Sherman's Food Adventures: Papi's Seafood and Oyster Bar

Papi's Seafood and Oyster Bar

For the longest time, the corner of Denman and Morton Ave in Downtown Vancouver was occupied by Raincity Grill.  We've had some good times there including birthday dinners and also date night.  It was sad to see it go and replaced with Beach Bay Cafe in 2015.  Nothing against Beach Bay, but it didn't have the history and charm of Raincity and it has now gave way to Papi's Seafood and Oyster Bar.  Without even considering the food, this location is one of the best in Vancouver with prime English Bay real estate overlooking the water.  However, my blog is about food, so yes we went there recently to check it out.

I've had many of the seafood platters in town and for $60.00, the one here at Papi's has to be one of the most visually sparse.  Consisting of 6 oysters, cocktail shrimp, ahi tuna ceviche and lobster salad, the Seafood Platter wasn't bad per se (nor overpriced for the ingredients), but it just didn't "appear" to be substantial.  Either charge more and fill in the empty spots or charge less and remove the lobster.  In terms of eating enjoyment, the oysters were shucked properly and supremely fresh.  Lobster was buttery and bouncy while the shrimp were on point.  The tuna was a bit too sour in our opinion.  We also went for the Popcorn Octopus which was not what I was expecting.  Rather than fried bits, we got braised octopus with red pepper and smoked paprika topped with popcorn.  Texturally, the octopus was tender with just enough bite.  Flavours were smoky and umami-like without being salty.  I just wished the dish was less saucy as it became sloppy to eat.

Just because the kiddies love Burrata, we go an order which consisted of heirloom tomatoes and basil puree.  This was a large portion where the burrata was fresh and creamy.  It went really well with the charred bread which was nutty and smoky.  The abundance of fresh and bright tomatoes were a welcomed accompaniment to the cheese.  There wasn't a whole lot of seasoning other than the basil puree, but that was fine as it let the natural sweetness of the tomatoes to come out.  My dad decided to have the Prix Fixe menu which included 3 courses including the Lobster Soup.  Unlike a bisque, this was a lobster broth which was light and aromatic.  It definitely had the taste of lobster shells in addition to seafoody brininess and sweetness.  

For his main, he had the Confit Sablefish with tomato and bonito broth.  Visually, this looked fantastic and indeed it was.  All aspects of this dish was on point and full of impact even though flavours were subtle.  Starting with the fish, it was buttery and just barely cooked through.  What brought it all together was the fantastic broth as it was similar to a dashi except without the saltiness where it was replaced with the essence of tomatoes.  We could've had several bowls of this alone.  For myself, I had to get the 2 piece Fish n' Chips with triple-cooked potato wedges and slaw.  I felt this was also very solid where the cod was flaky and full of moisture while the beer batter was crunchy and not overly greasy.  I enjoyed the wedges as they were crunchy on the outside while retaining plenty of potato goodness on the inside.

Being the only person to not order seafood, my son went for the Beef Burger with pickles, onions, lettuce and mayo on brioche with potato wedges.  The beef itself was fairly lean meaning it wasn't exactly juicy.  There was a smokiness from the grill while the bun was soft enough to not interfere with the ingredients yet staying intact throughout.  Viv decided on the Lobster Brioche which was essentially an open-faced lobster salad sandwich.  This was the same as the one found in the platter which meant there was plenty of meaty chunks of lobster mixed in with the slaw.  However, the red cabbage was far too bitter for the subtle lobster and it overwhelmed it.  Furthermore, the brioche was rather dry and hard, so it didn't compliment the delicate lobster.  I realize that the brioche needed to stand up to the wet ingredients, but it needed to be softer.

My mom ordered the Lobster Risotto with lobster oil and zucchini that also featured an abundance of well-cooked lobster.  As for the risotto itself, we felt the rice was a little overdone, yet not terribly so.  The risotto didn't eat heavy and was actually rather light.  Aromatics were apparent due to the lobster oil and of course, the actual chunks of lobster as well.  Other than the sablefish and fish n' chips, the best dish of the nice was the Clam Spaghetti where there was much more in the way of fresh clams (which were perfectly cooked being plump) than spaghetti.  Hence, the classic clam brininess was evident as well as the plethora of garlic and olive oil.  The spaghetti itself was firmly al dente and soaked up the prevailing flavours.  The only thing I would change about this dish is to add a bit more pasta to balance off the generous amount of clams.

We were far too full to entertain dessert, but my dad did have one include with his 3-course meal being the Espuma with bits of what appeared to be biscotti.  These combined with the coffee foam created the effect of dipping actual biscotti into creamy coffee.  This was actually rather sweet, which would satisfy those who have a sweet tooth, but for us, it was a little much.  In the end, we felt the meal at Papi's was better than most of reviews have indicated, however, it wasn't without issues.  With new Executive Chef Jefferson Alvarez at the helm, I'm sure there will be changes (menu has indeed changed) for the better and I would be open to returning to see the final results.

The Good:
- Outstanding location
- Some real highlights
- Great service

The Bad:
- Some tweaks needed with several dishes

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