A new restaurant focused on modern Canadian cuisine is set to debut in Kitsilano this week. AnnaLena (1809 West 1st Avenue), the first restaurant from Vancouver chef Mike Robbins and front-of-house veteran Jeff Parr, will open for dinner Friday (March 13).
Named after Robbins’s grandmothers, Anna and Lena, the 65-seat casual restaurant takes over the location previously occupied by Kitsilano Daily Kitchen.
Robbins, who has worked in restaurants across the Lower Mainland since the age of 16, gained attention as the opening chef for the Oakwood Canadian Bistro in 2011. It was at this restaurant that Robbins began developing his style of Canadian cuisine.
“The idea of a bistro started in France back in the day, and it was the whole idea of people inviting civilians from the streets into their homes for dinner as a secondary income. So I'm trying to build on that—a homey, Canadian, comfort feel—and doing kind of the traditional French bistro but the Canadian way," Robbins told the Georgia Straight in a 2011 interview.
In 2014, Robbins was one of four B.C. chefs to compete on the fourth season of Top Chef Canada. He left his position at the Oakwood Canadian Bistro shortly after.
At AnnaLena, diners can expect over a half dozen plates ranging from $5 to $36. Appetizers made for sharing include olives with pickled raisins and roast cumin vinaigrette, fried sweetbreads with shallot jam, and roasted cauliflower salad with lentils, cashews, and pea shoots dressed in garlic buttermilk, candied lemon, and chili threads.
Larger dishes include familiar proteins, such as fried chicken and seared trout, as well as more unusual choices: sea urchin velouté with lobster, garlic, potato, and lemon gel.
A few hearty vegetarian plates—including spinach and cheese ravioli topped with sweet tomato compote—contrast meaty mains like grilled pork belly, lamb roulade, and Wagyu beef rump.
Three desserts on the menu include spruce-tip sorbetto, chocolate crème brûlée, and pandan custard.
Robbins’s talent isn’t limited to the kitchen. His artistic touches including LEGO lamps and a “Tetris” bar can be seen throughout the dining room. Parr, whose most recent credentials include the Oakwood Canadian Bistro and Chambar, will run front-of-house. Kevin Brownlee, who has worked at West and the Pourhouse, will manage the bar.
AnnaLena will open for dinner Tuesdays to Sundays. A weekend brunch menu is scheduled for a few months after opening.