CONGRATS TO CATHY SELZLER. PLEASE EMAIL TARANEH@KITSILANO.CA TO GET YOUR PRIZE.
Although reviewers tend to obsess about the Oakwood’s brisket-topped poutine as the ultimate beer sponge, it’s fare like the Oakwood’s pork ravioli with apple wasabi butter and maple smoked sablefish with cod brandade croquettes that have won the Kitsilano restaurant a place on “Canada’s best “Canadian” restaurants” alongside Edible Canada.
I caught up with young chef Mike Robbins, the man behind the menu, to talk about what the Oakwood is trying to achieve from their good-looking bistro located on the barren stretch of West 4th Avenue at Stephens. You can read the Q&A below.
We’re giving away a $50 gift card to Oakwood. To win the gift card, leave a comment on the blog telling us the best thing you’ve ever eaten at Oakwood. If you haven’t tried the Oakwood yet, tell us what you look forward to trying. We’ll draw a winner January 14.
Q&A with Chef Mike Robbins
Kitsilano: How old are you? How long have you been a chef?
Chef Mike: 28 and 10 years.
Kitsilano: Where are you from?
Chef Mike: East Van. 37th and Iverness. I live on Main now.
Kitsilano: What is it like to work in Kits as an East Van guy?
Chef Mike: Very different. It’s hard to explain. I feel like the creative culture is stronger in East Van compared to Kitsilano present day. You look at the restaurant scene in Gastown, what’s happening in Chinatown, Strathcona and growing up Main, and it’s a growing culture. What we’re trying to do in Kits is different from what Kits has had in a long time.
Kitsilano: How is it different?
Chef Mike: It’s fresh. I humbly say this. You can look at what Chambar did – it started Gastown’s cocktail culture and restaurant scene – and that’s what we’re trying to do for Kits. Everyone who worked for Chambar broke out and did cool things. Take Boneta or Bao Bei, for example. The Gastown scene started with Chambar. I’m not saying we will do that to that degree in Kits. I’m saying that the Oakwood is doing something similar in that its starting in a corner of a neighbourhood that doesn’t necessarily understand who we are.
Kitsilano: What is Canadian cuisine?
Chef Mike: Our concept, “Canadian bistro,” is the idea of our room and food in one. It’s lack of pretentiousness in the room when you come in for dinner, and then it’s the food on the plate. We lean toward West Coast style when we’re cooking. Vancouver is a multicultural city. I take aspects of different culture without losing the idea of West Coast food. I don’t like to have an Indian dish, a French dish, an Italian dish and an Asian dish on the menu. I add a technical component, an ingredient or a flavour profile that leans toward a particular culture. I use many cultural cooking concepts whether it’s confiting, curing or pickling.
Kitsilano: What’s your ideal meal on your day off?
Chef Mike: Really good pizza. Neapolitan pizza. And Barolo.
Kitsilano: Cocktail of choice?
Chef Mike: Old fashioneds. I also really like bourbon sours.
Kitsilano: Describe your cooking style in three words.
Chef Mike: Young in that young chefs tend to put 10 components onto a plate to prove themselves. More structured, mature chefs will use three components and do a better job. I’m working toward that. Technical. I don’t just throw a steak on the grill. I like to know how to butcher the animal. There is a science behind the cooking at the Oakwood. Last word? Ambitious.
We believe him. Expect this guy to be on Top Chef soon.
As for the poutine – with thick-cut, fried golden Kennebec potatoes in veal bone gravy with Quebec cheese curds and house-smoked brisket – it’s the most beautiful beer sponge you’ll ever meet.
Note: Oakwood switches to their Dine Out menu January 18-February 3.