Sherman's Food Adventures: Popina (Granville Island)

Popina (Granville Island)

What do you get when you combine 4 of the most talented chefs in Vancouver with some shipping containers?  No, this is not a trick question nor does it imply anything illegal.  Rather, Popina has "popped up" in the former parking lot adjacent to the Granville Island Market serving up quality eats crafted by the chefs Hamid Salimian, Angus An, Joel Watanabe and Robert Belcham.  The shipping containers refer to the actual structure which it is built from.  After a few weeks of their soft launch, I decided to drop by to try a few of their wares.

We ended up sharing the Chicken Fried Humboldt Squid to start.  Mixed with onion and jalapenos, there was only a modest amount of squid.  The batter was perfect though being crunchy, well-seasoned and not oily. I found the pieces to be cut up a bit too small for my liking though.  Okay, the East Coast Lobster Roll has been a rather polarizing item on the menu considering its $26.00 price tag.  Some would like to argue that it is overpriced.  For me, I would say maybe it should be a few dollars less, but it is still worth the money due to large amount of buttery lobster.  There was barely any filler other than a few bits of celery and the lobster pieces were of quality.  Buttery and soft, the roll was texturally on point and held everything together.  I've had lobster rolls in Boston, Maine, Nova Scotia and PEI and they aren't as cheap as one would think.  The only one that blew me away was the one at Neptune Oyster Co. and that is currently $31.00USD (it is bigger though).  Luke's Lobster charges $17.00USD and it is half the size of the one at Popina.  So my point is, don't be surprised at the pricing because it is that way everywhere or more.

To counteract the fried food, we got the Salade Niçoise with tomatoes, mixed lettuce, potato, green beans, olives, egg, pickled onion and olive oil poached tuna with a Japanese curry dressing.  Beyond the traditional ingredients found in this salad, the dressing changed everything.  I thought it went really well with mild hits of curry, tanginess and sweetness.  Back to the ingredients, the tuna was perfectly rare with only the slightest of cook on the outside.  It was buttery soft and sweet.  Egg was not overdone while the green beans were still crunchy.  On that note, the same olive oil poached tuna was employed on the Tuna Toast sporting other ingredients including pickled onions, olives, capers, dill, tarragon, parsley and yogurt.  There was a lot going on here compared to the description on the menu.  We would've preferred a little less herbs, but there was no denying that they went with the concoction.  The toast was crunchy and did not wilt under the wet ingredients while the tuna was buttery soft .  Despite the plethora of ingredients, the flavours were still subtle. 

My son didn't deviate from his eating habits and went for the Grassfed BC Cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato.  On the surface, it didn't really look like much and didn't photograph sexy.  However, it ate well with a thick, well-charred patty.  It was naturally-flavoured and still moist despite being cooked all-the-way-through.  There was plenty of wet ingredients to keep things messy (the patty kept sliding out).  The bun somewhere between soft and chewy, so it held everything together without falling apart.  That was good, but the Crispy Free-Run Chicken Sandwich was better.  This thing was texturally on point.  The chicken was aggressively battered, but wasn't heavy nor dense.  In fact, the crispy, well-rendered skin was light and almost airy.  Juicy and moist, the chicken meat was also seasoned properly.  It wasn't actually spicy per se (nothing is as spicy as DL Chicken), but it was flavourful.  Again, the nicely toasted bun held everything together without being dry.

Of course we had to get a side of their Crinkle Cut Fries to go with the burger and sandwich as well.  Despite the visuals, the fries weren't spicy.  Rather it was a mild-tasting seasoning salt that wasn't actually very salty.  The fries themselves were hot and crunchy while not greasy.  Nothing particularly exciting about these fries, but they were prepared properly at least.  For dessert, we tried their Puff Cream which was soft-serve within choux pastry (replaced the cream or custard with soft-serve in a cream puff).   Some have said that the choux is too dry, but for me it was fine and in fact, considering the amount of melting ice cream, it softened up quick.  The soft-serve was creamy, yet melted quickly as mentioned.  We got caramel sauce on top and it wasn't too sweet.  Overall, I thought the lobster roll and chicken sandwich were the highlights while the rest held their own.  Prices are definitely not cheap, but the ingredients were high quality and prepared properly.  Remains to be seen how budget-conscious customers will take to the concept.

The Good:
- Quality food
- Menu has a little bit of everything for everyone
- Fresh ingredients

The Bad:
- Pricing is on the higher end
- They might want to offer a smaller seafood platter as the lowest priced one is $120.00


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