Red Fish Blue Fish isn’t just a Dr. Seuss book anymore. It’s also an inspired five-year-old seafood “shack” on Victoria’s Inner Harbor that’s set in a retooled, eco-friendly shipping container. As far as casual seafood concepts go, this one would be tough to beat, not only for variety’s sake, but also for the setting and the imaginative preparations of premium local seafood.
Chef Kunal Ghose (pictured at grill) previously worked at Go Fish, a similar precursor across False Creek from Vancouver’s Granville Island. At Red Fish Blue Fish, he partnered with Simon Sobolewski (pictured at porthole). The duo also owns 1 Fish 2 Fish, a cart that resides in nearby Market Square and sells nothing but tacones and chowder.
Suggestions from Ocean Wise appear on the wall. The Canadian seafood conservation program led by Vancouver Aquarium is similar to the program Monterey Bay Aquarium first adopted.
Many dishes incorporate international accents, sometimes more than one per plate or bowl. Pacific Rim Chowder ($5 for 12 ounce cup) featured smoky, spicy chipotle, sweet coconut and corn, tender cuts of “garlic’d” Pacific white fish confit and a float of minced scallions.
Red Fish Blue Fish has several options when it comes to tempura-battered Wild Pacific Fish + Chips. Salmon and Cod run $10 apiece. We ordered halibut ($12.50), which featured a crispy, golden shell that locked in the fillet’s natural juices. The crunchy slaw was more or less standard issue, though the hand-cut, skin-on Kennebec chips stood out. They offered complimentary tartar sauce (not my favorite sauce, but a classic fried fish dipper), so we added a pair of dipping sauces. Spicy spot prawn mayo and Sriachup – spicy Sriracha ketchup – both delivered more pop.
During Ghose’s stint at Go Fish, he invented the tacone (taco cone), a grilled tortilla hand roll filled with slaw and choice of seafood like BBQ wild salmon, chipotle shrimp and grilled albacore. They offer tacones at Red Fish Blue Fish, but we had bigger fish to fry, er, grill.
Local Shrimp Roll ($11) was too heavy on the dill’d Dijonnaise for my mayo-skeptical taste, but the small bay shrimp were sweet, and it was easy to like the soft grilled Irene’s Bakery hot dog roll. They provided the option to add belly bacon ($3), smoked strips of albacore tuna belly. Obviously that had to happen, and it was a great idea, but porcine bacon would have been better, since the tuna belly (famously fatty and flavorful) was rendered dry in the smoker.
We didn’t stop with appetizers and entrees. They also sell Grilled Oysters by the piece, and they were terrific, with pronounced smoky flavor from the grill. The sweet, juicy oysters appeared on a bed of crisp slaw with pickled onions and scallions, which added a nice acid note. My final taste of the day was of Chilled Chai, served on the rocks in a to-go coffee container.
Chef Ghose briefly broke free from the shipping container to discuss his food. He also celebrates Canada’s national dish – poutine – by making a version with spicy Pacific fish. That would have been interesting to try. The BBQ Qualicum Bay Scallop Burger, Cod Dog and spicy Pacific fish sloppy Joe also sounded intriguing. Hopefully they’ll be on the menu on my next visit.