Earlier this year, Vancouver-based restaurant chain Earls Kitchen + Bar unveiled a test kitchen at one of its downtown locations and a product-development team that included some of the city’s most accomplished chefs.
The six chefs, which Earls refers to as its “chef collective”, includes former Diva at the Met executive chef Hamid Salimian; David Wong, who represented Canada in the 2009 Bocuse d’Or competition; restaurant consultant Tina Fineza; Dawn Doucette, who competed on Top Chef Canada; American chef Jeff McInnis, who works remotely; and test kitchen sous chef Andrew Hounslow.
According to Earls Restaurants president Mo Jessa, this chef collective is tasked with creating new, innovative dishes to help push the 30-year-old chain to the top of Canadian casual dining.
“I think we got complacent,” Jessa told the Georgia Straight during an interview in June. “People knew us as the leaders and innovators in casual dining, and there got to be a point where we probably started to take it for granted.”
About four months after the launch of the test kitchen and chef collective, Earls invited media to preview new fall menu items. Doucette, Wong, and Hounslow were present at an event that took place in the recently renovated second-floor Loft at Earls Yaletown.
New menu items reflected the diverse backgrounds of the chef collective, and included fish and chicken dishes influenced by Asian flavours, Canadian steak and potatoes, and a dessert plated with fine-dining flair.
Back in June, Jessa had also confirmed to the Straight that even with new, international dishes on the menu, diners would always be able to find a good burger on the menu. The chef collective has added two new burgers to the expanded menu—a fully-stacked beef burger and a vegetarian falafel version, both of which are sandwiched between housemade buns.
An Earls Yaletown employee confirmed to the Straight by phone that all new menu items are now available at the Yaletown and test-kitchen flagship (905 Hornby Street) restaurants, and will slowly be rolled out at Earls’ 60-plus locations.
Photos of new fall menu dishes below.
The salmon salad features slow-baked salmon with a Szechuan peppercorn and lime glaze, served with a salad of soba noodles, thinly-sliced carrots and zucchini, honey-glazed nuts, wonton crisps, and cilantro. The dressing is a tamarind vinaigrette with cilantro yogurt on the side.
Spatchcock chicken marinated in a Vietnamese dressing that includes fish sauce and chilies, and grilled to order. The chicken is topped with a lemonglass glaze and served with a housemade peanut butter, as well as an Asian slaw of cucumber, carrots, and daikon.
A Thai quinoa bowl featuring tofu, eggplant, edamame, and snap peas is one of several healthy options on the menu. The bowl I topped with a sauce that includes coconut milk, lemongrass, lime juice, and fish sauce.
A new hazelnut chocolate “bar” on the dessert menu features dehydrated mandarin oranges, caramel sauce, and vanilla ice-cream.