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A restaurant with a killer location and equally killer eats.
Despite spending ample time on Granville Island during my time at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, this was my first trip to The Vancouver Fish Company. It’s a spot my friends bring their out-of-town parents to, and you can see why: the combination of seaside location and fresh seafood implies ‘Vancouver gem.’ Like most Vancouverites, I’m also a sucker for a patio once summer hits—and Vancouver Fish Co.’s doesn’t disappoint. It stretches the length of the restaurant and even if you’re seated inside, the doors stay open, so you’re never far from the sun.
We arrived at the Vancouver Fish Co. with hopes of trying their lobster and bacon grilled cheese and a bowl of chowder—what can I say, even in the sun, I’m a fan of dairy-based dishes—but were pleasantly surprised by owner Stephen Duyzer’s insistence that we try their top dishes instead.
Duyzer is an alum of the now-closed—but highly regarded—Fish House in Stanley Park. In other words: he’s no stranger to seafood-driven West Coast fare. During his time there, he not only ran the kitchen as executive chef, but he established himself as a successful GM—paving the way for his current role here at the Vancouver Fish Co.
Like any good patio evening, the meal started with margs ($14). While my partner went with the classic, I strayed from my usual order and went strawberry when the server told me that it’s mixed with house-made strawberry puree—rather than the pre-bottled goop most bars sling. I made the right call. Light, refreshing and with just enough sweetness not to mask the underlying lime or the taste of tequila (which, controversial opinion, I think is key)—this margarita was easy drinking. I snagged a sip of my partner’s classic lime variety, and it too was first-rate.
The version I had was a tasting portion, but when you order it at the restaurant yours will be a full-sized appetizer.
The first dish we sampled was the maple walnut prawns ($19.99). Duyzer told us that this was a recipe he carried with him from his Fish House days—one he knew he’d feature on the menu before the restaurant was even open. It feels inspired by the classic Cantonese dish of honey walnut shrimp: that’s to say, it was pretty darn tasty. The prawns were lightly-fried, tempura coated and—despite being coated in sauce—crazy-crispy. Yuzu-mayo acted as the sauce and brought creaminess with a hit of acid while maple glazed walnuts added sweetness and a different kind of crunch. The plate (and prawns) was also coated in togarashi, which added heat along with umami thanks to the nori.
This too was a smaller, tasting portion. The one on the menu is around double the size and comes in a large cocotte.
Next, we had the mussels ($29.99). We had watched table after table receive their deep cocottes roiling with steam, so their arrival felt celebratory. I’m a big mussel gal (to eat; physically, I have none), and have lately been faced with dry, disappointing bivalves. Not here. These were plump and swimming in a broth that was briny yet grounded in earthiness thanks to Mexican-style chorizo (my favourite sausage). Creamed leeks elevated the dish with a subtle allium kick and decadent texture. Duzyer warned us that we’d want more garlic bread, and he was right—my favourite bite of the night was when I stacked each ingredient on the (absurdly delicious) toast.
Prior to the third dish we were poured a glass of the Sea Sun Chardonnay ($14). Hailing from California, this chardonnay was both lush and crisp. I’m not usually a chard gal (in terms of wine, the adjective “buttery” is a tell-tale sign that it’s not for me), but this white drank more like ripe apricots with hints of lemon zest and went particularly well with the briny tuna crudo ($18.99) we ate next.
To be perfectly honest, I think a tuna crudo should be the first course in a progressive meal, but that doesn’t take away from the delicate deliciousness of the dish. The albacore itself was tender without being flimsy and thicker than I’m used to for a crudo, but here the extra width was welcome: this was some of the best tuna I’ve had this year. The accoutrements leaned Italian in influence with Castelvetrano olives (the best olive) and capers that brought salinity and Calabrian chili that added a touch of heat. Ponzu vinaigrette added citrus-y notes and paper-thin rice crackers texture. Together, everything tasted bold but remained light—a dish I would happily order for myself as a main course.
We moved onto main courses next with the wild salmon ($38) sourced from Haida Gwaii. According to Duzyer, this version of the dish was a new style of plating that was just launched for summer. The skin was decadently crispy with a touch of albumin on the sides. Usually that’s a sign for me that salmon is overcooked, however, this was just a touch over medium in the centre—which is how I prefer it. Despite what the menu indicated, the Israeli couscous plated beneath the salmon felt more like a pilaf than a tabbouleh, because it was warm and without any discernible parsley. The couscous was still seasoned well, though, and the texture enjoyable.
Charred broccolini and confit tomatoes acted as the sides and were fine, but felt somewhat misplaced when paired with what is supposed to be tabbouleh and a pipian verde sauce. The sauce was delicious and a take on mole verde which is Mexican in origin and (although like all molé recipes vary family-to-family, region-to-region) usually contains a base of something green (poblano, leafy greens or tomatillos are often used), pumpkin seeds and a mix of herbs, spices and aromatics (such as garlic, cloves and cumin). This one tasted like poblanos and pumpkin seeds, with possibly an addition of sesame—which could be the tie between the tabbouleh and molé.
Our second main was the kasu-marinated sablefish ($39) which is sourced from the Sunshine Coast. Sake kasu is the fermented by-product of sake making, and the paste added dimension and depth to the fish with a light, fruity sweetness. But the star of the dish was the roasted tea dashi—umami-forward and light—when combined with ginger scallion oil and pomme purée it felt like a decadent embrace. Despite enjoying this on the patio, this is a dish I think would stand out come early autumn.
Our server recommended the Smokin’ Dobbs cocktail ($17) to prepare our palettes for dessert. The Dobbs balanced the smokiness of mezcal with agave—it drank a bit too sweet for me, but for mezcal-newbies this would be a nice intro to a spirit that can be quite aggressive.
The panna cotta we had for dessert was a feature menu item, so it’s not always available—which is a disappointment because it was so beautifully prepared that after my first bite, I turned to my partner and told him that this was the dessert I wanted to eat on my upcoming birthday. I could hardly tell there was any gelatin involved in the setting of it because the consistency was so creamy, it felt luxurious. Topped with a bright, smooth strawberry compote, buttery shortbread and even buttery-er crumble, the combination of textures and mild sweetness was truly exquisite.
The combination of a sprawling patio, deftly prepared food and attentive service makes this a restaurant worthy of adding to your summer rotation. I will come back to the Vancouver Fish Company (and brave Granville Island parking), definitely for the mussels and maple walnut prawns, but also to try that bacon and lobster grilled cheese—I can’t seem to get it off my mind.
The Vancouver Fish Company Restaurant and Bar
Address: 1517 Anderson St.Website: vanfish.comPhone number: (604) 559-3474Hours: Daily 11:30AM-10PM