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Category: seafood Page 1 of 10

Hydra Cafe & Bar

The reviews have been only so-so for this place, but the decor alone is worth visiting for. They are the newer dining option attached to the “Exchange Hotel”, in downtown Vancouver. This space was design specifically for their Mediterranean restaurant.

You are in awe walking in and climbing their spiralling staircase, up to the main dining area. They do have a secondary bar/lounge space downstairs, but the second floor with vaulted ceiling is the place to be.

I had arrived early and my girl friend was running late, so I was more than happy to spend the additional time waiting for her, by their bar. A handsome arch framed their tiered assortment, well stocked and well presented before a back splash of half circles, layered like scales. This spoke well to their aquatic theme. A chandelier of plastic fish floated over a table, large paintings of wild waves in varying degrees of blue drew your eyes to the wall, and a television screen broadcasting picturesque scenes of the Mediterranean furthered the mood. Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. The music, upbeat and lively, like at a tropical resort night club. All this made them a great place for a drink, or to begin a bar crawl at.

On the way to the single stalled washrooms, be sure to take in their raw bar. Back lit mirrors hang over a trough of ice. In it whole fish peak through, speaking to the freshness of their seafood assortment. We were sure to sample from this with their “chill platter”, but more on that below.

By the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a living wall, greens crawling around the name of the restaurant in white LED. Under it a Möet branded tub and life persevere, that I had to take advantage of as a photo op.

Back at the bar, I order my first cocktail of the night. The name spoke well to the drink: “holiday”. Made with summer fruits and bright flavours, this play on the margarita featured fresh watermelon purée, cazadores reposado, martini bitters, ginger, and fresh lime. It was finished with a coconut sugar, and a maldon rim.

My next cocktail was at our reserved table, the “Fig” was a strong drink, that delivered on its name. A smokey sipper with fig at its core, and an extra bite as garnish. Dewar’s white label scotch, fig syrup, angostura bitters, citrus oil, and fig garnish.

The cocktail after that was “Tart”. And unlike the “Fig”, this was a name that did not perfectly describe what you were getting in a drink. Like its colour, it tasted like lavender and flowers. Bombay sapphire, cassis, kefir, fresh lemon and lime, honey, egg whites, and black toasted sesame.

We then decided to try a Greek wine, for drinks 4 and 5. We reasoned out that it would be more economical to get a bottle to share, as opposed to ordering it by the glass. This was “Monograph” from Peloponnese, Greece; it is an Assyrtiko. This was what was suggested when we asked for something similar to pinot gris.

And although it is ill advised, we ordered a “Chill Platter” to accompany all our drinks. Normally you’d want some carbs or something more solid to balance yourself with. But my girl friend and I have an on going thing where we aim to try all the seafood towers in the city. This one comes with prawns, oysters, ceviche sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements for $105. For those who need even more, you can add on a pound of crab for $45.

The prawns were large and juicy, but plain. They needed a dip, and we found it in the sauces for the oysters, on the top tier.

These were Kushi and Royal miyagi oysters. And normally I can barley tell the difference between types of oysters. But the Royal miyagi oysters were deliciously sweet, the sweetest I have ever had. I chased it with a very clean and crisp tasting kushi oyster.

The ceviche sashimi was very dill forward, it over powered the herbed paprika, salmon and celery for crunch. This is the type of seasoning I would expect in a potato salad.

I liked the tanginess of the pickled octopus, I just wish it wasn’t served cold. Its already chewy texture would be butterier if warmer.

The tartare was bland by comparison, especially when eating it with the cucumber. The caper gave it some salt, but it felt lost amongst the others.

The crab was very water logged, shredded and soaking in olive oil with tomato and parsley. It was also too acidic and vinegary for me to enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.

The broad beans were a nice little palette cleanser. Served chill with feta for a sandy texture. It was best enjoyed with the hard pita points, made harder with its time in the ice.

Overall, there was quite a bit of food on these two tiers. Plenty to keep you causally nibbling for an hour plus. And when anything got too dull, the sauces and minuet served with the oysters, as mentioned earlier, was enough to do the trick.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

HYDRA
475 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2B3
(604) 416-0880
hydracafe.com

BC Seafood Festival 2019, Events & Tours

This year I was invited to attend the 13th annual BC Seafood Festival. One weekend out of two where the bounty of BC is celebrated across multiple dinners and various behind the scenes look at local seafood operators.

To skip the reading, check out my latest travel vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

An early ride on the ferry got us to Vancouver Island quick. And from Nanaimo we drove to the Comox Valley. Stopping at Holiday Inn Express to check in. This is one of the designated hotels with regular shuttle service by “Ambassador Transportation” to festival grounds and various event site and back again. This would especially come in handy during said events that featured drinking.

As was the case for our 8 course dinner at “40 Knots Winery”, which included 7 wine pairings. This was a ticketed event held amongst the winery’s grape vines. For the full review of this spectacular out door dinner visit the link below.

40 Knots, BC Seafood Festival 2019

 

We got shuttled there by bus, and to kept the jovial mood going, got driven back to our respective hotels via limo bus. Leather seats, neon lights, cup holders that fit bottles, and stacks of plastic cups. Just one of the many options of transportation available for regular travel, or one of their guided tours. The latter includes a cocktail tour that brings you to 3 different surprise places, three different backdrops to eat and drink at. And best of all, you get picked up from your home or hotel and dropped back there. So now one has to drive and everyone gets to drink! I didn’t get to experience one this time around, but will have to look into this appetizer and drink tour if/when I return.

But on this trip I did drink plenty. The following were offered as a ticketed events or behind the scenes tours, all of which I participated in.

At “Fanny Bay Oysters”, in Fanny Bay we were treated to an oyster freshly grown and picked from their farm. Then given a tour of their facilities. “Fanny Bay Oysters” is 1 hour north of Nanaimo. They do not own the land on which they operate, but instead lease it from the BC government to farm shellfish. Here, we learned the life cycle of their oysters from the General Manager himself.

Oysters start in their hatcheries, located in either Washington or Hawaii. Hawaii being the most optimal, as it is easier to to grow the algae they need to feed the oysters. As well, it is easy to generate the heat needed to keep the intake of the water warm. Once the oysters are small seeds, for the next stage of their growth they get flown to “Fanny Bay”, where they are planted. If the oyster shells are not attached to each other, they will grow singularly. Attached shells grow into oysters that require shucking. Once matured, they are all harvested by hand, as per the government and wildlife and forestry’s requirements. It takes 6-8 months for smaller oysters to mature and 8-12 for the larger ones. Sun Seaker, Kusshi, Olympia, and Kumamoto oysters are grown on tubes, hung in the water in parallel lines. Doing this allows them to grow more on the same foot print. And the advantage they have operating on the inlet is that it is protected by the land formation, and the waves bring more nutrients into the water.

“Fanny Bay Oysters” are known for their consistent product with no barnacles. Specifically their “Sun Seaker”, grown in a bag that floats on top of the water. Hence, the name. There is more food for the oyster on the top, with the sun and the waves. Therefore the meat is in better shape. Similarly oysters grown on the beach are heartier because they are tougher, having to learn how to survive out of water. Whereas ones grown in trays are always in the water, and in theory weaker.

We saw large bins filled with them, submerged in ever running water. Which also included bins of scallops, mussels, and clams. And marvelled at the speed of shucking, in which 5 men before a troth committed to. The tour ended with us staring out at the Georgia Straight and wondering how many shellfish contributed the mountains of bleached white shells in their backyard.

FANNY BAY
#1-6856 ISLAND HWY S., FANNY BAY BC
250-335-1198
fannybayoysters.com

 

I got more than enough oysters in during the ticketed “Shucked!” Happy hour event. All you can eat oyster from 7 local producers; and the wine, beer, and shots to chase them with. More more on the slurping and burping visit the link below.

Shucked! Canada’s Largest Oyster Bar Happy Hour

 

We learned more about local spirit producer, “Wayward Distillery” with a tour of their operations, and a tasting of the end result. They are better known for their use of BC honey in their liquor. Currently they purchase vats of the stuff locally, but have begun farming their own hives in their back yard.

The tour began and their behives, one traditional build and another that allowed you to look into their inner workings.

And ended at the bar with micro shots. First the “Krunkik”, a spiced honey liquor, steeped with mulling spices and mixed with citrus peel. One of their signature bottles, as “Wayward Distillery” are the firsts to make clear spirits out of honey.

I really liked the creativity of the “Caesar’s ghost” vodka, flavoured with ghost pepper. This would make a great base to any savoury cocktail.

We also got a sneak peak and taste of their new “Drunken hive rum” to be released on June 28th, 2019. A new direction they are taking with their distillery, this too is made with their trademark caramelized honey.

WAYWARD DISTILLERY
2931 Moray Ave, Courtenay BC, V9N 7S7
250-871-0424
waywarddistillationhouse.com

 

At “Natural Pastures” we learned how they made their cheeses. Dawning a lab coat, loaner crocs, and a hair net we made our way through their factory and the cheese making process step by step. We started in the aging room where it was ceiling to floor rounds of firm cheese. The dark skinned ones were noted as being smoked. And the speckled ones where flavoured with either pepper, garlic, or chilli. The aged farm house cheese was the oldest, aged for the longest, and the extra effort has made it their best selling firm cheese.

We learned about the cultures and various bacteria that go into the making various cheeses. Then how enzymes are added to help lock protein molecules together, and when ready its consistency is like a thick yogurt. We saw “the harp” and learned how it cuts the curd. Which is then placed into moulds and pressed. All the soft cheeses are kept in a humid room to keep them from dying out. Brie, camembert, and buffalo Brie. Greater than 8 days and it grows mould. So next it needs to be wrapped. This is done in a special room with a machine that is capable of wrapping a round of cheese in 1.8 seconds.

We ended our tour at their shop front, where we able to taste a few of their favourite hard cheeses, and a handful us liked what we tasted enough to buy some for the road. I had to get a bag of their squeaky cheese curds, but their best seller cheese is their Comox Brie.

NATURAL PASTURES CHEESE COMPANY
35 McPhee Avenue, Courtenay BC, V9N 2Z7
250-334-4422
naturalpastures.com

 

My next tour started bright and early and required a plane ride from the Comox Harbour. “Harbour Air” shuttled us to Harwicke island, the most North I have ever been. A scenic flight, but one that noise cancelling headphones were made for.

We flew past green meadows and snow capped mountains, to what seemed like the middle of no where. This was “Mowi salmon farm”. Entry required a sanitizing foot bath for disinfection, and a life vest for safety.

Here, we were greeted by the farm manger who toured us around the property, including the 10 live pens with 52-62 thousand fish in each. You don’t really get a good look into the netted enclosures from the metal walk ways. But you do from their control centre. From televised screens, you get to see what the multiple cameras dropped into the base of the pens see. The farm uses them to gauge the fish’s response to the food pellets they are feeding them. These pellets are a mix of carbs, protein, and oils; sourced from sustainable avenues: Fish meal, fish oil, marine content, grain, wheat, chicken meal, and omega 3 oils. Thus making their salmon the most economic source of protein grown for humans. It takes 1.1 kg of feed to grow 1 kg of fish. And here, the salmon stay in these pens, waiting for 18 months to 2 years, until they mature to 51/2 kilos, the ready for selling weight.

Seeing as salmon only spawn in autumn, having the farm allows them to regulate temperature and light, and gives them the ability and to save their eggs, so that the consumer can have salmon all through out the year. They basically use light to trick salmon into thinking it is time to spawn.

During the tour viruses were brought up, along with the conditions of the fish in the pens. To which our tour guide and the farm manager went into detail regarding their use of vaccines. Thanks to their vaccination program the need to use antibiotics on the fish have dropped by 5%. Each fish gets 3 individual injections during their juvenile stage. Each injection requires a team of 12-18 to administer. All to ensure that all their salmon are well looked after. And every week the farm team checks every pen for the slightest hint of lice.

Ned Bell, Oceanwise Chef was co-hosting this tour. He was present to speak to his support of farmed fish. Acknowledging where fish aquaculture is now a lot better, but there is still work left to do, work to become Oceanwise certified. As resources dwindle we can’t only rely on wild caught fish. And for the critics, when was the last time you had “wild chicken”?

MOWI FISH FARM
#124-1334 Island Highway, Campbell River BC, V9W 8C9
250-850-3276
mowi.com

 

And the last tour I attended echoed the same sentiment: Sustainable seafood though updated aquaculture practices are necessary. At “Manatee holdings LTD.” we were given a limited look at their operation, 10 years in the making.

They specialized in geoduck on their 8 acres of non-commercial land. Which includes a backyard pond that they use as a nursery system, testing ground for them to see how their “crop” will do in nature. Results they won’t actually get to see for at least two more years. Therefore, we weren’t actually able to take a look at their cultured geoduck stock, which they cannot shown due to proprietary reasons.

Instead, we were gathered around a kiddie pool and were given the opportunity to touch and hold the various sea life they raise for consumption and profit. Geoduck, sea cucumber, uni, and oyster seeds.

The rest of the tour was a series of videos, how geoducks are harvested and possible solutions to the over fishing of seafood. But most of the information was U.S. based, which is very different from Canada. In the States they use visible tubes to grow their geoducks, which only takes 5-6 years. Whereas in Canada, the government requires that geoduck farming operations not be visible. Therefore here at “Manatee Holdings” their aquaculture happens 30-60 feet deep in water, and takes 10 years.

Currently “Manatee Holdings” only has their geoduck licence, and they have been working on getting one for sea cucumber farming, but have been left waiting for over 9 years. They are also looking into selling oyster seed in the future. One geoduck goes for $300 in Japan, with cultured products being more expensive due to their controlled quality. For example, ensuring no pollutants are in the water as they grow. This thus controls the market, which has a great appreciation for white neck geoduck, deemed as “Grade A”, whereas the darker necks are less desirable.

Overall I felt the tour was a steep at $10, considering 2/3 of it was a video, and the only thing we really saw with a pool full of water. I suggest doing as our owner/guide suggested, and check back in with them in 2 years time, when they can actually review their operations to the public, as it was proven successful and is no longer under proprietary legislation.

MANTEE HOLDINGS LTD.
4085 Gartley Point Road, Courtenay BC, V9N 9T2
250-331-0486

 

All this led up to the BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend, a festival in the park with food and drink booths, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of activity to engage the whole family in. For more details visit the link below.

BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend

 

The BC Shellfish Grower’s Association Gala was my favourite event. A way to learn more about the seafood through the super star chefs that prepared them. Everything was prepared by the water, under tented booths, right before your eyes. You visited each table, trying each tasters, and coming back for more of your favourite. For all 15 dishes and the BC chef that brought it to life, visit the link below.

BC Shellfish Growers Association Gala

 

In short, the BC Seafood Festival is more than just eating seafood, it also gives you the opportunity to learn more about what you eat and where it comes from. I would definitely like to explore more tours in the future. Including whale and big game animal sightseeing. And revisit all the events and dinners again. But for now, like you, all I can do is get inspired for next year’s festival by visiting the link below, and plan to go!

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend

All the tours and dinners I have been enjoying in Comox Valley were leading up to the “BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend”. A two day celebration, set up “Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park”. On Saturday June 15th and Sunday June 16th from 11:00am to 5:00pm, ticket holders came down to explore the extent of the seafood festival summarized into booths, tasting stations, cooking demonstrations, and activities for kids and adults alike.

There was so much to see and do that I visited both days, to be able to take it all in. The following are the highlights of the weekend.

The main draw is definitely the food and drink vendors. All food and wine tastings required tickets in exchange for money. A dollar a ticket with a difference between food and drink tickets.

Local wine vendors were on site offering plastic cups of red, white, or rose. “Lake Breeze”, “Joie”, “40 Knots”, and “Gold Hill” to name a few.

And breweries had their pressurized taps to go. For locals this was a great way to support the community; for visitors, a great way to try something new and find that perfect souvenir to take home.

Local spirit vendor, “Wayward Distillery” was also available for stronger pours.

And for those looking for libations without the booze, the folks at the “Shrub & Soda” were mixing their flavoured syrups with club soda. Although their product can also be used for cocktail mixes as well.

For food, there was plenty of seafood, naturally. But for those who don’t like fish or shellfish, or for little picky diners “The Pickled Carrot” catering food truck was on site offering popcorn chicken, fires, and poutine. And surprisingly they were popular.

At “Summer Kitchen”, the regular in-park concession, there was candied salmon mousse, cold smoked salmon tacos, tandoori tuna, prawn bisque, and a double salmon pasta salad.

The “Fanny Bay” team was shucking oysters to order.

But if you like them cooked, “Mac’s Oysters” had them battered, fried, and seasoned.

The “Cod Father” too were offering fresh shucked oysters, but these were from “Effingham Oyster”. So instead, I would recommend their smoked oysters or smoked salmon

There were smoked and barbecue scallops on the grill, at the “West Coast Wild Scallops” booth. They were plated in shell with pickled vegetables.

The “North Vancouver Island Chef’s Association was asking 5 tickets for their panko crusted wild halibut with basil aioli coleslaw, and berry coulis.

There was smoked steelhead, sockeye, and ling cod to nibble on cod.

I enjoyed watching all the kettle corn stir to life in a kettle drum.

And for dessert they boys at “Slopes” we’re scooping their small batch ice cream and hand made waffle cones, for a cold treat. Their ice cream is made with grass fed milk and you had your choice from sea asparagus with gin and lemon zest, salted caramel made with salt from “Vancouver Island Salt Co.”, a dark chocolate sea salt, or an ice cream made with infused kelp oil and topped with more kelp oil. I went with the first with no regrets. It was like a lemon spritz, very refreshing.

Non food vendors offered information on sustainable fishing and a had visitors learning through diagrams and games. But my favourite booths were the ones that allowed you to connect with the local wild life.

At the “Mars rescue centre” there was a smaller owl to get close to and take photos of.

At the “Deep Bay Marine Field Station” you got to pick up and poke leather sea stars, hermit crabs, sea cucumber, and spiny green sea urchins. I definitely was the oldest “child” enjoy the water play.

But the most popular showcases were ones held at centre stage. There are seats to sit and enjoy the show from, but be warned, they filled up fast, and it was hard to see past the crowds. It is best to check the schedule and stake out your ideal spot for your favourite presentation. Like the oyster shucking master class, the chef’s black box cooking challenge, and various cooking demonstrations hosted by Chefs from all over BC.

There was even a cooking workshop for kids, where they helped to prepare shrimp tacos.

In short, the “BC Seatfood Festival Signature Weekend” is a great place to take the family, or a unique setting to enjoy with friends. There was much to eat, much more to drink, and even more to look at and explore. To be sure that you don’t miss out on any of their future events, visit the link below.

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

BC Shellfish Growers Association Gala

In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And on the night before, was fortunate enough to attend the sold out Gala dinner. And having experienced a handful of events now, if you have to choose just one, this would be the one not to miss.

The gala is set under a tent at “Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park”, with lights and lanterns strung up over head. Metres away is the water of the Straight of Georgia, and the green that surrounds this inlet. Guests are seated around tables covered in either a seafoam green or an ocean blue cloth. But here, the food is not served, instead it is for you seek out and bring back to your table to enjoy.

A few of BC’s top Chefs and their teams man booths, preparing and assembling fresh and frozen seafood tastings. A fast paced assembly line that has them cooking out of pans and pots heated on portable stoves, and even using blow torches. As guests you travel from one station to the next trying them all, then revisiting your favourites. The best part is being able to meet and mingle with the Chefs behind your favourite restaurants and becoming fans of others when you taste their offerings.

Appetizers and specialty cocktails were served first, then all the small plate entrees, followed by the only dessert option. Coffees and teas were complimentary, and wine and spirited cocktails came at a cost.

To start with I enjoyed the “Raincoat gimlet” by 2019’s Van Mag bartender of the year winner, Amber Bruce of “The Keefer Bar”. This was a citrusy cocktail finished off with a generous sprig of rosemary.

Ned Bell, the chef and face of Ocean Wise in BC, prepared two types of fish. The “Gindara Sablefish”, a farmed fish prepared with BC blueberry, hazelnut and venturi. Of the two, majority of the guests preferred this one for its lighter, fresher flavour.

The “Balsamic/Creative salmon” raised in Tofino was a little dry and plenty dense with the topping of walnut cream, chopped walnuts, and heirloom tomato jam.

The following small plates were then made available once opening remarks commenced, carried out by event host and organizer Nathan Fong. He welcomed everyone and invited us all to eat, drink, and be merry.

“Chalaco ceviche” by Shelome Bouvette of “Chicha” restaurant. Albacore tuna, scallop, prawn, salmon, and halibut ceviche with orange and jalapeño. Topped with pickled papaya, and cilantro micro greens. And enjoyed like chips and dips with avocado and rocoto dusted plantain chips. The thick crunch of the plantain was amazing, a nice starch to balance the freshness of the chunks of seafood and vegetable in citric.

“Salad of lightly cured and poached steelhead trout and marinated clams” with fennel, chive, and orange vinaigrette. Prepared by Isabel Chung and Derek Bendig of the “Wildflower” at Fairmont Chateau Whistler. A beautifully done salad that best highlighted the quality of the salmon.

I fully enjoyed the show that Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia of “Provence Marinaside” put on by flambée -ing his prawns Provençal style with brandy from “40 Knots”. It was just a shame that these shrimp were not fresh, but frozen out of a box. However, the amount of butter and sugar they were coated in had me licking the shells clean and taking the time to suck everything out of the head. As this was a time consuming process each diner only got one shrimp at a time, and then went back for seconds through the line again.

I appreciated how Chris Andraza of “Fanny Bay Oyster Bar” switched it up by offering octopus instead of oysters. Especially as there were 2 other oyster offerings, and one highlighted Fanny Bay oysters anyhow. Octopus & chorizo with potatoes, sundried tomato, and saffron aioli. I loved the textures and the chewy char of the octopus, but found the dish too salty. More corn and maybe some celery would have helped to balance this out and give it more freshness.

The “Chilled Manila clams with dashi vinaigrette, cucumber, seaweed, and radish” has a very refreshing dish. The few bites we got reminded me of a light seaweed salad. This was prepared by Bobby Milheron at “West Restaurant” in Vancouver.

I enjoyed the creativity that Lee Cooper of “Coquielle” from Vancouver brought. He and his team served poached oyster with a green apple and dashi jelly. It was a slurp of dessert, utilizing the natural saltiness of the oyster for balance with the subtle sweetness of the apple. Probably my favourite oyster of the weekend… and that says a lot, because I have had a lot.

The “Geoduck ceviche” by Hamid Salimian of “Nextjen” Vancouver was served as part of an assembly. It was the main feature on his crispy shell tortas, but one you couldn’t taste. It was hidden under spicy guacamole, cucumber, radish, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and pickled onions. But all together tasty, and worth lining up for.

At Welbert Choi of “Forage’s” booth you got a taste of “Fanny Bay’s” sun seeker oysters. These sweet, little oysters served in shell, were topped with “Forage’s” Ocean Wise herring habanero fish sauce and trout caviar. A great way to elevate one seafood by dressing it with two others. I especially loved their thoughtful presentation.

Ricardo Valverde from “Ancora” had his wife and sous chef lightly torching “Black cod sashimi” by the handfuls. Each plate had a couple dressed with a pickled ginger emulsion, and topped with crispy quinoa, and cilantro. They were delicious morsels, almost caramelized with their time under fire.

Of note is the team work of “Ancora’s” chefs. After their plates were all torched and served, they then hopped one stall over to help Hamid build and serve his geoduck sashimi. Serving the longer line for a more complicated product build.

“Kelp cured ivory salmon” with smoked goat’s milk creme fraiche, poached lipstick radish and strawberry mignonette. By Morgan Wilson from “Q” at the “Empress” in Victoria. I was just there two weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to try the food, so was glad to be able to today in this unique setting.

I appreciated the “Miso glazed Atlantic salmon” for the fullness of the whole plate. A dinner brought to us by John Carlo Felicella of the “BC Culinary Team”. This was a dish with plenty of elements to pick through and nibble on. A full prawn dumpling, a shrimp cracker, pickled shimiji, shiitake foam, micro greens, and a yuzu vinaigrette. I specially liked the dumplings and the cracker out of familiarity.

We got a thick cut of “Seared albacore tuna” from Ryan Bissell of “Villa Eyrie Resort” of Malahat BC. Dressed with roasted malt lavash, garlic scape chimmichuri, red pepper romesco sauce, hemp and almond dukkah, and mustard greens.

And the only dessert of the night was the one that stole the show. It was quite the spectacle with its sardine can presentation. This was probably to make up for the fact that it doesn’t actually contain any seafood. Fleur de cao chocolate and sea buckthorn berries with pistachio praline, and a bergamot meringue. Carefully assembled by Dominic Fortin of “Q” at the “Empress “in Victoria. A decadent chocolate filled mousse with crunchy and juicy elements to keep things interesting to the last bite.

In conclusion, this was a wonderful way to get to know your chefs a little more. A way to see your food being prepared and thank them face to face. Overall, a fantastic cumulative meal and showing, and definitely one of my favourite events of the weekend.

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

Shucked! Canada’s Largest Oyster Bar Happy Hour

In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And the event that launched it off was “Shucked!”

This was a literal and figurative line-up of British Columbia’s oyster producing families behind businesses. Participants were set up behind large troths of ice, where they shucked sustainable and perfectly plump oysters, one after another in break neck speed. You as the guest approaches, and picks the oyster half shell calling out your name. Station by station, chatting up the producers.

But sadly, with all the sold out ticket holders, the constant moving in and out, and the promise of all you can eat oysters; I didn’t get much of chance to chat or really stop to think on the flavours of each individual slurp I took. And I slurped a’many.

At “Silent Harvest” there were 3 women shucking on specialized wooden platforms. As the first station they were so popular that they couldn’t keep up with the hands reaching out for their oysters. Their oysters are from Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island, BC. And the sizes of them ranges from extra small to medium.

“Effingham Oyster Inc.” had a similar oyster shucking platform, but made out of metal. Their oysters come from the deep water fjords of Barkley Sound. The result is deep cups, a cornucopia shape, and beautiful, polished pink-and-purple shells.

“Sawmill Bay Shellfish” is from the pristine, glacier-fed waters off Read Island. All their shellfish come to you, the consumer, direct from one of their two family-run farms.

“Stellar Bay Shellfish” supplies oysters from the pristine waters of Baynes Sound, in the Strait of Georgia. With ideal growing conditions their oysters come out crisp and clean. Today they were shucking kusshi oysters for the masses.

At the “Fanny Bay” booth they were offering their petite “Sun Seaker” oysters, which are grown in a bag that floats on top of the water. Hence, the name. And with them a bucket of mignonette as a flavour additive, on top of lemon chunks, also offered at the other stations.

“K’awat’si Shellfish” was serving gwi gwi oyster cultivated from the cold waters of BC’s central coast; the unceded waters of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. These oysters are known for their creamy sweet after taste, described as “a salty seaweed cashew of the sea”.

“Mac’s oysters Ltd.” packs and sells both wild and farmed shellfish from distinct areas spread out over several hundred square kilometers. All of their farming areas are regularly monitored for both water quality, and animal and human health by government agencies, and by a third party lab.

To help wash all the oysters down there was beer, wine, and a bevy of highballs for purchase. All the while a live band performs and the event emcee teaches guests about oysters, including trying it for itself, before adding any lemon.

This event preceded the main gala, setting the tone and pace for the night. A fun way to enjoy happy hour, on a larger scale

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

40 Knots, BC Seafood Festival 2019

Terroir Meet Merroir Dinner

In these series of post I was on Vancouver Island, visiting Comox Valley for the annual seafood festival, including taking in some of their ticketed events. This was one such.

For $150 you are invited down to 40 Knot’s winery for a long table dinner amongst their grape vines. An intimate occasion with other wine and food enthusiasts, seeking to “experience Old World elegance with the finest preparation of their “New World local products”. Winery owners Brenda and Layne are your hosts, and in their serene backyard, they take you on a tour of their winery through their wines, paired with canapés and courses. The latter of which was prepared by Chef Alain; who has expertly paired each course with one of 40 Knot’s award-winning wines.

As soon you step foot on the property you are greeted with open arms: one pouring 40 Knots rose into another holding the glass. Now that is the way to welcome you to a winery. The rose was crisp and fresh, without any flavours that lingered on the tongue. They paired well with the similarly clean flavours below.

As you explores the vineyards, walking betwixt the rows of blossoming grapes, the roving appetizers are brought to you. The “Dungeness crab salad gougeres” are like crab rolls stuffed into a spongy and slightly cream puff. What a fun was to present a familiar concept.

I really enjoyed the visual of the “Smoked salmon mousse, devilled quail eggs”. Not only were they adorable, but tasty too. Another one well thought out as a one bite snack.

The “Albacore tuna and compressed watermelon skewers” was a refreshing protein on stick combo. The sweetness of the juicy watermelon brought out the flavours of the slightly salted tuna and visa versa.

When it came time for our meal to begin we all took a seat around the long table, under the covered terrance. The cloth covering it flapped in the gentle breeze, allowing streaks of sun to shine in. In the distance, two bald eagles hovered in the air. These serene views, amongst nature’s greenery, to the tune of melodic music, put you at restful ease. And attentive wait staff ensured you were throughly pampered. Not to mention our glass was never empty, and we were treated to a few extra wine tastings off script. Including a mystery vintage and a $100 bottle.

We were also rest assured that if we had too much to drink, any driver could leave their car on the 40 Knots property and it would be locked in safe. And in addition, staff would help you find a safe way home. All this elevated service in their one of a kind setting, would foreshadow the fabulous, 8 course dinner to come.

Of note, if it gets too cold dining outdoors, they do have branded fleece blankets for use.

Before each course we were given a lesson on what we would be drinking with it, from Layne. He spoke with so much passion and conviction for what he does and what their wines offer. 40 Knots are better known for their clean and crisp ethical wines. This mission guides them in every step from their farming practices, to the management of their cellar, their crush pad operation, the running of their store, and the products they delivery to customers. All while promising to protect the environment in their undertaking. Like looking at alternative ways to fertilize their fields. Here, the use of kelp is both practical and economical, given that they are by the ocean. And the sprays they use to negate disease on their plants are also different. Not you run of the mill pesticides, 40 Knots uses ones made from natural ingredients like mustard seed oil and more kelp. They are developed by a local company looking to do things differently with sustainable alternatives.

The first course was my favourite dish of the night. “Natural pastures ricotta gnocchi” with Dungeness crab and side stripe shrimp, sorrel, snap peas, and confit tomato in a buerre Blanc. The flavours of the vegetables were so clean and so fresh that it felt like I was eating them right off of the vine, but fully coated in delicious butter. Crisp peas, juicy tomato, and sweet crab chunks, the side kicks to a and chewy herbaceous gnocchi.

This was paired with the 40 knots Pinot Gris, which came with the lesson that you get what you pay for when it comes to wine, and the price is reflective of its ingredients. This is a cool climate gris, a dry and zesty white that was gripping with honeysuckle.

And as we waited for the next course, we were surprised with an additional tasting. A little sip of a Champagne-style sparkling. So under ground that it didn’t even have a label. A mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was incredibly effervescent. An extra dry brut that was prepared traditionally (Old World style), with hints of lime stone.

Next course was a “Marinated seafood salad” with Gallo mussels, Manila clams, local greens, fennel, and 40 Knots’ Chardonnay sabayon. Admittedly, I don’t like salad, but the the creamy dressing and fresh seafood of this had me eating my greens. This was real food. You know it is quality when you can taste everything and altogether they work as something new.

The salad course was paired with more 40 Knots Chardonnay. An oaky white with a deeper hue. It was buttery, soft and oily from the tannins: a milk lactic acid. It also has a hidden bright lemon flavour, allowing it to pair well with any seafood.

Our third course was a “Sablefish mi-fume”, with a mushroom fricasse, local beets, and poultry jus. Everything on this plate was from the island, harvested on Commox or caught off the straight. The white fish was lean, a gentle flavour that wasn’t masked by the equally mild sauce. The mushroom offered a hearty element, with the beets as a refresher.

It was paired with 40 Knot’s Pinot Noir 115, their new batch with labels that include a list of ingredients; something that is not commonly found on a bottle of wine. Their goal, to show the consumer, exactly what it is they are getting and that 40 Knots has nothing to hide. No added chemicals go into their wine, or sugar. This batch is not set in oak, but in Italian terra cotta instead. The resulting earthy notes went especially well with the mushrooms.

Next was our main, the “Braised local grass fed beef cheeks” prepared with garlic scrape pomme puree, and local carrots and radish; all in a lovely thyme jus. This was a beautiful and hearty plate featuring tender and juicy beef with pops of sweet radish. I found the turnip hard to eat, a half bulb you bite a chunk off of.

With this was enjoyed the 40 Knots Stall Speed Meritage. Similar to a Bordeaux in its marriage of five grapes from Bordeaux. Layne loves Bordeaux, but sadly is unable to grow the big red grapes necessary on Vancouver island; so he works with another wine maker to engineer this vintage. They went to work blending until they got to a laboratory number closest to his goal of a Chateau Margo. The result, the cheapest red wine he has ever made.

Dessert was another hit. A classic done as comforting and as familiar as you had hoped. “Kehler Farms strawberry and rhubarb tart” with French vanilla glacé. It was a buttery tart carrying a not too sweet filling. The melted ice cream became a nice cream sauce for the tart. I tasted the decorative herb, and found that it reminded me of the skunky nature of cannabis.

Our original dessert wine listed with this is the 40 Kots Fallen Apple, but very last minute Layne decided to mix things up. He swapped it out for a sweet port-like wine that he was excited to share. This was named after “Emily”, a women he and his with wife worked with and knew. Here we got a lesson in “Noble Rot” and the necessity to choose grapes with it, to achieve what we had before us. A sweet beverage with the same amount of sugar as ice wine, but you don’t taste it. It ages well, whereas ice wine doesn’t. And unlike ice wines, this doesn’t doesn’t freeze; the acid molecules hang on to the ice molecules for a heavier, more acidic and fluid wine. This was a fun one to try, it reminded me of apple juice in its sweetness and the way it sits on your tongue.

A few of us wanted to purchase a bottle of it to take home, only to change our minds when we heard it was $100. It was delicious and I loved it, but $100 for a smaller bottle of wine is a splurge that needs consideration. Glad we were gifted a chance to taste it at least.

The meal as a whole was very cohesive, it delivered on their promise of a fantastic feast to celebrates the Seafood Festival. This was a great experience and the most satisfying dinner that I had that weekend. You definitely get your money’s worth here.

 

40 KNOTS Vineyard and Estate Winery
2400 Anderton Road, Comox BC, V9M 4E5
+1 855-941-8810
40knotswinery.com

H Tasting Lounge, new patio

The start of the recent heat wave perfectly coincided with the opening of “H Tasting Lounge’s” new patio. A classy way to eat and drink outdoors, with all the qualities and comforts of a luxury hotel. I have frequented the spot more as a drinking hole, so was exited to be able to get a taste of the cuisine today.

The patio was sleek with a dark wood laminate floor, made more stylish with the white heat lamps that looked like actual lamps with their shade and pedestal base. Adjacent, tiered umbrellas offered the grey and blue loungers and couches some reprieve from the sun and the heat. All with a view of the water in the distance and the cityscape reaching for the sky behind it.

Today, guests were invited to wander in and out of “H”. The tables were pushed aside and the restaurant turned in to a dance floor. Here, food and drink stations were set up for self serve, self indulgence. The kitchen was offering scaled up versions of food and drink off of their regular menu. Giving attendees a great way to sample the menu for future visits.

Inside the restaurant, were 3 tables worth of cheese and meats; pushed together to form one of the longest charcuterie boards I have ever seen.

The “European cheese plate” with a seasonal marmalade, pickled grapes, and seed crackers.

The “Local charcuterie” board including whole grain mustard, pickled grapes, and baguette slices.

And the “Quiche Lorraine” that was a new one for me. Two rounds of pancetta, goat cheese, and zucchini eaten like a spread.

As for drinks, there was plenty to taste and many more to inspire your next sip by the seaside. Drinks included a welcome glass of sparkling and Moët on ice.

At the bar, cocktails were shaken and stirred to order. Here I had the “Thinner walls”, ordering off a menu that included photos (a smart move, catering to the likes of me, those who love a visual cocktail. Naturally, I gravitated towards the green drink with a pea shoot for garnish. It was a wonderful visual and tasted like a spiked green juice with tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, and soda. The first healthy drink that I got my buzz on to.

I liked the tea station where premixed tea based cocktails were poured and garnish to order. The “Late blossom smiles tea” is normally served in a tea pot, so to paid homage to this, they were served in Japanese style tea cups today. Vodka, st. germain, lillet blanc, nutcracker tea, honey, lime, and soda; completed with a bobbling flower. I liked how you could taste both the black tea and the spirits equally, they were well balanced.

Similarly in balance was the “Rye Chai”, chai tea meets rye, mezcal, apricot liqueur, falernum, and lemon. A beautiful cocktail that I fully enjoyed, it reminded me more a sweet southern tea with a kick.

On the patio, keeping cool over ice was a collection of sashimi and selfish. You could see it across the room thanks to the two giant “H” ice sculptures marking these ice baths. One was a collection of oysters, being shucked adjacent and slurped up fresh.

The second ice station had two bite servings of crudo and carpaccio.

“Kanpachi crudo” with blood orange, pickled butternut, shiso, and sumac kiwi. A refreshing snack that spoke to the quality of their seafood.

The “Halibut crudo” was seasoned in a yuzu vinaigrette with anjou pear, thyme, and micro kale. Sadly my serving was so very salted, that it made my lips pucker.

The “Tuna carpaccio” was my favourite of the three given some pizzaz with pickled watermelon, fresno chili, and mint.

And as we ate, servers toured the patio offering up for more appetizers on trays. Bites like the “Beef tartare” with egg yolk, shallot, caper, chive, and horseradish. A delicious morsel that you easily popped into your mouth.

The “Salmon tartare” with tarragon, cucumber, lemon, labneh, and hibiscus was a refreshing starter, served on an endive leaf.

The “Lump crab cake” was tasty, a crispy baked shell hiding a creamy, flaky crab filled centre; sauced up with their Old bay aioli.

I liked the “Morel mushroom tartine” made with ricotta, black garlic mustard, watermelon radish, and micro kale. Earthy and saucy, one of the more filling, roving appetizers.

And I fully enjoyed the mini West Coast lobster rolls with much gusto. Sweet shellfish, creamy mayo, and a hint of dill for freshness.

For dessert they had “Uno Gelato & Sorbet” doling out their ice cream on site. A cute cart attached to a bicycle, where you could get scoops of either salted caramel, mango, or their vegan “Midnight chocolate” in small cups. I had the former and found it too sweet for my taste.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. In truth I have actually have never had a full meal here, my visits typically start and end at the bar, so this was a nice teaser of them and their new patio. And one lavish enough to have me wanting to return for the full experience. I would love to revisit on a separate occasion, to more accurately account for what’s it like to dine-in and drink out on their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-682-3377
htastinglounge.com

Dockside: new chef, new menu

Warmer weather in Vancouver marks patio season, and a great one to soak up the sun at is Granville Island’s “Dockside Restaurant”. I have visited a handful of times, but today’s trip down was also in celebration of their new head Chef: Zach Steele. I would get to meet him in person, and learn a lot more about him through his food. Steele is born and raised in Vancouver, and comes with a very special connection to the property. For over 29 year his mother has had her Christmas staff parties at “Dockside”, and for majority of them, Zach was present. So when an opportunity came to helm the long standing kitchen, the nostalgic draw was enough to have him sighing a contract. Not to mention, he himself feels that “Dockside” boasts the best patio in the city.

I would agree with his sentiment as I made myself across several of their available seats. On the lounger, under the cabana with a view of yachts in tow. Under the covered dining area with a wood table at proper dining height. And finally setting on a cluster of comfy seats with small side tables, and the possibility for conversation and mingling with friends.

As for food, every thing and every process has been overhauled, which is largest change to ever come out of the restaurant. The new chef has redone the entire menu program, including how everything is prepared, prepped, and stored. Even their distributors are all new. Everything it absolutely fresh and Ocean Wise, nothing is kept under chill in the fridge. Even sauces are prepared from scratch now. And speaking from experience of before and after, you can taste the difference. Their food has always been okay, you go in fearing a miss, but being surprised by a hit now and again. However, everything we had tonight was good and a lot I would order again on subsequent visits.

We started with an elevated twist on the corn dog, but here, these battered and fried meat on sticks featured duck. They are served with 3 dips for your tasting pleasure: a sweet and grainy mustard, one with beer and maple, and a spicy dip with horse radish. The corn dog itself was rich in curry spices from the batter and stuffed full with a nugget of duck meat. This was a grown up taste, only available on their happy hour menu.

The “Wagyu beef carpaccio” was amazingly succulent, for a tissue-thin piece of meat. Dressed with Dijonnaise, crispy capers, arugula, and Parmesan; this was a collection of toppings that worked well together, while still allowing you to taste the quality of the Alberta wagyu.

The “Seared Scallops” were beautifully plated. The squid ink aioli they sat in not only offered a contrast to the golden brown scallops and the collection of fresh greens and pickled fennel tops with bacon; but it gave the dish a wonderfully deep umami sensation.

As a vegan option for one of the guests was served a wonderfully sophisticated heirloom carrot dish with baba ganoush and fennel. I have never seen such dressed up plates from “Dockside”, so already you can see the elevation the new head chef was bringing. I actually didn’t get a taste of this, but will admit I wanted too from its look alone.

But I was also more than happy to get my vegetable intake from the roasted cauliflower dish. Cauliflower florets, cauliflower purée, and pickled golden raisins, in a lemon caper vinaigrette. It was a familiar and comforting dish available at many such restaurants, but done with small variations to make it their own. Firm cauliflower dipped into a saucy version of itself. I didn’t notice the raisin all to much though, but it is still the one I would order again.

The “Steak-crese” also had me eating my vegetables. Flat iron steak, tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto mayo, arugula, avocado, and dried currants; all in a sherry vinaigrette. The steak was perfection, and the star of the dish. And the collection of vegetables under it ate more like a well conceived assembly than a quick salad. Everything was fresh and fragrant, coming up to the level of the medium rare steak dressed in a tasty pesto. And it is worth nothing that this pesto is different from that of the pasta below. I appreciate it when dishes vary from one another. Chances are you will order a few to share with your table mates, and it is unfortunate when your choices are similar to one another, and you find flavour profiles repeating themselves.

I fully enjoyed the “Orecchiette pesto”. Prepared with a broccoli-basil pesto with pistachios, broccoli florets, and Asiago cheese. I was surprised by how much flavour they got into this with cream and broccoli. The pasta was cooked perfectly and each round coated fully. For those who want to go gluten free with this, you can substitute the orecchiette with zucchini noodles instead.

For a completely different dish I really enjoyed the broth of the “Cioppino”. Mussels, clams, salmon, halibut, and prawns bobbing about in a saffron and fennel tomato broth. A classic in San Francisco, this is “Dockside’s” take on a West Coast version. Tangy, vinegary, and sharp; whilst allowing you to take in the bevy of seafood and their various tastes. And the best part, it comes with a thick piece of bread to allow you fo dip in and soak up all that soupy goodness.

The fennel and lemon stuffed whole trout was another great looking plate. Though it does come with dining instructions as this fish naturally has more bones. If you gingerly scrape the meat you can avoid said share spines. This was a light, local, and in season fish paired with a celeriac purée, lemon, and kale.

And for dessert we enjoyed the Gluten-free coconut cheese cake over a Florentine base with seeds and nuts, and a passion fruit syrup topping. This was creamy and tropical over a buttery, crumbly crust. A very nice note to end, something rich, yet refreshing.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
“Dockside Restaurant” just gave me a better reason to return than their patio. Not just a place with a view on Granville Island, but now a destination to travel to for the food. I will be keeping an eye on all to come out of this kitchen, and will be back often if it is of the same caliber as what I fully enjoyed above. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DOCKSIDE
1253 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R9
604-685-7070
docksidevancouver.com

Happy Hour at Atlas

Today I was invited down to “Atlas”, the steak and seafood restaurant located in Grand Villa casino, Burnaby’s best hot spot. I was here to try out their happy hour offerings.

Traffic had us arriving later than anticipated, but luckily we were still able to take advantage of their price reduced menu for 20 minutes upon seating. We would immediately order everything we wanted, before cut off.

We started with their cocktail special for $8, and today it was a Amaretto sour. None of the sour, and plenty of sweet from the foamy egg white topper.

We then followed it up with a 6oz glass of wine for $6. Either red or white, Merlot or Chardonnay. They also have 12oz Stella Artois drafts for $6.

For food, the following dishes were $4 a bite. It doesn’t look like much on the plate, but stacking on extra orders grew it to a fulsome appetizer.

The “seared scallop and tiger prawn” was a juicy large shrimp and a softened scallop, sitting atop of a thin slice of pineapple, smoked in their jasper oven. All wading in a pool of sweet coconut curry cream. Together this offered up a refreshing bite that made me crave a side of coconut rice with it.

The “warm prime rib bun” was seasoned in a red wine jus, and served with a truffle mayonnaise in a toasted brioche bun. The folds of beef were perfectly cooked with a pinky hue. It was saucy with the flavour of the truffle shining through. I highly recommend eating this as soon as you get it, as the bun does get soggy quick.

The “hand rolled meatballs marinara” came with two full sized balls and a piece of garlic toast twice as big. I suggest sharing as each ball was plenty. The classic flavour of tangy tomato in a sweet herbed base.

Ironically, my favourite dish off of their happy hour menu was the complimentary, house made kettle chips. Extra crispy, thick cut potato slices that kept you coming back for more crunch after crunch. It came with a garlic aioli sauce for dipping, not that it needed any help in the flavour department. I definitely finished the skillet-full myself.

They also offered $1 an oyster special, with their variety depended on the batch. Although a great deal, we passed for the time being. We had planned to stay around for dinner, and would splurge on their seafood tower before, therefore knew we would get our oyster fix then and there.

This is their “Atlas chilled seafood tower” for two, at $88. Two tiers that arrived at our table with a show of liquid nitrogen smoke. The top included jumbo shrimp with the classic tangy red cocktail sauce; and raw kushi oysters, the catch of the day.

The bottom layer had clams and mussels cracked open, long snow crab legs, and a full lobster tail cut in half for easy sharing. The latter two was also pre-cracked for an easier peel back. Although if you needed more help in this endeavour there were nut crackers available, and we each received a hot towel to wipe our hands with.

This was a fresh feast we enjoyed with a bottle of white wine. It was brought table side and kept chilled in a copper bucket.

During our stay we also got a sneak peak of one of their new services. A cocktail made table side, crafted from premium ingredients. There is something about watching your food or drink being prepared before your eyes that elevates it and your experience. The result, a smokey Old Fashion, topped with a cherry.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
“Atlas” is the dressiest place in Burnaby. An upscale restaurant offering the downtown feel and experience without the haste of the travel, the cost of the cab, and the trouble of finding parking. And now with happy hour specials, they give you another reason to visit. I suggest starting your dinner early with some happy hour bites as your appetizer. Then enjoying your visit with well crafted drinks that easily take you from after work to dinner. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ATLAS
4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby BC, V5G 1C7
604-453-0776
atlassteakandfish.com

75 West Coast Grill, Halibut Festival

Tonight I was invited down to “75 West Coast Grill”, the restaurant attached to the “Marriott” in Richmond. It was once “American Grille”, but has since reestablished themselves as a modern restaurant featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine. They are dedicated to using fresh and local ingredients, and tonight I was here to taste this change first hand.

Parking is within the hotel, you check in at the restaurant to validate. Located right at the lobby, it is a stone’s throw from the concierge’s desk. Past the bar, you follow the curve of the hall, all the way to the dining area. We grabbed a table by the window to enjoy the hub of the busy street as our scenery.

Given that my visit coincided with their “Halibut Festival”, it was only proper that I ordered a plate of the white fish in season. That and both the hostess and our server raved about it. They spoke to how people have been flocking in to the restaurant for it, and how all the staff have been enjoying it daily. The price isn’t listed, you get to choose how the fish is prepared, which starchy side it comes with, and what sauce covers it all. The combination you choose dictates the price you pay. You can either have your fish pan seared, flame grilled, or blackened. For sides, each plate includes a healthy serving of seasonal vegetables, so to it you can pick between roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, or jasmine rice. And for sauce a citrus beurre blanc; a mango salsa with pineapple, red pepper and cilantro; or a Thai curry sauce. Seeing as our server was so keen on this special, I took her advice on how to have it: pan seared with roasted fingerling potatoes, in the citrus beurre blanc. She did not steer me wrong. I am typically not a fan of cooked fish, but with halibut like this I could see myself enjoying it more regularly. This was a well balanced and fulsome serving. The vegetables were perfectly cooked to a firm crisp, similar to the texture and taste of the potatoes. But what made this plate was the sauce. I could drink a cup of it.

By comparison, I wasn’t so hot on their “10 oz AAA Rib Eye”. I acknowledge that rib eye steak is typically a fattier cut, but this thin piece had more gristle than meat. It at least had a good char to it. But sadly we were left with more roasted wild mushrooms , baby tomatoes, and roasted garlic mash side; all sitting in a red wine jus. I also found the sauce a little basic, I wanted more depth from it; like what I got from the beurre blanc.

On the other had, I got all the flavour I was looking for in the “Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese”. The shared serving is pictured above, and I would recommend getting it as a side. It is best enjoyed in between bites, given its one tone flavour profile. Served in a skillet these chewy and gooey spirals were heavily coated in an aged cheddar, mozzarella, and gruyere cheese mix. All topped with a roasted jalapeño fondue and a herb panko crust. This would be great anytime, but especially as a hangover cure, a late night snack, and as leftovers; like how I enjoyed mine. It was creamy, buttery, and fishy with the lobster. Although I didn’t find that the lobster added anything to the pasta. There was plenty of it, but several chunks I happened on were on the drier side.

The “Seafood Crab Cakes” were also nice, crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, with a good amount of shredded seafood in each round. It was best with the romesco aioli, but the radish and pea shoot salad that topped it, absorbed most of it.

It is also worth noting that if you get seated in one of their booths, it is outfitted with an outlet and the ability to charge any device, with USB ports.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A nice reimagining of the “Marriott” Richmond’s restaurant/bar. Classic food in a friendly setting. A solid option for the travel and the cautious diner; wanting a taste of BC, outside of Asian food in Richmond. Don’t deny your cravings.

75 WEST COAST GRILL
7571 Westminster Hwy, Richmond BC, V6X 1A3
604-232-2804
75west.ca

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