A few years ago, we took a road trip down the Oregon coast and stopped in a small town called Newport. There, we had an amazing bowl of fisherman’s stew that Mark still raves about to this day. I don’t think any other stew he’s tried since has even come close to comparison. The point of this random story is that I tried to find a place in Vancouver that serves fisherman’s stew, but I had no luck. I narrowed it down to three possibilities: a) there is no such place Vancouver that serves fisherman’s stew; b) my Googling skills have gone hopelessly downhill; c) there is a place, but it’s small and obscure, and only the locals know about it. All three ends in no fisherman’s stew on this trip.
So, I tried to find somewhat of a substitute. A new place that we could try, embracing our inner adventurists. The last time we tried something new, it didn’t work out so well, but we didn’t have to be cursed by that experience, did we?
Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar seemed to fit the bill pretty nicely. I was intrigued by their menu items and thought it might be a nice change of pace from our usual Vancouver eating experiences, so I made a dinner reservation at the Coal Harbour location.
When we arrived, I was instantly taken aback by the hostess, who greeted me with a big, warm smile like we were long-time friends. She then commented on my coat (paraphrasing: “I LOVE that blue!”) and it was so unexpected that I didn’t really know what to say back. I don’t remember ever being greeted like that before and after she showed us to our table, Mark asked if I knew her from somewhere. Is the alluring power of my ultramarine blue coat? Or am I just not used to super friendly greetings at restaurants?
Chewies is darkly lit, with an open kitchen and bar seating area near the entrance with a row of tables along the window. Further back, it feels more like a casual lounge where you’d expect to see groups of friends sharing rounds of beer. It’s an interesting mix of contemporary, sleek, and casual, with fairly minimalistic touches. I think I was expecting it to be a little more low-key, as their menu is inspired by New Orleans soul food.
Chewies is obviously all about their oysters, but this gal right here doesn’t eat them. Seems pointless to go to an oyster bar when I don’t like oysters, right? I know. Mark, on the other hand, enjoys oysters, but for reason reason he didn’t seem to want to order any for himself.
To start, we got the Louisiana Blue Crab Cakes with fire-roasted red pepper remoulade. I can’t say I’ve ever had green crab cakes, but besides the interesting hue, the cakes themselves were full of delicious crab meat and not a ton of filler, which is how I like my crab cakes. I only wished that they were crispier on the outside, as I found the texture to be a little too one-note and soft. A crispy crust would’ve given a nice texture contrast which I felt was missing in these crab cakes.
For his main, Mark chose the Jambalaya (house smoked chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, spicy Cajun rice). The rice was nicely cooked, the seasoning was pretty spot on, but it seemed to be a ton of rice with just a few bits of protein. Mark was disappointed to find that he only got 3 shrimp in the entire dish. This was a bit of a miss, unfortunately, as it was way too heavy on the rice and not enough on the other ingredients.
I chose the Southern Fried Chicken (buttermilk mashed potatoes, greens, gravy, honey butter). I’m a fried chicken fiend, so I jump on any chance I can get to have it. The green beans were done just right (still had a bit of bite to them) and the buttermilk mashed potatoes were divine – smooth, creamy, and probably packed with 10,000 calories. Oh, but I think they were worth all 10,000. The gravy was light and not overly salty. And the chicken? Bonus points for being super moist and tender. I wasn’t a huge fan of the honey butter that was drizzled over the chicken. It made the breading get a bit soggy and fall away from the meat, and the overly buttery taste got in the way of being able to enjoy the chicken fully. I think I would’ve preferred to have less honey butter (or maybe none at all), as the chicken itself was delicious.
We passed on dessert; way too stuffed at that point to fit another morsel into our bellies. Overall, it was an okay meal; nothing really stood out, except for the buttermilk mashed potatoes, which was the true star of the night. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the service was friendly, but the food was missing a bit of something special. It’s also a bit on the pricey side, albeit we did get pretty healthy portions. However, I think in this case, quantity doesn’t trump quality.
It was nice to get out of our rut and try something new, but I’m not sure that we’ll go back. I think Chewies would be a great place for a group get together, to share appetizers and a few rounds of drinks, so for now, we bid adieu to Chewies and continue on our quest for that elusive fisherman’s stew.
Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar – Coal Harbour Location
1055 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6E2E9
Phone: (604) 620-7634