The in­dus­try’s go-to butcher gets into the ser­vice game.

Vancouver Magazine - - Contents - BY Alexan­dra Gill

Two Rivers moves from butch­ery to the res­tau­rant busi­ness.

might have trou­ble lo­cat­ing the Shop, which is hid­den among trans­port trucks and ware­houses in a North Shore in­dus­trial park, the meat is im­pos­si­ble to miss. It’s right there in your face op­po­site the front door, hang­ing on hooks in­side aglass-walled dry-ag­ing room—a hulk­ing ar­ray of fat-mar­bled †anks rang­ing from bright ruby red and still slightly moist to with­ered and mouldy with pur­plish-brown crusts.

The raw sides take pride of place be­cause, while tech­ni­cally a res­tau­rant (and a very good one at that) with ca­sual counter ser­vice, com­mu­nal seat­ing and an open wood-Šred grill, the Shop is Šrst and fore­most a tra­di­tional work­ing butch­ery. Con­sider it a whole-an­i­mal hy­brid where you can buy your steak and eat it too.

Opened in Oc­to­ber, the gleam­ing sub­way-tiled and wood-trimmed meatery is owned by Two Rivers Spe­cialty Meats, a10-year-old pro­ces­sor and pur­veyor of top-qual­ity beef, lamb, pork, chicken, tur­key and game, all hu­manely raised and eth­i­cally treated (with­out hor­mones, an­tibi­otics, chem­i­cal-feed ad­di­tives, yada, yada) on small farms in lo­cal pas­tures. If the Two Rivers name sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause you’ve seen it splashed across menus in the best restau­rants around town. Un­til now, the meat was sold only whole­sale and not di­rectly ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic. Be­lieve me, I’ve tried sev­eral times to get my hands on their de­lec­ta­ble rab­bit.

Alas, I still can’t. To­day’s two fresh Fraser Val­ley bun­nies sold out long be­fore noon, along with 10 quail. Head butcher Pasqual St­u­fano apol­o­gizes pro­fusely. He didn’t think there would be such great de­mand for the rar­i­ties. “How about some of th­ese lovely dryaged duck breasts?” he o¢ers. Or per­haps a giant pork-and-veal meat­ball wrapped in lacy caul fat?

Sur­pris­ingly young and ex­cep­tion­ally keen, St­u­fano is one of the friendli­est butch­ers you will ever en­counter. He takes us through the meat dis­play. Avast se­lec­tion of beef (much of it aged 45 to 60 days, and all hand-tooled ac­cord­ing to mus­cle type) is rea­son­ably priced: dry-aged bone­less rib-eye, for ex­am­ple, costs $6.45 per100 grams, or about $23 for a 12-ounce steak. He then walks us over to the deli counter (so much tempt­ing char­cu­terie) and even o¢ers to ring up our lunch. We can shop be­fore eat­ing and store our pur­chases in the walk-in cooler. Pay now or later. Just want to eat? No­prob­lem! He goes through the same riga­ma­role with ev­ery cus­tomer, and we’re all pleas­antly

It’s a beast of a rig, spit­ting fire and smoke...

baf­fled. The res­tau­rant staff is equally ac­com­mo­dat­ing. With so many points of ser­vice, the whole mul­ti­func­tional op­er­a­tion could eas­ily de­scend into chaos. Who­ever did the train­ing should be saluted be­cause wow, the ex­pe­ri­ence is as­ton­ish­ingly smooth.

On the other side of the room, we or­der lunch, take our num­ber (pierced into a des­ic­cated bone) and mo­sey on over to bar stools be­side the grill. It’s a beast of a rig, spit­ting fire and smoke from burn­ing and smoul­der­ing birch that has been barn-dried in Pem­ber­ton for 730 days. By the time our drinks are de­liv­ered (Left Field cider and Hester Creek pinot gris on tap), we are sali­vat­ing into our com­pli­men­tary tal­low-cooked pop­corn.

The dry-aged cheese­burg­ers ($13) look so damn good and taste even bet­ter. The gen­tly charred pat­ties are built from a freshly ground, whole-shoul­der blend of Cache Creek beef. They’re cooked medium-pink in the centre, but that’s just the start. Al­most ev­ery el­e­ment on this mas­ter­piece gets licked by fire—a thick slice of ched­dar is melted thor­oughly over­top, while house-smoked ba­con, tomatoes and brioche buns are toasted on the grid­dle. Add a smear of stocky aioli, a tangy layer of bread-and-but­ter zuc­chini pick­les and a $5 side of lightly crisped, lib­er­ally salted fries (in­fused with mouth­coat­ing beefy good­ness from boil­ing tal­low) and you’re in burger heaven. Deeply flavoured but not too gamey, juicy yet not a slob­bery mess, rich and at the same time fresh—this is a se­ri­ously strong con­tender for the best burger in town.

Sig­na­ture steak tartare ($9) is a gen­er­ous por­tion of hand-ground pe­tite ten­der, which might be even more suc­cu­lent if it were hand-diced in­stead. Still, mixed with ca­per vinai­grette and sharp mus­tard, and topped with a grat­ing of cured egg yolk (as rich and salty as parme­san), it’s a very tasty dish.

Beet slaw with jalapeno dress­ing is a lit­tle too oily and slick. But come on, can you re­ally ex­pect great veg­eta­bles from a butcher shop? Well, the ro­tis­serie cau­li­flower, with its meaty, golden-edged flo­rets draped in spicy green chermoula, is a stand­out, per­haps be­cause it’s given the slowroasted chicken treat­ment.

For dessert, there are tal­low-fried beignets sprin­kled with Tiny Tom sugar, and maple-bour­bon sun­daes if you hit the right day. The spe­cials board al­ways of­fers meat pie, sausage and steak fea­tures, while the kids’ menu in­cludes a smaller burger, all-beef hot dog and lovely charred chicken drum­sticks.

But where’s the rab­bit, or the of­fal? Two Rivers is a whole-an­i­mal butch­ery that has a huge stash of ob­scure meats and off-cuts at its dis­posal. The Shop of­fers a unique op­por­tu­nity to broaden din­ers’ hori­zons and give us more ed­i­ble education about the rar­i­ties we could ac­tu­ally buy and cook at home. Why not serve roasted pork trot­ters and tripe casseroles or just plain elk, boar and bi­son? On the other hand, maybe I should just shut up right now, be­cause that would only make my beloved bun­nies even harder to source.

Head Butcher Pasqual St­u­fano

PAIRS BEST WITH i Black Hills Syrah 2015 // $40 A smoky ba­con-fat-y wal­lop of a wine that ac­tu­ally sort of tastes like a butcher—in a good way.

Dry-aged cheese­burger

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