A lot has changed at Blueprint over the past few months. The Vancouver-based entertainment and hospitality company saw the departure of its executive chef Brett Turner last spring. In August, Blueprint moved its head office to Gastown, and the following month, closed the popular Shine Nightclub after a 14-year run. Recently, the company sold Bismarck restaurant, which opened less than a year ago.
Kieran Kearns is now executive chef for Blueprint’s three remaining restaurants. He oversees the dishes at the Charles Bar in Gastown, Colony in Kitsilano, and Dover Arms Pub in the West End, which share similar menu items.
Kearns has created his first set of menu changes that will roll out at all three restaurants after Thanksgiving. New fall and winter dishes will be launched at the Charles Bar on October 14, Colony on October 15, and Dover Arms on October 16.
Recently, I attended a media preview of the new dishes at the Charles Bar (136 West Cordova). Kearns explained that the two appetizers, two main dishes, and two desserts that he created not only highlight seasonal ingredients and flavours, but complement the beverage programs at all three restaurants.
The first course that I tried pairs well with beer—of which the Charles Bar has eight on tap and over a dozen by the bottle. Deep-fried pickle chips are already on the menus at the Charles Bar and Colony, but Kearns is adding whole spears of fried pickles to the offerings. Pickles are beer-battered and panko-breaded before fried crisp and served with a lemon-dill yogurt dipping sauce. A serving includes six pickles, which makes this a good appetizer for sharing.
Flatbreads ($11-13) are offered at all three restaurants, and Kearns is adding a new one to the lineup. The pork-belly flatbread features slow-roasted and shredded pork belly, seared corn, as well as slices of jalapeno peppers, pickled red onions, and green onions over a chipotle-cilantro yogurt base and smoked mozzarella. Again this is also a good dish for sharing (the flatbread arrives pre-sliced) as an appetizer or enjoying on your own as a main dish.
The majority of mains on all three menus revolve around pub staples such as burgers, fajitas, and fish and chips. Kearns explained that he wanted to elevate the level of food that diners could enjoy with one of his new dishes, while still dining in a casual bar environment. The pistachio-crusted chicken parmesan is a play on the Italian-American favourite. The pistachio crust gives the chicken breast added texture and a nutty flavour. The chicken is topped with sundried tomatoes and shaved grana padano cheese. Puréed San Marzano tomato sauce under the meat adds a touch of sweetness to the dish. Roasted garlic potatoes and beets highlight seasonal ingredients and bring an earthiness to the plate.
The second main dish that will be added to menus is a rack of pork ribs smothered in a bourbon barbecue sauce. This is the same recipe that recently earned the Charles Bar a second-place finish in the ribs category at the Gastown BBQ & Chili Festival (and a third place award overall). Kearns said that after the festival, many customers asked about the availability of the award-winning dish, so he decided to add it to the menu. At the restaurants, ribs will be topped with housemade hickory sticks, and paired with sesame-cilantro slaw and French fries.
Diners with Celiac disease or gluten-intolerance will want to take note of a new dessert offering. Kearns has created a rich gluten-free chocolate brownie made using rice flour. The brownie is topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and topped with fresh mint.
The second dessert is a seasonal offering that will only be available at restaurants until the end of November. The pumpkin cheesecake mousse is a layered cake resting on a graham-cracker crust. The chai-spiced salted caramel sauce drizzled around the dessert adds extra sweetness. Even though the cheesecake mousse is lighter than typical cheesecake, the dessert is decadent and ideal for sharing.
Kearns mentioned that aside from the pumpkin dessert, these new dishes might have a permanent spot on Blueprint menus depending on popularity—with slight adjustments to seasonal ingredients in spring and summer. In the spring, Kearns plans on adding more new dishes to all of the menus.