The Le Magasin space in Gastown has been through many reincarnations since its inception in 1911 and with the most recent, McLean’s, it appears to be going through several all at once.
The awkwardly named So.Cial at Le Magasin has been renamed and re-outfitted by former Vancouver Canuck hockey star Kirk McLean in a grey-on-white style accented with white roses and serving continental-inspired West Coast fare.
Like So.Cial, this restaurant ambitiously comprises the formal dining room, downstairs bar, sidewalk patio and sandwich shop and squarely occupying the “something for everyone” camp serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. The main dining room is fairly muted and formal, with a special area set aside for “Kirk’s table” where Kirk is able to communicate with the kitchen and his guests from an always reserved wing-back chair. But downstairs, “Kirk’s bar” is a schizophrenic mélange of antique books, flat-panel TVs, retro throw cushions, a back-lit Rampant Lion…and more white roses. In a small space below street level, it feels part attic and part rumpus room.
Mingling in this space over sangria and wine at a recent event it seems that this venue is best served as an after work drinks spot, where standing and nibbling would be on the agenda. We had Tuna tartare with avocado and nori chips, easily sampled with one hand while holding a glass of pinot gris in the other. The nori chips are a nice touch, both visually and flavour-wise and make a nice scoop for the tartare although the tartare could have used some more ponzu as the predominant flavour was bland avocado.
Fior di Latte, an appetizer size salad of fresh cow’s milk mozzarella was served with roasted cherry tomatoes and arugula tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The menu cites this dish’s ingredients as including fresh basil rather than arugula, so I’m not sure if the intention was to be more along the lines of a Caprese salad or if they’re making some last minute menu changes. Regardless, the way it was served positioned the bitter greens at one end of the plate and the bland cheese at the other, with only the dressing to join them. This dish could be greatly improved with a little tweaking.
The seared flat-iron steak tataki is done in a tangy Asian-style with citrus soy and grapes, garnished with flat-leaf and black sesame seeds. The grapes are an interesting contrast to the richness of the meat and I enjoyed both the flavour and crunch from it but the Humboldt squid with chorizo, lime and sansho pepper aioli was my favorite dish, spicy and full of flavour.
They seem to be trying to do some innovative things with the menu and with some more refinement and tasting, they might be able to sort out the inconsistencies in flavour and pull it off. However, they are open seven days a week and are virtually guaranteed to be busy with their fail-safe affiliation with hockey fame and location on Water Street.