By now anyone interested in foodie culture will have heard of AnnaLena, or at the very least Mike Robbins, of Oakwood Canadian Bistro and Top Chef Canada fame. If you haven’t, that’s ok, we’ve got you covered.
My wife and I arrived at AnnaLena for our 6:45pm reservation (that’s how you roll when you’ve got a two-year old waiting at home with grandma) and were greeted by the very friendly staff who showed us to our table. We were impressed by the sleek design meets man-child decor (bonkers cool LEGO lamps and “Tetris” bar). Once seated, the smooth and friendly conversationalists filled us in on tips for enjoying the sharing plates and the cocktails that might tickle our fancy.
Through a massive garage style glass door we spied Kitsilano Terrace style houses across the street, and were transported to somewhere warmer and more south of France-ish. Summertime in this spot would be sublime. I paired a coconut water infused cocktail with lobster and lamb dishes and my wife opted for the pork belly to round out our sharing selection. The melt-in-your-mouth lobster is served in a shallow soup bowl and features light broth fused with garlic citrusy flavours. As expected with sharing plates, the portions are designed to tantalize rather than satiate, and AnnaLena delivered in spades. Despite the easy-going ambiance and the sophisticated playroom decor, AnnaLena is more suited for date night, so leave the kiddies at home. As we pondered dessert, a cackle of gorgeous 30-somethings were making their way–presumably to the bar to perch on the Vitra-esque slender stools.
Just as we finished our last bites of dessert, Chef Mike Robbins popped by our table to answer a few questions.
Anna and Lena are the first names of his grandmothers. Rumour has it Lena (97 years old) attended opening night in mid March to a standing ovation. Pretty damn cool.
Mike’s grandmas! His travels abroad! Vancouver! His love for bringing people together to experience food, drinks and each other. Mike says he doesn’t believe in consciously trying to create trends or steal ideas from other parts of the world and unveil them as new. “I’m not going to jump on trends because I want to be the first guy to copy what some guy did in Scandinavia,” he says. He works hard to follow his own passion and create something that can take on its own definition over time rather that try to self define and illicit conformation. Looking at us, he adds, “You guys make it what it is supposed to be.”
Chef and his crew hammered out all the details of the space on their own. It truly is a breath of fresh air in the landscape of cookie-cutter Vancouver restaurant design. “I have an idea, a dream, a vision. Even the room itself looks so much different [than what I originally set out to do]…the vibe I wanted is exactly right. I spent months trying to figure out how to design something because I am not a designer but this is me through and through.”
Get out there and check out AnnaLena. You won’t be disappointed. Save up a few dollars so you can enjoy dessert — we tried the warm rhubarb compote and the chocolate creme brûlée, both outstanding — and a few cocktails. We’ll be back for more, certainly for brunch, and in the summer when we need to cool off with a celebrated libation.