We stepped into Homer Street Cafe out of the winter rain and instantly felt welcomed by the rush of warmth and delicious aromas wafting out from the open kitchen.
Housed in two of Vancouver’s most iconic buildings, Homer St Cafe and Bar is a contemporary restaurant set in the historic Homer Building and new Beasley building in Vancouver’s Yaletown district. Classic comfort cooking takes centre stage thanks to a fire engine red rotisserie that roasts all manner of proteins.
We were seated in the “Chef’s Bar” area, where we could see all the action up close, as the team carefully crafted each item.
We were excited to try out signature and new menu items, as the restaurant had recently appointed Jonathan Chovancek as their new Executive Chef.
Chovancek is known across B.C. and Canada for his leadership, creativity and ethical, ingredient-driven concepts, having spearheaded such eminent locales as Cafe Medina, UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, Culinary Capers Catering, Sooke Harbour House, Aerie Resort and Zambri’s. Chovancek also boasts experience leading the Canadian culinary teams at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. His Olympic journey continued onto home turf during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., where he cooked for close to 60,000 people at more than 575 different events.
Fresh off a 2-year cocktail circuit to promote his co-owned brand, Bittered Sling, a retail line of high-quality cocktail and culinary bitters, Chovancek felt ready to get back into the kitchen. He has already infused his signature culinary style into the menu with seasonal dishes with delightful additions including Rigatoni with wild and cultivated mushrooms, seared Scallops with ribollita gratin, arugula and savoury clam vinaigrette, and a strong, rotating lunch sandwich feature on the Daily Fresh Sheet.
Seated next to a window, our round table barely had enough room for all the delicious dishes. First came the cocktails, Secret Garden and Bron-Yr-Aur (seasonal), both refreshing sippers perfect to accompany flavourful menu items. The Bron-Yr-Aur has a spicy cinnamon taste to it, the aroma alone reminds you of the festive holiday season. The Secret Garden is a signature cocktail and offers a lighter, zesty flavour with cucumber and mint.
We made sure to try the Maple Butter Pork Belly, as our host shared with us that it is THE signature snack dish and we could immediately see why with the first bite. Unbelievably crispy, the pork belly has just the right ratio of meat to fat with a sprinkle of sesame to give it an extra crunch in every bite. It sets the tone for a great meal to come as a shared appetizer.
We also shared the Rotating Sandwich Feature on the Daily Fresh Sheet, which was probably the best decision ever, given we both could not put the sandwich down. Think creamy layers of organic, rotisserie pork, caramelized onions, caramelized peppers, mustard dressing and local arugula combined into one mouth-watering sandwich. There may be shops that specialize in sandwiches, but this one wins hands down. Your first thought would be - this is pork? They have managed to make the pork so tender and soft it takes meat texture to a whole new level.
The only con is that it is only available during lunch hour, so you sadly cannot eat it for lunch and dinner!
Another new seasonal main dish from Executive Chef Jonathan Chovancek is the Rigatoni with wild and cultivated mushrooms, soft poached egg, brown butter, savoury herbs and pecorino. This creation is the perfect comfort dish for the winter season, when cravings for carbohydrates hits an all time high. Think creamy mushrooms, al dente rigatoni and a soft poached egg to mix in with your pasta. Consuming this dish is akin to giving yourself a warm and cozy hug.
Now for the signature dish everyone must try when they visit Homer Street Cafe - the Half Rotisserie Chicken served with coleslaw, chicken jus, roasted potatoes or your choice of hand-cut friend or salad, gravy. The chicken is tender and flavourful as a result of being brined in the restaurant’s ‘special sauce’ for 24 hours. The skin is thin and crispy and we recommend having the chicken without the gravy to experience the original flavours.
The kitchen generously prepared two Basque Cheesecakes with spiced pastry and cranberry caramel to complete our meal. The cheesecake was light and fluffy and the cranberry caramel balances out the sweetness with its slightly tangy flavour. Finally, maybe because we still looked like we could consume more sugar, we also got to try one of the signature desserts, Chewy Peanut Cookie & Nutella Cream; we would be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t love cookies with nutella?
Homer Street Cafe serves up some of the best Rotisserie in Vancouver, and its other seasonal dishes are definite must-try items as well. Whether its brunch, lunch, happy hour or dinner, Homer Street Cafe has a tailored menu for the occasion.
We look forward to trying the revamped menu set to launch in February 2019, where we can expect more of Chef Chovancek’s creations to warm our stomachs and enrich our senses.
898 Homer St, Vancouver
Photos by Florence Leung