Wine Culture Magazine

“If it’s just good, you’re not winning,” says JP Potters, Boulevard’s executive general manager and sommelier.

At Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, wine is matched to the menu’s seasonality and the chefs’ creativity

When it opened its doors in summer 2014, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar was Vancouver’s most anticipated new restaurant of the season, the year, possibly the decade thus far. Following a half-year, multi-million-dollar renovation of its predecessor, Fleuri, Boulevard revealed itself to be among the most luxuriously appointed (and, given its 200-plus seats, largest) dining rooms in the city.

Of course, these factors would count for nothing if its food and beverage offerings weren’t the primary attraction. Fortunately, the kitchen was—and continues to be—helmed by executive chef Alex Chen (2018’s Canadian Culinary Championships’ gold medalist), recently promoted to executive chef – signature restaurants for the Sutton Place Hotels’ Luxury Brand and chef de cuisine, now executive chef, Roger Ma, both of whom brought to Boulevard years of achievement in acclaimed restaurants spanning from Toronto to Beverly Hills.

Despite its location in the Sutton Place Hotel—at the nexus of Vancouver’s urban centre, Burrard and Robson streets—it was key to Chen and Ma that Boulevard not be a “hotel restaurant,” but a great restaurant that happens to be in a hotel, appealing equally to visitors from around the globe and local guests who are attuned to the unique cultural eclecticism of Vancouver dining. The duo’s menus deftly walk the tightrope between broad appeal and a deeply personal culinary vision that draws influence from the West Coast, Asia, classic French bistro fare, the American steakhouse tradition, and more. Meanwhile, Boulevard’s titular oyster bar is a model of sumptuous simplicity, plating impeccably sourced raw seafood that requires only the sparest of embellishments to taste its best.

If it’s just good, you’re not winning. It’s got to be so overwhelmingly positive that when people think about where they want to go next time, why would they go somewhere else

JP Potters, Boulevard’s executive general manager and sommelier, says of the dining experience he and his colleagues aim to deliver: “If it’s just good, you’re not winning. It’s got to be so overwhelmingly positive that when people think about where they want to go next time, why would they go somewhere else when what we do is so compelling? The kitchen delivers that on the plate,
for sure.”

Potters collaborates daily with kitchen, bar and service staff to ensure standards are consistent, and to match Boulevard’s menus with complementary pairings from its cellar of more than 500 labels. This is especially important when Chen or Ma composes a new dish, which happens often in response to seasonality, new ingredients, or, quite simply, the chefs’ restless creativity.

Boulevard executive chef Roger Ma balances the flavours of his dishes with the wines they are best paired with.

“It’s up to us as chefs to communicate what we’re trying to achieve with a specific dish,” says Ma, “and then it’s up to the sommelier or bartender to say, ‘I can see it working with this wine or this cocktail.’ But maybe we’ve first got to dial back the dish’s acidity or add some sweetness. I think it’s a powerful thing when great minds work together to dissect a dish and find maybe one or two little things that can really elevate it, whether it’s a little more or less seasoning, a touch of lemon, or a hint of this spice.”

“We taste wine every day with the staff, to flex that muscle with them and get them in the habit of pairing,” adds Potters. “Different guests want different things, but we try to have something we know works well, and that affects how we choose the wines by the glass. We want the staff to be able to talk about the food and the wine in an informed but easy way.”

“We really want our guests to be able to have that experience where they’re enjoying our food with a beautiful glass of wine or a well-made cocktail,” says Ma. “We’ve always got that at the back of our minds.”


Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar
845 Burrard Street, Vancouver
(604) 642-2900
For more information, visit

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