The Fish Counter (3825 Main St., Vancouver, 604-876-FISH ) is the latest endeavour from celebrated Canadian Chef Robert Clark, with business partner Mike McDermid, long time fisheries expert, marine biologist and former program manager at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Clark and McDermid’s combined talents add up to a wealth of experience. Clark was the trailblazing chef behind the success of C Restaurant and Raincity Grill, as well as being at the fore of a series of dynamic sustainable seafood initiatives. The two co-founded the aquarium’s Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program, arguably the most successful program of its kind anywhere, now with over 3000 participants across the continent.
Saturday was the Fish Counter’s opening day. To say they were rushed off their feet would be an understatement. When I arrived around 5 pm, they looked just a tad shell-shocked. And things were still hopping, so much so that Organic Ocean’s Steve Johansen (who’s one of their key suppliers) was helping out on the cash.
A couple of years in the making, the Fish Counter is part sustainable fishmonger, part no-nonsense diner, all in a purpose built space that combines retail seafood sales and ready to eat items with a pretty snappy open kitchen, with some stools and a few tables.
Clark and McDermid will be walking the talk, pushing the Fish Counter’s sustainable seafood philosophy. It’s Ocean Wise, of course. They’ll serve only fish or shellfish that’s available in season, and—obviously—avoid anything that’s not sustainable, such as tiger prawns and the like. All of the Fish Counter’s seafood is clearly marked with its origin and correct species description. And several items are Tru-ID, under the voluntary DNA-based certification of origin program, in which Organic Ocean participates.
Given the interest from day one, I think the attention the Fish Counter is getting underscores the need for more serious seafood stores, which are few and far between in Vancouver. With the exception of say Thrifty’s and Seven Seas, the general state of seafood retailing in Vancouver is pretty abysmal, considering seafood is such a huge part of our culinary culture and heritage. Not to mention the need to educate consumers about sustainable issues, where the lead has been firmly taken by the chefs’ community, led by Clark and others. Expect this place to become the vortex of the sustainable seafood movement in Vancouver.
If I hadn’t have already made dinner plans I would have grabbed an order of Ling cod ‘n chips or fish tacos, for sure. Next time…