Ever tried jellyfish, sturgeon liver, or smelt? What about gooseneck barnacles, sea cucumber, or whelks?
Perhaps you’re wrinkling your nose right about now and wondering,”What the heck is a whelk?”
(Hint: executive chef Frank Pabst is holding one, above.)
Blue Water Cafe is featuring these and other under-appreciated sea creatures throughout February during the restaurant’s 11th annual are Unsung Heroes festival. The month-long event promotes sustainable seafood by urging diners to try something a little (or a lot) different from what they’re accustomed to eating.
The idea is to bring awareness to local and unique seafood and to avoid species that are over-fished or harvested in ways that can damage ocean beds. It’s a goal also promoted by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise conservation program, of which Blue Water Cafe is a founding member.
Don’t worry: you don’t have to finish your plate or forgo the salmon you know you’ll love.
Chef Pabst has designed the Unsung Heroes menu to complement the restaurant’s regular menu. These dishes are sharing plates that are meant to be ordered for the table; that way, everyone can have just a taste and try something new.
They’re reasonably priced, too, at $9.50 to $15.50 per dish. And 10 percent of the proceeds goes to the Ocean Wise program. So why not give one a shot?
Octopus (above) is an easy place to start. If you’ve tried it before and believe it to be rubbery, that’s because it was probably served overcooked. Blue Water Cafe does it right, grilled tender and served with a chickpea panisse with smoked olives, marinated eggplant, and tomato sauce with kurobuta pork.
Jellyfish, too, isn’t so scary. Fresh with a slightly crunchy bite, the version above has a sesame marinade.
This year’s Unsung Heros menu features a Chinese congee (rice porridge) with jellyfish and beef tongue, snow peas, bean sprouts, garlic chips, and hoisin dressing.
Sea urchin is a bit more challenging for timid tastes, but those who love it adore its creamy texture. On the menu this year is sea urchin mousse with calamari crackers and a citrusy ponzu jelly.
And that whelk that chef Pabst is eyeing in the opening photo? Whelks are sea snails. Think of them as French escargot, and you can probably imagine how good they taste.
Pabst cooks his whelks “escargots-style” in garlic butter with parsley and nori seaweed. This year, he’s also cooking gooseneck barnacles with saffron aioli and a seaweed salad with a soy mirin dressing.
If you can’t imagine what barnacles taste like, well…there’s only one way to find out.
The promotion continues until February 28.