Blue Water Cafe Wows With Their 2013 “Unsung Heroes” Sustainable Seafood Menu

Red sea urchin mousse in its crispy shell with ponzu jelly and avocado sauce

Red sea urchin mousse in its crispy shell with ponzu jelly and avocado sauce

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar, Yaletown’s elegant seafood destination and one of North America’s finest seafood restaurants, is wowing diners with their 2013 Unsung Heroes menu, available now through February 28. The annual Unsung Heroes festival puts the spotlight on underutilized sustainable seafood such as mackerel, herring, jellyfish, red sea urchin – instead of the usual arctic char, sablefish, tuna etc.

Blue Water’s goal? To make diners aware of tasty species we don’t often order. Under the expert care of Chef Frank Pabst, who’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Germany and France, oft-overlooked B.C. fish truly shine.

I took my mackerel-loving Norwegian husband along to try the Unsung Heroes sharing plates. Obviously, he was pre-inclined to love the menu. And – HOLY MACKEREL – did he ever. As for me, it was quite possibly the best meal (and certainly one of the most surprising meals) I’ve had in Vancouver to date. I’ll happily sing for yesterday’s supper.

The sharing plates range from $9.50 to $12.50. Delicate white anchovies enhanced roasted red pepper bruschetta with mozzarella. Adventurously, Blue Water paired the bruschetta with Alvear Amontillado sherry – a spot-on choice. I was surprised to get hooked on salty herring roe taramosalata with grilled flatbread paired with Russian Valley brut. Beware Caspian caviar and French bubbly – this is the local, authentic deal.  (Ample food porn after the jump.)

Herring and fingerling potato salad

Herring and fingerling potato salad

Herring roe taramosalata with grilled flatbread

Herring roe taramosalata with grilled flatbread

Of course Pabst, who hails from Germany, impressed with a herring topped fingerling potato salad accessorized with tonburi and pink peppercorns. Pickled herring is something I usually steer clear of at Christmas brunch in Oslo. This time, I cleaned my plate.

Visually, the most impressive was red sea urchin mousse in a crispy nest made from its shell, served with ponzu jelly and avocado sauce. I thought it was cake… For oddest flavour, I’m glad I’m tried the sea cucumber in miso shrimp soup. It tasted like a gulp of the deep blue ocean. Here Blue Water pairs a sweet sake, that pulls you right back to sunbathing on a quiet beach.

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White anchovy bruschetta

Baked sardine with parmesan gremolata, green beans, marcona almonds, and aji amarillo lemon dressing

Baked sardine with parmesan gremolata, green beans, marcona almonds, and aji amarillo lemon dressing

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Grilled octopus chili orrechiette with chick peas, broccolini and roasted grape tomatoes

The easiest dish to appreciate is the grilled octopus with chili orrechiette, crispy chick peas, roasted grape tomatoes and broccolini. I suspect you’ll want them to keep it on the menu year round. Or perhaps the jellyfish, stir-fried with fatty pork belly and topped with crispy taro.

Unsung Heroes at Blue Water (1095 Hamilton) runs through February 28. Reservations are strongly recommended. 10% of all proceeds go to the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program.

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