Scott Kidd, owner and operator of Edgemont Village’s Canyon Restaurant, has been a chef for 38 years, cooking his way through some of the top restaurants in the province, both navigating and contributing to changing palates and shifting trends in dining, and creating countless unforgettable meals along the way.
In almost any other profession, Kidd would likely be treated as a local treasure, a journeyman icon afforded hard-won support from his community, with a view to preserving and leveraging his knowledge and skill for the greatest possible cultural good.
While there’s no question that the chef has made an indelible mark on our culinary scene and commands tremendous respect, the fact remains that he must still, like all small, independent restaurateurs, fight tooth and nail to remain afloat in our volatile marketplace.
First of all, Kidd must contend with the Big Box chain restaurants, about which I have been vocally critical in these pages before. They continue to dominate our landscape with their relentless pursuit of safe, rounded edges, which is to say, dining experiences that bear some resemblance to the regional dining zeitgeist but are missing something fundamental: the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make a meal great and stem from the passionate vision of independent chefs and restaurateurs. In these sprawling, heavily marketed spaces, character and nuance have more often than not been paved over in a lucrative, meticulously forecasted march towards a suffocating sameness that sadly shapes the tastes and expectations of diners, who then bring that baggage with them when, on increasingly rare occasions, they visit a unique, independently owned restaurant.
Self-indulgent as it may seem, I simply cannot bite my tongue on this topic as I feel something akin to nausea whenever I see long lineups on a Thursday or Friday night for a seat at some generic chain venue when right across the street there are tables available at a thoughtful, independent business turning out some truly creative fare with disciplined consistency.
And then there’s the challenge of environment. I have always like Edgemont Village, with its strollable lanes, many boutiques owned by proud locals, and one of Vancouver’s greatest collections of rare malt whiskies, but I’d be hard-pressed to say that there’s much to do beyond the hours of a typical business day. I spoke to Scott Kidd on the phone recently about his passion project and ostensibly the topic of this review, Canyon. The challenge of being the only venue drawing patrons to the village every night was clear in his blunt but articulate comments.
It may seem counterintuitive to wish for more competition in the restaurant industry, but Kidd frames any growth of the evening dining scene in the village as a god-send. This mentality is pervasive in the booming craft beer and craft distillery industry; “all ships rise with the tide” is a favourite mantra in that scene, meaning that anything that is good for the industry as a whole is good for each individual player within it.
Pair the burden of being the only evening dining draw in the village every night (I would love to know what is happening with the heavily-anticipated Nicli Antica) with the seemingly incessant renovation/restoration process up and down Edgemont Boulevard and you have created an exceptionally challenging business climate for Canyon Restaurant.
It may seem heavy-handed to devote half a column to this topic, but consider it my personal plea to my fellow diners. We have great restaurants on this side of the bridges despite the persistent, condescending question from my Shore-ist friends: “Is there anywhere decent to eat over there?” Yes there are many outstanding meals to be had, but we need to support the places that dole them out. I cannot stomach the idea of an entire community serviced only by vapid caverns that are all style and no substance.
Now, on to my meal, shared with my 10-year-old son, The Boy, whose knowledge of and appreciation for good food and service is now, in my estimation, well beyond anyone else in his peer group. He was intrigued by the evening’s dinner special, a double pork chop with new potatoes, chorizo and confit tomato. As I sipped a stiff Negroni, Chef Kidd, who does not know me and therefore would not have recognized me, left the kitchen line and approached our table to advise us that there was an off-menu burger option available. Upon learning of the The Boy’s inclination towards the pork special, Kidd invited him back for a peak at the sizeable chop in the walk-in cooler, just to make sure his appetite was up for the challenge. The glimpse inside a professional cooler, which The Boy described as impressively organized, sealed the decision and the order was in for a pork chop and my meal, an unusual sounding quail, Portobello and red wine risotto with poached egg, truffle and Pecorino.
To kick things off, we first shared a refreshing and seasonally appropriate salad of watermelon with greens and feta drizzled with a simple vinaigrette; it was a great palate-awakening dish that set the course for a fantastic meal.
Next up was a generously portioned appetizer of melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham with French beans, walnuts, salty/nutty Manchego cheese, micro greens, and a couple of brightly coloured edible flowers. The dish was complex and rewarding, pairing well with a glass of crisp, peachy Albarino.
I gave into temptation and ordered a second appetizer of seared foie gras, a complex item to prepare and one I typically only order when I’m sure there are deft hands in the kitchen. The perfectly seared liver, buttery on the palate and heady in flavour, was perched atop toast points and served with poached rhubarb, a fried quail egg (with a beautiful soft yolk), and greens. In the absence of Sauternes on the otherwise excellent, smartly curated wine menu, I ordered a two ounce pour of Clos du Soleil late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, which worked very well with the foie.
The Boy’s giant pork chop arrived and delighted with its sophisticated smoky, spicy notes, the chorizo marrying nicely with the excellent quality pork. It was a massive plate and we ended up packing about a third of it to take home.
My risotto was exactly what I’d hoped, a pungent, welcomingly breathtaking and adult-oriented combination of pleasantly gamey fowl meat and earthy truffle with deep red wine notes and sharp Pecorino. It was simply outstanding and a good match for a glass of Pinot Noir from B.C.’s own Haywire.
Our meal, which was fine dining caliber in its content, but warm and welcoming in its elegantly rustic environment, was $160 before gratuity.
Canyon Edgemont Village. 3135 Edgemont Boulevard. TheCanyon.ca. 604-987-8812.