YOU MIGHT REASONABLY ASSUME that a seafood-centric counter service canteen operating out of a shipping container at the edge of a parking lot could get by with just one chef mastermind behind it. So why does Popina Canteen, on Vancouver’s Granville Island, have four? “Well,” says Joel Watanabe, “we all have about a quarter of the energy we used to, so….”
Watanabe is also the executive chef of Bao Bei and our 2017 Best New Restaurant Kissa Tanto. And his partners in this highly original new waterfront canteen are of equally impressive pedigree: Angus An (2018 #23 Maenam, plus Fat Mao, Longtail Kitchen, etc.), Rob Belcham (Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma) and Hamid Salimian (former executive chef of Diva at the Met).
That goes some way to explaining how a canteen came to be peddling seafood platters for four at $180 per. Never mind that: instead, order some of the more modest offerings-like a properly poached whole Dungeness crab, the lobster roll or a mound of peel-and-eat shrimp. Then settle in at a nearby picnic table with your seafood and a glass of local white, and spare no further thought as to how many chefs it takes to boil a shrimp. Just enjoy the food and the view of False Creek and the city beyond.