If all goes well, the Charlotte Street neighborhood will gain a community gathering spot and Asheville will get a fresh option for creative Asian cuisine before the end of 2014. Chef Patrick O’Cain says his new project, Gàn Shān Station, is on track to open in mid to late December.
The restaurant will be housed in what was previously a run-down, abandoned gas station at 143 Charlotte St. O’Cain grew up in that neighborhood, then spent several years honing his culinary skills in Charleston, S.C., most recently at the Asian-themed Xiao Bao Biscuit. Since moving back to Charlotte Street in June, he has worked steadily to renovate the building and develop a menu anchored by pan-Asian comfort-food staples such as handmade tofu, noodles and dumplings.
Despite O’Cain’s decidedly non-Asian roots, many of these dishes resonate deeply with him — like mapo dofu, a chili-seasoned tofu dish. “My uncle gave my father a Szechuan cookbook … 35 years ago, probably. It was Mrs. Chiang’s Szechuan Cookbook, and we kind of grew up eating things out of this book,” he explains.
“Mom and dad really enjoyed cooking meals out of this book that [my brother] and I would request on a regular basis. So there’s a certain amount of nostalgia there for me, and mapo is probably one of the most famous traditional Chinese dishes. It’s very comforting, it’s spicy and warm, and it has tofu.”
In October, O’Cain announced that he was bringing onboard Chris Hathcock, former sous chef at Charleston’s Two Boroughs Larder, as co-executive chef. Hathcock, a 2014 Eater Young Guns semifinalist, brings to the Gàn Shān table a passion for handmade charcuterie and has plans to spice up the menu with items such as kimchi bologna, miso bratwurst and Szechuan bacon.
In recent weeks, Hathcock and O’Cain have hosted a few small dinners in the Charlotte Street neighborhood. At a Nov. 21 event at Metro Wines, the pair presented a buffet that featured, in addition to mapo dofu, Thai spicy green papaya salad, Vietnamese beef carpaccio, herbed and sour varieties of Thai sausage and Chinese eggplant — all items that should be making their way onto the Gàn Shān menu.
Once finished, the restaurant will maintain some of the visual charm of the vintage gas station with the original Gulf sign frame installed in front. The indoor area will feature an open kitchen and large, central cocktail bar, and the indoor dining area will have seating for more than 60 people. Eventually, twice as many diners will be able to gather in the landscaped outdoor patio and lawn area. Plenty of parking will be available in a lot next to the building.
To keep up with progress on Gàn Shān Station and for updates on the exact opening day, visit Facebook.com/ganshanstation.