‘FAMILIAR CHINESE’ AT TWO PENNY
Multicultural food scene expands
With the opening of Two Penny, Cody Willis can now add Chinese to his burgeoning collection of multicultural restaurants. The man behind Thank You Hospitality Management and its restaurants, Native Tongues (Mexican) and Calcutta Cricket Club (Indian), has worked with a new team to develop Two Penny at 1213 1st St. S.W. (403-616-2711).
His partners in this project are general manager Andrea Robinson (Teatro, River Cafe), executive chef Scott Beaton (Anju, Native Tongues) and beverage director Stephen Phipps (Bourbon Room, Ricardo’s Hideaway) — all seasoned veterans of the local restaurant industry. Handling design was Sarah Ward (The Nash, Bro’kin Yolk) to help convert a moribund space into a restaurant and tea house.
The main floor of the building, which was built a century ago and operated as a bakery for over half the years since, has been opened into a 90-seat dining room, a west-facing wall of windows flooding light into the room. A black oak moon gate stands at the entrance high- lighted by sea-foam-green tiles and natural wicker. Black leather banquettes line the walls and a bar fills one end of the room. Huge fir beams that hold up the second floor have been exposed, and plants and Asian lamps have been hung from the high ceilings. Ward says the style is inspired by 1920s Shanghai, the period known as “Chinese Deco” for its melding of Chinese traditional architecture and Art Deco.
The Two Penny team describe the food as “familiar Chinese” with kung pao pork ($20), mussels in black bean sauce ($20), beef and broccoli ($24) and steamed barbecued pork buns ($12) on the menu. They’re not trying to replicate a visit to Chinatown. Instead, they are drawing on dishes from across China and adding a Western flair. So the beef is Brant Lake Wagyu brisket, the steamed mussels come with toasted sourdough and the kung pao includes house-made bologna. Almost everything is made in-house so no MSG sneaks into bottled sauces. The oysters in the smoked oyster sauce are smoked in-house, the charred cabbage comes with soy-braised ham hock and the fried rice includes bone marrow.
Another difference is the drink list, which includes creative cocktails such as a gin-based ginger-soy sour and a pisco disco with pisco, tequila, rose liqueur and rhubarb bitters. The wine list leans toward Rieslings, vinho verdes and muscadets that work well with Chinese food, plus a half-dozen craft beers.
Downstairs the gritty, 50-seat Teahouse glows red under Chinese lanterns and serves its own loungey menu. General Tso cauliflower, cumin eggplant shaobing and chong-ching chicken wings continue the East-meets-West theme. The Teahouse will also offer dim sum cart service in the near future.
The Two Penny team also promises a lively room and good service to add to the overall experience. Two Penny is open for dinner daily and does not take reservations.
Fans of sweet treats will be happy with a couple of new vendors at the Market on Macleod. Following the arrival of Pie Cloud a few weeks ago, Mountain Rhino Donuts and Red Tartan Shortbread have set up shop there, too.
Mountain Rhino, named after the graceful demeanour of owner Steve Fletcher-Beck (partnering with wife Ruth), features top-end doughnuts — yeast, cake, cruller and gluten-free. They tested the waters in outdoor markets this summer and were encouraged enough to move indoors this winter. They say they have dozens of recipes including burned butter maple with bacon, tequila lime, milk chocolate s’mores and lavender-honey dip. Sales have been brisk so far. Doughnuts go for $3 each or $30 per dozen.
Also new to the Market on Macleod is Red Tartan Shortbread. Owner Pamela Hartman uses her grandmother’s recipes (she was a Maxwell) and has created her own gluten-free and sugar-free versions, as well as the traditional full-butter, full-sugar classics. The shortbreads are also altered for special occasions — orange-and-black sprinkles for Halloween — and are packaged in attractive bags and boxes.
Pie Junkie is spreading its tasty goodness across the city, too. Formerly known as The Pie Hole, Pie Junkie has been baking pies at its original location at 8 Spruce Centre S.W. for a couple years. Nancy Goemans launched her pie shop when her daughter Aya — now a high school student — convinced her that baking would be her lifelong profession.
Recently, Goemans and partner Jo-Anne Caza opened a second location in Kensington’s Lido tower at 1081 2nd Ave. N.W. Pie Junkie whips up pies of all sorts — sweet ( lemon meringue, sour cherry) and savoury (steak and mushroom, lamb) in individual and full pie versions, using all-butter pastry. There’s always a quiche on the menu, too.
Pie Junkie’s pies are baked mostly for take-home consumption, but there are a few tables at the Spruce Cliff location and some stools and a counter in Kensington for those in need of instant pie relief. And look for occasional Pie Junkie pop-ups in the Granary Road Market at 226034 112th St. W., De Winton, just a few minutes south of the city.
General manager Andrea Robinson at the East-meets-West Two Penny restaurant and teahouse.