One of Las Vegas’s most celebrated chefs and James Beard Award–nominated restaurateur of the year Kim Canteenwalla already has a string of hot restaurants to his name. Along with his partner, Elizabeth Blau, he lays claim to Vegas favorites like Honey Salt and Made L.V. (in Tivoli Village).
Now, Canteenwalla has his sights set on his native Canada — he grew up in Montreal — with ambitious plans to oversee five new restaurants and a bar at Parq Vancouver, a sprawling urban entertainment complex and resort due to launch later in 2017.
Marriott TRAVELER chatted with Canteenwalla to find out more about the diverse concepts for his new restaurants and how Vancouver’s seasons could inspire his kitchens.
“It’s so nice to be back in a place that’s so green, with those mountains and the ocean; that’s the biggest plus for Vancouver — and the long nights and days of summer.” KIM CANTEENWALLA
What do people need to know about the restaurants at the new Parq Vancouver?
Honey Salt is the restaurant that we have in Las Vegas, and we’re opening that in the JW Marriott parq Vancouver. It’s open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it’s very approachable, seasonal and regional; it’s as organic as possible and farm driven.
BC Kitchen will be barcentric, in a beautiful room on the third floor of the casino, which will be open all day with a breakfast menu and then an all-day menu with things like pizzas, charcuterie — maybe even poutine might be fun!
1886 will be my Cantonese restaurant but with elements of Sichuan, Shanghainese and Hunan; there’ll be a fish tank in there, too. We’ll serve dim sum in the daytime. I love Cantonese food — the art of their food, the clean flavors — but I also love Sichuan with the bold flavors that come through.
Market East is going to be more like a hawker stand at a night market; it’ll have everything from woks, dim sum, a satay bar, grilled food and banh mi, even a tandoor oven and a Chinese barbecue oven. It’s an open kitchen, and it’ll be really approachable, too. We’re looking at it to be set up like dim sum: Check the boxes and the food gets brought to you.
Victor will be our steak, sushi and seafood restaurant, so [there will be] chilled platters of oysters, lobster, Dungeness crab and whatever’s in season, with amazing steak from wagyu and Canadian AAA to USA Prime, and some all-natural meats. We have a beautiful patio on the sixth floor with a big green space; it’s pretty sweet, and that will be dinner only.
D6 is a skybar. By day it’s an indoor and outdoor space where you can get small plates like charcuterie, cheese, rillettes and panini. By night you can get food from Victor there, too.
So, why Vancouver?
I’ve worked in Calgary and Toronto and across Asia, but when I came back to North America, I went to the USA and worked with Steve Wynn in Vegas. I’d bump into Canadian expats and talk to them about “where next?” as I was always working on two year contracts, just growing and learning and enjoying myself.
The longer I stayed away from Montreal, the more I realized I didn’t want to go back and deal with all that snow! I always loved Vancouver, and when this opportunity turned up, it was great.
What do you love about the city?
It’s so nice to be back in a place that’s so green, with those mountains and the ocean; that’s the biggest plus for Vancouver — and the long nights and days of summer. Then there’s its diversity, which is wonderful — so many different cultures.
What about from a culinary perspective?
The great thing will be those seasonal changes. When I left Canada, I remembered it stays truer to the seasons than most of the USA, where you can get blueberries or whatever year-round. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes into season and jumping into that!
I’ll have far more winter than I’ve had in Vegas, so braised roasts and sturdier food in those months and lighter cuisines for summer. I’m looking forward to the produce from the islands and the Lower Mainland and obviously the seafood; the oysters are fantastic.
Which Vancouver restaurants have you enjoyed?
I love Kissa Tanto — the creativity of the dishes, the variety of the menu and the knowledge of the staff. I loved how sincere the team is there, too. Whenever I go out to eat with a group, we’ll eat family-style and order lots of food — everything sounded so good — and they were telling us, “You don’t need this much, slow down!”
It’s such an intimate room, and they have a great cocktail program, too. I love their sister restaurant Bao Bei, so Kissa Tanto seems like a natural progression.
I had a great porchetta sandwich at Meat and Bread, which I really loved, and a terrific banh mi in Mount Pleasant at Ba-Le. It was just in a mom-and-pop place, no seats, and it was only $3.50, but the bread was great, crusty, with lots of cilantro, basil and crunchy veggies stuffed inside it, with plenty of good spice. The meat was OK for a $3.50 sandwich, but it was a cool little place.
I enjoyed everything at Savio Volpe. Oh, we ate so much there! I also loved the Mackenzie Room. All their food is on a chalkboard, they have a really good cocktail program, there’s maybe 12 dishes total on the menu, but it’s creative and so solid.