This is my Dad, Brock.  Such a handsome guy, I know.  And will you look at that fish!  He caught it with his bare hands, I swear.

This weekend I invited my Dad to join me in Richmond for Father’s Day.  After 27 years, I can finally say “Pa, put on your finest.  I’m taking YOU out for dinner.”

Yesterday afternoon he flew into YVR, and we headed to the Sandman Signature Hotel.  They graciously offered to host us for the weekend, and we could not be enjoying our stay more.

My Dad possesses both an epic name – Brock Laidlaw Anderson – as well as a host of other incredible qualities.  He’s the most patient, kind, and generous father I could have asked for, and I still marvel over how he endured me between the years 1997 and 2003.  Ahhh, teenagers.

My Dad used to take my brother, sister, and I camping a lot.  For years we made an annual trek to Carp Lake, a vast and ruggedly beautiful expanse of freshwater two hours north of Prince George.  We hauled everything by boat to a long and densely forested island, and setup our camp at one end of it.  There, amongst the mosquitos, loons, and jumping fish, we’d live for five glorious days.

This is where we learned to catch and clean trout, nail ling-cod to trees (an infamous story), and brave the cold, refreshing waters of a northern BC lake.  It’s also where I developed an appreciation for good fish.  In deciding where to take my Dad for our first meal, I felt we should take advantage of all the fresh seafood on offer in Steveston, particularly locally-caught spot prawns.  Their season ended yesterday!  Made it just in time.

We chose Blue Canoe, a restaurant that graced the lists of many who wrote me to recommend their favourite places in Richmond.  I’m pleased to say it lived up to the hype.

As a canoe should, Blue Canoe sits right on the water.  We arrived at 8pm and the restaurant was buzzing, its patio filled with people enjoying the clear, still evening.

The menu is focused mainly on seasonal seafood, some of which comes from the east coast with the rest caught locally.  There are shared plates, casual mains, entrees, a selection of oysters, and an extensive wine list.  The seafood is all certified by Oceanwise, a pioneering program in sustainability developed by the Vancouver Aquarium.  We were told that our spot prawns were caught by Frank of Organic Ocean, and felt satisfied to be participating in such a personably short food chain.

We started with the tuna ceviche ($13.99), which was marinated in coconut milk, lime, cilantro, and red onion, and served with diced avocado and crispy plantain chips.  From a cocktail glass rimmed with chili and paprika salt, we scooped spoonfuls of tangy, cool, and creamy tuna.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it being served in a cocktail glass, but that really doesn’t matter.  I’d eat this every day during the summer if I could.

We then moved onto our seven hefty spot prawns ($28).  This was the first time either of us had tried them, and we received a prawn education from Dana, our server, right on the spot (pun intended).

She told us they have to be cooked fresh (as in, so fresh they’re still kicking), or else they become poisonous.  She also gave us some helpful tips on how to eat them:

1)   Get messy.  There’s no dainty way to eat a spot prawn.

2)   Rip off its head, suck out the juices, and discard.

3)   Crack the shell open at its belly and peel back to reveal the sweet, meaty flesh.

4)   Eat and repeat.

My Dad and I followed these instructions faithfully (particularly #1), and loved every last bite.  I was also quite pleased with the bed of sautéed zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, and spinach that the prawns were served on.  Even if they’re bathed in garlicky butter, my body’s still happy to get fresh vegetables when it can.

Our third plate was the Arctic Char ($22.99), with a crispy yam and smoked paprika crust, smoky tomato salsa, roasted purple potatoes, and vegetables.  Char is a delicate fish with light pink flesh; my Dad usually catches a few char each year, and knows how easily they can dry out.  He was therefore impressed to discover our char was perfectly cooked.  Moist and offset by its smoky, crunchy crust, it brought back memories of eating freshly-caught trout next to a campfire.

My Dad treated us to a bottle of Blue Oyster Pinot Noir ($60), which was light and paired nicely with our dishes.  We sat for a long time after our meal was over, sipping wine and enjoying the view.  Though the food is higher-end, the atmosphere of the Blue Canoe is casual, and you can tell it’s a place where the locals come to hang out regularly.  The patio is the place to be in the summertime, but their indoor dining room looked cozy and inviting.  I’d be happy to sidle up to the fireplace there on a cold, wintery day.

Our three plate dinner came to around $80, and with wine totalled $139.98.  I’d recommend this restaurant both for special occasion multi-course dinners, as well as more casual evenings with just a glass of wine and a few shared plates.

A view of the water, wine, and seafood.  What could be more British Columbian?  Thanks for a deliciously relaxing evening, Blue Canoe.