Friday, March 01, 2013

The best canned tuna at Fable

   The only place I read Maclean's magazine is at my dentist's office. At my dental appointment this week, I was reading an article about urban farming. The article was quite extensive, about places around Canada and the States I had heard of, including Vancouver's Yummy Yards tended by the very charismatic local gardener Emi Do and the latest thing in indoor gardening, the roof top vegetable garden the city is promoting called Alterrus. I had seen a piece on the TV news about Alterrus which mentioned that its vegetables were being served in a new Vancouver restaurant called Fable, a contraction of From Farm to Table. I had seen its chef on a cooking segment on the morning news last year making what he called "the best can of tuna." How good can canned tuna be? I needed to find out.
  I prepared for my trip to Fable by watching Anthony Bourdain's visit to Spain on his show No Reservations. His guide takes Tony to a bar north of Barcelona that serves canned sea food exclusively. A can of clams for 175 Euros for example.The place is called Ca L'Espinaler. I assume it's canned tuna would be pretty good. The secret must be the olive oil. Can Fable compare?
  I have yet to eat a can of Espinaler tuna but it would be hard to beat Fable's tuna dish. It came in a jar (a glass can?) with pressed lemon and potatoes along with the olive oil. I was instructed to break it up, eat it with the accompanying crackers and a tiny spoon of salt. Instead, I wolfed down the whole tuna chunk at the top of the jar. Then the lemon. Stunning. Finally the potatoes. They reminded me very much of the potato pasta with pesto I had the last time I went to a restaurant, La Pentola Della Quercia, 6 weeks ago. When Chef Bird visits our table, I ask about the origin of the dish and he says he was inspired by the Italian recipe called Conserva, only that recipe didn't call for lemon. Good thing he added the lemon.
We also ask the chef about the greens he's getting from Alterrus. He compares the quality of different greens and seems quite happy with what the restaurant has been getting. I want to find out more about their Verticrop project. A way to feed the future? Worth investigating.
The chef was most interested in my dining companion, my farmer friend Terry who was just as interested in the From Farm to Table concept, having an actual farm to supply various tables. The chef wondered if he could buy some wheat from Terry, who said his farm is 1,000 km away in the Peace River country. We thought the chef only wanted food from around here, but it turns out he wants the best food he can get. Terry was particularly impressed with his beet salad. It was the first time he'd had golden beets. We also ordered the chickpea fritters which I suspected Fumiyo would like so I brought them home for her. She was delighted, and found them delicious. I had much less luck with the cod brandade in squash soup that tasted like alien curry. Maybe Klingons would like it, but it was a long way from the Cod Brandade I'd had at Bouchon in Vegas 2 years ago. As longtime readers of this blog would know, that's about as close as I get to saying anything nice about Thomas Keller. I'll definitely try something else the next time I visit Fable.
  There had been a lot of news recently about mislabeled seafood. Apparently more than half of the fish sold in Southern California is mislabeled, particularly in seafood restaurants.  Was the great tuna in a jar at Fable really tuna? Just before going to the restaurant, I was reading Montreal writer Taras Grescoe's book
bottomfeeder which, although 5 years old, reports the same news about mislabeled fish from its perch in the past. I remember eating a lot of pretend crab in Japan and it's common here too, though usually labeled as such. Some of the fish substitutions reported on the news are of fish dangerous for humans to eat substituted for supposedly tasty fish. I suspect that won't be the case at Fable. In case I am poisoned, I have a couple of stiff cocktails to ward off possible toxins:
plus another drink not mentioned on the web menu but named after the restaurant. Usually when restaurants put their name on drinks, the drinks are pretty good and this is no exception. Both cocktails were made with originality and integrity, and look at the price! About half what I'm used to paying for cocktails at good restaurants in this city.