Walking east down Hastings you might miss the newest restaurant on the block. While there are no glaring signs yelling, “hey, look at me”, Vancouverites immersed in food and drink are eagerly seeking this place out. The city has been waiting for Wildebeest for a while, and it hasn’t disappointed.
Wildebeest is a joint project between James Iranzad (Abigail’s Party, Hell’s Kitchen) and Josh Pape (Chambar, The Diamond); two charmers who could draw a crowd to a warehouse. The Executive Chef is David Gunawan, formerly of West, where his cuisine was legendary.
120 West Hastings is a budding area of the city’s downtown eastside where Wildebeest has taken its place among many new restaurants. The vast 80-seat main room has something for everyone. Tables at the front offer views of the street, the bar a glimpse of cocktail magic unfolding beneath a glamorous chandelier, and the open kitchen is on display at the back. A wine bar downstairs with its own menu seats another 50.
Tables are made of refurbished wood with lights strung from old railway pulleys. Exposed brick completes the rustic Gastown feel Wildebeest projects.
If you are coming in for cocktails, Pape (who won Vancouver Magazine bartender of the year in 2010) has crafted a fine list. The sake, sherry and wine selection travels the globe while ensuring local is not forgotten.
The menu is meat-centric with occasional nods to the sea and soil. Wildebeest does its own butchering, wasting nothing, and deals directly with top local suppliers. Snack on some pork skins, a foie gras topped poutine or slurp back a few oysters. Larger dishes include a 22-ounce ribeye, homemade sausage, and olive oil-poached Halibut. Vegetables such as a kohlrabi spring rolls and foraged greens with seasonal fruit complete the meal. Desserts range from chocolate sorbet to fresh local berries with lemon sabayon.
Wildebeest is open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. and, soon, brunch on Saturday and Sunday.