annoyed intrigued by people who scoff at the idea of Vancouver becoming a truly “green city.” Maybe it’s just so much an entrenched part of the Canadian psyche: a feeling that progress and innovation always have to come from outside. Much in the same way that nobody used to recognise Canadian talent without prior U.S. or U.K. (or French) success, there’s still some nagging notion that innovation in Vancouver needs outside approval to be valid. Not so.
The latest sign that Vancouver, truly, can be a green leader came with this week’s unveiling of the new and improved RawBar at Fairmont Pacific Rim. I like the Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge. It hops and has a real buzz. But The big news: The RawBar is now 100 percent Ocean Wise. Read: All sustainable. All the time. There have been signs of more intelligent sourcing among some of Vancouver’s sushi restaurants for a while now, with a few offering Ocean Wise options. However, this is the first 100 percent effort. And that in itself is something to be celebrated.
I went to the media launch and had a chance to chat with executive chef Darren Brown, as well as with head sushi chef Takayuki (Taka) Omi. The way Brown sees it, there really is no alternative. Originally from the Sunshine Coast, he returned to Vancouver after working around the world in various positions that ranged from heading up the (not too shabby) galley on Merv Griffin’s yacht to executive chef at Griffin’s Trader Vics in the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel, executive chef at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, and many more high profile postings.
Brown says it was Michelin three-star chef Alain Ducasse who taught him about serious sourcing: “being true to the product, knowing where it comes from, doing the right thing and the least with it.” Ever since he moved back to Vancouver from the east coast (originally to open Glowbal’s Coast Restaurant), Brown has been impressed with the way in which Vancouverites have really supported Ocean Wise. “I knew two years ago we had to do this,” says Brown, who adds that his two little boys also figured large in the decision. “I don’t them want to grow up in a world where our oceans are depleted. I want them to be able to eat fish in 20 years time,” he says.
It’s not easy. Nor is it necessarily a case of simply substituting an Ocean Wise ingredient in lieu of a more commonly accepted, unsustainable seafood. The RawBar chefs have gone the extra mile to develop their new menu, which is the most locally focused sushi list I’ve ever seen. Ingredients range from Lois Lake Steelhead and Northern Divine Caviar to Humboldt squid, Pacific octopus, Humpback prawn, sable fish, Qualicum scallop and more.
If you have a chance, head down there and have a chat with Sushi chef Takayuki (Taka) Omi, who hails originally from Tokyo. He loves nothing more than to talk about the Ocean Wise choices that now abound—as does everyone on the team. (I especially like this line from his bio: “When Taka isn’t rolling and slicing, he takes his talents to the classroom and shares his skills; teaching sushi classes for adults and children with proceeds going to the Red Cross Relief Fund.”)
Yes, it’s true, when it comes to Ocean Wise sushi, some have made a valiant effort. But this high profile and very tasty switch should prove to be the game changer—perhaps enough to kick-start a much wider, even if gradual, sustainable sushi movement. Kudos to Fairmont and to Brown for taking the plunge. Next up: The Ocean Wise Chinese Restaurant Award. Well, we can dream, can’t we?