Scratch Kitchen co-owners Clay Spalding and Phil Day opened their new restaurant in Deep Cove in September.
Chris Dagenais / North Shore News
OCTOBER 26, 2018 01:07 PM

I appreciate an affectionate nod between businesses. It shows strength of character, confidence in concept, and acknowledges that no one operates in a vacuum.

Sitting at a two-top table in the bustling Scratch Kitchen space with The Boy, I listened with interest as Scratch co-owner Clay Spalding, who tag-teamed guest drink orders and food running with his team of personable, helpful servers throughout the night, described the origins of his new venture. Spalding and his business partner Phil Day took over the lease from The Village Table back in August of this year and renovated the room before opening its doors to eager Dollartonians in late September. The restaurant has a minimalist charm, at once spare and rustic, with clean lines, cool lighting, and undressed wooden tables; simple blue and grey canvasses along one wall contribute to the modern aesthetic while calling to mind the expansive water and sky of the cove nearby.

Spalding and Day hail from Cactus Club Land, whence many an enterprising young restaurateur has hailed. As we discussed the various successful restaurants that have been helmed by Cactus Club alum, Spalding mentioned The Parlour, a thriving casual bar and eatery in Yaletown where, it so happens, I have enjoyed delicious pizza and local brews on several occasions. We both attested to Parlour’s excellent pizzas and Spalding informed me that Scratch Kitchen, which has a pizza-centric menu, found inspiration for their own pies in Parlour’s style of crust. There was a guileless earnestness to this insight that seems to inform the entire Scratch concept; the restaurant does not offer a pretentious or overly curated dining experience. Rather, this is a comfortable place for solid, creative but still grounded, food and drink. Scratch refers to the kitchen’s approach of making everything in-house, from scratch.

Phil bakingThe Boy and I spent a few minutes deciding which pizzas to try out, with one called the Hot Momma piquing his interest. It is topped with tomato sauce, Spanish chorizo, pepperoncini peppers, Calabrian chilies, and mozzarella, a smart mix of fiery ingredients that my adult palate could virtually taste as I read the menu description. The Boy, by contrast, will turn 11 years old the week after this column is first posted, and although he is a genuine fan of spicy foods, I did wonder if the combination of pepperoncini and chillies would put this pizza over the top for him. It’s a tricky thing, being the parent of an adolescent. On the one hand I’m still his dad and I know that there is much guidance needed from me to help him navigate the challenging years ahead. On the other hand, he is already such a fiercely independent, smart and self-assured young dude that I almost cringed myself when I suggested, out loud, in front of our server, that he may want the kitchen to pare back on some of that heat for him, perhaps by going light on the pepperoncini. The Boy took the suggestion in stride and looked to our server for guidance. To her credit, she struck a fine balance, clocking the dynamic between doting dad and growing lad, suggesting that, in fact, it is the Calabrian chillies that pack the real heat, so ordering them on the side is a reasonable solution. And so it was that we ordered an appetizer of sous-vide buttermilk fried chicken thighs with house pickles, grainy Dijon and burnt honey, the Wake N Bacon Pizza, and a Hot Momma Pizza with chillies on the side. For my wife DJ, who sat this one out to deal with exhausted post-sleepover girls back on the homefront, we placed a takeout order of Cauliflower Wings (deep fried florets of cauliflower with Korean chilli sauce, green onions and toasted sesames) and the Brussels Sprouts Pizza, made with onion jam, toasted walnuts, roasted sprouts, mozzarella and a drizzle of burnt honey.

The fried chicken arrived on a stylish matte black plate. The chicken was piled in a mound in the centre, set atop a creamy mustard aioli-ish sauce, with thin rounds of housemade cucumber pickles. The chicken was lovely, crunchy and toasty on the outside, exceptionally moist in the middle. The Boy, who is usually not a fan of pickles, enjoyed the bread and butter-style brine of the cucumber and helped to make short work of the appetizer. With this appetizer I enjoyed a pint of intentionally cloudy, Citra hop heavy Dat Juice American Pale Ale from Port Moody’s Twin Sails brewing. Scratch Kitchen has three craft beers on tap, a handful of cocktails, and a small but food friendly selection of wines.

Our pizzas arrived shortly after our last bites of chicken, and I nodded in appreciation of the golden, cheese-laden, singed in places crusts. The Boy’s pizza came with a ramekin of Calabrian chilies, which proved to be insanely hot and were added sparingly, slice by slice, for a bit of additional kick. The Chorizo added depth of flavour to his pizza, which was further enlivened by the semi-spicy, pickled pepperoncini.

My pizza was an ingenious creation that would not be out of place on a weekend breakfast spread, and featured a creamy white sauce, thick, long strips of smoky bacon, deeply caramelized leeks, mozzarella cheese, and an egg placed over one slice, presumably cracked atop the pie midway through cooking, resulting in a medium set yolk. Fresh scallions were scattered across the top as garnish. This was a rich and rewarding pizza with a unique flavour profile that I have not encountered elsewhere and the crust was, as anticipated, excellent: chewy, dense and conversation worthy in its own right.

We followed up the pizzas with a silken, creamy vanilla cheesecake with poached pear and brulee sugar, served in a mason jar.

Back at home I sampled a few florets of the crispy cauliflower appetizer, still a de rigueur dish despite years of popularity on local menus, and enjoyed them with the addition of the heady gochujang-lifted sauce provided. The Brussels Sprouts pizza was a winner as well, the partially blackened roasted sprouts benefitting from the flavour and texture counterpoints of sweet and fragrant onion jam and toasty walnuts; this is a vegetarian friendly pie that feels well thought out and not just appended to the menu out of necessity.

Our menu sampling of three pizzas, two appetizers, dessert, a beer, and a soft drink, was $94 before gratuity. Scratch is open for brunch on weekends.

Scratch Kitchen, 437 Dollarton Highway (at Dollarton Village). 604.-770-1237.

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