Joe Fortes seafood and chophouse is one of the few local restaurants that can rightfully claim to be a Vancouver institution. Opened and thriving since 1985, Joe Fortes takes its name from a legendary character in our city’s history. Joe was a sailor who first landed on Vancouver’s shores in 1885, setting himself up in a cottage by English Bay. He spent much of his free time patrolling the beach and teaching children to swim (all free of charge), and was eventually appointed the city’s first official lifeguard in 1900. He was adored by the citizens of Vancouver for his warm and welcoming personality, and immortalized over the years with his name gracing a library, a fountain, and most recently, a stamp released by Canada Post on February 1st, 2013, celebrating Black History Month. The fountain that bears his name in Alexandra Park is inscribed with the quote “Little children loved him.”
You can read more about Joe’s life at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Fortes
One of the reasons Joe Fortes seafood and chophouse has maintained its popularity over the years is that the staff of the restaurant emulate Joe’s demeanor with their top-notch service and hospitality. I haven’t stressed it much in past posts, but I’m of the belief that good service is such an important part of the dining experience. Quality food is memorable on its own, don’t get me wrong, but a wait staff that is prompt, attentive, knowledgeable, friendly, and even witty at times can make a fine dinner into a real experience. I’ve been to Joe Fortes twice now, and every interaction with their staff from the busboys to their valets has oozed easy professionalism. Not the stuffy and robotic service that unfortunately plagues some high-end restaurants, but more like what you would get if George Clooney went to butler school. Also, some of the wait staff wear lab coats which is just plain cool.
So now that I’ve finished fan-boying over how great the service at Joe Fortes is, let’s get on to how the food was. I went with Lucy on a Sunday morning to take advantage of the “Benny Bonanza” promotion they had going on at the time, which offered a selection of five Benny’s for the great price of $9.95.
We were started off with a cute pair of orange and chocolate scones, which were a brilliant brunch substitute for your generic bread basket.
These tasty morsels were crumbly with a touch of sweetness in the icing drizzled over top of the scones. I usually like my scones all buttered up, but these didn’t need any additional flavoring. The orange zest was subtle and a classic counterpoint to the dark chocolate chunks. My only complaint was that they were room temperature; pastries are just that much better warm, am I right?
The Benedict’s arrived promptly, hot and fresh. The eggs were poached just right, slightly runny, with spot-on hollandaise sauce slathered all over. The standard English muffin bases (house made) were cut nice and thick, not of the soggy or limp variety you sometimes see. I had ordered Joe’s Signature Benedict with wild mushrooms, crisp prosciutto, and truffle sage hollandaise. The hollandaise was light with a hint of truffle, and avoided overwhelming all the other flavors, while still managing to taste rich. With each bite you got a hit of the crisp prosciutto and that natural mushroom flavor cutting through the creaminess of the eggs and hollandaise sauce.
Lucy’s crab and shrimp Benedict came loaded with ample portions of the seafood, that paired perfectly with the guacamole. The seafood flavors were more subtle than my prosciutto and mushrooms, but were still able to cut through that light hollandaise sauce. Her only complaint was that she found her eggs slightly on the dry side, and she wished they had layered on the guacamole a bit thicker.
The hash browns accompanying our Benedict’s were crisp on the outside, cooked in oil that tasted clean and fresh. They were lightly seasoned and mixed with some grilled onions, hitting the right spot on the saltiness scale. A minor complaint I have with some hash browns is that they are cut too thick for my liking; these were sliced perfectly so each bite had just the right amount of potato to it.
Complaints? Lucy’s poached eggs were a tinge on the dry side.
Overall impressions: The food was excellent and a great value, the ambience classy without being stuffy, and did I mention the service was not too shabby? I’d come back for brunch any day of the week.
H’s Verdict — 4.5/5 stars.
L’s Verdict —4.5/5 stars.
Restaurant website: http://www.joefortes.ca/