1521 West Broadway
$100 for dinner for two with wine, tax and tip
There’s something magical about eating fish and chips on the waterfront – especially if the fish was caught the same day on a boat docked just a few steps away at the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf. And if that halibut (or ling cod or salmon) happens to be fried in beer batter as light and crisp as they make it at Go Fish, well, you can understand why this is one of the most famous outdoor fish shacks from here to San Diego.
Of course, the experience is not quite so pleasant if it’s raining, or you don’t have 20 minutes to line up for lunch. There are the times when the craving for an oyster po’ boy hits late at night, after Go Fish has closed shop. And there are yet other times when you could really use a frosty bottle of lager to wash down your wild salmon tacone.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that the second Go Fish – a licensed, brick-and-mortar, sit-down restaurant – is a truly exciting expansion.
The new restaurant is a long, narrow hole-in-the-wall that will be familiar to some as the old Bin 942. Owner Gord Martin, who also owns Bin 941 on Davie Street, ripped apart his old tapas joint, cleared out the clutter and brightened it up with white paint, pale-wood panelling and lots of funky lighting. (He actually made the flasher-and-lure chandeliers and seaweed-pressed sconces himself.)
Go Fish 2 is not an exact replica of the original. This menu is more ambitious, take-out here is available only until 6:30 p.m., and the prices are a little higher. But the restaurant still offers very good value. Think about it: Isn’t $3 extra for an order of fish and chips a reasonable amount to pay for proper tables, chairs, walls, cutlery and the option of ordering a killer Mexican Caesar made with tequila, pickled chilies and a spicy mole-salt rim?
You’ll still find a few Go Fish favourites – the grilled salmon sandwich with side-stripe shrimp mayo, oyster po’ boy and albacore tuna glazed with sweet chili ponzu on a Portuguese bun among them. Hot and sour coconut Thai chowder, kicked up with ginger, garlic and slivers of Kaffir lime leaf, rivals any of the daily soups down on the wharf.
But the tacos are quite different. Instead of wrapping all that fishy goodness into one large flour tortilla, the new Go Fish stuffs prawn, halibut, crispy slaw and smoky chili sauce into three corn tacos until it all flows over the edges. It’s a dish more authentically Mexican, messy and made for sitting down.
The beer batter for the fish and chips is the recipe that the original Go Fish has always used. Sous chef Matt Christy, who works alongside chef de cuisine Rob Cleland, has manned the fryers down at the waterfront for the past five years. So the fish and chips should taste the same – yet it doesn’t. The batter is cleaner, richer and lacking the big air bubbles that make the False Creek fried fish so delightfully crunchy. Perhaps this is because the new kitchen is further from the water, with less moisture in the air. Or maybe it’s because they make fewer batches during a typical day, allowing it to rest for longer. Whatever the reason, the fish and chips here are exceptionally good, but different. Just saying.
The appetizers are more labour intensive, especially the new Go Fish Picnic, a seafood charcuterie platter that I absolutely adore despite its hits and misses. Tequila-cured sockeye loses some of its succulence because the gravlax is cut too thick and the white fish “boudin blanc” fried in duck fat becomes chewy if not eaten hot, straight out of the pan. But halibut brandade is silky and albacore tuna tataki is topped with a tongue-tingling candied lemon zest. Fry bread has the buoyant, dough-nutty texture, and a selection of flavoured salts (truffle, porcini, citrus and bacon – I think) are so much fun to taste and guess that I honestly think they should serve this plate with a blindfold for date nights.
The mains are classic – at least by Bin standards. BBQ wild B.C. salmon is a moist slab of fatty spring, topped with a creamy white peach and arugula salad and paired with grilled corn cut off the cob, a pinot noir beet reduction, and rich Dungeness crab mashed potatoes. It’s a wonderfully seasonal showcase of our region that combines the perfect blend of sweet, sour, smoke and fruit.
But this wouldn’t be a Gord Martin restaurant if it didn’t offer a few dishes that sound a bit crazy. Take the East West Prawns Diablo, for instance. It comes with a skewer of grilled prawns, which is about as plain Jane as it gets. But then he slides in smears of molé and Indonesian curry sauce, and throws on a dragon fruit Waldorf salad ribboned with threads of Asian pear, jicama and chayote, then crumbles coconut wonton crackers over everything.
Fusion has become a dirty word in the restaurant business, but in Mr. Martin’s hands, the cross-cultural mash-up is a breath of fresh air. Go Fish 2 is familiar but new, casual yet audacious and undeniably fun. I’ve spent many years hoping he would transfer Go Fish indoors. And now that he finally has, it doesn’t disappoint.