I’ve often lamented the weird lack of waterfront restaurants in Vancouver. I mean, with 22km of seawall available to us, it seems a little odd that we don’t much beyond same-same chain restaurants and deep-fried, pirate-themed pubs. Surely we can do better, because we have before. Between 1997 and 2014, Harry Kambolis’ iconic “C” Restaurant was one of the few stand-outs.
“C” was a pillar of Vancouver’s food scene, what Beppi Crosariol of the Globe & Mail once called “a temple to sustainable seafood”. Ocean Wise was born in its tight, labyrinthine little kitchen — 500 sqft that was incidentally also, at one point or another, home to the knife skills of Robert Clark (now The Fish Counter); Quang Dang (now West); Lee Humphries (now The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl); and a great many others. I’d likely break my semi-colon key if I attempted to count the number of stellar front of house staffers it boasted over the years.
I heard tell that standards slipped in the end, but there’s no denying the fact that “C” was, for several years, neck and neck with Blue Water Cafe for Best Seafood garlands, not to mention an exemplar of what a waterfront restaurant could be.
Several months ago I was relieved to learn that the space had been picked up by Viaggio, the hospitality group that owns Cibo, Uva, and the recently unveiled Beach Bay Cafe (previously Raincity Grill, also a Kambolis joint). For a while there – given the trends – I was honestly worried that it might end up as yet another nacho and wing-heavy Ye Olde Fish & Chip Shoppe with Bud Light Lime on their “Craft Beer” list.
What’s coming instead is a bright, modern, 100 seat fine dining restaurant focusing on Peruvian flavours and traditions expressed with West Coast sustainable seafoods. The chef is Ricardo Valverde (above right), a Peruvian who worked his way up the ranks to become the chef de cuisine at Blue Water Cafe. His goal is to give Vancouver a taste of the delicious, punchy, flavour-first things happening in Lima, which is currently one of the most exciting and innovative food cities in the world. Think Panca (smoky peruvian pepper) glazed sablefish with baba ganoush, puffed quinoa and fennel slaw, grilled Osooyos peach salsa; tuna ceviche with mango, coconut milk and seaweed in a tamarind leche de tigre (tiger’s milk); and land-raised Kuterra salmon grilled with truffled gnocci, fire morels, braised cabbage and maple bacon vinaigrette.
The name? Ancora.
Joining Valverde in the kitchen is fellow Blue Water alum Yoshi Tabo, who is a bone fide sushi master – really on of the very best in town. (In addition to Yoshi’s raw bar, there will be some four or five types of ceviche on off, including a vegetarian option.) To say that I’m excited to try the food is a gross understatement.
Heading the front of house at Ancora is Andrea Vescovi (top left), who spent over a decade managing Blue Water Cafe and its wine program. He and Valverde used to joke about opening a Peruvian restaurant together, and both are thrilled that it’s actually going to happen.
Though the layout is similar to what you might remember from “C”, Ancora is already showing major differences, including the raw bar, a new wine cellar on the second floor, and a juliette balcony deuce that – even though it wasn’t purpose-built as such – will nevertheless see a marriage proposal or two.
They hosted a Job Fair at the restaurant over the weekend. They’re hiring for all positions, from foodrunners and hosts/hostesses to cooks and dishwashers. Servers are “required to have a minimum of 2 years fine dining experience, with a good understanding of food, wine, spirits and passion for hospitality”, so they obviously mean business! To apply, send your resume and cover letter to andreav [at] viaggiohospitality.com.
Opening day is set for the first week of August, which means we’ll be able to take advantage of the 50 seat waterfront patio immediately. We hope to have more on this – including menus – over the next few weeks. In the meantime, take a look inside…