There are roads, there are streets and then there are boulevards.
That’s the progression and quality inherent in Vancouver’s new swish seafood restaurant, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar. Located in the iconic Sutton Place Hotel, the extensively and expensively remodeled space offers a host of options, levels and moods from morning to late night. The chic, stylish white dining room, seated deluxe oyster bar, vintage lounge (the classic throwback Gerrard Lounge), wrap-around patio and private dining room means options abound for nearly 300 people. Business dinners, girlfriends’ night out, date night and foodie bloggers surrounded us on a busy Thursday night, keeping the full front of house teams on their toes, and on their game.
In a competitive restaurant landscape, it’s challenge to rise above the crowd, but Boulevard has amassed a serious team of professionals that certainly have the experience to take the challenge on. Boulevard’s opening sees chef Alex Chen return to his hometown of Vancouver after a top-10 finish representing Canada at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition in Lyon, France in 2013. Previous to this, Chen spent six years as the Executive Chef of the legendary Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel and held the roles of Senior Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and Chef de Cuisine at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
Front of the house is just as strong, and much more familiar to Vancouver diners. Director of Operations Steve Edwards is well-known from Whistler restaurants Araxi and Bearfoot Bistro, as well as at Cibo Trattoria/UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar in Vancouver. Maître d’ Brian Hopkins is fresh off a 13 year tenure at Vancouver’s West Restaurant, and Bar Manager Justin Taylor is a familiar talent from seven years at YEW Seafood + Bar at The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. Wine Director Lisa Haley has breathed fresh air into Vancouver’s sommelier scene, arriving from Monteal to head up the Champagne-savvy wine program.
With a spare-no-expense talent pool, key downtown location, posh, art-filled and modern white/bronze/marble/oak sumptuousness (the booths are mighty and the bar is slick), you expect the menu to be elevated, and it delivers. Artistically presented, Chef Chen’s internationally-inspired flavors utilize the freshest local ingredients. Ocean-wise, seafood is the star, with a rotating fresh sheet of oysters and spectacular seafood towers to share (or horde). After a couple dozen fresh local oysters (expertly prepared and presented), we enjoyed delicate hamachi, citrus cured, with hearts of palm and crème fraiche, along with calamari a la plancha, with chorizo, beet greens and piquillo pepper ketchup. Mains ranged from lobster and rock fish based bouillabaisse, to wild salmon with zucchini, pomme puree and truffle, and over to land for a fragrant tarragon infused chicken with chanterelles, quinoa and chickpeas.
After a few bottles of wine shared, and a decadent cheese platter (and well-made coffees) we were done, though the room was still buzzing with the after-dinner drinks crowd and leisurely, lingering diners. Generous service is attentive and able to assist, inviting you to enjoy your time leisurely. This isn’t, after all, a busy street. It’s a classic boulevard.
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