After doing the research for my last post, I was intrigued by some of the menu items. One of which was Blue Water Cafe’s Unsung Heroes Festival that took place through to end of January. If my memory serves me right, I went to Blue Water once years ago, before my foodie years. At that time I didn’t quite know how to enjoy good food. So when I got a hold of a $50 gift certificate for the restaurant, I invited a friend along and gave it another try.
While the food quality didn’t disappoint me, it didn’t wow me either. For a restaurant with such a good reputation, to me it’s somewhat a let-down. Don’t get me wrong. I think the Unsung Heroes idea was brilliant, but the execution of the menu wasn’t bold enough. How so? Read on.
Before we started munching on the food, we each ordered a drink of Jacob’s Ladder and Bread. Jacob’s Ladder was a very refreshing drink, flavoured with herbs and botanicals. The julienned cucumber garnish on top of the crushed ice was crunchy and ice cold. Bread came with two spread, seaweed butter and red chili pepper & chick pea spread. I found the seaweed butter rather ordinary; I couldn’t really taste the seaweed. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the chick pea spread. The chick pea was grounded finely and the texture and flavouring was just right on the bread. Wish the bread crust was a bit softer, though.
For the two of us, we had three dishes. First, a Sashimi Platter that had 14 pieces of fish including Sablefish, Amaebi (raw sweet prawn), Albacore tuna, Sockeye salmon, Red tuna, Scallops and Hamachi (yellow tail). Initially we were going for a separate order of sablefish, but since it’s included in the platter, we opted for this instead, giving us the opportunity to try a variety of sashimi. The sashimi were overall quite fresh and tasty. First time trying it, the sablefish was silky, very sweet and soft. I wish each type of fish came in pairs, though, so we could split it easily.
Then we picked out two items from the Unsung Heroes Festival. The Periwinkles were an interesting treat. There were a good 40 something periwinkles in the bowl and it’s a rather time consuming dish. Why, you ask? They’re tiny sea snails which you had to pick the meat out of the shell one at a time using a toothpick! It took us a good two hour to finish them all. The meat was tiny, texture was rather rough and it’s tasteless on its own; but it tasted quite good when mixed with the aioli. At the same time, I wonder if there’s something more creative that they could do with the periwinkles.
The Red Sea Urchin was a pasta dish. It said on the menu that it’s taglierini tossed in a sea urchin sauce. I was a little disappointed when there’s only one piece of red sea urchin to top the dish (which was hard to split in two as it just mushed when you exert pressure on it with a knife). Then there wasn’t anything special about the pasta. The sauce reminded me of nothing like sea urchin. You could tell me it’s a pasta tossed in a thick cheese sauce and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (maybe it’s my palete that can’t tell it apart, but I always think I can do better than that). I was thinking $16.50 for that was a little bit pricey.
To end the meal we received complimentary Sponge Cake. We would’ve ordered dessert (at least I would, since I wasn’t quite full by the end of it) but my friend had to leave so we went for the cheap route and just had the sponge cake.
I was quite happy with the service. While the server gave us plenty of time to decide on the menu, she was swamped with other customers. Therefore she sent another person to take our order and answer any questions that we might have. I like that, because it made sure we didn’t feel left out.
On the other hand, this temporary substitute was an interesting character. He’s quite opinionated when it comes to the Seafood Tower – what we originally wanted to order. I won’t go into details, but he basically said enough to turn us off, made us second-guess our choice, and we eventually ordered something else.
After visiting the restaurant, I had a few thoughts about its marketing. So it’s called Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar. While I think the seafood route makes perfect sense, along with raw oysters and chilled seafood, I’m not sure if it should go as far as sushi/sashimi. I honestly have had fresh, good quality sashimi for a cheaper price at Japanese restaurants (have to say, sablefish is new to me but you can get the rest at any Japanese restaurant). The Japanese addition to the menu blurs the positioning of the restaurant. As a customer, if I want Japanese food, I’m 100% certain that Blue Water Cafe is not my first choice. If I want good seafood dishes, I wouldn’t come here either (I actually found their seafood offering rather ordinary and it’s way over-priced). While I was there I did see customers who simply ordered a couple of sushi dishes for dinner – probably because there were no good Japanese restaurants in the area. But now that Hapa Izakaya and Guu are in the Yaletown scene, would this all change? Is this still a good market positioning for them? This makes me ponder…
Without the $50 gift certificate, this dinner would have cost us close to $100 plus tax and tips. And I wasn’t even completely full and satisfied. I like the presentation of the dishes, but I don’t think the flavouring was quite on par. I’m not sure if it’s really worth the price.
Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton Street, Vancouver