For the number of people living and working in the area, the neighbourhood along Vancouver’s Robson Street has long lacked high-quality dining options. Known mostly as a luxury shopping district, in this part of downtown an appetite for fashion is more likely to be quenched than a desire for food. Until now, that is. The recently opened Archer is proving to be a restaurant that excites locals and visitors alike.
Occupying an unassuming space adjacent an A&W and a Subway at 1152 Alberni Street, Archer is the best dining option in this underserved part of the city. Designed by Calgary’s Little Giant Studio, Archer’s interiors reflect the restaurant’s location at the base of Vancouver’s emblematic glass-dominated office towers not far from the Burrard Inlet and Stanley Park. Here, beiges and greys ranging from milky to anthracitic contrast with the emerald green upholstery and plants and the rich wood tones of the furniture.
The food similarly reflects the surroundings. Chef Clement Chan, formerly of Torafuku and Brass Fish Tavern, has developed a menu that showcases the Pacific Northwest: fresh seafood, foraged fungi, and hearty cuts of meat prepared simply and in a way that elegantly gestures to the Asian cuisines the region is known for.
Among the small plates, the charred octopus is a standout. Infused with sacha sauce—an ingredient intimately linked to Chinese hot pot—and served on bed of fingerling potatoes, pickled jalapeños, kale, and baby beets, the warp and weft of crunchy and soft components serves as a complex textural base for the simple sansho kewpie and hazelnut romesco sauces. And for those looking for something more familiar, the dill chicken wings are equal parts classic pub wing and dill pickle chip. Unlike the octopus, these perfectly cooked morsels aim to knockout eaters with flavour, not caress.
The five-spice-seasoned duck breast is the star of the large plates. Seared and served with a warm honeydew and beetroot salad, cauliflower florets, celery purée, a potato pavé, and drizzled with tamari jus, this dish is technique, technique, technique. Combining so many components in a single dish risks having one faultily prepared item spoil the lot, but the team at Archer carries it off with aplomb.
Archer stays local for beverages, too. The beer offerings come from the Lower Mainland, while every bottle on the wine list is sourced from the Okanagan Valley. The impressive backbar features many local spirits as well. Among those, Sheringham Distillery’s spirits in many of the signature cocktails. But the drink that really shows Archer knows and aims to showcase where it is in the world is its take on the Caesar, a classic Canadian cocktail that rarely makes it onto lists at high-end dining establishments. It’s just one of the exceptional offerings at Archer, the restaurant that’s revitalizing a characteristic but underfed part of Vancouver.
Photography by Ian Lanterman and Glasfurd Walker.