Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan announced their departure from Marben to start a “new project” back in February, well before the former took first place in season two of Top Chef Canada (or rather, well before the season aired). Last week, the two first-time restaurateurs opened the doors of their new Richmond Station to the public, and Heinrich’s fans finally got to see how the young chef spent all that prize money.
The restaurant has a subway theme inside and out, with white subway tiles lining the walls and enlarged black and white prints taken from city archives hanging above them. Jeff Forrest (Stacklab) worked with Heinrich and Donovan to design the 85-seat space, which is divided between a narrow entrance tavern with two-person tables and a long bar table, and an upstairs dining room at the back, with larger tables and banquettes. There’s also a pantry that doubles as a semi-private dining room for parties of eight to 12, and a chef’s table with a view right into the kitchen, where Heinrich plans to serve tasting menus. The only remnant of the space’s former life as Yulla (a Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant) is the distinct round window at the entrance and the dark wooden flooring. To add personality to the clean, cool space, the duo has added various antique knickknacks, like mismatched coat hooks at the entrance and a set of four lamps hanging over the bar restored from an old rural schoolhouse (they also scooped up several items from Bistro 990’s closing auction).
Heinrich, who’s the executive chef, tells us the menu is full of “good, honest cooking” that’s in line with the fare both were recognized for at Marben. Yes, that does include a rib-stuffed burger ($21), but also other staples like hand-chopped beef tartare with fried egg and hickory sticks ($14), roasted beet salad ($14) and lightly smoked Kolapore Springs rainbow trout served on a salad with soybean hummus and antipasto ($14). Although Richmond Station has an in-house butcher (Donovan), Heinrich is keen to note he doesn’t want the place pigeonholed as a meat-focused, farm-to-table restaurant. “Our focus is on buying the best ingredients we can. We make charcuterie because we buy the animals whole; we make mortadella because it’s a great way to use up wild boar fat, or salami because it uses up beef trimmings.” The restaurant is currently open for dinner Monday to Saturday, but Donovan tells us he hopes it’ll become a place for people stop by for a beer after work, too. And starting in November, they’ll be launching a lunch service.