Tastiness Factor: 8/10
Locavore approved? YES (most fish on the menu is certified Ocean Wise, they offer a daily market catch, good selection of BC wine and beer)
Cardero's is one of the first restaurants that I went to when I moved to Vancouver 3 years ago. I discovered it on my first run through Stanley Park and knew that hubby and I had to go there to sit at such a prime location. Located right on the water in Cole Harbour, with mountains in the background, it could be on a postcard for Vancouver.
I cannot exactly remember the details of our first meal, but with so many other places in Vancouver to dine, we have never gone back until this past week when friends of our came to visit from London, ON. They were staying at the Westin Bayshore and when I googled the area to remind myself what was around there, Cardero's was the closest hit. Knowing what an amazing view we would have, and that the food was at least decent from what I could remember, I booked it. I went in looking forward to great conversation with our friends, but having few other expectations above that.
We had made a reservation for 8:15 and, although there was a bit of confusion at first about where our table was (I think they may have given our seats away) we were guided to the outdoor patio. This was fine with us, as it was a nice night, the patio is heated and we did not feel like waiting around for another table indoors. Of note is that this place is busy! We could not get the time the exact time that I wanted when I called the day of to make a reso, and it was hopping from the time we got there until after we left.
After the small little hiccup with our reservation, the service was excellent. From the three smiling hostesses at the door, to our very friendly server, we were really made to feel at welcome. Our hostess recognized that we needed to time to chat after sitting down before we even wanted to open our menus (we had lots to catch up on!) and she gave us a good 10 minutes before coming over to ask us for drink orders and to tell us about the specials. We did not feel rushed at all. She knew the menu well and was helpful in giving us informed recommendations when asked.
As mentioned above, the setting outside of Cardero's is breathtaking and guests at the back of the restaurant and the back of the patio have an amazing view of the mountains backdrop. The inside is quite casual and relaxed while still being refined and smartly decorated, and there is a nice open kitchen. The patio has nice heat lamps at this time of year, and there were even blankets on our seats if we needed to cozy up further.
The drink menu is quite extensive and has a nice selection of BC beers and wines. The dinner menu is quite casual and offers a nice mix of sharing plates, salads, seafood and grill items such that anyone can find something to suit them. There is also several dinner specials to choose from, including a daily soup, flatbread and entree. Here are our dinner choices:
Seared Ahi Tuna- When my husband ordered this, I thought it was an odd choice for him as he does not often order fish for his entree, but he is becoming a big tuna fan. Fortunately, it ended up being an excellent choice. The fish was of excellent quality and nicely cooked (seared on the inside, raw on the outside). It was served with a wasabi soy sauce that was tasty, but the wasabi all seemed to be on one side of the plate resulting in a few bites of wasabi overload (nose burn!!!). It was served with brocollini and the fact that my husband ate it is a testament to how great it was (wish I could get him to eat this at home!). It is a good thing that he ate his greens because he then chose to order a side of fries (there was no starch included in the dish) and, although it was not the healthiest choice for him, I was secretely glad that he did because I got to have some! And they were worth it- plump, crispy wedges with just the right amount of salt.
Halibut with red wine butter sauce- Our friends both chose the night's market fish special. The generous portion of halibut was expertly cooked and served in a red wine butter sauce. While they enjoyed the flavor of the sauce, one of our friends commented that the fish was under-seasoned. The fish was served with rice (or potato if preferred) and veg. The multicolor carrots and green beans added a nice pop of color to the plate and were beautifully cooked (still a bit of crunch). A simple yet well executed dish.
Having gone into the evening with not much in the way of expectations, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with what a great experience we had. Not only is Cardero's a perfect place to bring visitors to give them a taste of the Vancouver's beauty, but it is also a great place for locals to enjoy good food while admiring the unrivalled view. It is sure to make you remember how lucky you to live in such a beautiful city!