Ceviche Smackdown!


The lounge was rammed at the Drake Hotel last night for the Sustainable Ceviche Smackdown edition of 86'd. Who knew the public was hankering so hard for fish cooked in citric acid? Maybe a group of chefs from some of the city's top restaurants whipping up this Latin favourite had something to do with it.

Joining hostess with the mostest Ivy Knight were cooking teams from Amuse Bouche, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, Cowbell, Trios Bistro, Harbord Room, C5, Pangaea and Wine Bar. The event was in support of Ocean Wise Canada, a "Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help restaurants and their customers make environmentally friendly seafood choices". With the earth fighting back with disease, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, it seems a good idea to me to do what we can to reduce harm. Baby steps. Also contributing to the evening was Niagara winery Château des Charmes, who donated proceeds from the sales of their wines to Ocean Wise. I did my part with a couple of glasses of their Gamay Noir.

I arrived a bit too late (after a fruitless search for a VOIP handset), so was only able to sample 3 items. My lateness wasn't the only reason for my limited sampling. Tragically, my childhood allergy to crustaceans, the tastiest creatures of the sea, came back with a vengeance a few years ago, and there were many items featuring shrimp or crab. Le sigh. I miss you crustaceans...

I grabbed small bites of Cowbell's scallop and the Harbord Room's monkfishPort Hardy Halibut, as well as the scallop dish in the spoon. I got that one from a roving waiter, so I'm not sure who's kitchen that came out of, but it was a slightly sweet scallop ceviche with some kind of fruit salsa. The monkfish was pretty good, but I think needed a touch more time in the lemon marinade. The pieces I had later on were more evenly "cooked". The flavour of the fish was quite strong in that one, but I may have missed something having the dish without the crab intended to go with it. I imagine the sweetness of a shellfish would have balanced out the taste of the monkfish and the acidity of the lemon juice. For me, the star on my plate was the scallop from Cowbell. The fish was perfectly done, and the garnish, which looked to be an aoili of some kind, was delicious and sat atop two still just crisp asparagus spears. The flavour of this offering was dynamite - rich, sweet and tart, green, and with a touch of heat from, I believe, chilies.

I had a terrific time at this latest 86'd, and it was great to see such support for Ocean Wise and for Ivy's weekly night at the Drake. To find out more about the participating restaurants, here's a list of links. Don't forget to read more about Ocean Wise on their About page too.

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