Thursday, 25 August 2011

Lunch in the Park - Part 1

A meal with relatives was in order again, this time for brunch in Stanley Park.  Stanley Park actually has four restaurants within its expansive grounds, and my grandparents originally wanted to go to The Teahouse in Stanley Park, one of four restaurants of the notable Sequoia Company of Restaurants.  However, the same-day call to make a reservation and the popularity of the The Teahouse meant that we could only have a late brunch there.  We therefore opted to go for another notable restaurant in Stanley Park, The Fish House in Stanley Park.

Led in the kitchen by Karen Barnaby, The Fish House was situated in a historic building in a quiet part of the southeast corner of the park.  This restaurant was one of several in Vancouver that signed up to a program called Ocean Wise.  I pulled this from The Fish House's website for an explanation:

"Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Ocean Wise works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers ensuring that they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood and helping them make ocean-friendly buying decisions."

Though some restaurants may offer a complete Ocean Wise menu (such as Raincity Grill) for its seafood selections, many others, like the Fish House, may offer a mix.  Discovering this, I had decided to select my meal based on this Ocean Wise program, hoping that my small action at the dining table will help make for a more sustainable seafood industry; Canadians only need to remember the East Coast cod fishery to know the drastic consequences of an unsustainable fishery.  (You can find out more about Ocean Wise through its own website.)

Though this restaurant definitely had a British club house feel (it was perchance located between some tennis courts and a golf course, and it also has an afternoon tea menu), the interior felt lighter and cheerier with the white-framed doors and windows opened fully to welcome both the midday sun and the gentle sea breeze.  Parking was definitely a challenge as Vancouverites were taking advantage of finally some decent beach and golfing weather (on a weekend no less) and the tennis courts were hosting a wheelchair tennis tournament.  After a bit of parking-space hunting and some walking in the sun, a cold drink was in order.
Ginger Mock-hito - Ginger, mint leaves, sugar syrup, ginger ale.
One item in the drink menu caught my eye: the Ginger Mock-hito.  I'm normally not a fan of mint, but I dare say I really enjoyed this drink.  The right amount of mint was added to, along with the zing of the ginger, make the drink refreshing.  All I was missing to finish the picture of myself enjoying this drink was for me to wear a white suit and a matching fedora.  Of course, food was the main reason I was here, but if you're up for a more unique non-alcoholic drink while you're here, I'd definitely suggest this concoction.

While we waited for our appetizers we were served bread along with oil and vinegar for dipping.  I was surprised and delighted when I discovered that the oil was lobster oil which the restaurant makes in-house and even sells in 375mL bottles.  The oil had a pleasant and light aroma, and I could just taste a hint of lobster if I didn't touch any of the balsamic vinegar.
Steamed Mussels - Coconut milk, tomato, cilantro, lime and chili pepper.
For my appetizer I ordered Steamed Mussels.  Influenced by Southeast Asian cuisines, this dish used coconut milk, tomato, cilantro, lime and chili pepper instead of white wine.  It was topped with a lightly crispy "tortilla" and something I'd never had until now: sea asparagus.  Served raw on this dish, the sea asparagus was a neat little vegetable, with a natural saltiness to it.  The broth had a mild heat to it and was light to taste in spite of the use of coconut milk.  The mussels were fabulous, cooked to the right level of tenderness and having absorbed the flavours of the broth.
Fresh Oysters (clockwise from top): Effinghams, Fanny Bays and Malpeques.
To supplement our appetizers, one of my cousins decided to try some fresh oysters with me, and we decided to try one of all three types offered that day: Effingham, Fanny Bay and Malpeque.  I had previously heard that some varieties of oysters would taste slightly different than others, but until now I'd never had the opportunity to figure them out as I've only had Malpeques in raw form.  Some may have a more metallic taste than others (speaking of metals, oysters generally are an excellent source of zinc, iron and calcium), and they each have different subtle flavours and finishes.  For example, the Fanny Bay started out salty but left a fresher, almost mildly sweet aftertaste, while the Malpeque went the opposite direction, starting out fresh then leaving with a saltier finish.  Though my cousin preferred the Malpeque, I must lean more towards the Fanny Bay, which according to one of the servers is the restaurant's most popular variety.  I'll have to remember that name the next opportunity I have to eat fresh oysters... unless, of course, someone introduces me to an even better variety.
Pan Roasted BC Sablefish
I had taken my slow time munching on my appetizers that I was still finishing my mussels when most of the main course arrived.  When my main course finally arrived, it was Pan Roasted BC Sablefish.  The sablefish, also known in North America as black cod, was cooked beautifully.  The fish was moist inside, it was delicate under the fork and it felt like it melted in my mouth with every bite.  The server cautioned that there may still have been some fine bones with this particular type of fish, but either they were too small to be detected or the kitchen staff did a thorough job to get all the bones out.

Overall I was impressed by The Fish House.  To follow the restaurant's sustainability theme, I might want to take alternative means of transportation to a car to get there at my next available opportunity.  Bus service is available within a short pleasant walk through the southern portion of Stanley Park, and there is a good network of cycling routes to reach the park.

Name: The Fish House in Stanley Park
Address: 8901 Stanley Park Dr., Vancouver, BC 
Cuisine: Continental, Seafood
Price Range: Lunch/Brunch $15-$75; Dinner $20-$100
Accessible: Yes

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