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Where: 1864 West 57th Ave., Vancouver
When: Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Info: 604-263-0155. landandseayvr.com
Open it and they will come — and so it was at Land & Sea restaurant in Kerrisdale after opening its door last fall. Key word: Kerrisdale, a neighborhood with money to burn and a hunger for good restaurants.
“It’s been busier than we expected,” says owner-Chef Kevin Lin. “It’s not an area we know so we took a risk, but it’s been busy since the day we opened, even in January. My mom had trouble coming in.”
When I last interviewed Lin, he was chef and part owner at the funky Uncle’s Snack Shop in Richmond, which he’s no longer part of. Lin trained in culinary arts, as well as hotel management, in Switzerland but had focused on wine programs and front-of-house management at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore, as well as at the Glowbal Group in Vancouver.
But he and his partner, Steph Wan, were keen to open a place with the kind of food he liked eating while growing up and where Wan could use her design background in the branding. The latest room itself is largely unchanged from the former Senova and Coco Pazzo restaurant days with a woody musculature and Mediterranean feel. The curvaceous bar and kitchen have both been upgraded.
When we went in December, reservations were in high demand for the following weeks. A warm and charming server, Patrick Malone, greeted us upon arrival.
As for the kind of food the chef likes to eat, it’s Japanese West Coast.
“My heritage is a mix of Japanese and Taiwanese, and growing up, my mom put a lot of Japanese in her food,” he says, adding that her background was Taiwanese and his dad was Japanese.
The dishes really show his intimacy with homey Japanese food, his European-trained culinary experience and an apparent liking for Italian pasta.
Main dishes are in the 30- and 40-dollar range — getting up there but the prices reflect what’s happening in the industry.
“I’m sourcing whatever’s local and sustainable, but it’s been tough,” he says.
The menu will change two or three times a year and he’ll have occasional specials. Dishes with staying power are chili crab, unagi risotto and Ora king salmon soba, because they’re so damn delicious and people love them.
“They’re not going to move,” he reassures.
One dismissal was the scallop tempura with tartar sauce — a dish I tried when I visited.
“Not a standout,” I had noted.
But that Ora king salmon ($31) — flame grilled and served over neatly bundled green tea soba noodles, coated in creamy sesame ponzu — was delicious. The salmon, sustainably farmed in New Zealand, is oft compared with Japanese Wagyu for the beautiful marbling.
“They’re treated like the Japanese treat Kobe beef,” says Lin, “and it’s ethically farmed.”
The chili crab dish ($46) is ravioli with Dungeness and snow crab filling, bathed in sweet tomato chili sauce and served with soft shell crab tempura. It’s a crab-a-palooza!
“It’s a play on a dish I fell in love with at the Mandarin Oriental,” says Lin. “It’s the unsaid second national dish in Singapore after Hainanese chicken.”
Chargrilled Beretta flat iron steak with hayashi sauce ($41) riffs on hayashi rice, a popular homey dish in Japan — hashed beef over rice is served with a demi-glace that involves red wine and tomatoes. Here, there’s no rice, just eight ounces of good quality, lean steak, sliced and served with the gravy-like hayashi sauce. It’s a dish best shared, I would say.
We shared a black sesame chocolate brownie dessert ($12), a composition of brownie, kinako or soy flour gelato, shiratami or mochi ball, and sweet red beans.
“Mochi was one of my favorite things growing up and I’ll put it on anything, sweet or savory,” says Lin.
The black sesame added a rich depth to the brownie and, all-in-all, I liked the sweet and savory balance of the dessert.
Other dishes on the menu include truffle mushroom udon with sous vide egg, wakame butter, crispy shallots and green peas.
“Our take on truffle tagliatelle,” Lin says.
Vongole chitarra pasta — cut with a tool the looks like guitar strings — is tossed with Fanny Bay clams, sake, garlic butter, togarishi spice and baby clam XO sauce.
The wine list was curated by friend and sommelier Mott 32’s Robert Stelmachuk, who’s worked at the city’s finest for decades.
“I’ve built a foundation for us and I’ve got a wine background myself,” says Lin.
Cocktails, he says, tend toward fun and creative.
“We want to put on a show, like smoked cocktails, tableside.”
I have suggested the Don’t Worry About It drink.
“Just order it and don’t think too much about what’s coming. It’s like dealer’s choice,” Lin said.