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Signature dishes on the Sunshine Coast

Signature dishes on the Sunshine Coast

SweetWater Bistro

A still, end-of-August Tuesday at dusk.  A serene view of the blue waters of Howe Sound from the deck at SweetWater Bistro and an abundance of soft felt blankets for the slight chill in the air. It’s early but the restaurant already buzzes with a jazz music kind of evening. I’m here to taste their ‘signature dish’ and it’s going to be red snapper “from our waters”.

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Red snapper with white wine & dill beurre blanc. Photo by Gord Halloran

I confess, I’m not a fish lover, but it sounds gourmet-delicious: fresh local red snapper with white wine, dill beurre blanc, served with green pea and corn risotto as well as mixed vegetables.  As the Maitre’d welcomes his regular customers, I learn that the chef has been here since noon baking and prepping. Frederick Haut-Labourdette, an original from France, has worked under two Michelin-starred award-winning chefs.  He and his apprentice make all their own pastries from scratch. I snitch a glimpse of the tiny kitchen. A man in a white chefs’ jacket arranges food on a plate, looking into the dish tenderly as if it were a beloved thing.

Co-owners Andrew Stead and Brigitta Luettge have been a tag-team, working the room for the past 7 years. “We never left the restaurant with employees,” she says with her understated pride.

The food arrives, hot and mouthwatering. My guest has ordered the chicken (usually my favorite) but the lightness of the fish in my mouth makes me understand why this is the anointed ‘signature’. The exquisite risotto shares the plate with cooked-to-perfection broccoli and cauliflower.

Daphne’s

A bustling Sechelt hot spot for dinner, where the tasty fare is either ‘local or imported’. Daphne’s formerly Greek menu has recently expanded to include eclectic Mediterranean dishes served to share, mezzethes. Owner Andreas Zervas, three months ago recruited chef Scott Robertson from the top Vancouver Greek restaurant (The Greek by Anatoli in Yaletown) where Robertson had opened only a short year and a half before receiving ‘the top Greek restaurant’ prize.

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Grilled Halloumi cheese from Cypress with heirloom tomatoes. Photo by Gord Halloran

Now, at Daphne’s, he’s expanding the menu to include smaller dishes designed to be shared. We enjoyed Halloumi cheese, (a grilled white cheese imported from Cypress in a dish with sliced heirloom tomatoes, mint, basil, olive oil and warm pita bread).  Next was Kebab, (a beef, pork and lamb ground mix) created by Robertson with a light and lovely taboulleh, using couscous instead of bulgar wheat. This dish, paired with homous and a crisp yet soft pita had Arabic, Turkish and Greek influences with the mix of mint, tahini, garlic, lemon, dill and lime. It has been years since I ate meat at all, but savored every bite of this signature dish.

For real Greek authenticity, Elianna (Andreas’ mother) provides staple Greek dishes such as the delicious homous, the more familiar mousakka, taramosalata (a tangy carp caviar dip) and keftedes (traditional Greek meatballs). Robertson is adding dishes and tweaking an already popular menu.

Painted Boat

A beautiful, crisp first day of fall, and the view from Painted Boat is spectacular: the restaurant sits above the harbor, the water, the hills sparkling in the September sun.  We’re early and today the modern restaurant is empty; it feels like the moment before everyone arrives. We’ve had a few very delicious meals in this restaurant in the past; today the entire menu has been redesigned to reflect a Mediterranean ‘fresh forward’ flavour, a menu sophisticated enough to cater to high end tourists as well as be accessible to locals, with prices ranging from $9 (Small & Sharing Plates) to $35 (8 oz NY Striploin).

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Porco à Alentejana “Pork and Clam”, Painted Boat. Photo by Gord Halloran

Chef Steven Doucet, in kitchen whites, approaches us with a ‘large plate’ bowl of Porco à Alentejana “Pork and Clam” (French / Portugese influences): Savary Island Clams, Pimento Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Baby Yukon Potatoes and a Spicy Broth. The dish had been marinating and cooked down, with red peppers, tomatoes, cinnamon, fennel and salt-soaked lemon in a process that started a day and a half ago. He’s deglazed the clams with red wine instead of white. The pork is tender: just under cooked before being finished in the steaming broth. One taste of the broth reveals a smooth, spicy, layered flavour. I have a forbidden bite of the pork; it’s succulent and delicious.

Doucet’s signature dish reflects his Gramma, who imbued him with a love of the kitchen, and 22 years of working in the industry; in Montreal, immersed in its vibrant culinary scene; in Whistler at Hilton and in Lyon, his ‘early stage’ with French-trained Portugese chefs. His touch is Mediterranean.

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