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New 70's 'love motel'-inspired cocktail bar with snacks opening in Vancouver

An exciting project from a Michelin-starred team is about to debut

The crew behind some of Vancouver's most acclaimed - and sexy - restaurant concepts is at it again, this time revealing plans to launch an intimate cocktail and snack bar just steps away from their one Michelin-starred spot.

Co-owners Tannis Ling, Joël Watanabe, and Alain Chow (Kissa Tanto, Bao Bei) are the creative and driven minds behind Meo, set to open later this month at 265 E Pender St, below Kissa Tanto.

The location is one of many of Chinatown's heritage buildings, with roots back to 1910, though the current brick structure was built in 1973. The upstairs unit (263 E Pender St) is where Kissa Tanto resides, and most recently the ground floor was the short-lived but critically acclaimed casual Singaporean "eating house" Nancy Go Yaya. This is Wine School operates out of the space as well.

Meo is being described as a "coy, playful sibling" to the "sophisticated Tokyo jazz persona" of Kissa Tanto upstairs. To that end, the dimly-lit room will feature a vintage jukebox and 1970s "love motel" vibes: "combining 70s romantic pink tones and dark wood panelling with nostalgia and a feeling of the clandestine," according to a media release. There will be "soft plush fabrics, drapery, and carpet" to create the mood.

Cocktails, bubbles, and globally-inspired snack plates on the Meo menu

The 70-seat Meo will feature a cocktail program led by bar manager Denis Bykov, a Ukrainian native new to Vancouver who previously worked at Sucre in Dubai. 

The opening menu will have a selection of eight "reimagined classic cocktails" alongside an equal amount of house creations, of which six will pour from taps. The theme for Meo's cocktails is "fruits are not vegetables" which Bykov explains as a way to break the "stereotype that all fruits are sweet and all vegetables are savoury."

One example is a Meo creation called the Espresso Carrotini. It's a nitro-charged tipple made with with Beefeater Blood Orange gin, carrot reduction, citrus peel infused cold brew and carrot dust. (Take that, plain ol' Espresso Martini!)

Additionally, there will be zero-proof cocktails, an "eclectic" sparkling wine list by the bottle (including local pét-nats, Lambrusco and Champagne), and Gold Medal Taiwanese Beer in cans. 

Chef Watanabe and chef de cuisine Macià Bagur (previously of Bishop’s, Naramata Inn) are finalizing a snack plates menu designed to go well with drinks and late-night socializing. Food menu hints include the promise of "pounded-to-order Som Tum (green papaya salad), Trinidadian doubles, and Tostadas of the day."

Meo aims to bring back the spirit of going out in the 'pre-pandemic days'

Ling says the vision for Meo is to reinvigorate the Vancouver dining scene with some of the "improvisation and spontaneity from pre-pandemic days," that went with going out for drinks and bites. 

“Our utmost desire is for Meo to function as the neighbourhood hangout and to build a regular clientele enticed by the comfortable room and excellent food and drinks at varied price points,” adds Ling.

Not surprisingly, Vancouver's Ste Marie Studios is behind the interior design of Meo, which has been in the works but closely guarded for some time now. 

Just to keep things mysterious, Ling has hinted that there is yet another venture forthcoming for the address: “Meo is the second piece of the puzzle to our tri-level building, where each experience is unique and complements each other - Kissa Tanto for supper upstairs, Meo for great drinks and snacks downstairs, and a third yet-to-come." 

When Meo debuts, the cocktail bar with snacks will be open from Wednesday to Sunday, 4 p.m. to late. Follow Meo on Instagram: @meochinatown.

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