Oddfish restaurant swims into Kitsilano to help fill the city's casual seafood gap

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      The term oddfish may refer to a strange person, but the only thing odd about Oddfish restaurant had more to do with the city than the establishment itself. The fact that it's one of the few casual seafood-centric eateries in town, despite being a coastal city perched on the Pacific Rim, highlight a peculiarity about our local food scene. Go figure.

      Well, restaurateur Mike Jeffs understands though, that local seafood isn't cheap. Undaunted by that fact, he sought to offer something that filled the chasm between high-end dining and cheap 'n' cheerful fare.

      In an interview at his new place with the Georgia Straight, Jeffs explained that he felt that the local demand for a "democratic" seafood place "where everyone is welcome", where seafood isn't a luxury item, wasn't being met, particularly within certain neighbourhoods. (The limited number of affordable seafood options partly explains why sushi and sashimi—which laid the groundwork for the recent Hawaiian poké craze to flood in so rapidly—is so popular.)

      "It doesn't have to be that fussy and overgilded," he said. "There's a time and place for that but I'm not the guy to do that."

      And so, with a few decades of industry experience to draw upon, he embarked upon creating a new venture offering simply prepared dishes in a relaxed yet stylish atmosphere.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Oddfish, which Jeffs with his wife Nicole Welsh, Jamie Maxwell, and Brad Roark opened on June 27, takes over the 1,850-square-foot space formerly occupied by the Smoking Dog and Baccano Osteria. With a seating capacity of 50 people inside and an additional 20 seats on the patio, the Kitsilano room, located at 1889 West 1st Avenue, is adorned with seaweed-hued upholstered seating and murals of octopus and jellyfish, conjuring up an inviting, aquatic ambiance.

      Jeffs' local restaurant empire began with Tavola (formerly Tapastree, which has operated for over 20 years) and continued on with Nook, which started in 2009 and expanded into Kitsilano in 2013. (He'll be opening another Nook in Olympic Village in the new year at Columbia and 2nd Avenue.)

      Craig Takeuchi

      Nook's Italian influence is present on the Oddfish menu, which includes some pasta dishes, such as prawns with spicy tomato and casarecce pasta ($35) and pesto linguine ($22).

      However, Jeffs said his main focus is "simple, approachable, fresh seafood" that incorporates West Coast and Mediterranean influences. He added that 90 percent of his seafood is Ocean Wise, with about 80 percent of it locally sourced.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Half of his open-kitchen is devoted to oyster preparation. At the moment, there are kusshi, shiny sea, and Irish Point oysters on offer ($3.50 each or $36 for a dozen).

      He's particularly enamoured with his inch-thick plancha (a flattop grill) for fast-cooking daily specials. Current plancha-made selections include butterflied trout with with salsa verde ($22), sockeye salmon with tomato and onion salad ($20), and halibut with tomato fondue ($25). There's also a seafood-lovers' heaven that can be shared among three or four people: the seafood hot mess ($65), which is a mound of scallops, prawns, mussels, clams, squid, lobster, and striped snapper.

      Cold dishes include cured salmon with lemon, pepper, and cucumber ($16); ahi tuna poké ($18); and hamachi with lime and jalapeño ($18).

      Current vegetable dishes include gai lan with chilies and garlic ($12), fried artichokes with tartare sauce ($12), and burrata with local asparagus ($20).

      Jeffs said they're aspiring to ultimately make the menu half seafood, half vegetables, and they'll be gravitating toward a weekly changing menu to respond to what's available.

      But as you can see, there's nothing really that odd about Oddfish or its menu. Unless, of course, you take Welsh's joke seriously—she says in jest that her husband is "kind of odd". But then again, who isn't?

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook

      Places to go nearby

      Approx. 15 minutes away