Blue Water Cafe: Succulent Scallops, Silky Toro and a Worm
1095 Hamilton Street, Yaletown, Vancouver
I’ve always wanted to eat at Blue Water Cafe on the corner of Hamilton and Helmcken in Yaletown so we finally visited over the holidays. The experience was good and bad. Blue Water Cafe is famous for their fresh oysters as well as their sushi bar and cooked seafood. The ambiance is lively yet intimate and the dining room is set up so there is a sushi bar on one side and an open kitchen on the other side.
I loved the creative spreads that came with the bread basket: a chickpea spread and seaweed butter. The chickpea spread was slightly sweet, moist and mild in taste. The seaweed butter was interesting, the texture was creamy, it was salty and the seaweed gave the butter a very slight earthy, bitter taste.
Since I knew we would be feasting on seafood, I ordered the Blue Mountain Chardonnay, which was clean, crisp and light with slight citrus notes.
I confess that we went a little bit overboard with ordering oysters. I love oysters, and given the opportunity, I can slurp a million of them, ice cold, by the half shell, all slippery and luscious. So we ordered two dozen, six of each type available that night (all BC oysters): marina’s top drawer, beach angel, kusshi and royal miyagi.
The oysters were served to us in an impressive presentation all lined up on ice in a two-tier platter with lemon wedges and sauce. I don’t dress my oyster with anything so I could have done without all that extra stuff, even though the bright yellow lemon wedges looked pretty in the middle of the platter.
First up: marina top drawer, a plump, BC oyster. This was my first taste of marina oysters and I loved it! The meat was soft and silky. It tasted very light, fresh with a very subtle hint of fruity sweetness near the end. It actually went beautifully with the Blue Mountain Chardonnay.
Next up, one of my favourites, the royal miyagi oysters. These ones were skinnier and tinier than I remember from other oyster restaurants but this also might be because I was holding them up to plumper oysters such as the marina and kusshi. Royal miyagi oysters are also from BC and the oyster meat has the same silky smooth texture as the marina. I loved that there was still a little bit of salt water swishing around in the oyster shell adding a hint of briny saltiness to the otherwise delicate oyster, clean and mildly sweet in flavour.
The beach angel oysters were on the plump side and brinier in taste. I loved these ones because even though they were meatier than the other oysters, they were still delicate and smooth in my mouth.
Now onto the kusshi oysters, which are some of my favourite oysters. They are smaller than the other oysters but have a deeper shell, thus yielding tasty, little round oysters with smooth flesh and mild flavour.
I easily gobbled three or four of these before coming to my last one. I dropped the empty shell onto my bread plate along with the rest. Then, I saw it! The small but definitely moving, creepy crawly little worm making its way from the inside of the oyster shell to the outer edge. I’ve caught it on video. Check out our little friend below. Look on the left of the oyster shell, the little worm is crawling up and out of the shell:
Honestly, I was considering just forgetting about the little critter but to be on the safe side, we decided to alert our server. She was pretty freaked out. I actually think she shrieked. When she ran off to show her manager, we questioned why we, ourselves, the diners were so calm. After all, we’ve just finished eating 24 oysters, surely, statistically speaking, we must have consumed a few of those worms.
Within minutes, a smartly dressed older man with a sophisticated French accent walked up to our table, introduced himself as Stefan and shook our hands. He calmly explained that the worm inside the oyster shell was just a harmless sea worm. He sees them all the time, and everything should be fine. I’ll admit that after this meal, I have in fact, actually spent time googling tape worms and other parasites and symptoms. Turns out symptoms take weeks, months and sometimes even years to appear. So if my blog posts abruptly stop some time in the future, we’ll have to blame it on this fateful kusshi oyster that I swallowed. Death by oyster. I can’t think of a better way to go.
I was quite surprised that Stefan didn’t offer to waive the cost of our oysters right then and there.
I was actually way too excited about the Qualicum Bay scallops entree that I ordered to think any further about the sea worm. And the scallops smelled phenomenal when they came to the table. Swimming in a fragrant ginger and citrus sauce and topped with micro greens, I couldn’t wait to dig in!
I love scallops almost as much as I love oysters. And these juicy and succulent scallops were seared to perfection with a slight char on top and soft and tender meat inside. The meat nearly melted in my mouth, warm, buttery and smooth. The citrus sauce was rich from the butter and sweet and tart from the lemon juice.
Buried underneath all the glorious scallops were a couple of wild rice fritters that added a crispy texture to the dish.
The sauteed Chanterelle mushrooms we ordered weren’t memorable at all.
We also ordered the Ahi Tuna. This plate was just as gorgeous and colourful as the scallops. The pink center of the tuna slices played off the pure pale shades of the onion puree and the deep green of the kale on the plate.
I’m not a fan of kale but I’ll admit that it added a leafy heartiness to this dish, bringing out the sweetness in the onion puree. The puree was silky smooth and the perfect delicate compliment to an equally delicate fish like tuna.
The tuna meat was amazing, silky and smooth, each bite was so subtle in sweet flavour that I had to eat slowly to enjoy it.
Our sushi was served last (“we’re having toro for dessert,” joked my dining mate) because our server was so freaked out by the worm in my oyster that she completely forgot to put in our sushi order with the sushi chefs at the bar. No joke. Now do you think I should be concerned about that worm?
Again, I forgot about the worm when our plate of sushi was placed in front of us: the beautiful pink ribbons of toro arranged in lovely little rows on the plate beside the pretty lobster roll.
I ordered the lobster roll because it reminded me of the egg crepe roll I had at Tojo’s. It’s one of Tojo’s signature menu items, a paper thin egg crepe wrapped around filling. Chef Tojo doesn’t use rice or seaweed in his egg crepe roll. He created it for diners allergic to seaweed. The lobster roll at Blue Water Cafe was almost as tasty as Chef Tojo’s. I loved the large chunk of lobster inside the roll, it was tender and moist. The distribution of mango in each piece of roll was uneven though, there were some big sweet and juicy mango cubes in some pieces but others only had a sliver.
The toro was incredible. This was definitely comparable to Tojo’s. The meat was buttery smooth, sliding right off my tongue. I really didn’t even have to chew, the meat just dissolved into a tasty pool of clean and sweet deliciousness in my mouth.
Before the dessert menus were placed before us, we got some complimentary dessert, fruit sorbets. They were cold, sweet and refreshing. Great palate cleansers and a wonderfully light ending to a very full meal. I wasn’t sure if these were served to us to sooth us post-worm incident. The next table seemed to be getting the same treatment.
As we were finishing up our sorbets, a small plate of complimentary Financiers was placed before us. Now, for sure this was to placate us, post-worm incident. Although, you’d think they’d spring for more than just three tiny Financiers. The Financiers were dense, buttery, nutty and delicious though. In retrospect, I realize we could have gotten extremely angry over the worm AND the forgotten sushi but we chose not to let it ruin our night.
When the bill came, we noticed that about $40 was knocked off the bill, which was approximately half the price of the oysters.
All in all, I still had a wonderful time at Blue Water Cafe and as an adventurous and voracious foodie, one worm isn’t going to stop me from eating oysters!