The prolific Kitchen Table Restaurants group has launched Miantiao, a new restaurant tucked into the second-storey of the Shangri-La Hotel and Residences in downtown Vancouver. Being a restaurant in a hotel is notoriously difficult, having to manage the expectations of local and travelling guests, especially during COVID. Miantiao has an additional challenge: the cuisine fuses Italian and Chinese culinary philosophies. In a city with strong scenes for both styles of food, such a fusion can be risky, but the team at Miantiao that includes Hao-Yang Wang (general manager), Alex Tung (Kitchen Table’s culinary director), Tret Jordan (executive chef), and Justin Song Lee (chef de cuisine) pulls it off. How? Experimentation, branding, and of course the sumptuous interior design implemented by Zara Sangha Interior Design.
One enters the restaurant either through the hotel or via an exterior metal staircase, lined with swaying bamboo. Entering from the staircase reveals the light-filled Frasca room, which takes full advantage of the terrarium-like floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street. A mix of retro banquette seating, cane chairs, and botanical accents makes the space lively and social. This area, with alcoves for more private dining, leads back into a more austere bar area, as if travelling deeper underground, with marble facing and tables. Finally, in the back, is the grand Jia room with massive windows and red upholstery. The mix of spaces, with open areas that are punctuated thematically, gives the restaurant a sense of flexibility that works well with its all-day dining schedule—a necessity when catering to both local and international clientele.
The cuisine also offers variety, but a uniting theme is a lack of pretension in the experimentation. The portions are slightly larger than on a typical gastronomy menu—you won’t leave on an empty stomach—but there is also a simplicity that dominates the menu. Take the almost austere cabbage Bolognese, which places the traditional fillings of a Bolognese inside a cabbage. The presentation is minimal, the flavour amazing. Purists may recoil at the absence of pasta. We recommend you try it.
Another low-key, high-impact dish is the chicory salad. Perfect for sharing, the bitterness of the chicory is cut and complemented by ginger and grana padano, delivering a refreshing bite with hints of the complex flavours to come. The pastas, which lean to the Italian, are the menu gems. The tajarin has a sprinkle of crisp, unbelievably flavourful “quantum beef,” a special seasoning made in house. The lunch and apertivo menus run decidedly more toward traditional Italian offerings.
The drink menu is up to the standards of the place, with in-house bottled aperitifs by Gianluigi Bosco, such as sambuco frizzante (dry vermouth, gin, and elderflower soda) and kun.mi.to (Campari, sweet vermouth, carbonated white tea, and bitters). David Steele excels at the difficult task of pairing wine with fusion dishes.
I stayed at the genuinely stylish Miantiao chatting late into the evening, finishing the night with milk tea tiramisu (a divine conjunction) and coconut panna cotta with mango sorbet.