There's a new spot for a night out that's recently opened up in Vancouver, and it's another reason why the city's Cambie corridor could be a contender for a new restaurant row situation.
Black Walnut is a first-time venture for a crew of people who hail from the construction business, with a talented local chef as a partner who is heading things up in the kitchen, and a friendly staff of knowledgeable professionals.
Located at 3456 Cambie St (in what was formerly Kino Cafe), Black Walnut has been elegantly renovated to showcase the savvy of its owners, who have created a modern dining room with all sorts of eye-catching details, including the criss-crossing wooden beams on the ceiling with strips of lights running through to a feature bar wall that will soon have a waterfall feature. The front windows open up garage-door style, making for a nice welcoming touch on a summer evening, particularly in front of the bar area, which stretches the expanse of one side of the room.
Black Walnut: The food and drink
Chef Josh Gonneau has curated a menu of modern bistro-style dishes fitting for an upscale steak and seafood restaurant, with dishes like the charred radish starter that hits similar notes in taste and presentation to a beef tartare, with black garlic dressing and Grana Padano shavings. Decadent crispy fried oysters come on a bed of creamed celeriac in the shells with a dollop of caviar, while tortellini are filled with a mixture of tangy goat cheese and roasted shallot, set in a pea puree with king oyster mushrooms.
When it comes to steak and seafood, Black Walnut has numerous options; the Steak Frites is a juicy and perfectly grilled bavette that comes with huge skin-on fried potato wedges and a superstar housemade condiment, rhubarb chili ketchup. (If they sold it by the bottle I'd have left with a case!) The steaks come in your choice of either a grass fed and finished beef or Brant Lake Wagyu out of Alberta, for their plates made using the bavette, striploin, or tenderloin cuts; Black Walnut is also doing a Tomahawk for two.
On the seafood side, there are raw bar dishes like oysters as well as crudo and ceviche-style plates, and cooked items for mains like black cod and salmon.
There are a couple of desserts on offer that are playful in spirit, though they did not steal the show. A frozen banana and chocolate dome came with meringue shards and bits of delicious caramel, while a sweet corn "cheesecake" was an incredibly light and fluffy cake layered with what was akin to a panna cotta, minus the density of a typical cheesecake, with corn kernels on top.
From the bar, a number of riffs on classic cocktails, like a Negroni brightened up with Aperol, and some fun mocktails deploying seasonal ingredients. The wine list has bottles and by-the-glass pours featuring selections from B.C. as well as places like Californa and Oregon.
An exciting addition to the neighbourhood
Black Walnut is certainly upping the game in the neighbourhood, which is already home to spots like Potluck, with its casual modern Southeast Asian menu, and ice cream favourite Rain or Shine. Further north you'll find the home of Michelin-recognized Vij's, and, down at Cambie and 12th, the Michelin-starred Quan Ju De restaurant.
Meanwhile, the corner of Cambie and 17th Avenue is set to see some new additions, including a new offering from a high-profile Vancouver restaurant portfolio, and something new sliding in where Biercraft once poured - all making for reasons to keep an eye out for what's to come on these few blocks of the busy street.
Black Walnut is currently open for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and is serving brunch on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations can be made online via Tock.