Anyone with longtime ties to Metro Vancouver probably has strong feelings one way or another about local restaurant chain White Spot. The decades-old family-friendly spot for burgers, fries, and other approachable eats is a reliable go-to for many - even famous folks like Burnaby's Michael Bublé.
And when it comes to Burnaby, locals also likely have strong feelings about all the sky-high, sprawling changes at Brentwood, as the former modest mall continues its evolution into the more epic Amazing Brentwood development.
There's a sense of the old and the new inside the Brentwood food court. Re-dubbed "Tables," the space - still a part of the old Town Centre structure - has been revamped with a modern, polished "food hall" look and is populated with a mix of mall favourites and buzzy restaurants.
Among the options is one brand new sole table-service restaurant and bar, though it, too, will strike a chord of familiarity with diners.
This is the home of R+D Kitchen, the new "test kitchen" restaurant by White Spot, offering a hybrid of invention and comfort at a location that in many ways solidly typifies both.
You could easily see R+D Kitchen as White Spot's reach for a slice of the "casual fine dining pie" that Metro Vancouver diners love (think Joey, Cactus Club, Earls), but it's more of a bridge concept that allows the restaurant to showcase different flavours and creations while ensuring their absolute favourites are still available.
What makes the R+D Kitchen menu different from a regular White Spot?
The exclusive R+D - which, as you may have guessed, stands for "research and development" - dishes are marked on the menu with a special log and as servers will point out might make their way onto future White Spot menus, or their time could be fleeting.
Many of the R+D-only dishes are fuelled by more bold ingredient choices, like the sweet-hot gojuchang dunk a huge piece of crunchy fried chicken gets before landing between two buns with some slaw (not the traditional chunky White Spot slaw but rather a more finely shredded slaw) and mayo. There's also more spice to try in starters like R+D's Roasted Garlic & Habañero Chicken Drums, Chipotle Vegan Bites, and salads like the Ancient Grains & Greens with harissa-roasted cauliflower.
One other salad bends the usual White Spot casual mode thanks to its presentation: It's an uncut lobe of romaine with parm shavings, chargrilled chipotle mango jumbo prawns and a roasted poblano Caesar dressing. The riff on a shrimp Caesar salad comes with cornbread croutons, that are a touch on the softer side than the expected hard-baked bread cubes you'll find in the basic iteration of the salad.
R+D also has an impressive line-up of burgers and the like, many of which will be familiar to White Spot fans, along with a selection of juicy, rich, burgers made with wagyu beef and more upscale-reaching toppings like mustard onion confit and black truffle cheese. There are also several pizza and pasta options, and a kids' menu - although here there are no cardboard Pirate Paks for the little ones.
There are also some elevated mains, like an arctic char with a beautifully crispy skin paired with roasted veggies served with a basil hollandaise sauce.
Be sure to save room for dessert, because this is one category where it's all about the exclusive options, like a very grown-up and refreshing duo of gelato scoops topped with a crave-worthy pineapple and mint sauce, or a gooey s'mores-inspired brownie that will appeal to kids and kids-at-heart.
Can you still get classic White Spot menu items?
Looking for some comfort classics from the regular Spot menu? What you can count on at R+D are White Spot must-haves, like their fries, coleslaw, Triple-O sauce, and Legendary burgers (but alas, no Zoo sticks).
Additional offerings at R+D include a drinks menu featuring handcrafted, seasonally-inspired cocktails, zero-proof libations using fresh ingredients, and beers on tap. Daily Happy Hour specials on food and drinks are available from 2 to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to late, while on weekends the brunch menu is on offer until 3 p.m. For those in search of more of a quick fix in the Tables food court, R+D Kitchen operates a quick-serve counter window, too.
As the Amazing Brentwood continues to load up on branches of beloved local restaurants and other retailers, it's clear that this is a gathering place that really creates a welcome environment for a familiar big player like White Spot to level up and experiment, with often delicious results.
@vancouverisawesome Don’t worry, they still have Triple-O sauce! 🍔🍟#forkingawesome #vancouverbc #burnaby #burnabyeats ♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] - Elliot Van Coup