“Back From Hell” is the name on the sauce jar. It’s like a challenge–daring me to try it. Top is off–jar has a spoon in it. It sits in a tray with four other less formidable-sounding sauces. All tops are off, spoons at the ready.
I lift an oyster in its half shell onto my plate, spear some of the freshly grated horseradish and dress the Fanny Bay oyster with it, then add a half teaspoon of Back From Hell. Once in my mouth, my sinuses lodge an immediate protest. I shake my head, take a deep breath, and confirm what my sinuses are shouting at me. I think I say something that sounds like, “Sunk in the ditch! That stuff is hot!” Actually, I don’t think the sauce is quite all the way back from Hell.
It is great. It is tasty. It is Rodney’s Oyster House on Hamilton Street in Downtown Vancouver. I didn’t know about Rodney’s. I guess I was just about the only person in Vancouver who didn’t. At last–I am among the cognoscenti.
Rodney’s is one of those one-of-a-kind establishments–the place to go in Vancouver for fresh seafood. Although I suspect that any number of dining establishments in this restaurant-rich town would challenge me on that comment. Can’t help it–I’m just repeating what I heard from a local.
We had other seafood treats there as well, as in Slapjack soup (a kind of potato soup with oysters), garlic shrimp, and mussels. But the real treat for us was an order of fresh crab cakes. So fresh, in fact, that we walked by them, still in the holding tank, as we climbed the stairs to our table in the loft overlooking the bar and main-floor tables. Served on a plate with a salad of dark greens that was lightly dressed with vinegar and oil, these two breaded, golden brown cakes were moist and scrumptious. And of course, the full compliment of sauces remained on the table for our dipping delight. In addition to Back From Hell, the sauce tray includes White Boy Soul Sauce, Shallot Vinaigrette, Seawitch Sauce, and Johnny Reb’s Espanola Hot Sauce. (If you’re interested, you can find out more about–and buy–the sauces here: www.rodneysoysterhouse.com/Wholesale/OysterSauce.htm.) And adding to our dining experience, at least for me, was that our fare was served up by a hip, upbeat young waiter whose tattoos gripped one arm, crawled up his shirt sleeve, then appeared again crawling down his other arm.
Rodney’s (1228 Hamilton Street) was just one of five restaurants at which we dined during our four full days in Vancouver. We were lucky in that the son of our travel companions lives in Vancouver (see photo above), so we got tipped off to a couple of restaurants we would have otherwise had to stumble across. Rodney’s was one, Floata Seafood Restaurant was another. Told that this is where the local Chinese population prefers to go for dim sum, we accepted an invitation by our impromptu host to join him and some of his work mates for brunch. We went on a Saturday when dim sum is half-price from 9 to 11 a.m. I think we paid $8 each for the meal. Not bad. We found that lunch was typically costing about $65 for two, which included drinks and tips. Still, a bit expensive. Five of us ate at Rodney’s for $160. While not inexpensive (except for our dim sum adventure), it is fun.