Win $50 to dine at Oakwood Canadian Bistro + Q&A with chef Mike Robbins



Flank steak, sunchoke chips, chimichurri, roasted bone marrow. Photo credit: The Oakwood.


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.

I also had a chance to try their new winter  menu. You can check out Oakwood’s winter menu here. I’ve reviewed it in detail here.

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.


Last modified: January 15, 2013

70 Responses to " Win $50 to dine at Oakwood Canadian Bistro + Q&A with chef Mike Robbins "

  1. Donna says:

    Their fried octopus with bacon aioli was amazing! Though pretty much everything I’ve tried there is great 🙂

  2. Jon Mitchell says:

    Their brunch is AMAZING. I know a lot of people go for dinner at the Oakwood, but do not miss the brunch! It’s definitely my favorite!

  3. Brad says:

    The pork belly is to die for! Great restaurant, really want to try out the brunch menu!

  4. Ian says:

    Only eaten there once, but loved the poutine. Would love to go again and a gift certificate would definitely help!

  5. Sonia M. says:

    I had the muscles, and it was absolutely delicious.

  6. Catherine says:

    I haven’t been yet, but I’d like to try the arctic char!

  7. Cat says:

    Pork belly. No question. As my friend said at the time: “This is going to take a year off my life but I don’t care.” For a somewhat healthier option, I recommend the warm kale salad.

  8. Nat says:

    I have only eaten there once but would want to try the warm kale salad! Great environment – so warm!

  9. Areta says:

    I have not eaten there, but this post makes me want to do so! Love to try the artic char and blueberry parfait!

  10. Julia says:

    I’ve tried a few things, but I always come back to the poutine. 🙂

  11. Niu says:

    My friend had their fried octopus and he liked it. I actually like their beer collection. And the interior design is cool. Very woody.

  12. Rebecca says:

    My husband and I love poutine – and the one on the menu sounds pretty gosh darn good!

  13. Matt says:

    We ate there last year on New Year’s Eve and even though I had a terrible cold, I still thoroughly enjoyed the pork tenderloin. My wife always get the mussels and she also loves the tuna nicoise benny for brunch.

  14. Michael says:

    I have heard great things about The Oakwood, though I’ve never tried it. I definitely would like to try the Poutine as its one of the dishes I’ve heard about the most from this restaurant, but the entire menu looks great to me.

  15. Chantal says:

    Heading here tomorrow night for dinner so I am quite pleased to be reading a review. I plan to share the flank steak and duck cannelloni. Would love a gift certificate!

  16. Debra says:

    This soup that they offer for Dine Out looks great!

    Smoked cheddar and cauliflower soup, tomato foam, thyme croutons

  17. Sheila says:

    Have not been there, but all the menu items sound great. I would like to try the poutine first.

  18. Mysha says:

    I’ve been told the warm kale salad is delicious, would love to try it!

  19. Tim Daniels says:

    About a month or so ago my wife and I were looking forward to trying the Oakwood. Unfortunately, it was hosting a holiday party, and was not open to the public. Anyway, we’re still anxiously awaiting to try the pork belly and beef tartar.

  20. K says:

    I’d love to wander over for brunch some morning. They are right in my neighbourhood, but I haven’t yet tried them. This could be the time!

  21. Tomah says:

    Hard to choose just one thing! For brunch the corned beef hash is amazing, and the poutine is the best in the city (country? world??). Would love to try more of their dinner options as well.

  22. Ashley says:

    I’ve heard the brunch here is fantastic, and the room is warm. I am a huge fan of Salt Spring mussels so I’d love to try the chefs’ creation with them!

  23. Amanda says:

    I haven’t been yet, but when I do, I’d love to try the albacore tuna Benedict!

  24. jennifer says:

    haven’t been but would love to try the poutine and anything on the brunch menu!!

  25. ming says:

    I hear good things about the burgers on the brunch menu. I wanna try it!

  26. Lisa A. says:

    The tuna nicoise benedict! I had never had a benedict with tuna on a corn muffin but it was a delicious combo!

  27. Jessica Oman says:

    I would love to try the cocktails and any of the salads!

  28. Cathy Selzler says:

    We have yet to dine there but would love to try their sablefish!

  29. Nabila says:

    After drooling over Oakwood’s menu for 10 minutes, I’ve decided my top choice would be the mussels! I’m dying to try them.

    Thanks for hosting this contest! You guys are awesome! 🙂

  30. Caroline says:

    I tried a few things on the menu but the poutine and the burger are outstanding! The service is great, I just love this place.

  31. Jenny L. says:

    Haven’t been but would love to! I want to try their fried octopus!

  32. Francine says:

    The Duck Parfait was great the last time I was there!

  33. Marisa M. says:

    Best burger & brunch in kits! Also the most wonderful staff 🙂 Such a gem!

  34. Suzanne P says:

    the best thing I’ve ever had at Oakwood was everything! a group of 7 literally ate our way through the entire menu one evening – best birthday dinner ever!

  35. monique says:

    best. burger. in. town.

    who would have thought putting alfalfa on a burger would be good? an evil genius, that’s who. way to go oakwood.

  36. Cheryl says:

    Brunch was disapointing – I want to try the burger!

  37. colleen smith says:

    Been wanting to try Oakwood for a long time now and finally have a reservation for Dine Out Vancouver. The lamb shank looks amazing but might also be tempted by the sable fish….<3

  38. Sammie says:

    The poutine + warm kale salad are delicious!

  39. Jesse says:

    Had the kale salad last night. Ordered a second helping before we even finished the first. Short rib was amazing too!

  40. Nicole says:

    I haven’t gotten a chance to try The Oakwood yet, but when I do, you can bet I’ll be stuffing my face with poutine! =)

  41. Darcy says:

    Haven’t been there yet, but I’ll probably have to try the poutine.

  42. Xing says:

    I have not tried Oakwood Canadian Bistro but I would love to try their poutine!

  43. Laura says:

    The Oakwood definitely became my favorite restaurant in 2012! Tried everything on the menu and sometimes had to double up on ordering my favs! Love the fried octopus, pork belly, shaved foie with French toast! Perfect gluttony

  44. Vivien says:

    I look forward to trying the steak!

  45. Tava says:

    The whole menu makes me drool but my go to never fails to amaze my tongue dish is the gnocchi – so good I could live on it!

  46. Alix says:

    My favourite item at The Oakwood is without a doubt their brunch. They have amazing, comforting, and delicious items that no one else offers. I highly recommend it !

  47. KY says:

    I want to try the flanksteak in that photo!

  48. Deanne says:

    Haven’t check the Oakwood yet but looking forward to trying the Gnocchi !

  49. Laura says:

    Kale salad! Soooooo yum.

  50. Tracy says:

    there was a beef roll thing i tried the first time i went, closer to when they first opened, it was AMAZING.. after that, i loved the blueberry french toast!

  51. Antje Ellermann says:

    I loved the short-ribs!!

  52. julia says:

    The burger is the bomb, medium rare, it has effectively ruined every other burger on the planet for me. Excellent service, amazing food, great prices, and in my hood, how lucky am I!

  53. Allison says:

    The shortrib sounds amazing! <3

  54. Joanna says:

    Can’t wait to visit my neighbourhood Oakwood Bistro and try the brisket-topped poutine!

  55. Theresa says:

    My husband and I love the poutine!

  56. Dave says:

    In the summer they had a Beef Carpaccio that was unreal. They rolled it up almost like a sushi roll. I really hope they bring it back

  57. P says:

    Amazing brunch. The corned beef hash is insane and they make a damn good caesar. Love this place!

  58. Peter says:

    The fried octopus is amazing and the burger is the go to standard – get the poutine on the side! Nothing on their menu has ever disappointed.

  59. Paul Bale says:

    We celebrated a birthday with about 15 people, the birthday girl Sonya had this amazing Cornish hen dish! Or was it Squab? On mash with sweet veggies! Love the room, staff, and the boss is a true industry veteren! Great host! off the sheshizzel!

  60. Kris says:

    I’m so excited to try the fried octopus! I love octopus, and the reviews of this dish make it sound to die for. Though the flank steak looks fantastic too…

  61. jen says:

    Never been! Would love to try their burgers!!

  62. Jill Sinclair says:

    I would love to try their roasted bone marrow….mmmmmmmmm!

  63. Maria says:

    I’ve never been to the Oakwood but it’s definitely a place I’d like to try. I’ve only heard great things about the burger and the beef tartar on a blog that I follow so those are the things I would definitely try.

  64. Moira Aikenhead says:

    The first bite I had at the Oakwood blew me away – the smoked butter emulsion on their house bread. Every bite, on every subsequent course and visit, has been equally surprising and delicious 🙂

  65. Kevin says:

    had the braised boar scramble for brunch one day. that was pretty damn dope, dude.

  66. Kevin-san says:

    wicked good burger.

  67. K-Dude says:

    can’t get enough of the corned beef hash. It goes so well with a morning beer.

  68. Chris says:

    The Oakwood is outstanding! My favourites are the poutine, 48 hr short ribs, burger, and the warm kale salad. But honestly, every item I’ve tried is great.

  69. Christie says:

    Hands down the poutine is a must have! But it’s usually followed by the burger and the warm kale salad amongst my group of friends. We’re headed there again tonight

  70. Kumiko Umeno says:

    Warm Kale salad! Duck Cannelloni!