Wiseman On Harrison - Harrison On Art & No Fun - RevisitedWednesday, July 15, 2015
With all the proliferating TV food channels and all those articles on food in newspapers not to mention the restaurant lists to be found in Vancouver Magazine (with covers that at one time have people but now feature genuine cheesecake) I remember fondly one of the best restaurant reviews I ever read. It was in 1985 that Vancouver Province rock critic Tom Harrison took punk rocker Art Bergmann to a very good Italian restaurant. That and more (Iggy Pop, Les Wiseman and a funny No Fun) you will find below from a blog that I originally posted May 19 2010.
By Les Wiseman
I may have met Tom Harrison (seen here with Iggy Pop) when we were both interviewing our mutual hero Lou Reed on his Rock’n’Roll Heart tour. Tom was immediately nice to me, which I appreciated because he was a bigshot and I was writing for The Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper. I remember when I first started covering punk for The Ubyssey, my editor, Bruce Baugh -who had actually MET the venerated Tom Harrison, told me that Tom liked this “punk crap,” so maybe I should give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tom has always been nice to me, immediately giving me gigs at The Georgia Straight when I got out of university in 1978. Sharing his beer at umpteen Commodore gigs. Tom has always had a rock’n’roll heart and he has given to rock’n’roll as much as it has given to him. Rock journalism in Vancouver IS Tom Harrison.
He has hung with the greats. I remember him at a Pretenders gig at the Queen E. He was ecstatic at having interviewed Chrissie Hynde that afternoon and having finished the invu harmonizing with her on some old garage-rock tunes. I remember having dinner with him at his house one night when he whipped out a pic of him and Keith Richards together -man, was I envious. We were in his home, which was lined with records. He asked what I wanted to hear and I said the third Velvet Underground album and off he went in search of it. When he had been gone for a long while, we went to find him. The quest had proved too much for him and we found him passed out in a chair among a zillion albums.
I recall one night after a concert by Squeeze, we were at an after party at the Luv-A-Fair. It was Tom’s birthday and we got thrown out. So I went back in, under the guise of getting my coat, and smuggled some beer out. We went across the street to a construction site and sitting on stacks of Gyproc we drank and had a great time, just the two of us.
But, even without him being a terrifically nice guy, he would still be a cultural treasure because of the massive volume of articles he has written about the greats and those he felt just deserved some ink and recognition. Tom has given a lot of breaks to a lot of musicians. He has made careers, mine included.
Of course, Tom continues to write today, as incisively and honestly as ever. He is a great journalist and a great entertainer. He has also been a broadcaster on both radio and TV and is an accomplished drummer and singer.
The greats in this business are known by the addition of an expletive adjective inserted as their middle name. He is Tom “Fuckin’” Harrison.
OUT FOR LUNCH - CONTINENTAL
By Tom Harrison
The Province, Friday, May 10, 1985
It was Doug Hughes, the former regular occupant of the Out For Dinner column, who suggested Niki’s Caprice Restaurant. “I go there all the time,” said Doug, currently the assistant marketing director of the Vancouver Symphony.
“He comes here all the time, “said Chef Niki, the one-time owner of the popular Chez Luba. That’s what he said,” said I, author of today’s review.
“I like your pictures,”offered Art Bergmann, surveying the hundreds of autographed photos of dancers, film stars, musicians and other celebrities that had made the trek with Niki from Chez Luba to his Richards location two years ago. “Those,”Niki boasted proudly, expansively, “are all my girlfriends. Who,” he asked, suddenly curious and fixing Art with an inquisitive stare, “are you?”
“He,” I explained,” is the leader of one of the city’s best rock bands called Poisoned.” “You are a good-looking young man, Niki told him, glowing with Hungarian good cheer. “Rock music, eh? Oogie boogie. Striptease!”
Chef Niki, if you haven’t guessed, is an extremely personable, gracious gentleman who will be 93 years of age next week. His Caprice Restaurant has an old-fashioned continental style, informal and quaint but with an attention to service and detail.
If Art and I had come to dinner Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening we would have basked in the radiance of a blonde woman at the piano and her violin-playing accompanist performing, in Niki’s words, “beautiful gypsy music.” But this was lunch, so I made do with a special, poached turbot in lobster sauce, while Art was attracted to the coulibiac.
The turbot, Atlantic white fish, was served with a mound of rice, spinach and carrots. Coulibiac, Art discovered, is similar to a coarse pate in a light pastry crust.
“Let’s face it,” he said, probing the solid pink slice, “It’s salmon loaf.”
Fair enough. The exalted coulibiac, a favorite of Russian royalty, equals salmon loaf. Art Bergmann’s trademark as a songwriter is that he doesn’t mince his words. One of the most respected figures of Vancouver rock underground, he has taken steps to “cross over” with a powerful new six song mini-LP, simply titled Poisoned.
Niki’s Caprice Restaurant, 722 Richards. Telephone 685-2352. Open weekdays from 11:30 to 2:30 for lunch; 5:30 to 11:30 for dinner. Saturdays, 5:30 to 11:30. Closed Sunday, All major credit cards accepted.
Tom Harrison is a Province music Critic.
OUT FOR DINNER - Chi Chi place to drop anchor
By Tom Harrison
The Province, Friday April 19, 1985
This column has reviewed family restaurants in Surrey before, but never with the esteemed Surrey-ologist, David M (left in picture below), and his musical collaborator in the rockin’ folk duo No Fun, Paul Leahy (bottom right).
“We come here all the time,” says M as we are seated in the smoking section of Chi Chi’s Restaurant. “It is our favorite place,”the murmuring Leahy concurs. “Foodwise, it’s a lot like McDonald’s, except Mexican,” M says. “The food is cheap and the servings are big, which appeals to Surrey’s people quite a lot. Surrey people are big eaters.”
“Try not to be negative, David,”cautions Leay. “We want to come back here.” “Hunter S. Thompson says that no matter how fragmented your life is, everybody has a psychic anchor,” M says. “His is breakfast: mine is Chi Chi’s.”
Scanning a menu dotted with such items a Chimichangas (four types of filled tortillas plus beans and rice, $5.25), the Chihuahua (three flautas, choice of filling, the ever-popular beans and rice, $6.95), margaritas and Mexican “fried” ice cream (French vanilla deep fried in corn flakes and cinnamon coating, $2.95), M immediately decides on his staple, Nachos Especiale (nacho chips covered in cheese, tomato and onion) with a side order of refried beans.
Leahy likewise opts for his usual, the cheese and onion enchilada ($3.25) and is in luck – today the cheese and onion is Chi Chi’s luncheon special: $2.95 with beans and rice.
“At our level of the music business,” M explains as he gingerly slides a Nachos Grande (chips under cheese, ground beef, beans and jalapeno slices, $5.95) off a hot plate, “you have to be cost conscious.”
No Fun last Friday managed to divide a sellout crowd as opening act for Al Stewart at the Commodore. At least half the audience hated the duo; the other half has expressed an interest in the band’s tow latest releases, the abridged cassette version of No Fun’s massive Snivel boxed set, and a new cassette of old No fun nuggets, realistically and drily called Old.
While David and Paul explain how Leahy no longer is a pizza delivery man since being robbed and beaten in a church by pizza bandits, I consider the Chajita. The beef Chajita for one ($9.95) is strips of beef, sizzling on a bed of onions, accompanied by rice, shredded cheese, guacamole and sour cream. You can have a wonderful wallow by slapping various portions onto your tortilla (you get three), folding it like a burrito and chomping down.
Chi Chi’s is fun. As David M seest it, Chi Chi’s doesn’t try to present itself as authentic, and as franchises go, it is a lot smarter and several steps up from the ersatz Mexican junk food pit stops. More like the Keg of Mexican restaurants than a McDonald’s. Chi Chi’s is at 15140 – 101st Ave, Surre. It’s open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; until midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Chi Chi’s accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Phone 589-2145
Tom Harrison is a music critic for the Province