Unsung Heroes Festival puts sustainable, less familiar seafood like jellyfish and red sea cucumber on the menu

Blue Water Café + Raw Bar marks its 15th year of presenting the month-long showcase of underutilized fish

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      There’s more to February than Family Day long weekend and Valentine’s Day. In Vancouver, it’s also the annual Unsung Heroes Festival.

      This year marks the 15th anniversary of the month-long culinary exploration of unique and sustainable seafood at Blue Water Café + Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton Street).

      The purpose is to turn people’s attention – and taste buds – away from species that are overfished or harvested in ways that can damage marine environments and toward underutilized seafoods like periwinkles, jellyfish, and slipper limpet.

      Blue Water Café was a founding member of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, and executive chef Frank Pabst has earned a reputation for his creative, flavourful takes on so many types of fish that are largely unfamiliar to local diners.

      Launching on Friday (February 1), this year’s menu consists of dishes that are meant to be shared family-style, with optional wine or sake pairings.

      Here’s what’s cooking:

      - Carp roe “bombolini”, which are savoury doughnuts filled with carp-roe cream

      - Red sea cucumber “carbonara” with guanciale, garlic, black pepper, and pecorino over squid ink fettuccine

      - Octopus “croquetas” with chorizo, green garbanzo-jalapeno hummus, and lemon aioli

      - Sturgeon-liver “pate” with pickled vegetables, marinated mushrooms, mustard seeds, and grilled bread

      - Grey mullet bottarga “Negitoro Pizza”, featuring cured and dried mullet roe grated over chopped albacore and crispy sushi rice

      - Sea urchin “Quiche”, which consists of leeks, fennel, wakame seaweed, and sea-urchin custard in a flaky pie crust

      - Mackerel “avocado toast”: a grilled mackerel steak lightly smoked over applewood with bergamot dashi

      - Jellyfish “waffle”: A Korean pajeon waffle with green onion, peppers, and kimchi, topped with jellyfish

      Unsung Heroes runs until February 28. More details are at Blue Water Cafe.