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It's hockey playoff night in Vancouver and we're famished. So where are a couple of fair-weather puck bunnies to go when they want to soak up some Canucks fever, but not get burned by overpriced platters of greasy chicken wings?

So.cial at Le Magasin, naturally - a swish new dining room and lounge in Gastown owned by executive chef Sean Cousins, restaurant director Maureen Fleming, her husband and former Canucks head coach Bob McCammon, and Kirk McLean, the team's former star goaltender.

So where are the fans?

On Sunday evening, So.cial was eerily quiet, even in the cozy downstairs oyster bar where the Canucks' ill-fated effort against the Anaheim Ducks was playing on a flat-screen television. Obviously, it isn't one of the restaurants referred to in a study published last week that claimed this year's playoffs have scored boffo sales for the local restaurant industry.

Of course, the restaurant only officially opened last week, although it's been operating under the radar since April 4, when it kicked off with a red-carpet affair attended by an eclectic crowd of A-list hipsters, serious foodies and hockey greats.

And who am I to complain about the lack of team spirit, considering that we didn't even know enough about hockey-watching etiquette to make reservations in the lounge instead of the upper dining room?

But what a pleasant dining area it is. This 1911 heritage building, formerly home to the easily forgettable Kilimanjaro restaurant and Capri 19 Lounge, has been gutted, with layers of old paint and cheap carpeting peeled away to reveal the original pressed-tin ceiling, mosaic-tiled floors, thick fir support beams and leaded-glass, jewel-cut picture windows.

Ms. Fleming, who designed the interior herself, has updated the room's old-world charm with crisp white linens, Italian hand-blown chandeliers, high-back chairs upholstered in rich burgundy, and large oil canvases against antique-white walls. It's all very elegant without being stuffy.

We take a seat by the front sash windows overlooking Water Street, which will soon host a sidewalk patio. As the sun slowly sets, we are bathed in the glow from Gastown's ornamental street lamps and serenaded by the odd groan wafting upstairs - the Canucks are losing, as our grinning Australian waiter deviously informs.

Good Lord! Who has time to watch hockey anyway, when there are brontosaurus-sized steaks on offer, such as the raw, 24-ounce rib-eye in front of us?

The server has trotted out this monster to discuss the chef's fastidious methods of on-site, single-animal butchering and air-dried aging. Note the desirable black spots, thick ribbons of marbling and how the (plastic-wrap-covered) meat doesn't bounce back to the touch.

So.cial is a sophisticated place for meat and potatoes - all locally sourced from small farms - but features much more. We begin with six sweet Pearl Bay oysters (at $3.50 a shuck), which come with a grapefruit mignonette (perfectly refreshing), house-made cocktail sauce (thick and luscious) and lime-chili salsa (overpoweringly spicy).

The small charcuterie plate is a steal at only $7. It is served with fennel-lamb sausage, fibrous pork rillette and creamy rosemary-pork pate - all of which is, unfortunately, over-salted, but made in-house - as are the baguette, flat bread, pickled beets and cornichons.

Chili-poached spot prawns ($16) with smoked paprika yogurt and pickled carrot slaw are a bright interlude. Then we are again drenched in salt from pork and duck confit ($14), which is interestingly patted into a plump, though slightly dry, breaded cake and topped with a wild-mushroom pastry "pot pie." Less sodium, please.

Having drained our glasses of Joie Un-Oaked Chardonnay and Heartland Shiraz (selected from a nicely rounded list), we decide to totter downstairs for a peek at the action.

D'oh! The game is over and everyone is gone - except for Mr. Cousins, who is relaxing with a beer and immediately recognizes me. Busted!

I've been a fan of Mr. Cousins for years, and have loyally followed him from Raincity Grill to the Vancouver Club to Ocean 6 Seventeen, a jewel of a neighbourhood joint in False Creek, which he still owns with Ms. Fleming and Mr. McCammon.

I do wonder, though, if Ocean will suffer, now that Mr. Cousins is pouring every last drop of love and labour into So.cial.

He takes us on tour (which I don't normally do, but can hardly resist) of the butcher shop and deli he will be opening next month on the Cordova side of the building. It will feature an on-site smoker, chowders, sandwiches, coffee bar and old-fashioned sawdust on the floor to kick around as you select your fresh cuts of beer-brined Irish bacon or dry-aged beef.

Mr. Cousins is as passionate about meat ("I don't know where it comes from . . . my mother is a vegetarian Dukabor!") as he is about Gastown ("This is the real Vancouver . . . we used to go to Woodward's to see Santa Claus.")

He's not so crazy about hockey - "the food comes first," he insists - nor the rowdies his silent partners sometimes attract. "I had to kick a couple of players out because the customers were complaining," he says with a sigh.

But as we sit down for some superb steak, I can't imagine that the crowds will stay away for long. The velvety Triple-A New York sirloin ($4.10/oz) is crisply pan-seared with cracked pepper and served with a sinfully rich side of truffle-oil mashed potatoes.

Hipsters, hockey players and serious foodies? I think at

So.cial they will happily co-exist.

Now, if we can just do something about this hockey series. Go, Canucks, go!

So.cial at Le Magasin, 322 Water St., 604-699-4488

agill@globeandmail.com