The decor at Coquille Fine Seafood, a sophisticated new fish house in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood, immediately sets a theatrical, oceanic tone. Working with a long, narrow 4,000-square foot-space, SITU Design’s David Hepworth fully embraced aquatic motifs: navy slate scales line the walls while cream marble ones glitter underfoot, scalloped plush banquettes are upholstered in the same strawberry hue as the Little Mermaid’s hair, and menus gleam with gilt branding by Glasfurd and Walker (Botanist, Mak N Ming, Osteria Savio Volpe). Its golden accents, however, are not what make Coquille’s menu a treasure, but rather, its surprising and excellent array of well-prepared fish.
“We wanted to be very casual but do things not everybody is doing,” says chef Jack Chen, who oversees both the kitchen of sister restaurant L’Abattoir and that of Coquille, alongside chef Lee Cooper. “I did my research before opening this restaurant—I went travelling, went down to Seattle, did all the Pacific Northwest seafood restaurants. Not that they’re boring, but everyone is just kind of doing the same thing,” he says. Chen’s antidote to the monotony comes as a seamless mix of retro French classics gone contemporary and often overlooked species in season (whelks, smelt, skate) sourced fresh.
“We wanted to be very casual but do things not everybody is doing,” says chef Jack Chen.
Here, a riff on the French lobster with vanilla beurre blanc comes in the form of geoduck crudo, the clam’s sweetness enhanced by vanilla and citrus. Perfectly translucent scallops come baked au gratin with cauliflower and cheese sauce, and sea bream ceviche is cooked in “tiger’s milk”—a bright Peruvian sauce made from herbs, citrus, chilis, and the fishes’ own trimmings, blended and strained until it resembles a light cream. Marinated octopus tops a smear of spicy nduja on Terra bakery’s sourdough, and a whole Dungeness crab is blended with cheese and spinach then returned to the vessel of its shell as a tasty dip.
Of course, some things cannot be tampered with—expect welcome standbys like seafood platters, fish burgers, and tuna tataki, too. To pair, L’Abattoir’s restaurant director Lisa Haley sourced two exclusive British Columbian cuvées, bottled and branded as Coquille’s house white (a Sémillon from Okanagan winery Lock and Worth) and red (a young vines Syrah from Nichol Vineyard). Desserts are carefully considered, too—the blood orange soft serve sundae is especially delicious.
Open daily for lunch through to dinner (with a happy hour to boot) Coquille promises to become a focal point of the neighbourhood.
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