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Barring a layover into Spain’s land of tapas, North American diners too seldom experience the laid back elegance of a standing room restaurant. ShuckShuck, a new oyster bar in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood, shows us what we’ve been missing. The highly conceptual space offers a dynamic rest stop for transitional moments: after work, pre-dinner and into the late hours. Its fine dining ethos presents the oyster as a humble vessel for worldly ingredients, and its mission, focused on sustainability, includes a local supply chain and only one type of oyster: the Pacific (Miyagi). 

This down-to-earth approach is reflected in the restaurant’s 110-square-metre interior. Brought to life by Toronto’s Batay-Csorba Architects, ShuckShuck’s layout is remarkable in its simplicity. In fact, simplicity might be an understatement; it approaches a rare purity in form and function.

The dining room’s defining architectural intervention is a 17-metre-long serpentine table which evokes a sense of flow, as though one were floating down a lazy river. ShuckShuck’s owners, Waylon Sharp and Larry Lau, aimed to create a highly social and engaging environment for their first restaurant endeavour: the table’s shape was uniquely designed to mediate between a casual bar top and the cozy embrace of a booth.

Even the texture of the sinuous table’s cement — rough and pocketed on its underside and smooth and polished above — cleverly mimics the constitution of an oyster. The attention to detail further differentiates ShuckShuck from your average buck-a-shuck establishment, while deftly reinforcing the simplicity of Sharp and Lau’s culinary vision.  

Framing the space, concrete is the name of the game. Polished concrete floors meet exposed columns, while the concrete ceiling’s array of mechanical ducts and conduits add an industrial edge. The painted wall panels, designed for durability and acoustic performance, are a thoughtful addition to soften the din of a busy restaurant.

The final touch comes in the form of a sparse array of exposed bulbs, which descend delicately into the room like a string of pearls to foster a warm and inviting atmosphere. Oyster lovers and non-believers alike should feel comfortable entering ShuckShuck, even if just for a peak inside.

Batay-Csorba’s Vancouver Oyster Bar Reinvents Standing Room Dining

ShuckShuck’s innovative dining experience is elevated by a sinuous concrete centrepiece.

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