Sous-chef Laura Cousins is perpetually in motion. First she’s boiling freshly made mezzaluna pasta stuffed with eggplant and cheese, then napping it with bright tomato and verjus as I watch from the six-seat bar that overlooks the open kitchen. Next, she’s dredging a whole deboned, cane-sugar-marinated sole, folding it like an envelope, deep-frying it and serving it with smoked mayo, cane-sugar vinaigrette and pinakurat (a Filipino sweet and spicy sauce). “Like chicken nuggets for adults,” my dining partner murmurs appreciatively.
This 30-seat, no-frills dining room hidden inside the courtyard of an urban mini-mall is all about refined (but not fancy) sustainable seafood and plant-forward dishes. Sister restaurant Hank’s (about 20 feet away) is where outside-the-box meat-centric dishes are dreamed up; chef Clark Deutscher is the mastermind behind both. Does the name Nowhere express a nihilistic worldview, or dry humour? Judging from the soundtracks of both places (the White Stripes, the Kills and wall-to-wall moody riffs from the National), both could be true. Actually, says Clark, it’s a nod to the hard-to-find location. Plus the delicious fact that when folks ask where you’re going for dinner, you can say, “Nowhere.”
Hanging with this crew is like dropping into the minds of innovative culinary savants who court failure but are rarely visited by it.
The unflappable Laura continues to sauté, plate and multi-task her kitchen into submission until it’s purring like a cat. Meanwhile, we’re downing glass after glass of stellar B.C. wines with our eight-course tasting: a refreshing blanc de noir from the Saanich Hungarian winemakers Kutatás, paired with a northern sidestripe ceviche and avocado-coconut milk ice cream; and a savoury, elegant Burnt Timber cab franc from the Okanagan to go with a deeply flavoured, swoon-worthy pork ragù (made with organic pork from the Comox Valley that’s butchered in-house).
Laura conjures a final off-the-menu dish for dessert: housemade vanilla ice cream studded with pralines and topped with local strawberries and olive oil, inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans. Hanging with this crew is like dropping into the minds of innovative culinary savants who court failure but are rarely visited by it. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’ll be good.