*By: Jennifer Steele*
Being a huge lover of seafood my whole life, I’ve always been interested in learning more about sustainability and making better choices while dining out. But it’s not always easy to make informed decisions as a consumer so I was really excited when I heard about the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise conservation program. The initiative essentially gives restaurants the most current scientific information to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions. In turn, once they’ve determined the seafood items they want to feature on their menus, an Ocean Wise symbol is placed beside the dishes so diners – like me – know they are sustainably-sourced…
To see the program in action, I was recently hosted by the Vancouver Aquarium for a night filled with sustainably-sourced seafood. We made our way around five Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) restaurants in Toronto and tasted many dishes that were deemed Ocean Wise by the aquarium. How do they determine what is Ocean Wise? Four criteria are considered (such as abundance and the impact of harvesting on other species, the habitat and ecosystem) before the symbol is granted. For those of you interested in specifics, you can read more here. Now on to the food we tasted…
Our first stop of the evening was at E11even restaurant. Here we met the culinary director for MLSE, Chris Zielinski, and drooled over a selection of mouthwatering Canadian east coast & west coast oysters. Beautifully presented on silver platters, they were so fresh and tasted as though they were just plucked from the ocean seconds before.
We then moved throughout the property to check out the other four restaurants, all accessible by walking inside the connecting corridors. When we arrived at Real Sports Bar & Grill, we sampled the delicious Humboldt Calamari Fries with house tzatziki, served to us in cute little takeaway cartons with a garnish and house beer.
Next, we made our way to the Platinum Club to experience their fine dining restaurant. They served up my personal favourite dish of the evening: Selva Shrimp Ravioli and Seared Itsumo Tuna.
At the Hot Stove Club, we warmed up with the Clam Chowder and Kolapore Springs Trout Amandine. The Trout came with a burnt lemon butter sauce with macron almonds – an absolutely unique and memorable taste. I would never expect this combination in a sauce, but I was very impressed and would definitely return to order it again.
We finished our evening of gluttony at a beautiful high top table with a spread of Northern Divine sturgeon caviar, blinis, pickled pearl onions and watercress. All crafted so carefully, it was art on a plate to say the least.
And no meal is complete without a dessert platter. I sampled each one of course!
It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this event and to learn about how we can all enjoy great food and fun nights out while still being responsible and considerate of the sustainable food movement. I know I’ll be more aware and keeping my eyes peeled for the Ocean Wise symbol on menus across the city.