphere,” he says. “We wanted a larger bar–we knew we were going to do more of a cocktail-driven menu.”

The pair snagged Vancouver magazine bartender of year H, whom Cooper says “created a phenomenal cocktail list, staying true to the flavours of the menu and the culture.” The vibe is complete with a feature wall of peeling Mexican movie and wrestling posters, and skull-laden, custom tile-art fronting the open kitchen.
–Kristen Hilderman