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.
1253 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R9