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Hot Dining: Marine Scene
For the freshest of marine cuisine, hop on the SeaBus—one of the best sightseeing deals around—and head across the harbour to discover Lower Lonsdale (LoLo to the cool crowd), a fascinating mix of small shops and tempting eateries just up from bustling Lonsdale Quay Public Market. Aptly named Fishworks is worth the trip. Owner and chef Shallaw Kadir (pictured) has a knack for getting seafood exactly right. An adventurous chef who loves to push the envelope, he creates bold Ocean Wise combinations such as baked fresh halibut with mild jalapeno, or wild salmon Wellington with cranberry-almond crust and pistachio pesto.—Tim Pawsey
Posted on August 30th, 2010
North Vancouver’s Fishworks is quite a catch
By Gail Johnson
Fishworks’ chef and owner, Shallaw Kadir, keeps seafood simple with crab cakes that burst with flavour and a memorable arctic char.
Vancouver proper has no shortage of first-rate seafood restaurants. The other end of the Lions Gate Bridge? Not so much.
Enter Fishworks, a newish spot about a block up from Lonsdale Quay. Not only does this stylish restaurant offer consistently appetizing food from the sea, it has also caught on to the sensible culinary concepts of local fare and sustainable practices.
With its high-quality, comfortable atmosphere and solid value—you won’t find $40 mains here—it’s no wonder the place is positively swimming in business.
A recent Friday-night visit showed that reservations are a must, at least on weekends: we needed to be out of there early anyway, but had we not shown up at 5:30 we likely wouldn’t have gotten a table at all. Although Fishworks was booked solid from about 7 p.m. on, our server never made us feel rushed, even with three courses.
Chef and owner Shallaw Kadir opened the restaurant six months ago after moving on from Edgemont Village’s Edge Bistro. The Lower Lonsdale resident explains in a phone interview that he was out walking his dog when he saw the spot’s For Lease sign. It didn’t take long for him to come up with the idea of focusing on simple, fresh seafood, given the area’s confounding lack of such eateries.
The 29-year-old—who got his start in the restaurant industry in high school, working as a dishwasher at night and learning cooking skills and techniques on his own time during the day—designed Fishworks’ modern but warm interior, which features sepia-toned images of North Vancouver’s waterfront, chocolate-brown leather chairs and accents, and hardwood floors a few shades darker than the sleek wooden tables.
Chic in its simplicity, the room’s aesthetic reflects the menu: the food is elegant yet straightforward, and altogether outstanding. Moreover, almost every item is Ocean Wise. (Kadir says that, when he introduces his new menu at the end of the month, all of the seafood dishes will bear the Vancouver Aquarium sustainability program’s logo. Seeing the recent documentary Oceans, Kadir says, only firmed up his resolve to be as environmentally responsible as possible.)
We considered not bothering with the caesar salad ($6), but our server sold us with her effusive praise of Kadir’s take on the classic dish. I lost count of how many whole roasted garlic cloves bounced around on the crisp romaine leaves along with hefty croutons made from the robust whole-grain bread baked in-house.
The Manila clam chowder ($6) will win over anyone who claims they don’t favour the coastal staple. A reasonable facsimile of B.C. Ferries’ version this is not. Forget sludgy consistency and oversize chunks of bland potatoes: here is a bowl of smooth, savoury, slightly peppery goodness with perfectly tender clams inside steamed-open shells.
The Dungeness crab cake, too, rises above the blah standard. Thick, flaky, and infused with smoked red pepper, the appetizer ($12), which is served with basil aioli, bursts with flavour.
So many of the main dishes at Fishworks are irresistible bait for seafoodies. The arctic char ($23) is one of those memorable dishes that have you recalling the flavour over and over again days later. The pretty-in-pink braised rhubarb is a tongue tickler that, coupled with a citrus emulsion, enhances the fish’s delicate character.
The bolder Queen Charlotte sablefish ($25) has the buttery lusciousness you expect from the pearly white flesh. It’s marinated in sake kasu, the lees that remain after the pressing and filtering processes of sake-making. They give the velvety meat a unique sweetness.
Other choices include black linguine with B.C. spot prawns and spicy salami ($18), whole ruby trout en papillotte ($21), and Qualicum Beach scallop risotto ($24). Then, curiously, there are two spaghetti dishes. Why? “Anytime I made spaghetti, people always said it was the best spaghetti they ever had,” Kadir says. “Plus kids love spaghetti. You’ve got to have something for the kids too.”
All of the entrées are served with baby root vegetables and pommes purées, which is merely a fancy way of saying “mashed potatoes”. But every day Kadir injects them with a different flavour, such as curry, roasted red pepper, fennel, or dill. He takes the same fresh approach to his house-made butters, which are flavoured with porcini mushrooms and thyme, almond and sage, or Kalamata olives.
To keep his simple-but-succulent theme going straight through to the end, Kadir hired French native Stéphane Enée as pastry chef. His desserts (such as the crème brûlée with its skating-rink–like top) look straight out of the pages of Bon Appétit and taste as extraordinaire.
The unpretentious and well-planned wine list is reasonably priced. Dinner for two with a cocktail and a bottle of wine came to $130 before taxes and tip.
Finally, those living on the North Shore have a seafood restaurant worth bragging about, one that those on the other side of the inlet will want to hop on the SeaBus for.
By Georgia Straight
There’s a much ballyhooed and awarded restaurant chain in England, called Fishworks, that specializes in cooking fresh seafood simply.
Lower Lonsdale’s Fishworks — the latest entrant to the community’s growing restaurant scene — is aptly named. It’s not affiliated, but the description is a perfect fit.
The eatery serves local seafood: Albacore tuna, honey mussels, Dungeness crab, sablefish, Arctic char, and wild salmon; in easygoing constructions full of bright flavours and using solid cooking techniques.
But it goes even further: the restaurant is almost completely Ocean Wise, a designation that is more difficult to find on the North Shore than it should be.
Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate consumers about sustainable seafood. The aquarium works directly with its restaurant partners to ensure they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood and helps them make ocean-friendly buying decisions. The options are highlighted on the menu, making it easier for diners to make environmentally friendly seafood choices.
And while it’s more costly for the restaurant to be Ocean Wise in the short term, it will benefit all of us in the long run.
I arrived first to meet up with my pal M for an early dinner after work.
The room is big; high-ceilinged and airy, and edged by a comfortable number of wooden tables and chairs. I was spotted and greeted promptly, escorted to a table, my coat taken and an order for sparkling water quickly delivered on.
A word about service: I’ve recently encountered more than one complaint about servers who are too eager, too casual, too familiar, and I want to step into the fray.
I will take a server who is friendly and keen over a server who is cold and correct any day. I am not bothered by a waiter who addresses my party with “Hey guys,” (even though I am not a guy) since I know the word has entered the vernacular as a common noun and I realize the server is trying to build a working relationship with me in a short time.
So to those of you who have written to me, to other papers and posted on online restaurant review sites to bemoan too-friendly servers, I say: Get over it. You’re acting cranky . . . and old.
So after that rant, obviously, service at Fishworks falls into the friendly category. Our waiter stopped by often to check on us, to list specials, to take orders and top up water.
I appreciated it.
We started with the Fishworks chilled platter for two people: a smooth rectangle of ice loaded with creamy oysters, pillowy mussels, clams and fat prawns, plus a side plate of Albacore tuna tataki. The last was overwhelming, two thick slabs of raw tuna sitting in a puddle of yuzu vinaigrette, rather than the seared and thinly sliced fish I was expecting, but the rest was neatly prepared and presented. As always, I’m easily seduced by raw oysters.
M ordered Salmon Wellington, a mildly sweet filet of wild fish encased in a pastry crust and sided by a hefty wedge of beet, crunchy carrots and piped mashed potatoes.
If those same veggies seemed slightly undercooked and uninspiring on my plate, I hardly noticed, because my whole ruby trout, cooked “en papillotte” with tiny slices of leek, and laid on a blanket of beurre blanc, was exquisite: the fish perfectly tender and velvety.
I liked the wine list too. No intimidating reference book of bottles here, but a well-focused menu of interesting picks, several of them available by the glass. We both decided to break that stagnant white-wine-with-fish rule. I had a lovely, light Morande Pionero Pinot Noir, from Chile; and M opted for a rustic Merlot blend.
The bill for our fresh-from-the-sea Fishworks dinner? A reasonable $92.43, including taxes.
And we didn’t even have to travel to the U.K. to get it.
Fishworks is at 91 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver. Call 778-340- 3449 for information or reservations, or visit www.fishworks.ca.
Sure we have plenty of sushi bars and fish ‘n’ chip shops but when it comes to local, sustainable and affordable seafood cooked with creative flair, the choices have been a whole lot more limited.
Now we have Fishworks, a friendly little bistro on the North Shore that might even have Vancouverites braving the SeaBus to come check it out.
Fishworks is the new project of North Vancouver chef Shallaw Kadir.
Kadir lives in booming Lower Lonsdale, where he recently discovered that a lovely old heritage space had become available next door to the Jagerhof schnitzel house.
“I thought about it and realized there’s no seafood restaurant in North Vancouver that’s good, local and modern,” he says. And so the idea for Fishworks was born and, a month ago, came to life.
This welcoming space is a stylish mix of vintage and modern: Floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto bustling Lower Lonsdale, soft buff walls painted with dramatic swirls, spare industrial lighting mixed with ornate Middle Eastern lanterns and comfortably modern furniture. Unfortunately, it does get a little noisy with all those hard edges, but at least it feels lively even on a slow night.
The décor is inviting and the service pleasantly, but not overly, attentive. But it’s the food and wine –— not to mention the prices — that will keep guests coming back.
“It is contemporary. It is West Coast. I’ve been working in Italian restaurants so there’s a little bit of Italian. Whatever is new. The chefs, we just sit down and create dishes,” Kadir says.
Kadir and his crew have a wonderfully delicate hand with the Oceanwise-approved seafood and an exuberant one — sometimes overly so — with flavourings.
Qualicum Bay scallops, Arctic char, mussels in Thai broth, even the halibut ‘n’ chips, all arrived grilled, steamed or fried to perfection, never overdone, which is not something you can always count on in even the finest of fine-dining establishments. The sauces and sides, however, occasionally overwhelmed the simplicity of the seafood.
For instance, the braised rhubarb alongside that Arctic char had a tart bite that was just too strong for the delicate fish. Dishes like the already-rich lobster cannelloni or a savoury shiitake mushroom salad came with not one but two or even three different sauces. And the cream in the scallop risotto was an added richness the dish didn’t need and suggested shortcuts this talented kitchen does not need to take.
On the other hand, the steamed honey mussels were perfection in a bowl: plump pillows of tender flesh in a bright little palate teaser of a lemon grass-basil-chili-coconut broth. It was so good, we mopped up every last drop and contemplated ordering more.
Other highlights were the clam chowder, which had the perfect ratio of clams and vegetables to lightly creamy soup; the crisp-yet-tender battered halibut; the six big, fat, caramelly Qualicum Bay scallops perched atop that creamy risotto; and whatever creative inspiration Kadir is featuring that day.
Accompanying all this great seafood is an equally great wine list that explores the world for interesting and affordable choices. Look for unusual varietals like Alvarinho, Garganega and Madeleine Angevine as well as all the usual suspects. And look for unusually low prices, as low as $25 a bottle, and all except for a handful of reserve reds under $60.
The food, too, is surprisingly reasonably priced for this quality: starters range from $6 to $14 (for half-a-dozen oysters) while the most expensive mains, the sake kasu-marinated sablefish or beef tenderloin, are only $25.
“My guests come here and they can’t believe that they can find that food at that price,” Kadir says, adding, “It’s not going to change for the next six months. Every six months I’ll change the food menu and the wine menu. But I don’t think it will go much up. I’ll look at the pricing then — I have to make some money, too — but I will try to stay as reasonable as possible.”
And who knows? Maybe some of the city’s other seafood restaurants will be inspired to do the same.
Special to The Sun
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