There’s something instantly and incredibly relaxing about sitting on a waterfront patio, shaded by a big umbrella, watching golden specks of sunlight dance off the ocean while a warm breeze brushes your shoulders and you sip something chilled and spiked. North Vancouver’s new Pier 7 restaurant + bar is one spot where you can indulge in such an experience.
Situated adjacent to Lonsdale Quay and directly across from Canada Place, the restaurant offers sweeping, striking vistas. Only jaw-droppingly huge yachts (is that really a private helicopter wrapped up in what looks like a giant tensor bandage on the Medusa?) and what must be the largest tugboats in existence occasionally block the spectacle of Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge.
If only the food were as wonderful as the view.
Owned by the folks behind the nearby Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier, Pier 7 has that winning factor of location, location, location. It occupies a stand-alone building that’s architecturally unique with glass and metal jutting out from its curved exterior, bringing to mind the king-of-the-world-type cruise ships you can watch sail by. The restaurant sits at the tip of the historic Shipbuilders Plaza, where North Shore Green Markets holds a lively Friday-night market well worth checking out. One day this waterfront stretch will be the False Creek of North Van.
That the restaurant’s aesthetics trump the eats is especially disappointing given that the restaurant and the kitchen are headed by Dino Renaerts. His résumé includes executive chef stints at West Vancouver’s Fraîche, where he was also a partner, and Diva at the Met, plus positions at Le Gavroche and Bistro Pastis, among other spots.
Some of the dishes are delicious. The seared albacore tuna tataki, topped with pretty pieces of pink grapefruit, looks elegant and tastes just as fine. Every last drop of the chili, lime, and tomato-butter broth that accompanies the Salt Spring Island honey mussels got mopped up with fresh bread. And the Qualicum Bay scallops proved to be the standout main, the meaty shellfish snuggled into a bed of side-stripe shrimp risotto.
The rest of our picks, however, underwhelmed. Granted, the four of us visited shortly after its opening, but in Metro Vancouver’s highly competitive restaurant industry, early days can hardly be used as an excuse.
The lobster mac ’n’ cheese is yummy indeed (really, how can you go wrong with the luscious crustacean bundled up in cheese and butter?), but it was served scalding hot. The plate itself felt like it was about 300 degrees, a sure sign it sat under the heat lamp for too long waiting for the other starters to be ready. (The waiter said he was pretty certain he didn’t have any fingerprints left.)
The calamari also suffered from poor timing, having been dunked excessively in the deep fryer. It didn’t help that the dish had zero presentation, just a side of serrano pepper–suffused XO sauce; no garnish, nothing to lift the look of the overly dark brown, tough rings. The Pier 7 chowder, with its tomato-Pernod broth, earned a comparison to—gasp!—supermarket stuff. The dry-rubbed, grilled ahi tuna was slightly overcooked.
On a subsequent solo, late-afternoon visit, a small caesar salad (emphasis on small—six slender baby romaine hearts, to be exact) started off promisingly with a hit of fresh anchovies, but the crisp greens needed a tidge more garlic and lemon. And although I appreciated the waiter making a fresh pot of coffee afterward, 12 minutes is too long to wait for a $4 cup. Service is otherwise efficient and enthusiastic.
One quibble with the menu: nachos should never cost $20, even if they do come with shrimp and spice-rubbed tuna.
By contrast, the wine list “vision” appeals: “primarily wines that go with seafood and fish; family run wineries; patio sippers that are lovely to quaff; an emphasis on eco-conscious wine”, the menu says.
Our foursome considered something sweet to finish—choices include roasted pineapple with piña colada sorbet and a chocolate plate with cake, gelato, and cheesecake—but, uninspired, we decided to have dessert (and more wine) at home.
Dinner for four, with a round of cocktails and a bottle of wine, came to $250 before tax and tip. We’d go back—for the view.