Cooking seafood is a fickle thing. The ingredients must be fresh, and the methods must be precise, yet inspired. It’s tough to do well, and because of higher prices, customers are also more demanding.
Which is why for the longest time, when people ask me to recommend a great seafood restaurant, I’d draw a blank.
Sandbar had always been brought up as a respectable place for quality seafood. When I took visiting family for dinner a few months ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed.
When we were invited by Whet to dinner, a seafood restaurant that is only steps away from Sandbar. I withheld any great expectations.
Walking in the door is met with waves of familiarity. It looked and felt like one of the many “fine-dining” West Coast Restaurants dotted around the city. A huge deck overlooking the harbour and a large chalkboard of fresh items stood out in my memory.
Chef Gray suggested Joyce and I to give the fresh sheet a try, sharing the five courses between the two of us. We happily obliged.
What went in
We started with a couple amuse-bouche of seared tuna and chorizo sausage on crostini. The use of sesame, wasabi aioli, soy sauce and ginger reduction on the tuna hinted at the Asian influences of the menu. The sausage was topped with cherry compote and goat cheese. What these perfect little bites of sweat and savory showcased was a high level of sophistication to be expected from the Kitchen of Whet.
The first official dish was the Haida Gwaii Spring Rolls. The thought of spring rolls at a non-Asian establishment (and even some Asian ones) often scared me. Too many times has it come out with a bad mix of mushiness and thick oily crust. But this, this was exceptional. The flaky light crust wrapped around loads of dungeness crab meat, chanterelle mushrooms, scallions, and carrots. The saltiness from the crab meat is paired nicely with the sweet chilli dip. I’m a big fan of fennel, and the salad with the tri-citrus dressing worked well with the deep fried rolls. I did wish the fennel was a bit stronger in taste.
Next up was the scallop and shrimp coconut ceviche. I’ve never had a coconut infused ceviche before, and I’ve been missing out. The richness of the coconut softened the acidity of the citrus juice, providing a smooth touch to your palate. This dish is served with freshly made corn chips, and a very large serving of shrimp and scallop. My only complaint is the big difference in size between the chunks of scallop and the cooked shrimp; it was difficult to get the right portion of everything in one bite.
The third course was the prawn, shrimp, chanterelle mushroom salad. Let me just start by saying the prawns were huge. I swear I was having miniature lobsters instead. The sauteed mushrooms were tender and full of flavour. While it’s a very well rounded dish, it didn’t stand out as much as the rest of the meal.
Now we come to the most amazing thing I had that night: the pan-seared halibut. Halibut is hard to do well. They are very meaty and tend to get dry during cooking. This piece was lightly seared, and it’s moist and tender. And here’s the best part: it’s wrapped in bacon. Now I’m no devote bacon aficionado, but having a little fat and salt on an otherwise plain fish is a great idea. The pernod creme sauce also paired beautifully with the fish. the slight licorice taste of the sauce felt strange on its own, but when added to the fish it created sweet and creamy elements that really brought everything on the plate together.
I must compliment Whet on doing a great job with their vegetables. My biggest problem with Sandbar and a host of similar restaurants is their utter disregard for entree sides. I don’t care if it’s a carrot or spot prawns, If it comes on the plate I expect it to be delicious. In this case, everything from the red skinned potatoes to the asparagus was excellent.
Our dessert was the only thing not from the fresh sheet. It had a generous serving of chocolate mousse, pudding, and ganache. The pudding had just the right sweetness, and I enjoyed everything wholeheartedly. I did think it was a bit strange to be served with only 1 slice of strawberry.
What came out
The restaurant generously invited us for this dinner at their cost. But let’s have a look at what it would’ve cost us on a regular visit.
The total without drinks would have been around $90 for the both of us. While that may sound high, we were more than full by the end, even with two rounds of salad.
Looking at the menu the entrees are priced well, with the appetizers slighter higher than expected. Overall it is on par with restaurants in this category.
We were very well looked after by our server, the general manager, and the head chef. It’s not often I feel this special in a restaurant. Even without the VIP treatment, the servers appeared to be very attentive to every guest.
Great attention to detail is key to the success of any restaurant, especially an expensive one. Despite being fairly new to the scene (open for about a year), Whet seem to have it figured out. If I am to ever visit or recommend a great seafood place again, this will be the place.
What went in (+/-2, 0): 1.5
What came out (+/-1, 0): 0
Service (+/-1, 0): 1
Mr.’s Bonus (+/-1): 1
1517 Anderson Road, Vancouver (Granville Island)