Kevin Cam

Owner, Bai­jiu and North , Ed­mon­ton

Western Living - - FOOD - Omar Mouallem

“I was a 23-year-old try­ing to pick­pocket well-o folks,” jokes Kevin Cam about open­ing North 53, in 2013, on a cor­ner of Ed­mon­ton’s bougie West­mount neigh­bour­hood. In­stead, the room—dark and cov­ered in black bee­hive tiles—drew in ul­tra-hip mil­len­ni­als, smit­ten by cre­ative drinks re­quir­ing bar­tenders to torch spruce­wood. But they hardly touched the tast­ing menu that was North’s cor­ner­stone. Within months, Cam—nei­ther trained chef, bar­tender, nor maître d’, but a well-trav­elled for­mer fash­ion buyer with good tastes and, more im­por­tantly, in­vestors—had to pivot. He changed chefs, sup­plant­ing el­e­vated com­fort-food share plates with whim­si­cal bas­kets of tem­pura pop­corn chicken dusted with blitzed pop­corn. The vibe now is like “a party within a party,” says Cam. Lessons in hand, his sec­ond ven­ture, Bai­jiu, re­quired no wean­ing af­ter open­ing this year. In­spired by Shang­hai and Hong Kong speakeasies, with flo­ral Asian mu­rals on one wall and a Big­gie Smalls print on the other, it’s both a trib­ute to his Chi­nese roots and ado­les­cent days in Van­cou­ver karaoke bars throw­ing back Hen­nessy and green tea shots. The drinks pro­gram romps with Asian in­gre­di­ents like nig­o­rizake, soy milk and Thai basil syrup, while chef Alexei Boldire plays with a modern style of bao tacos and im­pos­si­bly ten­der Szechuan-style con­fit chicken. Like North, it’s a mul­ti­sen­sual com­bi­na­tion. “I get a high when I’m stand­ing in one of my rooms; it’s full, the Cham­pagne is flow­ing and there’s laugh­ter ev­ery­where.”—

My fi rst s ff k “            ­ . 11.”—

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