In the corner booth of the Steveston Seafood House, a dining stalwart in Steveston Village for nearly four decades now, the same gentleman dines every night. Across the room, a couple sipping their wine talk with the staff about the impending arrival of their first grandchild.
I’m seated with Shane Dagan, the young and energetic owner of the Steveston Seafood House. He leans in, confidentially, and tells me that it’s happened more than once that diners returning on their anniversary pull him aside to discretely gesture in reference the older gentleman in the corner booth. “‘You wouldn’t believe this,’ they tell me” he says, sotto voce, “‘but we were here last year for our anniversary, and the same guy was here!'”
Dagan sits back and grins. He should be grinning: Dagan has devoted his entire career to the Seafood House, having started as a busboy to now being its proprietor. Under his direction, the room has evolved into a more serene look of cool pale blues and warm lighting with just a touch of the nautical.
The Steveston Seafood House menu, too, has been undergoing a slow evolution. In the kitchen is the same chef who began with the restaurant, and while she is still firing up items you may have ordered 20 years ago at a special occasion dinner with your family, like the Coconut Prawns and Scallops, or the Devils on Horseback, she is also shifting the menu to incorporate new and contemporary dishes.
Still, the familiar is undeniable at Steveston Seafood House, and it works.
To start things off, we split a half-dozen oysters. These briny bivalve beauties are all freshly-shucked Kusshi oysters, and along with their compatriots of the Chef Creek, Royal Miyagi, and Kumamoto varieties, are part of the restaurant’s Buck-a-Shuck special running through the end of October, making the most of a Pacific Northwest purist seafood delicacy. With little adornment necessary, I slurp contentedly, and enjoy a crisp glass of Pinot Gris.
Dagan and I next tuck into a bowl of steamy Salt Spring Island Honey Mussels. They are impossibly plump and juicy, dripping with fragrant herbs and broth, and I can’t resist passing a bite to our other dining companion, my restaurant veteran 16-month-old son, who is delighted. Steamed mussels are a local seafood staple, and here it’s a classic dish done right.
We sop up the savoury broth with pieces of house-baked crusty bread, which also serves as a good vehicle for the leftover creamy sauce in the spoons that bear the Coconut Prawns and Scallops.
Dagan is a strong believer in creating a family-like environment at his restaurant, which is how this ended up being a “take your kid to work” day for me, and why our table fit in nicely alongside duos of all ages, and the aforementioned regular. Still, as the menu, ambiance, and history suggest, the Steveston Seafood House is also a great date spot.
We stuck with the appetizers, but Dagan walked me through the other side of the menu, where surf (from local waters, natch) and turf both have their chance to shine. Dagan says their cod and the Schnitzel happen to be two of their most longstanding popular dishes. Their kitchen can do wonders with a beautiful piece of fresh B.C. salmon, too; I’d say “ask my toddler,” but he only has a few words in his vocabulary. He did let me steal a couple of bites from his much-enjoyed dish.
Our dinner was an early one, and as my “date” and I strolled hand-in-hand past the restaurant’s inviting front windows gleaming with soft lights against the darkened hush of Steveston Village, it seemed right to turn the place over to the romantic hand-holding couples soon to show up. Many years ago, the Steveston Seafood House was a place for good food and making memories in my family, and it’s nice to know that it continues to be so with Dagan and his team’s balanced approach to the restaurant’s own history and evolution.
Address: 3951 Moncton St, Richmond
Image: Steveston Seafood House