Although Collective Goods opened in 2021, the "French-ish" East Vancouver bistro was cooking (and stocking) for a very different kind of customer.
With hospitality industry staff sidelined indefinitely the year before, many Vancouver restaurant operators found innovative ways to lend a hand and keep folks fed. Among those were the crew from what's now known as Collective Hospitality; they're the team behind Railtown's Mackenzie Room and Fraser Street's Say Mercy! - the latter of which had only just gotten its doors open when pandemic restrictions in the province forced restaurants to stop offering dine-in back in March 2020.
And so Collective's pandemic off-shoot restaurant project "Staff Meal" was born, and it raised funds for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and saw to it nutritious meals were available at no charge to out-of-work industry folk.
Under its philosophy of "cooking for the collective good," the no-frills take-out model ultimately morphed into an exciting bistro and grocery concept a year later, ever bending to suit the demands of the current restaurant climate in Vancouver.
Fast forward to 2023, and Collective Goods has shifted once again, albeit slightly, shedding a part of its past identity in the process.
Focus is on dine-in dinner after shedding its 'grocer' component
The restaurant has grown past its "grocer" moniker and removed the grab-and-go pantry and freezer meals section from the dining room, enabling them to focus solely on dine-in guests.
Now the little alcove on one side of the room is a table for four - a cozy dining nook with its own hanging lamp, vintage artwork, and dried flowers in a ceramic vase. It joins the rest of the dining room in being a charming space with thoughtful touches that make dinner there feel warm and welcoming.
The slight shift in operations means Collective Goods' emphasis is now on the dinner experience, which reflects the seasonal and regional bounty, reflected vis-à-vis European technique with some modern and truly inspired spins.
Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. and is available in a tasting menu format for two (Menage a Deux features an amuse bouche and five courses and is priced at $140 per table of two; Petit Menage is four courses for $100 per duo) or the whole table (The Goods is $70 per guest, served family-style). Guests can also order a la carte and premium add-ons (for example, a lobe of seared foie gras with butter toast triangles) are also available.
Collective Goods: What's on the menu?
Under the direction of Collective Hospitality's Chef Sean Reeve and restaurant chef David Letford, the food is rooted in Collective Goods' self-proclaimed French-ish-ness, but many dishes also stretch some exciting boundaries and make the most of the opportunity to present familiar (and some not so familiar) flavours and dishes in new and thrilling ways.
Toeing the line between familiar and experimental is the Chicken & Vinegar dish, which features chicken done as a roulade as well as in morsels of house-made pressed sausage, along with squares of panisse, which are chickpea fritters from the south of France (think soft breadcrumbs with a gently crispy shell). The orbs and cubes sit in a red wine consomme that brings the acid and moisture - the necessary balance - to the dish. This can be served up with that optional lobe of foie; it certainly adds a decadent richness to the otherwise light and tangy dish.
Though the current halibut dish is decidedly French in spirit, with a supple loin and firm mousse, its pairing with beet beurre blanc, fragrant white beats and some fresh dill immediately sent my tastebuds further east to perhaps Poland or Ukraine, calling to mind bites of dishes centred on white fish and beets (maybe even some earthy borscht).
Letford's Parisienne gnocchi was designed to look like the forest floor, and the dish ticked that visual box for sure; these gnocchi are pillowy and cheesy, made with a choux pastry base (so a little bit of chew) and resemble little rocks amidst the "dirt" of mushrooms and gruyere leek ash. The plate beckons you to engage with your utensil and forage amidst the moss and soil to land on plump chanterelles or strands of "hay" made of King Oyster mushrooms.
Before dessert, a final hearty plate of deconstructed Beef Bourguignon rounded out the savoury courses, where once again technique shines, thanks in no small part to the cubes of potato pavé. It's a meticulous prep for the humble potato, sliced super thin and layered and cooked off before being cut into cubes and fry-finished for that satisfying crunch.
Save room for dessert!
The dessert for fall was inspired by Letford's childhood love of Glosettes, the chocolate-coated raisins, and it is one of the tastiest things right now at Collective Goods. A rich slice of mirror-glazed firm chocolate mousse (more like a ganache) comes with sliced pickled grapes, nubs of peanut brittle, and a Concord grape caramel - basically like a reduced grape jelly. If you are engaged in a meal "a deux" you surely will be fighting over the last morsels of chocolate to swipe through that sticky, grapey sauce for a perfect sweet finish.
Along with the fall dishes, Collective Goods has house cocktails and a terrific wine selection curated by Wine Director Claudia Fandino; bottles are on the menu while the by-the-glass options are detailed on a chalkboard in the dining room.
Video: A 'Menage a Deux' tasting menu dinner at Collective Goods
@forkingawesomevia Put this French-ish bistro on your list of Vancouver restaurants perfect for a cozy date night. 🕯️#forkingawesome #vancouverbc #vancouverfoodie #dateideas 🎙️@LindsayWR ♬ Good Vibes - Rerewrpd
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