The other dawn I was out on the water aboard the Organic Ocean fishing for spot prawns with my friends Frank and Steve. We do it every year on the first day of the Spot Prawn Festival (celebrating our tastiest local crustacean from May through June), and for the first time in three years on this day it was pouring rain. As we passed Lighthouse Park, the entire city had become obscured by grey, featureless torrent and torment. It was cold, too bitterly so and the only thing that warmed me wasnt the thought of a dock and then a hot bath, but rather the imminent promise of patio season and the thought of test-driving the new ones. Here are five, from my radar to yours...
At the time of this writing, the patio at the three-month-old, upscale Hapa Umi (an offshoot of the Hapa Izakaya mini-empire) has yet to see its first service overlooking bustling Canada Place. Thankfully, we wont have to wait long, as all the furniture arrives this week. To keep in concert with the swish interior, owners Justin and Leah Ault are aiming high with the look: expect 50 seats of woven resin with teak slats facing black tables under colourful umbrellas. Guests can look forward to sipping sake and supping on chef Tomoki Yamasakis top-drawer sushi and sashimi on what promises to be an expansive, east-facing sweep of ocean breeze. 909 W. Cordova, 604-420-4272, HapaUmi.com
A few weeks ago, WE broke the news about this upcoming Main St. joint slated for the main floor in the resurrected American Hotel. The 200-plus seat entertainment complex has a Japanese izakaya theme and should prove rather lively (it includes two bars, an off-sales counter, a stage for live acts and a liquor licence allowing them to serve alcohol until 2am). Still, at least some of the action will take place outside, tucked away in the back. The rear of the building faces Station Street, which will likely make for some highly interesting evenings. I live just a few blocks east of here, and know the secluded block (the same strip as the rear of the storied Ivanhoe) to be rough and tumble at its most sedate. I was first told that the patio would see upwards of 34 seats, but thats since been whittled down to roughly 20. They plan on upping the intimacy with an herb garden and shielding greenery, but lets hope they dont cocoon it too much! 928 Main St., ElectricOwl.ca, Opening late May
Tableau Bar Bistro
As mentioned in last weeks WE Fresh Sheet, the Loden Hotel in the Coal Harbour canyonlands has just opened up Tableau Bar Bistro. Its where the pricey Voya restaurant used to be on the hotels main floor. Former Lumiere chef Marc Andre Choquette is at the helm (he was Rob Feenies right hand man for years), and hes dishing out French bistro fare at reasonable price points (cheaper than Voya). Complementing local designer Franco Avignonis wood paneled, custom brass-fitted, marble and leather-accented dining room is a tiny sliver of a patio that can seat six to eight people looking to either dine al fresco or escape from the freshly popped interior buzz. 1181 Melville, 604-639-8692, TableauBarBistro.com
Brand new to the 400-block of West Pender and located in the former Cassis Bistro spot is The Ascot. Tabling a comfort food menu (think pastas and meatloaf), it comes to us courtesy of journeymen Stu Morton and John Wirth. The interior has always been a looker with its ancient floors and high ceilings, so thank goodness they allowed the already existing character to inform their design decisions. With its faded walls and penchant for taxidermy (plenty of antlers in here), The Ascots innards are a sight for ubiquity-tired eyes. The real treasure, however, is its charming patio out back. The thin, flag-stoned space is sunken below a parking lot (now shielded by a wooden wall), dressed in fetching greenery and boasting a patina of age (witness the original brick poking past the peeling plaster). Because it was so hidden and intimate, it was always a favourite of mine back in the Cassis days. I now fully expect it to be as much again.
420 West Pender, 604-566-9599, No Website
The leafy, secluded outdoor spot at 1906 Haro in the West End belonged to Parkside for years before it became the short-lived LAltro Buca. Since last summer, its been the second incarnation of Adesso Bistro, an Italian restaurant that, despite original Ligurian food and owner-operator service, never flew in its original Yew St. location in Kitsilano. Just about the only constant about the space in recent years has been its patio, which is inarguably one of finest hidden gems in the city. It has that rare power to transport diners to a different place (for me, its Greenwich Village). Because I never made it down last patio season and on account of my past, happy familiarity with Adessos food and its new location, it leads all those that I look forward to. Truly, if summer has an address, its here. 1906 Haro, 604-568-9975, AdessoBistro.net