Cotton Candy Cosmos. Dragon’s Breath Popcorn. At Personas, dinner is the show.
Originally opened in 2015 with a small tapas-focused menu, Personas Restaurant, located in the heart of the Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby, has since transformed into a lavish, full-service dining room where guests come for a complete night of entertainment.
One of many dining options inside the Grand Villa, Personas positions itself as a home-base for a night of fun. Guests can take a break from the table games and slot machines to enjoy time at the lounge and dance to the live music.
According to Brian Everett, culinary director at Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, the team wanted to cultivate an atmosphere of excitement and playfulness that reflects the energy found on the rest of the casino floor.
“There are entertainment aspects not only in the décor and the live entertainment, but all throughout the menu,” Everett says.
The whimsical approach the chefs take when crafting new dishes and cocktails elevates Personas from just another dining location to a unique destination where you can relax, let loose and celebrate.
A night of entertainment
The lounge hosts live music every weekend and includes two video walls to watch sports on.
When guests walk into the restaurant lounge, they're immediately transported to Las Vegas. Although the dining room is only steps from the casino floor, the two are separated by a massive wrap-around bar with a towering, blue-lit backsplash.
The staff watches the restaurant transform every day, from a casual lounge where you can hold a meeting or entertain clients in the afternoon, to an upbeat venue with live music and performances at night.
Matt Graydon, menu development manager at Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited, says Personas’ expansive stage offers opportunities for bands, DJs and bigger acts that you won’t find at many other establishments. “Usually you can have a couple live bands in a restaurant, but often it’s a two-piece. We can fit a full seven-piece band up on that stage and have a rocking good night,” he says.
A taste of Vegas
The Wicked Tuna Club features a tuna steak grilled rare and topped with tomato and red pepper jam, bacon, fried onion ring and arugula.
While the venue hosts performances throughout the week, the real show is found on Personas’ menu.
One of the kitchen’s more unique offerings is Dragon’s Breath Popcorn: “It’s made with liquid nitrogen, so as you eat it you literally have steam coming out your nose,” says Graydon.
Executive chef Steven Courtney and Graydon are constantly tweaking the menu, which aims to take global ingredients and infuse them with a West Coast vibe. Pointing to the MacDaddy Sliders, which are delicately layered with lettuce, American cheese, pickles and onions, Graydon says, “It took Steven and I the better part of a year to nail that sauce recipe.”
The current iteration of the menu features a collection of “upscale, kitschy, almost nostalgic-style foods,” explains Chef Courtney.
One of their signature appetizers, the sushi tacos, is made with crab, avocado, nori, cucumber, togarashi mayo, wasabi and sushi rice, wrapped in a gyoza taco shell.
Prices are reasonable, with options for those looking to spend a little or a lot. We recommend signature dishes like the Bacon Mac n’ Cheese, which is coated in a smoked cheddar and paprika sauce and mixed with fresh Jalapenos. Guests looking for something a little lighter should reach for General Hao’s Chicken, which is tossed in a lemon chili sauce and served playfully in a Chinese takeout box.
When asked which dish was their favourite, Graydon and Chef Courtney replied in unison: the Cuban sandwich.
“We take a smoked pork belly and we render it down, and then we braise it and pull it. So it’s essentially pulled bacon,” explained Graydon.
A sip of something special
A night of entertainment is hardly complete without a nightcap, and Personas’ stunning bar is the best spot to sit and sip before exploring the floor. The bartenders are part of an award-winning mixology program inspired by Vegas, and their experience shows in the unique creations.
One drink, called the Pop Rock Martini, is actually rimmed with pop rocks, meaning it explodes with flavour as you’re drinking it.
“We also do a cotton candy Tom Collins,” says Graydon. “The drink comes with a little fluff of cotton candy on top and you can mix it right into the drink. It changes the profile of the drink completely.”
Graydon says items like these provide diners with an escape from the ordinary, which is exactly what a night at Personas promises.
From left to right: Matt Graydon, menu development manager, Steven Courtney, executive chef, and Brian Everett, culinary director.