Angus An to close Vancouver’s Gastropod restaurant, open Maenam

West 4th Avenue’s fusion beacon, Gastropod, will be closing on May 2. It’s not that business wasn’t good, according to restaurant spokesperson Ryan Bazeley. It’s just that it wasn’t good enough.

The overstuffed fine-dining scene in the ’hood, which includes next door’s Fuel, Bistrot Bistro across the street, and DB Bistro Moderne on Broadway, hurt restaurant visits. So has the recession, Bazeley told the Straight in a phone interview today (April 2).

“They’re just not getting the business they were the previous year,” he said, noting that owner Angus An couldn’t answer questions as he was at home with a sick baby. “Angus said, ”˜We just don’t see things picking up over the next months, and we don’t want to wait until our hands are tied.’”

All is not lost. An, along with several members of his team, will be reopening in the same spot mid May as Maenam—an authentic Thai restaurant featuring an extensive wine list and bar, supplemented by fusion pastries. Bazeley explained that when An and his wife came to Vancouver, they had two concepts in mind. One became Gastropod. The other, a casual, authentic Thai spot to out-do the current Thai scene in Vancouver, never found an appropriate location.

Given the pressures on local fine dining, Bazeley explained, An decided to simply switch concepts in Kitsilano. Once Maenam is up an running, he said, An will look for another location and relaunch Gastropod.

Bazeley noted that both the explosion of restaurants in the city and the recession have changed his own dining habits. At one time, he was hitting Parkside three times a month. Now, he said, his friends exhort him to go places “where you can get in and out the door for $30”. That’s Maenam’s price point—not Gastropod’s.

When Aurora Bistro closed last year, it sent shock waves through the foodie community, Bazeley said. Now, after three fine-dining restaurants closed in three weeks (Soma Wine Bar, Yaletown’s Pinky’s Steakhouse and Cocktail Lounge, and Plan B, also in Yaletown), the shock is over.

“We’ve probably not seen the end of them,” he said.

An, who was born in Taiwan but grew up in Maple Ridge, studied Thai food with David Thompson in London. Thompson’s Nahm is the world’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant.

Bazeley said An plans to offer Thai authenticity, rather than bend to the so-called western palette.