Signature Drink: A Little to the Left
Signature Dish: Scallops with Risotto
Rating: ** 1/2
Dinner & drinks for 2: $95
There is much to be said for restaurants that join with the Ocean Wise program in support of local, sustainable seafood. Not only is it better for the environment, the fish populations and the local people who make their living catching it, but it also tastes a damn sight better than the frozen fish sticks in aisle seven.
So it was with a happy sigh that I saw Fishworks open up in lower Lonsdale several months ago. Considering its proximity to the water and commercial fishing docks, the North Shore has a surprisingly small number of seafood dining establishments, and all are on the higher end of the fine dining market. Fishworks, on the other hand, has been touting itself as a more reasonably-priced, yet still slightly upscale, alternative.
At first glance, one tends to think they’re not lying. The room is simple and well laid out, with light wood floors and tabletops, white walls hung with black-and-white images of Lonsdale from a century ago, and some subtle brown swirls that break up any hint of monotony.
My first qualm came when we were seated at a tiny, round table for two that looked smaller than the tables at Starbucks. I noticed the other tables in the room were well-spaced, and a large, bare expanse of floor was quite prominent. Plenty of space, I would think, for a slightly larger—and perhaps more angular—table. Once our sparkling water, bread and butter arrived, the menus had to stick out at right angles, and mine was promptly knocked by a server carrying drinks to the next table. “Oops!” he said cheerfully, as bread spilled over the table. (We put the bread back in the basket, but no offer to replace it with a fresh basket was forthcoming.)
We decided to share the prawn cocktail ($9) to start. I tend to steer clear of such dishes, as they are often overcooked and under-represented for the price point. But the price was excellent and the server’s assurance that these were fresh, large specimens seduced us into giving them a try. I just wish I could say I enjoyed them. While obviously fresh, large and of good quality, they were also significantly overcooked, and inconsistently chilled. One side of the glass was warmish, while the other was barely cool. It was also a little unsettling to have them arrive so fast. Don’t get me wrong, prompt service is a delight not to be scoffed at, but when a server takes your order, walks to the kitchen and immediately (and I do mean immediately—try just over 10 seconds) comes back with an intricately laid out glass of crustaceans, vinaigrette-infused greens and an olive oil-soaked cherry tomato, one can’t but think of the word pre-made.
The lobster bisque with crème fraîche ($7) was a huge improvement. A warm, generous, rich soup, heavily impregnated with the main ingredient and topped with a healthy dollop of cream, this was one of the best I’ve tasted in some time. The Dungeness crab cakes ($12) were not spectacular, but were nice enough, with little filler and the usual red pepper flavouring and crusted exterior. The basil aioli it was supposed to come with was nonexistent, but it could have been soaked up by the salad dressing (same one as in the cocktail).
Mains like the Qualicum Beach scallops with risotto ($24) were unremarkable. A healthy portion of plain grilled scallops topped something that was not creamy enough to be risotto, and the “crispy” bacon was decidedly limp. Lobster cannelloni ($18) were more about spinach than seafood, and the Queen Charlotte sablefish ($25), marinated in sake, was moist and flavourful, but the accompanying shitake mushrooms were underdone.
It’s lovely to see a menu utilize so many local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients. It would be even lovelier if they were prepared with the same care that went into their selection.
Message in a Bottle…
The Olympics may be just around the corner, but to local foodies and oenophiles, The Vancouver Playhouse 2010 International Wine Festival (April 19 to 25, 2010) is the event to salivate over. This clever press kit arrived on my desk the other day, reminding me that this year’s theme regions are New Zealand and Argentina, and the global focus is Rosé. Tickets go on sale Feb. 2. Visit playhousewinefest.com for details.
On Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m., Cru Restaurant will be holding Haiti Earthquake Relief Fundraising Dinner. Cru staff are volunteering their time, and the restaurant is donating all food and beverages for this four-course dinner. 100 per cent of the proceeds from the dinner will be donated to the relief efforts in Haiti. $100 donation per person. www.cru.ca
Doing the Foxtrot
Fraîche Restaurant (2240 Chippendale Rd, West Van) is teaming up with Naramata’s Foxtrot Vineyards for a five-course winemaker’s dinner on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. $125 includes sparkling wine reception, all wine pairings and dinner, including seared sablefish with veal cheek ravioli, lamb tournedos and Okanagan goat cheesecake. Call 604-925-7595 to reserve.
Mangere, Bere, Vivere
On January 31 at 6 p.m., Mangia e Bevi Ristorante (2222 Marine Dr, West Van) will be holding their annual fundraising dinner for the B.C. Children’s Hospital and the Oncology Clinic at Lion’s Gate Hospital. $95 includes four courses with wine pairings. The restaurant is also offering a three-course menu for $40 until the end of the month, and will donate proceeds to both hospital’s oncology departments. Call 604-922-8333 for reservations.
Food in Brief
La Brasserie (1091 Davie St), the popular Franco-German bistro, is now open for lunch Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Hart House Restaurant (6664 Deer Lake Ave, Bby) has named former sous chef Kris Kabush as their new Executive Chef.