Peruvian flavours sizzle at Ancora

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Posted October 2, 2015 by Adrian Brijbassi in British Columbia
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Executive chef Ricardo Valverde brings Peruvian flavours to the menu of the newly opened Ancora Dining on False Creek in downtown Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Columnist 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Ricardo Valverde wanted this new gig of his. He had been the No. 2 chef in the kitchen at Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood for years and it was time to grow. When the new owners of one of the best spots in the city were on the look for an executive chef, Valverde went after the role with gusto.

“As soon as I heard about it, I knew that was my job,” says Valverde, a chef with Peruvian heritage who promises to bring the cuisine of his homeland to Vancouver’s fine-dining scene. “It’s seafood, but it’s also a chance to be much more.”

Valverde knows crab cakes and fries will still be menu favourites but one of his goals for the restaurant that opened in September is for much more interesting fare. It’s exciting to think we might have authentic Peruvian mole dishes to enjoy in a room overlooking False Creek. That’s to come in the future, along with possible appearances from some of Peru’s acclaimed chefs, Valverde says.

For now, the ceviches will be “just like you will find in Peru.”

Formerly C Restaurant, Ancora takes over one of the rooms in Vancouver that’s been adored by diners. Under Robert Clark, C rose to prominence as a place for high-quality, sustainable seafood. Valverde arrives from a similar pedigree at Blue Water.

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The Ancora Glacier Platter is a take on the seafood tower, except it’s served on an elevated horizontal tray that allows diners to easily reach for tasty selections such as bluefin tuna from Prince Edward Island and local mussels and oysters. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

“I wanted to come to a place where I know quality food was the most important thing. There are a lot of places where they spend on the front of the house rather than in the kitchen, where they care about volume first. I had to make sure I would be able to cook the food I wanted and that’s why I’m here,” says the chef who was hired by the Viaggio Hospitality Group.

Valverde’s hopes are high. He wants Ancora to be named Vancouver’s No. 1 new restaurant and then it’s best restaurant overall and then even the best in Canada. “It might take five to 10 years to get there. But yes that’s what I want. Why not?”

Based on the meal I had at Ancora last week, Valverde is on the right track. The Ancora Glacier Platter will quickly be a favourite for Vancouverites and visitors to the city. It features a range of seafood — including bluefin tuna from the east coast, British Columbia mussels with a Peruvian escabeche, poached prawns, oysters, crab causa (a Peruvian dish made with potatoes) and ceviches — served on an elevated tray rather than a tower that can dominate the table and make it difficult to reach the portions at the top. It’s an elegant touch and not as cliche as the traditional seafood tower.

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Ancora (the Spanish word for “anchor”) also benefits from the talents of sushi chef Yoshi Tabo, whose impressive culinary skill lifts the restaurant toward the top of Vancouver’s raw bar options. But neither the seafood platter nor the raw bar are the main reason why I will return to Ancora and soon.

Peruvian cuisine has been underrepresented in Vancouver (and the rest of Canada, for that matter), even though the culinary scene in the South American nation has been among the most celebrated in the world in recent years. Valverde fills that void superbly, blending his knowledge of British Columbia seafood and his Canadian sensibilities with the spices, textures and flavours of his ethnicity.

The pan-seared halibut from Haida Gwaii was served with a paella made with forbidden rice and served with grilled baby squid, Peruvian corn, asparagus and another Latin touch, pimenton emulsion. The flavour balance was brilliant, with the spices complementing the fish on the plate, never dominating it. It’s that skill with spices that defines great ethnic cuisine and what will excite food connoisseurs about Valverde’s dishes.

In a room teeming with sunlight and gorgeous white decor, diners will stare out to the waters of False Creek while the peppery flavours hit the back of the tongue. In that moment, you may feel you’ve briefly been delivered south of the equator, a wonderful gift that great food such as this can bring to you.

More About Ancora Dining

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Ricardo Valverde has reason to smile — he’s now the executive chef at one of Vancouver’s most stunning restaurants, Ancora Dining located on the premises formerly occupied by C Restaurant. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Address: 1600 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC (see map below)
Phone: 604-681-1164
Website: www.ancoradining.com
Menu Price Range: Dinner entrees range from $29-$38. Sushi orders range from $3.50-$18.50. Full menu is here.
You Must Order: The Ancora Glacier is a decadent seafood platter that showcases local and Canadian seafood as well as Valverde’s Peruvian touch ($72 for two people; $132 for four people).


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and his articles are frequently syndicated by the Huffington Post and appear in the Globe & Mail. He makes regular appearances on CTV News, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction, and has visited more than 30 countries. He is also a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in April 2012.

 
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