Four Seasons Makeover

The new Yew restaurant is “smoking hot”

By: Janice Mucalov

Yew Restaurant
An eye-catching sandstone fireplace divides
the bar from the dining area.
Wowing foodies and barflies, the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver opened its stunning new restaurant, Yew, on Dec. 11, kicking off the first phase of a total property makeover. The tab for the new eatery was $4.3 million, which included a renovation of the second-floor lobby.

Work now starts on the lower-level lobby. Some $1 million will be spent on new artwork, a new ceiling with hanging lanterns and driveway improvements. Then starting in September, the hotel’s 372 guestrooms and suites will undergo a significant renovation, one floor at a time.

“All the soft goods are coming out. Basically, we’re emptying the rooms and filling them up with everything completely new,” said Samantha Geer, director of public relations for the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. “Carpets, bedding, furniture everything will be replaced.”

The cost is expected to be $20 million, though Geer said the final bill could be more than that. Expect some pizzazz. Certainly, the new Yew is creating a buzz (though more conservative clients might be less impressed).

Gone are the previous two outdated restaurants. In their place is one large gorgeous room with lofty 40-foot ceilings, a giant pyramid skylight and an immense sandstone fireplace dividing the bar from the dining area. In the center of the restaurant, there’s a private glass-walled dining room lined with racks of wine bottles.

The San Francisco-based Engstrom Design Group which designed the restaurants at sister Four Seasons properties in Las Vegas and Wailea, Maui were contracted to create the new look. Bold designer touches are everywhere, including the hanging bird’s nest lights above booth tables, a communal table for 20 sculpted from a slab of hand-hewn Western maple, and the dramatic bar set against the backdrop of a massive wall of live foliage.

The whole effect is urban, contemporary and vibrant, and doesn’t look like your typical hotel restaurant. According to general manager Guy Rigby, the atmosphere is “smoking hot.”

Yew Restaurant
Over 150 wines are
available by the glass.
Not to be forgotten, the menu and food has been totally overhauled too. Before taking over Yew’s kitchen, executive chef Rafael Gonzales was executive sous at The Pierre in New York and a sous at Jean Georges, one of New York’s top restaurants.

“The food we have chosen to include is sophisticated and dramatic,” said Gonzales.

Certainly the urban West Coast fare was masterful the night we visited. My appetizer of braised veal cheeks tossed with torchiette pasta, sweet cipollini onions and walnuts, was rich and bursting with flavor. Entree highlights included succulent, plump caramelized scallops, served with delicate maitake mushrooms and roasted cauliflower, and a delicious slow-braised lamb accompanied by shaved zucchini and a potato-and-onion terrine. For dessert, the whipped morello cherry cheesecake was a lovely and light finish.

Wine lovers will be quite pleased to know that over 150 wines are available by the glass (so long as you order a minimum of two glasses).

The completed enhancements to the second-floor lobby area, which leads into Yew, include a new terrazzo floor, new couches and chairs for mingling and a new front desk.

“Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver has been a part of the community for over 31 years and this renovation is significant,” said Rigby. “This isn’t just a renovation; we are adding a whole new flavor to the city.”

Also on the radar and among the hotel’s list of upgrades is the addition of a spa, said Geer. The lack of a spa facility and the lower lobby’s dated appearance were among the reasons the Four Seasons was downgraded from a AAA five-diamond rating to a four-diamond rating in 2003, after nabbing the top award for 27 years. While the improvements to the lobby should be completed by June, other reasons related to the building’s physical limitations such as the lack of separate showers and bathtubs will not be changed, said Geer.

Mind you, regaining that extra diamond rating isn’t the Four Seasons’ goal, she added.

“The most important thing for us is providing the highest quality through both service and product,” said Geer. “Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is dedicated to perfecting the travel experience through continuous innovation and the highest standards of hospitality. At our Vancouver property, we look forward to exceeding guest expectations for many more years in future.”