Grapes & Soda: The Middle Child in the Farmer’s Apprentice Family

The new organic wine and canapé spot opens next to the award-winning South Granville eatery.

June 11, 2015

At a June 10 preview of the new Grapes & Soda wine bar (next-door sibling to storied South Granville resto Farmer’s Apprentice), chef David Gunawan welcomed a clutch of the curious to his new space, which has been softly open since April. The 25-seat room looks the part, in keeping with the FA decor of rough-hewn, naturally distressed, organically minded materials — all adjectives that could apply equally to the natural and biodynamic wines chosen by wine director Hao-Yang Wang (Farmer’s Apprentice GM, formerly of Pidgin).

The Grapes & Soda approach is the opposite of the one at Farmer’s Apprentice, this magazine’s Restaurant of the Year 2014. Where the older room took its every cue from the qualities of the ingredients delivered by a roster of nurtured suppliers, the new kid on the block starts with the nature of the wine and spins off share plates and charcuterie platters built to complement. The food comes courtesy chef Ron Shaw (former exec chef, Bishop’s); cocktails — paired, if you like, with dessert plates — from bar manager Satoshi Yonemori (Wildebeest, The Diamond).

FA
David Gunawan of Farmer’s Apprentice, Grapes & Soda, and (soon) Royal Dinette, with publicist Shelley McArthur

Last night’s menu featured canapés paired with several French and Italian organic wines, including Clos Roche Sauvignon Blanc, Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica, and Noella Morantin Côt à Côt.

Even smaller than Farmer’s Apprentice (about 40 seats), Grapes shares the hippie-scientist vibe that Gunawan and partner Dara Young have set next door — admirable ambition in a part of town long on casual chains but short on idiosyncratic chef-driven rooms. What remains to be seen is how that provender-playtime esprit will translate in the third room in the Apprentice / Soda empire: Royal Dinette, a 75-seat room opening next month beneath Blackbird (and, we point out, exotic dance palace Brandi’s) at the corner of Hornby and Dunsmuir. In silent partnership with Blackbird owner Jeff Donnelly, Dinette will present Gunawan’s thoughtful cooking in a worker-bee milieu, with $60 set courses at lunch (plus a scaled-down power version, with fewer plates, in and out in an hour). Speaking to the nascent project, publicist Shelley McArthur suggested that Royal Dinette will address a downtown niche now seen to (if at all) by the hotels and chains servicing the business district: a more casual and fun range of share plates as well as a structured sitdown lunch for those with a little money and time on their hands. The first menu will be themed Tastes of Summer.

Joining chef/owner Gunawan in the new downtown venture are Jonathan Therrien (L’Abattoir, Chambar, Café Medina) and Jack Chen (executive chef, Farmer’s Apprentice). Royal Dinette opens mid July.

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