Claudia Kwan/for Metro Vancouver


Executive chef and co-owner Robert Belcham is front and centre at Fuel Restaurant’s open-plan kitchen.


Fuel Restaurant

1944 W. 4th (and Maple)

Open Wed.-Sun. for lunch and dinner


Dinner for two, including tax, tip, and drinks: $165

*** 1/2 (out of 5)

Clearly i was never meant to be a spy. Sure, I remembered to use an alias when booking a Sunday night reservation at Fuel, but I wasn’t quick enough to make up a fake first name when a flirty server introduced himself. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure my experience was the same as the other diners around me.

I had lots of time to peruse the menu, and saw lots of items that intrigued. While you can choose some or all of the courses you get in the tasting menu, I was curious to see what Chef Robert Belcham thought best represented Fuel’s cuisine.

I think I ended up with the safe options: a delicious but small onion soup with a cheese wafer, a ‘deconstructed’ paella that had a beautiful crisped cake of saffron rice and bland squid and shrimp, and a heaping portion of fancy fried chicken with parsnips and sage stuffing. I found myself ridiculously charmed by the mini-loaf of bread brought out first and the wonderful presentation for every dish.

My vegetarian friend got a lovely (wee) pumpkin soup, a romaine salad with mushrooms and a poached egg, and gnocchi made of wheat flour instead of potato with a great hazelnut butter sauce. Dessert was so-so chocolate brownies, sunken in the middle and with a slightly sour aftertaste.

Our server had the best intentions of being attentive, but instead ended up being a tiny bit intrusive, forcing us to twist and dodge to aid the placement of fresh cutlery, and breaking into our conversation at several points to ask how the meal was going. It’s nothing a little more seasoning won’t fix.

The former Arian House of Kebabs space has been cleanly updated with chocolate walls, champagne linens and a silver chandelier, evocative of tree branches in winter. The extremely open-plan kitchen gives diners a front-row view of the action, and is probably the best seat in the house.

It’s a month-old restaurant that treads the middle ground between fine and casual eats — finer dining perhaps? After a little time to grow into itself, Fuel will likely become a Kits favourite.