Raincity Grill Celebrates 20 Years of Local, Sustainable Food

Sloping Hills Confitted Pork Belly at Raincity Grill. Photo: Dana Lynch

If you were on Denman Street or English Bay Beach today, you may have seen the yellow and purple balloons decorating the patios of Raincity Grill, one of Vancouver’s most famous and beloved restaurants. Those balloons were part of Raincity Grill’s anniversary party—the iconic restaurant turned 20 today!

Back in 1992, when Raincity Grill opened, locavore / local food sourcing wasn’t the mainstream trend it is today. As Raincity Grill’s owner, Harry Kambolis, explained to the Vancouver Sun, because he wanted to serve authentic West Coast cuisine, he and his first chef relied on fresh ingredients from the Granville Island Public Market, which in turn led to weekly menu changes (based on those fresh ingredients).  Locally-sourced food and weekly menus were a novelty in 1992, but, as we see today, Kambolis and Raincity Grill were simply ahead of the curve.

The Raincity Grill. Photo: Dana Lynch

Twenty years later, Raincity Grill is famous for its commitment to locally-sourced ingredients and sustainable seafood (Kambolis and his current head chef Robert Clark were key players in establishing Ocean Wise, the Vancouver Aquarium’s nationwide sustainable seafood program). Their 100-mile menu—where all ingredients except for the salt come from within a 100 mile radius—demonstrates that locavore dining can be as gourmet and high-end as the finest French or Italian cuisine.

Today, I got to join friends of the restaurant, supporters, and other media for Raincity Grill’s 20th anniversary party. Which meant, of course, that I got to sample some of their fabulous local cuisine.

B.C. Spot Prawns and crab ravioli at Raincity Grill. Photo: Dana Lynch

Since B.C. spot prawn season is still underway, it’s no surprise that Raincity Grill has its own spot prawn dish (and it’s an amazing one): the rich-and-sweet Organic Ocean Spot Prawns, crab ravioli, prawn bisque, and nettle soubise. We also got to sample the incredibly tender Sloping Hills Confitted Pork Belly, cured with brown sugar, hazelnut, quince, watercress and root chip (pictured at top).

Then there was the Fraser River Sockeye, cured with rhubarb and Vancouver Island sea salt and served with Hanna Brook greens and rhubarb gel—so tangy and refreshing! I loved this dish.

Fraser River Sockeye at Raincity Grill. Photo: Dana Lynch

Even though all the food was served appetizer-style, the ingenious folks at Raincity Grill managed to do a fabulous mini-salad, too, with charred octopus suckers, Hanna Brook greens and elderflower vinaigrette.

Mini-salad with charred octopus suckers and Hannabrook greens, at Raincity Grill. Photo: Dana Lynch

Raincity Grill’s 20 years have seen local food sourcing in Vancouver evolve from something only a handful of “quirky” restaurants did to a mainstream recipe for success. In many ways, we have Raincity Grill—and their great success with fresh, regional West Coast / Vancouver cuisine—to thank for that.

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