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Elephant: Tiny restaurant with big name opens in Vancouver

An exciting new venture for an acclaimed local chef and restaurateurs

A transformation has been underfoot in recent months in East Vancouver, as 1879 Powell Street has been transformed into Elephant, a cozy new restaurant that opens Friday (Dec. 3).

The 525-square-foot room had previously been home to TransAm, the critical darling cocktails and burger spot that was open intermittently over the last couple of years, shuttering for good in September

The team behind Elephant has an impressive resume: It's the venture of Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside of nearby Dachi, and chef Justin Lee. Lee - who is known by most in public as Justin Ell - earned a bit of a cult following of his own, thanks to stints at Crowbar and Superflux, and is known for his adventurous, elegant dishes that tend to turn flavours and foods we love just the right amount on their ends

Lee will be creating an omakase-style tasting menu and snacks, including several veggie-forward dishes, which diners can enjoy paired with organic, natural, and bio wines and sake from a list curated by somm Kelcie Jones. 

Current dishes include a Caramelized Rutabaga with chickpea shiro miso and brown butter; Dashi-braised, charred Celariac in a walnut ‘gomae’; and Beef Tartare with smoked tuna and horseradish.

“Elephant is small and cozy, which allows us to create a vibrant experience for our guests,” said Ellis in a media release. “With Justin’s bright flavours in his changing menu and Kelcie’s exciting and unexpected pairings, we are having a lot of fun bringing this restaurant to life.”

The timing aligns with the end of another Ellis-Whiteside venture, which was operating Ugly Dumpling, or Ugly, with partner and chef Darren Gee, who is closing the Commercial Drive restaurant down at the end of December. 

Elephant will be open Friday to Monday from 5 p.m. to late and will accept limited reservations and walk-ins.