It’s a date night plan as old and tired as the romantic comedy you likely bought tickets to: dinner and a movie. And while the average definition strikes up images of cheesy candlelit dinners and burnt-butter-scented theatres, Vancouver’s Shangri-La Hotel has an inspired version that proves it can still give you all the right butterflies in your stomach—awkward hand brushes in the popcorn bag not included.
Once every month, the hotel chooses a food-themed movie to show in its private screening room, the Blue Moon Theatre, which can only hold a few dozen people. Champagne is served upon arrival, along with a personal box of flavoured popcorn or some other movie snack. Following the viewing, guests head to the hotel’s Market by Jean-Georges restaurant for a multi-course, one-night-only menu inspired by the film. It’s a luxurious, fine dining take on dinner and a movie—and just as enjoyable for the chefs as it is for the participants.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Market executive chef Ken Nakano, who took the helm of the restaurant in August. “We have few laughs, talk about some things, and come up with a menu we think is an extension of the movie and continues on with that experience.” He says the program offers the restaurant’s young chefs a chance to learn something new, and him the opportunity to experiment. Nakano, who has held previous roles at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and Fairmont Empress, aims for each dining experience to reflect the feelings and spirit of the film they are showing. “A good movie will take you away,” he says, explaining that he wants his dishes to do the same. “We try to create the aromas and the feel that you are visually watching with the movie.” Films in the 2016 lineup include Julie & Julia, Eat Drink Man Woman, and Deli Man. It’s the last of those three that Nakano says will be most challenging to embody. “I’m thinking maybe corned bison tongue,” he muses. “I’d better start making the pickles now.”
Nakano was a fan of Market before joining the team, and says he feels fortunate to be working through recipes created by three-star Michelin celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He mentions Market’s sablefish with Malaysian chili compote as the perfect example of a combination he would never have thought to put together. “It’s got braised diced celery on top, fresh celery leaves, and pungent ginger and chillies—it’s delicious,” he says, gushing slightly. “I think Michelin star chefs have that palette: they start to create new flavours. We’re all trying to pay our biggest respect to the food and the growers and the seasonality, but a lot of it is becoming quite similar, and I think these are the fellows that push it.”
And though the regular menu is set, Nakano says he has the opportunity to make his mark on Market, as it were, in regards to the places and people he selects the food from. For him, the focus on local and sustainable (Ocean Wise for seafood, of course) is paramount, and he is rightfully proud of that. Like a great movie, a fabulous meal teaches us something, and leaves us wanting more. Roll credits.
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