Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waiter Wars Storm Brewing, and a couple of nice California Reds

The other night,over an R & B Red Devil Pale Ale, our restaurant manager and I were discussing the upcoming explosion of restaurant openings in Vancouver's downtown core.

Sometime over the next couple of months five or six new "fine service" restaurants will open, among them Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, The ShoreClub, TransContinental, Player's Chop House, "Metro" ? - a 225 seater from the boys at Rare, The Italian Kitchen plus a new Earl's and a 2 story Keg in Yaletown a bit further down the line.

I did some quick math: the first six places listed will account for about 1,200 seats of dining per night, a good experienced server handles 20 seats a night so these places are needing 60 waiters per night times seven nights a week. So that's 420 server shifts per week divided by 4.5 (lots of servers only work 4 nights a week) which equals 93 waiters, toss in 2/3s of that again for lunches (less business means less servers) and a 10% leeway factor (illness, conventions etc) and we are at 170 servers needed.

I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, there are not 170 good experienced servers out of work in Vancouver.

Perhaps the unthinkable will happen and restaurants may be forced to start treating servers as valuable commodities, rather than as "dime a dozen"s as they have for so many years. Probably not, they'll go the safe route and hire "personalities" and let the service standards go for a crap, it is Vancouver after all.

On another note I had two good California Syrahs last week, both in the usually forgotten $15-$20 price range. First up was the 2004 Bridlewood Syrah- CSPC#659730 $16.99 and widely available. The winery is in the Santa Barbara area and this wine is sourced from various vineyards in the Central Coast appelation, the wine is soft and fruity but had enough tannin to carry the grilled Leg of Lamb we had on Sunday night. Flavours are full of blackberry,raspberry, plum and a bit of spice with a nice mouth feel and good long finish, highly recommended.

Monday night was roasted pork loin chops in sage, vidalia onion and apple and another California Syrah, this time labelled as Shiraz, Rex Goliath 2005- CSPC#551184 $13.99 (discounted for May from $15.99) widely available . This winery gained cult fame for their Pinot Noir a few years back and provide quality wines for the price across the board, currently the Shiraz and Pinot Grigio are available in B.C.. The Shiraz is not as refined as the Bridlewood but is varietally true with the same raspberry jam, plum, spice box characters with a touch more pepper and the fruit is a little jammier. At the discounted price this is a very good value and something to grab a case of for the fast approaching backyard grilling season.

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