Tucked away just off the South Granville strip at 1535 West 6th Avenue, David Gunawan's new restaurant feels like a little oasis. Bright and cosy and filled with wildflowers, the Farmer's Apprentice just opened on July 16, but it's already well-known to local farmers.
Gunawan runs the restaurant with his partner, Dara Young, who is also a chef. (Gunawan cooks at the Farmer's Apprentice while Young oversees the room.) The pair named the restaurant to indicate that the chef is always taking his cues from his suppliers. "Whatever comes in, we embrace," he tells the Georgia Straight on a break from the kitchen. "It's highly seasonal and local."
He explains that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic and local, save for things like olive oil and lemons. The menu consists of about nine items and changes seasonally; two or three dishes change daily depending on what's available. Dishes are ingredient-driven and draw on Vancouver's many multicultural flavours.
Gunawan and Young have been prepping to open the restaurant since March. (They took over the old location of the short lived Pig and Mortar restaurant). Gunawan was the executive chef at Wildebeest from its opening in August 2012 until he left in February. Previously, he cooked at the Michelin-starred In De Wulf in Belgium, and before that, West restaurant in Vancouver. Young has worked at the Wedgewood Hotel, OrganicLives, and the Acorn.
At the Farmer's Apprentice, Gunawan chats constantly with the farmers, and bases his dishes on whatever is fresh. "Sometimes I say, 'I need 20 pounds of something'," he explains. Recently, a farmer brought him 20 pounds of cucumbers, and he went from there.
The restaurant gives vegetables the respect they deserve, but it isn't vegetarian. However, Gunawan doesn't support industrial meat production, so he serves only free-range, non-medicated meat and all-Oceanwise seafood. "We're reversing the trend of the way we eat," he says. "We're treating meat like it's a luxurious item."
The restaurant is open for lunch as well as dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. "We're trying to be a neighbourhood restaurant," Gunawan adds.
Current lunch items include white almond gazpacho with plums and cucumber ($8) and a charcoal-grilled chicken, gorgonzola, and and kale sandwich ($12). Dinner items include a grilled cumin lamb heart with Szechuan cucumber ($12), carrots "in textures" ($9), and white spring salmon with summer vegetables and barbecue duck consommé ($19). Desserts include beeswax ice cream served with alfalfa honey.