Bar Susu, a popular neighhbourhood spot

Bar Susu in Vancouver’s Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood, was meant to be a pop up, but it’s proved so successful, it will live on.

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Bar Susu

Where: 209 East Sixth Ave., Vancouver

When: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Wednesday; 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday; 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to midnight, Sunday.

Info: 604-874-4687,

The reservations site went kaput for three days last month. That’s what happens when your food’s so damn good it takes top spot in Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants — the reason for the swarming at Published on Main.

Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson is the creative engine of that restaurant and lately his talent is spreading to other kitchens in a growing restaurant group. Bar Susu is one of them.

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Located in the former Whip Restaurant and Gallery space, Bar Susu was meant to serve as a pop-up and testing ground for the yet-to-be-born Novella, which will be in the same neighbourhood and is currently whacking its way through the city permits jungle. Chef de cuisine Ashley Kurtz is the chef de cuisine and drives the menu, collaborating with Stieffenhofer-Brandson.

Surprise, surprise, Bar Susu’s so successful, they’re thinking it doesn’t deserve to be put down when Novella opens. “They” include twin brothers Cody and Clay Allmin, who are co-founders of all three restaurants with Stieffenhofer-Brandson, and also operate Twin Sails Brewing and Thorn & Burrow Wines.

How did Bar Susu acquire the curious name? Novella’s hoped-for name was Susucaru, after a Sicilian wine, which translates into ‘they stole it’ — which is exactly what the winery crew cried out after most of the grapes from their first vintage had vanished.

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“Someone took the Susucaru name the day before us and they wanted $30,000 to $40,000 for it,” says Stieffenhofer-Brandson.

No way. But Bar Susu grabbed a part of that name, and cheekily displays a bottle of Susucaru wine on their website’s homepage.

Kurtz was chef de cuisine at another swarm-worthy restaurant, St. Lawrence, before he relocated to Published. His team will be moving up to Novella upon opening but it seems Bar Susu will carry on in some form. As Kurtz describes it, the Bar Susu food is ingredient-driven with a focus on local and seasonal.

“Above all, it’s delicious and I try to do something unique, yet familiar and approachable,” he says. He hopes to have former Whip restaurant patrons return by offering tongue-in-cheek and toned down dishes such as hashbrowns with Mc’Chicken sauce.

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The menu has snacky dishes, $6 to $17, and larger ones, $20 to $36, to pair with the natural wines and inventive cocktails. Recently, a prix fixe was added for $55 per person. It’s called Don’s Choice after Kurtz’s nickname. He says the menu will keep changing, not “hyper-changing” as at Published, but perhaps every week.

“I like to do it organically when something comes in season, but we’ll keep certain crowd-pleasers on.”

Those include the grilled sablefish with pickled veg and tom kha, a Thai coconut sauce that is spicy, hot and sour. The duck liver paté and the hashbrowns with Mc’Chicken sauce are keepers as well.

We had the Don’s Choice prix fixe, starting off with those hashbrowns with Mc’Chicken sauce, a lark that turned serious.

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“Gus and I were developing the menu and we talked about some sort of fried potato application and joked about doing McDonald’s hashbrowns. I ended up spending a whole afternoon in the depths of the Published kitchen reverse engineering McDonald’s chicken sauce. I got a dozen packs of the original stuff.”

Then he found the ingredients for the sauce online.

“I figured out all the proportions, added a few things. I think it’s the highlight of my cooking career,” he joked.

The hashed browns are perfect pucks of grated potatoes and the dish mimicks fast food on checkered paper but most certainly isn’t.

The duck liver parfait, airy and mild with a hint of Madeira, is piped atop mini honey crullers. Quince jam and peanut brittle add a bite of acid and a final crunch. A salad with Glorious Organics greens was so fresh and perky from harvest, it floated. It was lightly dressed with elderflower vinaigrette.

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Mussels escabeche tartine was elevated with additional notes from sauerkraut and Nantais sauce from the French region of Nantes which lays claim to what’s otherwise called beurre blanc.

The main dish on the Don’s Choice is off menu.

“That’s to draw people,” Kurtz says. “It changes, depending on what we have in the fridge from the large cuts of protein I typically get.”

That day it was capicollo, but it wasn’t — not quite. Normally, capicollo is a dry aged salami made with pork neck or shoulder. This was fresh pork collar, brined for several weeks, rolled in spices, and hung to air dry but not to salami dryness. It concentrated the flavour but left it moist and tender. Served over a bed of sauteed English peas, lettuce and shallots in a creamy white wine sauce, it was rustic and super wonderful!

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At this point, I’m realizing, this is a very good deal for $55 per person, especially these days. There’s dessert to come, not one, but two. A perfect dome of milk chocolate mousse, enrobed in a dark chocolate mirror glaze over sea buckthorn cake, was lovely. A dark chocolate sauce that it sat in, however, was thin and dripped on its journeys from the bowl to me. 

The second dessert was pavlova, but a departure from the usual voluptuous meringue, piled with whipped cream and fruit. This was more a meringue disc with a cow lick. Below it, some rhubarb confiture surrounded by chicory root creme anglaise. It was a reconfigured pavlova but yummy throughout.

The wine list skews to natural wines with a focus on France and Spain’s Catalunya region. A blackboard lists rotating selections by the glass. Equally intriguing is the selection of amari, herbal liqueurs and vermouth.

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“The natural wines work out great for me. There are less parameters to follow and they tend to be a lot fresher, juicier, less aged, and deviate from classic wine making,” says Kurtz. “It complements how I cook because it allows me to get more creative and it’s less about classic pairings. I mix different cultures and techniques and different styles of food.”

SIDE DISHES: A long table

The Araxi Longtable Dinner, an awe-inspiring outdoor culinary event, is back to full capacity this year. Unless you lunged for tickets already, you’re out of luck this year but keep an eye on the Araxi website for the 2023. It’s a bucket lister. This is the Longtable’s 11th year and once again, a daddy long leg stretch table is laid out on the lush green carpeting at North Arm Farm in the Pemberton Valley with Mount Currie looming in the distance. Guests are welcomed with a cocktail reception with handcrafted libations, wines, canapés and live music. It’s followed by a four-course family style dinner prepared by chefs from Araxi and affiliated restaurants Il Caminetto and Bar Oso, along with wine pairings from B.C.’s best wineries.

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A Whistler bbq

And here’s another al fresco dining idea in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Whistler’s Four Seasons Resort has revived its popular barbecue, held every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. until September 6. You’ll find salmon, chimichurri steaks, briskets, ribs and more on the grill. To go with the protein there are numerous salads, cornbread, roasted corn on the cob and other sides. There’s live music and for fun, sangria on sale from a vintage camper van. The price is $56 per person and $25 for children up to 12 years.

Meat sweats

And speaking of barbecue, H2 Rotisseries and Bar has rebranded to H2 Kitchen + Bar, with an emphasis on smokehouse classics and southern style cuisine. Try pitmaster Homer Baisa’s smoked brisket, slow-smoked pulled pork, St. Louis side ribs a la carte or opt for one of the group feasts. The $66 Meat Sweats for two, for example, includes the three barbecued meats, choice of sauce and three sides or a $169 Bone Board for 4 with whole bone-in slow smoked beef chuck with a choice of sauce and four sides — the latter’s only available, pre-booked, on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s a milkshake menu, too, and if your diet allows for unlimited calories, there is a birthday cake milkshake topped with a birthday cake and sprinkles. All that and a lovely patio with ocean breezes

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