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Jul 20, 2010 11:49 AM

Any feedback on seafood tower at Blue Water Cafe?

Berkeley Chowhound spending a week in Vancouver with 1 year old - so no strict itinerary - just some things we would ideally like to get to. Staying in a condo with kitchen so probably eat half our meal in.

One of those things we thought would be fun would be to splurge on the seafood tower called "Blue Water Cafe Tower" at Blue Water Cafe - but I would love to hear any feedback on this and if it is worth making a point to go have.

Planning on Bishop's for special dinner out for the one night we have babysitters.

Other food places on our list of potential spots:
Granville Public Market

Potential lunch places:
Go Fish
Guu Garden or Guu with Garlic

Potential dinner places:
Rangoli (takeout)
Zakkushis on Denman
Peaceful Restaurant (maybe takeout)

Ofcourse any advice is much appreciate on our list of other places...

871 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G2L9, CA

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  1. This is the only tower-specific feedback I could find (scroll down for a thumbs down from a contributor and a thumbs up from the OP) but I did notice that the oysters seem to be universally admired in this and other threads FWIW. I've only been once and even eating for free (it was a work dinner) I was not hugely impressed. It seemed kinda corporate to me, like an upscale CFD (Cactus Club etc). Everything was tasty but overpriced for what it was, and not super imaginative considering the premium you are paying.

    I will be most interested to hear your take on Bishop's since you are coming from the cradle of locavore eating :-).

    The rest of your list looks solid, though I find Salt to be overpriced for what it is (prepare to pay $40 for lunch and a tasting flight and still be hungry -- if this is your first trip to Vancouver you are going to be horrified by the wine prices). Also the Guus are not as good for lunch (I would say all of the izakaya are better at night)

    6 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      I've had much different experiences with Blue Water. To say Cactus Club in the same sentence as Blue Water is blasphemy! I've never had the Seafood Tower there, but it does look amazing. Be prepared to shell out big coin at Blue Water. In my opinion, it is completely worth it.

      Bishop's and Rangoli are also great choices.

      Salt is more of a snack place than a meal but it's a great spot. Definitely do Go Fish but be prepared for a long line up. I'd pass on's good but not something I'd say is a must do in Vancouver.

      1. re: waylman

        Go Fish is excellent. Seeing as you have no specific itinerary, just go in off peak hours and you won't have a very long wait. I went around 3 and waited 10 minutes for food.

        1. re: waylman

          My impression is that folks that are unimpressed with BWC deviate from the raw bar and sushi. The tower thus seems like the perfect alternative since it is only raw bar and sushi. Fully understand that a $138 seafood tower would need to feed 10 for it to be considered a "good value" - but willing to pay for the fun, presentation, and celebratory nature of it.

          Also know Salt is more of a overpriced snack but also seemed fun - a few overpriced but fun eating venues and then hopefully some that are more "value" oriented.

          Any specific Rangoli suggestions?

          1. re: A Amore

            I agree with what you just said about BWC. I think as long as you know the price and that you may not find the value, you'll be ok. I don't think you'll find anything wrong with the raw bar or sushi other than the price.

            I'd pass on Refuel. That's just my opinion but look at reviews on other sites...

        2. re: grayelf

          I appreciate the heads up on the Guus - I did not realize the menus would be different for lunch. Just hoping to get some izakaya (just now blooming in the San Francisco area) at time that my 1 year old would handle too - maybe just show-up at 5:30 and then back to put the little one to bed?

          838 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA

          1. re: A Amore

            kingyo does a lunch menu now as well and it is just as impressive as their dinner. Go early though they have really limited quantities of their specials.

        3. I wouldn't recommend Salt for a 1 year old. It's a pretty small space and might not be comfortable (also not sure you could get a high chair).

          If you go to Granville Island there is a great water park as well (next to the Community center) which our toddler loves.

          And I always make this recommendation but if you plan to spend a day at Stanley Park I highly recommend the Fish House for a nicer casual lunch or early dinner. And they are very kid-friendly. It's not the hippest or most unusual place in Vancouver but it's a solid pick and the setting is lovely.

          16 Replies
          1. re: islandgirl

            I've heard good things about the seafood tower at Coast - in fact, the couple of meals I've had there have been excellent. Worth taking a look at, IMHO

            1. re: Quattrociocchi

              The Coast seafood tower appears comparable in both what it includes and the price - would you say Coast is better or nicer than BWC?

            2. re: islandgirl

              I appreciate the kid-friendly advise - sounds like Salt might be out for the benefit of both us and the other clientèle.
              Yes - I am sure we will spend at least 1 day at Stanley Park - we originally had Fish House on the list - but then thought it seemed blah - but as you said a solid pick in a nice setting can be fit the situation more times than not.

              1. re: A Amore

                Guu @ 5:30 might work but if they turn the music up........

                In the end Guu is a bar with food-although the new Nelson St location is apparently somewhat more restaurant-like-but the reviews are so/so.

                838 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA

                1. re: Sam Salmon

                  Maybe just best to pass on the Guus - and look for another Chinese option (in addition to Peaceful - although I forgot how that got on my list) or Malasian - I heard the West End has a good Malasian place.

                  838 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA

                  1. re: A Amore

                    Re BWC, I have spoken to others who found it a bit generic (food and ambiance) but as is often repeated here, it's a subjective thing. I found nothing to object to in the food we had (even though the beef sashimi was really tataki). The raw bar offerings we tried were tasty but did not seem better than similar items we could get elsewhere for less. And it was really loud. But the towers going by did look pretty spectacular and festive for a special occasion.

                    FWIW I think Guu with Garlic would be a good choice with the peeper if you can go right at 5:30. The very fact that it is a bit boisterous should work in your favour, and it is very casual. They also have outdoor seating off Robson IIRC which could work well if you are there on a warm day. You could try it and Zakkushi the same night, if the small person is up to it, as they are quite close.

                    Peaceful is one of my go-to places in town because it is nicely central for me and serves some tasty food. The menu is large and ambitious so some things are better than others -- lots of writeups here and easy to search on if you want to remember why you picked it :-).

                    You are probably thinking of Banana Leaf on Denman. It's probably the best outpost of this local chainlet but it's very hot and cramped, and I don't think the food is all that for the price. I'm not sure we have any really outstanding Malaysian here (more like restaurants that have certain items they do well) but the closest I've come lately is Seri Malaysia which is way out of downtown and a little eccentric.

                    I like the Fish House for the reasons islandgirl stated, and you can have a very tasty dinner if you stick to things that used to breath underwater, simply prepared. I almost always have sablefish and I've yet to be disappointed by my main. Desserts are a bit eh. Again, not a cheap option.

                    Refuel is an interesting conundrum to me. I like their menu, the space is pretty cool (and close to home for me which is a bonus) but like its sister resto, it seems to suffer from inconsistency. I haven't hit it on a bad day but many others have (and I have hit Campagnolo when it was off). Refuel certainly has its supporters here though and it is in a nice area near the beach -- not far from Bishop's actually.

                    The water park is great at GIsle as mentioned, either before or after Go Fish, but there are lots of bigger kids there (also a water slide). My niece who's two is a bit intimidated there. We just take her to the Kids Only Market next door and all is forgiven :-). Generally a great zone for the small 'uns, and of course lots of tasty tidbits to take away for the grown ups, though no really stellar restos on the Island or in the food courts that I can think of. Edible BC is a good spot to pick up presents, though you'll pay a premium for convenience. I seem to be obsessed with pricing today, don't I?

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Thanks - great feedback - really helpful.
                      Looking forward to compare and contrast Bishop's with Chez Panisse.

                      If there is similar quality raw bar for less, who is it? would be happy to cancel my BWC reservation, if it makes more sense to go somewhere else. I did not find any other place with the seafood tower equivalent.

                      1. re: A Amore

                        If you are doing a beach day in Kitsilano I'd recommend Rocky Mountain Flat Bread -- great for lunch or dinner. Local ingredients, interesting pizza, local beer and very kid friendly. I've take my nine-month old a couple of times and he loves it -- especially watching the wood burning pizza oven.

                        Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co Ltd
                        1876 1st Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6J1G5, CA

                        1. re: A Amore

                          You're welcome. I've yet to make it to Berkeley in my peregrinations to SF -- maybe in October.

                          The only other tower I've heard of is the Coast one to which quattrociocchi refers above. Perhaps a bit more Googling would yield some comparisons?

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Joe Forte's has a tower too. Never tried it though.

                            1. re: ck1234

                              OK - I found out a little more about the seafood tower at Coast:
                              $29/pp - 2 person minimum
                              1/2 lobster, prawn cocktail, Alaskan king crab leg, 1/2 Dungeness crab, honey mussels, salmon sashimi, spicy tuna roll, fresh shucked oysters.
                              And greyelf, thanks for spelling my name correctly!! 14 loooong letters...

                              1. re: Quattrociocchi

                                Nice reportage, Quattro (now that I spelled it right once, I can get away with shortening it, I'm hoping... but I fear you have changed this elf's handle a bit!).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  So, I looked it up yesterday too.
                                  My question is for 29/pp does each person get 1/2 lobster, prawn cocktail, Alaskan king crab leg, 1/2 Dungeness crab, honey mussels, salmon sashimi, spicy tuna roll, fresh shucked oysters - or is that the portion for 2? If it is for two them it turns out to be a similar price and content to the BWC tower, if it is that each person gets that then it would be half the price for the same amount of raw bar food.

                                  Any thoughts?

                                  1. re: A Amore

                                    it is a portion between two. I think it is insane to compare Coast to BLWC. One is a glowbal group restaurant whose main allure is to see and be seen, whereas Frank Pabst at Bluewater has won chef of the year several years running..? It would be akin to trying to compare going to Earl's or DB for a burger.....both restaurants will HAVE them it just depends on how you'd like to spend your money!

                                    1. re: yuyu

                                      Agreed. BLWC blows Coast out of the water!

                      2. re: A Amore

                        DO NOT.. I repeat DO NOT pass on Guu! I would recomend the original Guu as opposed to Guu with Garlic.. Both Fantastic I just liked Guu a little better. Mind you it was later on a Sat night and we walked in to Wu Tang bumpin their speakers. First and only time I have heard the Wu in a resto.. Then had the best Japanses meal in my life! Needless to say an awesome dining experience!

                2. I've had the seafood tower at BW a number of times - none on my own coin. It is very good and very fresh. I have also eaten the cooked fish there - once again, good and fresh. If I was spending my own money there, I usually choose to eat at the raw bar to have sushi.

                  I think BW's pricing has crossed over the "splurge" line and with that comes the overall question of "value." You can probably get fish as fresh at a few other places in town for less money. Also, their preparations, while well executed, tend to be quite minimal and perhaps not that innovative ( - though they do have some Asian-inspired dishes there that are subtly innovative). Still - I'm a big fan...especially of the sushi...and if you are into wine and will be hard-pressed to find a bigger list in town.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: fmed

                    Too late for the OP, but I just read that Cork and Fin is doing seafood towers for $55 with prawns, clams, mussels, oysters and crab legs. So that's C&F, Blue Water, Coast and Joe Fortes we've found...

                    1. re: grayelf

                      The Sandbar is offering a tower (prawns, oysters, mussels, crab, lobster) for four people for $75. Also a smaller option called the Barge for 2 people offering prawns oysters and crab for $29. No idea what the quality is but one to add to the list.

                      1. re: islandgirl

                        the sandbar tower based on my experience from over 5 years ago as well as from dining there last summer would trail behind Blue Water version.
                        sandbar to me, has always been more of a tourist destination than a culinary experience. nice heated patio. but the food is ...bland for my preference.
                        the SB tower consist of largely cold boiled seafood serve with cocktail sauce. very little taste and the texture was underwhelming. i havent heard the food being better recently.

                    1. re: A Amore

                      good call on skipping the BW tower. i have had it several times as well. once with folks from the head office, so pretty sure it was done as best as it could be done. that night in particular the tower was impressive and beautiful.

                      but as fmed suggested, i too would never spend my own coin on any seafood towers. none in the city are worth it. to be honest, i love seafood. i prefer mine freshly cooked. towers generally have items that are pre-cooked. sometimes from the day before. there are very few quality chefs that would think that seafood towers are worth the money. but the attraction is obvious. as you get a nice sampling to share with others. btw, sandbar also has a seafood tower. which is also as un-inspiring as JF and Coast. never been to C&F.

                      imho, seafood towers in this city are not CH worthy. i add that this city lacks a truly great seafood resto despite all the great source of ingredients and resources.

                      1. re: betterthanbourdain

                        "i add that this city lacks a truly great seafood resto despite all the great source of ingredients and resources."

                        Hear, hear! I cringe every time I see a visitor's post asking where the good seafood is, because there isn't one resto here that I have tried that does seafood really well. They always manage to overcook either the salmon or the bivalves, or they fancy everything up too much (if it's fresh from the ocean, it should speak for itself).

                        The closest I have found to the long-gone Jonathan's on GIsle (fresh seafood done to a turn without fuss and without charging three arms and a leg) is Fishworks on Lonsdale. Now, I've only been once, it wasn't perfect and you have to drive to North Van but I'm cautiously optimistic. Will post a report soon.

                        Mostly when people are looking for seafood I point them at Asian options...

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Yes - I was really pleased with buying the live seafood at Mr Lobsterman and cooking it back at the condo. Made getting a condo vs a hotel room worth it just for that. 5 of us ate until we were stuffed for $90.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            hence my new business venture. a seafood shack. best seafood, cook well and reasonable prices.

                            1. re: betterthanbourdain

                              Don't tease, btb. But you could totally rock that business.