Two coffees, two spoons, and one ginormous piece of banana chocolate Society Cake. When it’s Friday afternoon and Elizabeth Blau says you deserve something sweet, you don’t object. Blau is credited with helping transform Las Vegas into the fine dining destination it is today—and so, a chance to tangle spoons with her in a decadent layered cake, crafted ever so delicately with caramelized banana and silky milk chocolate mousse, is not to be passed up.
Blau herself is not one to pass up on opportunities, either. The very downtown Vancouver space in which she currently sits is the restaurateur’s most recent career gamble; having left the comforts of the glittering desert behind, Blau now finds herself north of the border, in a city notorious for its underwhelming nightlife yet praised for its thriving food culture. She has worked at the Bellagio and the Wynn, bringing in the likes of megastar chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina—but now, Blau has descended onto Vancouver to work her magic on the city’s new entertainment playground: Parq.
With a whale-shaped body and two copper towers rising high over False Creek, the $750-million development is home to a casino, spa, and set of luxury Marriott hotels. But beyond the slot machines and high-end bath amenities sit the five diverse restaurants, and three lounges, developed by New England-raised Blau and her husband and business partner, award-winning Canadian chef Kim Canteenwalla.
“For us, each restaurant has to take the time and the authenticity for it to have its own story,” Blau says of heading Parq’s extensive culinary playbill. “If we’re going to compete with the independent restaurants, then we can’t just throw it together and expect to be all things to all people.”
Blau and Canteenwalla extensively studied Vancouver’s food scene for five years. And once their feet were on the ground, it was off to the races. The first concept developed by the renowned culinary duo was Honey Salt, a Vancouver version of their popular Las Vegas restaurant. Upon stepping inside, it feels almost like you’re walking into Blau’s home: it’s cozy and comforting in both food and decor. With a farm-to-table methodology, Honey Salt emphasizes the bounty of B.C. The Tofino Fry is the Canadian take on the Vegas menu item, the New England Fry, replacing the latter’s Ipswich clams with sidestripe shrimp. Nana’s Tiffin Chicken Curry, packed with papadums and mango chutney, was inspired by a childhood dish Canteenwalla’s mother would often cook back home in Montreal. And then there is that decadent Society Cake.
Wanting to do things right, Blau and Canteenwalla decided that relocating to Vancouver with their son and two dogs was the only viable option. “We just fell in love with the city as the magnitude of our responsibility on the project grew,” Blau shares in between bites of cake. “It became apparent if we were going to open all these restaurants that we really need to be here and live here.”
Aside from Honey Salt, Parq visitors can indulge in high-end dim sum with a focus on Szechuan, Hunan, and Shanghai dishes at 1886, or gather for Pacific Northwest seafood and steak at The Victor. For the more casual, Mrkt East presents a fresh menu of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Singaporean, and Vietnamese delights, in a setting inspired by Singapore night markets. Then there is BC Kitchen, with a menu full of bar comfort food.
Each restaurant saw Blau work hand-in-hand with an interior designer to create the specific vibe and aesthetic. “This is our home away from home,” she says, and recalls trips to antique stores in Chinatown in the hopes of discovering local treasures for BC Kitchen and Honey Salt. “All of those things are a labour of love.” From the uniforms to the napkins, Blau has been, since day one, all about the details.
“We’re so committed to what we’re creating here,” she says. “It’s not just some kind of business venture.” At Parq, Blau certainly has her cake, and she’s eating it, too.
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