Crab Cakes with a Club Vibe: Lunch at Coast

Eating out on a Tuesday afternoon isn’t usually the most dynamic dining experience.  In downtown Vancouver, midweek lunch tends to bring out the business types, texting with one hand and eating with the other.  In the air, there’s none of the anticipation of the evening or the energy of the weekend.  Throw in some dreary November weather, and it’s a recipe for eating at home.

All of which makes Coast, a new seafood place in the heart of the downtown business district, a little unusual.  When I showed up at 12:30 Tuesday, the restaurant – all two floors – was full, with a line of people waiting inside for a table.

At the big circular bar that dominates the bottom floor, diners were crowded elbow to elbow.  In the middle of the bar is a kind of seafood tower: a glowing column whose bottom tier is packed with ice and laden with crab, shrimp and lobster.  It’s a dramatic way to showcase the catch of the day, and it says a lot about Coast’s efforts to do seafood differently.

I made my way past the bar and up to the second-floor balcony for a table overlooking the action downstairs.  The volume and the heat radiating from the crowd below takes a little adjusting to: It feels more Friday night than Tuesday afternoon.

Coast’s focus is on locally caught seafood.  In fact, the menu spells out not just where your fish comes from but who caught it and aboard which ship.  There are some innovative items – temaki cones with tempura halibut, dungeness crab gnocchi – but the emphasis at Coast seems to be on letting the fish speak for themselves.  Dishes are patently unpretentious: fish and chips, oysters, huge shared platters of lobster, crabs and prawns.  There are few fancy sauces or elaborate confections to hide behind.  It’s a bold move, and one whose success hinges on sourcing super fresh fish.

I started with the octopus salad, big chunks of tender, marinated squid on a bed of greens.  Then, a classic: New England clam chowder, all fresh clams and smoked bacon.  Finally, after a side trip through Coast’s sushi menu, I finished with the dungeness crab cake.  The recipe seems to have cut out all the stuff that goes into the typical crab cake – the bread crumbs, the heavy shortenings, the seasonings – and just left the fresh crab.  It’s maverick.  It’s obvious.  It works.

Which is true of a lot of what Coast does.  The food is simple and abundantly fresh.  The place is fun and loud and full of life.  It’s not rocket science, but few places get it right.  On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in downtown Vancouver, what more could you ask for?

Have you had a chance to eat at Coast? Do you like the high-energy seafood vibe?  Please share any comments below.

Remy Scalza

A travel blog about places you haven’t been

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2 Responses to Crab Cakes with a Club Vibe: Lunch at Coast

  1. It’s great to hear that they’re focusing on locally-caught seafood. That’s what so many visitors want to taste and experience when they come to Vancouver. I remember a few years ago when Coast was located in Yaletown, they had items like orange roughy on the menu! Good to see things have changed.

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