I almost started this review differently by calling it “The Best Thing I Ate This Week”—but then I realized that everything I tried at Fanny Bay Oyster Bar could fall into that category, so a full-fledged review is definitely in order.
We began our meal with an elaborate seafood tower that was filled to the brim with cold cracked crab, smoky grilled octopus in romesco and of course, oysters. Although this was my first time at Fanny Bay Oysters Bar, this was not my first oyster from Fanny Bay.
The namesake oysters come from a 40-year-old farm on Vancouver Island, where the crisp waters of B.C. make for the ideal grow site. Although I adored the Kumamoto, Kusshi and Sand Dune oysters with fresh horseradish and classic mignonette, the best of the bunch was by far the bougiest: topped with caviar and uni this oyster combined all three types of briney goodness that the West Coast has to offer and put them into one, delicate bite. If I had a fairy-tale wedding, this is what I would pass during cocktail hour.
It would pair exceptionally well with a glass of something bubbly and dry, although my elderflower spritz made for a refreshing summertime match.
This was the first time I tried geoduck, despite watching people struggle to prepare it for years on Top Chef and the like. The Fanny Bay chefs didn’t struggle at all: their masterfully grilled Taylor Shellfish geoduck was gracefully placed upon toasted sourdough with sherry-bacon jam, heirloom tomatoes, herbs and frisee. The resulting flavour combination was savoury (bacon), innovative (geoduck) yet seasonal (tomatoes) and very easy to eat (toast).
The progression continued with another dish that was hyper-flavourful and easily eaten with your hands: fried sablefish collars ($17).
This was not my first sablefish rodeo, but it was my first time eating it like fried chicken wings, thus ruining me for all future sablefish consumption. It was like nothing I’ve had before. They were crunchy yet tender, topped with soy reduction, peppadew puree and flanked by micro cilantro and shishito and sweety drop peppers.
These crispy fish “wings” were paired with an acidic and tropical fruit forward Orofino Old Vines 2020 Riesling ($16/6oz) that cut through any fattiness and elevated all the peppery, herbaceous notes.Like the first course, the paella ($75, for two) was overflowing with fresh, delicate seafood. The chef mentioned that this was the dish he made when he originally auditioned for the role at Fanny Bay—and I can see why it is now one of their most popular items. Totten mussels, Manila clams, scallops, red prawns, salmon, herbs, and sliced peppers covered the top of the chorizo laden saffron-sofrito rice.
Although there was no crispy bottom on this paella, the dynamic, spice-forward flavour and perfectly cooked rice made up for it, especially when paired with the Unsworth 2020 Pinot Gris ($15/6oz), a distinctly Vancouver Island bottle that’s full of green apple notes.
The paella felt celebratory and special, something I would love to share with my closest friends over a very long dinner at home. This is something I can turn into reality with minimal effort because Fanny Bay sells paella kits ($75), with all the ingredients you need to recreate it.We had pavlova ($12) for dessert, which is by far one of my favourites. The meringue was light, crunchy, lightly chewy in the centre and held its own against the bold lemon curd, creamy vanilla Chantilly and juicy Okanagan peach-vanilla compote.
This won’t be my last time to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar. Its intimate seating, expansive seafood menu and attentive staff make for an adorable date night or impromptu catch-up with friends. Just this week, I recommended it to out-of-town friends as a great example of what West Coast cuisine has to offer.